Note: In honor of Social Venture Network’s 25-year anniversary, the network is inducting 25 of its most innovative and influential leaders into its hall of fame Nov. 13 at Gotham Hall in New York City. To recognize these sustainable business pioneers, SVN’s news program, ‘Sustainable Solutions,’ is interviewing the hall-of-famers to celebrate their accomplishments and learn what more needs to be done. Read the whole series here.
While companies take a moment to celebrate some of the environmental achievements made during the past 25 years there’s an urgency for more to be done as ecological problems are getting close to being irreversible, says Gary Hirshberg.
The co-founder and chairman of Stonyfield Farm, an international yogurt company known for its organic products, says though the organics industry has reached $31 billion in sales it only accounts for six percent of the country’s foods.
“In other words, it’s really a rounding error in the big picture, and we don’t have another 30 years to get this right,” he says.
“This is not the time to be patting ourselves on the back for anything, this is the time to be communicating and getting active politically and fortifying ourselves and the next generation that’s coming along to be even better activists than ever because we just have so much urgency.”
Stonyfield and other companies being inducted into Social Venture Network’s (SVN) Hall of Fame helped build awareness of environmental issues; however, the big reason awareness has changed is because the problems predicted are coming true, Hirshberg says.
For example, one in three children born after 2000 will be Type 2 diabetic, and 41 percent of Americans are diagnosed with cancer, he says.
“Those of us who saw the future and are trying to invent a different future need to redouble our efforts to not just focus on the problems, because that’s easy — the problems are presenting themselves — but to focus on the solutions,” says Hirshberg.
Hirshberg says there isn’t time for another generation to make things right, rather the largest companies need to make dramatic behavior shifts — for example, in their lobbying and product mixes — to make a meaningful difference.
He says economic models need to be advanced and show the way back to sound and sustainable economics.
Unlike many consumer products, Hirshberg says the organic world has never been based on the idea of cheap, which is what the advertising model is based on as companies use low-cost ingredients and spend money on media blasts.
He says over the long-term, organic farming produces higher yields that come with lower inputs and lower use of fossil fuels, drugs and chemicals.
“Our model of success is built on enriching farmers, on supporting biodiversity, on putting carbon into the soil, on improving water quality, on improving animal and human health, and at the same time making more money in the process,” says Hirshberg.
“We are just trying to be transparent, we’re not offering any gimmicks or sales techniques,” he adds.
As this approach translates into renewable energy and other areas, he says showing profits can be a more powerful incentive for large companies than a lecture on morality or values.
“If you can show them they can make more money doing this stuff they are going to switch, this is not rocket science,” he says.
Hirshberg is being inducted into SVN’s Hall of Fame as part of the network’s 25th anniversary celebrations, and is one of five people being recognized in the environmental evangelist category.
This article written by AxiomNews.ca is part of a Social Venture Network series featuring its Hall of Fame honorees.
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