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Urgent Call for Businesses to Work Toward Sustainable Economies

Urgent Call for Businesses to Work Toward Sustainable Economies


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 is part of a Social Venture Network series featuring its Hall of Fame honorees.


Related Stories:

Stonyfield Farm Proud to Support Organic

Genetic Engineers Blast GM Crops

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1:48AM PST on Feb 2, 2013

“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.

Read more:

1:44AM PST on Feb 2, 2013

There are many thoughts to be thankful for in this article.

5:44AM PDT on Jul 1, 2012

I'm a small organic grower, I have a small greenhouse where I grow organic plants and sell organic produce at the local farmers market. Yes, it's more labor intensive int the beginning when you're building healthy soil. Though the labor decreases later in the growing cycle, since plants stay healthier and have less pest damage etc.
One thing everyone can do is support their local growers. It takes more work for consumers as well,when they shop locally and they lose the one-stop convenience of those big box stores. Yet it's necessary, even fun, and its the only way we can de-centralize our food supply and wrest control of what we eat away from the corporate agri-businesses. I can sell produce less expensively than grocery stores, because I don't pay overhead and transportation costs. So organic, when ITS LOCAL, may be more affordable than you think. Now is the season to support you're local farmers, so check out your Farmers Market!

5:12AM PDT on Jul 1, 2012

Who amongst you are producers of "organic" food? It is very labor intensive. Are you ready to give up not only your money but your time helping at a local organic farm? Are you ready to take that 401k paper and invest it in a venture that may not even break-even for 10 years?

Permaculture, sustainable and organic all need your hands (physical work) and investments (savings/equity)...not just a "thanks" on Care2.

3:39AM PDT on Jun 30, 2012

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

"Die Größe eines Volkes und seine moralischen Fortschritte können daran gemessen werden, wie es seine Tiere behandelt."

Those who are cruel to animals cannot be righteous human beings.

Wer gegen Tiere grausam ist, kann kein guter Mensch sein.

9:20PM PDT on Jun 28, 2012

Good to see people putting the hard work in and living well....trail blazers because the govt certainly isn't helping them ..

1:26PM PDT on Jun 28, 2012

good to know that some companies have do care. Even if it is only because they can increase their profits.

4:53PM PDT on Jun 27, 2012

thanks for telling the world

4:49AM PDT on Jun 27, 2012

something to think about

1:22AM PDT on Jun 27, 2012

Thanks for all the info.

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