The Earth Group Aims to Change the World Through Education and Nourishment

Newly Certified B Corp Collaborates with UN World Food Programme to Help Children Around the Globe

Kori Chilibeck and Matt Moreau at work for The Earth Group and World Food Programme in Sri Lanka. “ Becoming a B Corp is an affirmation of what we’ve worked to achieve for so many years.”

Kori Chilibeck and Matt Moreau at work for The Earth Group and World Food Programme in Sri Lanka. “Becoming a B Corp is an affirmation of what we’ve worked to achieve for so many years.”

The Earth Group is a Certified B Corporation that supports the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) through donations that provide school meals, drinking water and education to children in the most troubled areas of our world.

To date, The Earth Group has helped fund more than 3.6 million meals to young school kids while helping them get an education in places like Tajikistan, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Bolivia and the Philippines. The B Corp is dedicated to informing consumers everywhere about the power of their everyday marketplace choices. For example, the simple purchase of a bag of Earth Coffee, one of three consumer products sold by the company, provides a schoolchild with meals for an entire week.

Purchase one bag of Earth Coffee online or in-store to feed one child for one entire week.

Purchase one bag of Earth Coffee online or in-store to feed one child for one entire week.

When Earth Group founders Matt Moreau and Kori Chilibeck met as fellow employees of a ski shop near the Rocky Mountains 14 years ago, they likely never imagined what lay ahead for them as individuals, new business owners or as proud supporters of the WFP.

Just forging this critical relationship with the WFP seemed daunting enough, but the maze-like process took far longer to realize than anyone could imagine. Eventually, they launched their social enterprise onto the large and complex world stage of fighting hunger, providing clean drinking water and building schools for children where none existed before.

It was at this point that Moreau and Chilibeck realized the real work had begun in earnest for their Canadian B Corp based in Edmonton, Alberta. Seeking to confirm that the aid they worked so diligently to fund would actually make the journey to the end-users, they traveled to Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Tajikistan and the Philippines to see for themselves.

As the photos and videos produced from these expeditions clearly testify, Moreau and Chilibeck landed in their natural element, surrounded by the children and co-workers they had been working so hard to support since creating The Earth Group. The expressions on the faces of not only the children and teachers but of Moreau and Chilibeck and the WFP country managers tell a tale of unselfish dedication.

Kori Chilibeck in Sri Lanka hosted by the UN World Food Programme.

Kori Chilibeck in Sri Lanka hosted by the UN World Food Programme.

Seeing the Progress

The Earth Group maps its path to success through respect for the cultures they are trying to help. In many of these destinations, it is still frowned upon for female children to attend school. By respecting that posture yet also using the intellectual tools at hand, the company funds projects that often furnish female students with an extra helping of food to take home if they attend school, thereby allowing them to obtain an education, the family to benefit from the food, and the attitudes about females attending school to soften.

Schoolyard antics in Sri Lanka with Matt Moreau and Kori Chilibeck of The Earth Group.

Schoolyard antics in Sri Lanka with Matt Moreau and Kori Chilibeck of The Earth Group.

The exhilaration of such remote expeditions reached its peak when the duo traveled to the Philippines, arriving in a volatile region where insurgents had blasted grenades and explosives just the day before. Their in-country WFP handlers changed safety tactics at once, and what was scheduled to be a multi-day trip ended up being a shortened-but-packed day of visiting the children in their classes, touring the school facilities, meeting the support staff and then continuing safely out of this troubled zone.

Back home in Edmonton, Moreau and Chilibeck rolled up their sleeves and focused on making their simple products-with-impact list: Fair Trade coffee from Eastern Africa, Indonesia, Central and South America; glacier-sourced drinking water from Whistler, British Columbia, and Rocky Mountain House, Alberta; and organic Alberta-grown teas, available in as many outlets as possible across Canada and around the world. Their online sales are activewith their triple bottom line—people, planet, profit—always remains in focus.

The Earth Group obtains its drinking water from Canadian glacier spring sources near the communities of Rocky Mountain House and Whistler, and their low-weight recyclable plastic bottles are landfill biodegradable. The Earth Group is also partnered with and supports Plastic Bank efforts to reduce ocean plastic.

Screen Shot 2019-05-22 at 11.16.49 PM.png

Paying their dues during long negotiations with large corporations, Moreau and Chilibeck have now succeeded in signing major chain stores in Canada such as IKEA, Safeway, Sobeys, Whole Foods, Save On Foods, IGA and Metro. They also launched their product line in Japan, another major feat for any business run by two people, one employee and a group of dedicated volunteers.

Chilibeck is just back from the unrivaled adventure of presenting The Earth Group products in Japan to the largest food and beverage show in Asia called FOODEX. A receptive audience was excited to hear Earth Water is already available in their marketplace, with more Earth Group products sure to follow.

Path to Success

During certification in 2018 as a B Corporation, B Lab’s independent Standards Advisory Council confirmed The Earth Group’s three essentials: 1) social and environmental performance, 2) transparency and 3) accountability.

“B Corps values are synonymous with ours and embedded in our culture, so working toward the certification was both a pleasure and a reminder of being mindful of the numerous ways in which our work affects people and planet.”

And so it goes for these two young Canadian entrepreneurs and their “overnight success,” which has only taken them 14 years of collaboration, dedication, no-pay and near bankruptcy to arrive at a point where they can now see the results of their work. Having the blessings of understanding spouses has made it all possible, plus a bit of luck at critical moments.

Business gurus will tell start-up entrepreneurs timing is everything, and while this adage does have merit, the hard work and determination to succeed cannot be underestimated.

When Moreau and Chilibeck hatched their road map to success in a ski shop near the Rocky Mountains 14 years ago to create The Earth Group, at the same time Ben Cohen and Mal Warwick’s book Values-Driven Business: How to Change the World, Make Money, and Have Fun was synthesizing best practices and socially responsible business goals and laying the foundation for what would become the first B Impact Assessment, a process still used to certify B Corps.

B the Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.

GREGORY B. GALLAGHER is a Writer, Filmmaker, Musician and Producer.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MEDIUM

Why Companies Should Help Pay for the Biodiversity That’s Good for Their Bottom Line

Like Dr. Seuss’ imaginary truffula trees, baobabs are endangered.  Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock.com

Like Dr. Seuss’ imaginary truffula trees, baobabs are endangered. Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock.com

In the “The Lorax,” an entrepreneur regrets wiping out all the make-believe truffala trees by chopping them down to maximize his short-term gains. As the Dr. Seuss tale ends, the Once-ler – the man responsible for this environmental tragedy – tells a young child that “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Likewise, many corporations that profit from nature’s bounty, such as Unilever, Patagonia and Interfaceappear to be reaching a similar conclusion. They are realizing that it’s time for the business world to do more about conservation.

We, two economists who have extensively researched natural resources and development, are proposing a new way to solve the problem of species and ecosystem loss. Corporations that benefit from biodiversity could forge what some are calling a “new deal for nature” by paying part of the tab for biodiversity conservation.

Biodiversity

Biodiversity, the variety of all natural ecosystems and species, is being lost at an unprecedented rate. According to the recent World Wildlife Fund Living Planet Report, the populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians have fallen by an average of 60 percent in just over 40 years. The scientists Gerardo Ceballos, Paul R. Ehrlich and Rodolfo Dirzo have dubbed this decline and an impending wave of extinctions a “biological annihilation.”

We argue that many businesses are threatened by the loss of species and ecosystems, such as declining bee populations and dwindling stocks of fishforestswetlands and mangroves. Without an array of ecosystems and species, it’s tough for farmers to grow crops or ranchers to raise animals.

The pharmaceutical industry needs them to make and create drugs. For example, one team of U.S.-based researchers estimates that the pharmaceutical value of marine biodiversity for anti-cancer drug discovery could range from US$563 billion to as much as $5.7 trillion.

Insurance companies depend on coastal wetlands to minimize the impact of big storms. For example, an international group of researchers estimated that preserving one hectare of mangroves in the Philippinesyields more than $3,200 in flood-reduction benefits each year.

A global treaty, the Convention on Biological Diversity does set worldwide conservation targets. But we believe they may not be ambitious enoughCristiana Pașca Palmer, who serves as the UN’s biodiversity chief, is considering raising the treaty’s targets to conserve at least half of terrestrial, inland water, coastal, and marine habitats to preserve biodiversity.

But the existing efforts to preserve biodiversity are not only inadequate. They’re underfunded.

New way to pay

Global biodiversity protection requires $100 billion annually, according to a previous study one of us conducted, yet the international community spends up to $10 billion each year on biodiversity conservation.

Much of the world’s biodiversity is in developing countries, which lack the financial wherewithal to adequately conserve it.

The Lorax could speak for the trees, but he lacked the cash to preserve them.  Random House Children's Books

The Lorax could speak for the trees, but he lacked the cash to preserve them. Random House Children's Books

As we have explained with our colleague Thomas J. Dean in Science magazine, we believe that involving businesses in an international environmental agreement could help bridge a chronic funding gap.

A key part of this new deal for nature would be making the corporations that depend on the health of natural ecosystems and species help foot the bill to preserve biodiversity.

Benefiting the bottom line

Why would corporations want to get involved?

First off, it may benefit their bottom line. Big companies depend on robust natural ecosystems systems and individual species.

We calculate that the increase in revenue and profits from biodiversity conservation could generate between $25 billion and $50 billion annually to fund global conservation efforts.

The seafood industry stands to gain $53 billion annually from an increase in marine stocks. This could generate $5 billion to $10 billion each year to spend on preserving biodiversity.

The insurance industry could see an additional $52 billion from increasing the area of protected coastal wetlands with a similar investment.

Agriculture also has an incentive to protect habitats of wild pollinators, who along with managed populations enhance global crop production by an amount a global group of scientists estimates to be worth between $235 billion to $577 billion annually.

What’s more, there is growing evidence that when corporations engage in environmental stewardship, they become more attractive investmentsand their borrowing costs decline.

Chart: The Conversation, CC-BY-ND  Source:  Edward B. Barbier, Joanne C. Burgess and Thomas J. Dean    Get the data

Chart: The Conversation, CC-BY-ND  Source: Edward B. Barbier, Joanne C. Burgess and Thomas J. Dean  Get the data

Corporate social responsibility

There is a second reason why big companies are sometimes willing to take action and pay to conserve biodiversity: corporate social responsibility, an ethos that builds into business models a commitment to protect the environment and benefit society.

Danone is a leader in this regard. It established the first partnership agreement between a global environmental convention and a private company over 20 years ago.

Since then, the multinational corporation best known for its yogurt and bottled water has promoted and supported the sustainable use and management of wetlands.

Danone, for example, worked with local partners to replant mangroves in approximately 500 Senegalese villages. We believe this reforestation project shows that investments in nature can be sustainable and scalable business models.

Danone, which earned $3 billion in profits in 2017, has its own $80 million “Ecosystem Fund.” It’s just one of an increasing number of companies taking concrete steps toward biodiversity protection, even though they are not required by any law or national policy.

More than 21 national and regional initiatives have been established to encourage partnerships between business and biodiversity conservation. For example, 10 of the 13 biggest seafood companies that control up to 16 percent of global marine catch and 40 percent of the largest and most valuable fisheries have come together to support an ocean stewardship initiative.

Similarly, the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations, which represents the global forest products industry, now engages in sustainable forest management certification.

The total area of forests worldwide deemed to be subject to sustainable practices supplying the industry increased from 62 million hectares, 12 percent of the total global forest area, in 2000, to 310 million hectares in 2015, according to the industry group. That’s more than half of the total global forest area. The annual revenue of the world’s 100 largest global forest, paper and packaging companies is over $300 billion.

Chart: The Conversation, CC-BY-ND  Source:  World Bank    Get the data

Chart: The Conversation, CC-BY-ND  Source: World Bank  Get the data

A new deal for nature

In addition to creating marine reserves, protecting forests, preserving the habitats of wild pollinators and conserving coastal wetlands, the private sector could also help finance conservation efforts in developing countries.

Based on our calculations, if the seafood sector were to set aside up to 20 percent of the increase in profits it gets from sustainably managing marine biomass stocks, it could conceivably spend up to $10 billion annually for marine biodiversity conservation.

And we estimate that by channeling up to 10 percent of the gains from sustainable forest management, the forest products industry could raise as much as $30 billion each year for investment in increasing protected forest area.

An agricultural sector contribution of around 10 percent of the benefits it derives from wild pollination services would amount to about $20 billion to $60 billion per year in additional financing for the conservation, creation and restoration of wild pollinator habitats.

All told, this business-world support could help close the $100 billion gap in global biodiversity conservation funding. This would go a long way toward slowing, and potentially reversing, biodiversity loss.

There are, of course, barriers to corporate conservation. The costs may be high. It may be hard for to businesses to assess the long-term value of biodiversity conservation benefits and integrate them into investment decisions. And it is possible that some of the corporations that take this step could be at a competitive disadvantage, especially in the short term.

But a number of companies are already showing that they believe investing in ecosystem preservation is worth it. In our view, corporate support for international biodiversity conservation is essential to prevent “biological annihilation.”

JOANNE BURGESS is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Colorado State University and EDWARD BARBIER is a Professor of Economics at Colorado State University.

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON THE CONVERSATION

Acid Attacks: A Regional or Global Phenomenon?

Many assume acid attacks are typical of Southeast Asia, but studies show they occur globally.

Acid attacks survivors in Bangladesh (Source: Photograph by Narayan Nath/FCO/Department for International Development). CC-BY-2.0.

Acid attacks survivors in Bangladesh (Source: Photograph by Narayan Nath/FCO/Department for International Development). CC-BY-2.0.

What do you think of when you see an acid attack report in the news? Likely you think of a woman in Southeast Asia who was attacked by a man.


Unfortunately this immediate association many of us make with Southeast Asia, obscures a global trend that encompasses both developing and industrialized nations. Notably in 2016 most cases of acid attacks were actually in the United Kingdom, where 454 cases were reported compared to 300 in India. The United Kingdom is also one of the few areas where acid attacks are directed against other men, usually because of gang violence, rather than women.

Still there is some truth to the regional associations some might make. Around “90% of global burn injuries occur in developing countries” according to research presented by Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI). The other truth is the disproportionate targeting of women. ASTI estimates that out of 1,500 cases of gender violence each year, 80% of cases are women. Considering  60% of cases go unreported according to ASTI, it is clear that acid attacks are not a rare event.

The major motive for acid attacks is a desire to disfigure the victim and take away their chance for a future; especially with women, perpetrators often hope to take away their beauty. According to a 2011 study sponsored by programs at Cornell University Law, acid was also viewed as a punishment against women who stepped outside traditional gender roles in patriarchal societies. Other reasons included rejected love, disagreements over land, or marriage disputes (dowry issues).


For Nepalese victim Sangita Magar, gender violence is particularly relevant. Her perpetuator, Jiwan B.K., attacked Magar—who almost lost her eyesight in addition to the scarring—after arguing with her brother over their apartment complex’s shared bathroom. Like most survivors she required extensive treatment.


However when she was attacked in 2015, Nepalese law provided no compensation for her injuries. The required treatment was also not included in the free care the Nepalese government provides it citizens.


So in 2017 Magar and a fellow plaintiff challenged the law in a public interest case to benefit future victims. They successfully brought about financial support for treatment to victims and stronger punishments for perpetrators with a minimum prison sentence of five years as well as fines ranging between 100,000 and 500,000 rupees, dependent on the victim’s injuries. Although the regulation of acid sales has yet to take effect, Nepal’s Supreme Court implemented the other measures in August 2018.

Many hope these changes will help decrease the number of acid attacks in Nepal, where around 40 cases are reported every year according to local NGO Burns Violence Survivors. Indeed, many look to the example of Bangladesh. Following changes in the law in 2002 and regulation of acid sales, reported cases dropped from 494 in 2002 to only 44 reported cases in 2016.


And it is the availability of acid that underlies the global trend. Where guns are not as readily accessible, acid is an easy choice. Acid is easily found in areas that utilize it in agriculture or produce it. But even if an area does not use or produce it, acid is found in household cleaners and paint.


Most places also do not regulate the sale of acid: Europe is one of them. However Belgian Patricia Lefranc, whose ex-lover attacked her in 2009, is leading a campaign to push for identity card checks to regulate acid sales within the European Union.


Currently, the main voice for change is London-based NGO Acid Survivors Trust International., founded in 2002. ASTI strives to “mobilise resources to support in-country partners to assist survivors” with medical treatment as well as therapy for psychological trauma. ASTI also promotes education, advocates policy changes, trains medical professionals, and funds research.


Most importantly, as outlined by the UN in 1992 under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, ASTI is holding countries accountable to their obligation to protect individuals from gender violence and provide services to victims. Their successes reflect this: ASTI helped change Cambodia’s acid laws and reached 6,360 community members in Nepal and Pakistan in an awareness campaign about acid attacks, among other successes.


And it is awareness of the global scope of acid attacks that gives space for all survivors to speak out, if they wish. Awareness also supports NGOs that have been pushing for change. In other words, being aware shows that survivors and their advocates have been heard.



TERESA NOWALK is a student at the University of Virginia studying anthropology and history. In her free time she loves traveling, volunteering in the Charlottesville community, and listening to other people’s stories. She does not know where her studies will take her, but is certain writing will be a part of whatever the future has in store.

Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 10.52.29 AM.png