The candidates for the category ‘The best companies’
The power of the Amazon
It began with a few friends who were surfing in Brazil. Local surfers introduced them to a very powerful fruit; a berry called açaí. They were so enthusiastic they wanted to share it with their friends at home. No sooner said than done. In early 2000 the company Sambazon was founded with the motto “100% Pure Amazon Power!” Sambazon not only sells the berries, but uses them to make energy drinks. They’re picked in the wild and are chockfull of so-called phyto-nutrients, which are said to slow down the aging process and can act as anti-oxidants in the battle against degenerative diseases like cancer.
But Sambazon’s mission is more than make drinks. Concerned about rampant deforestation in the Amazon region, the company sees commercial production of the berry drink as a way to help. “If the local population can generate income from a source other than tree-cutting, deforestation will be reduced,” a company spokesperson says. “Increased interest in the Açaí berries will provide a good financial reason to protect the forest where the berries grow.”
Greenpeace also sees a bright future for the berry. Their website states that “the tasty dark violet wine of Açaí is the most important non-wood forest product in terms of money from the river delta of the Amazon.”
The drinks come in four flavors: Açaí mango, Açaí strawberry, Açaí soy and Amazon Cherry. Each bottle contains the equivalent amount of anti-oxidants as a half-pound of blueberries and ten times more vitamin C than orange juice.
Available in: Italy and the United States
A better fit
Nearly 20% of all farm chemicals are used in cotton cultivation. And yet cotton plantations cover only around 3% of the total cultivated land worldwide. The result: our clothing often contains a powerful mixture of chemicals, some of which are associated with headaches, dizziness, lung infections, asthma, birth defects and depression among workers and farmers in the cotton industry.
Bo Weevil, a company using organic cotton in all its clothes, was founded by a cooperative of seven European organic food companies who noticed that a lot of people were eating organic products but weren’t wearing them. Bo Weevil sells T-shirts, shirts, blouses, trousers and sports jackets, fabric, towels, and bathrobes both in shops or on-line. Headquartered in Ermelo, the Netherlands, Bo Weevil works with 10,000 organic cotton farmers in 160 villages in Uganda under fair trade guidelines. Their clothing is made in Turkey at factories that maintain good labor standards. A few times a year Bo Weevil pays inspection visits along the entire production chain (knitting, weaving, printing and painting factories). The cotton is inspected and certified by SKAL, Holland’s independent organization that supervises organic production.
Available in: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland
Tidy home, green planet
A clean environment is clearly a noble cause, and a clean house is highly practical. Ecover is active on both fronts. The world market leader in the field of organic cleaning products offers a broad range of household products (washing detergent, dishwashing liquid, dishwasher tablets, air freshener) and some personal care products (soap, shampoo, shower gel).
Everything Ecover makes is biodegradable. After washing all those dishes from your big party, you can throw the dirty water into your back garden with a clear conscience. Ecover doesn’t use any unnecessary chemicals for its products, which all are made from natural ingredients. A drop of Ecover in your dishwater not only spares the environment, but leaves your hands soft and the dishes clean without leaving a chemical aftertaste on your glasses or cutlery.
The founders of Ecover set up a small soap factory in northern Belgium 20 years age, and now sell products in 22 countries. The company distinguishes itself from other cleaning product manufacturers in various ways: its products have not been tested on animals; its packaging is made of recycled materials; and it continually invests in research to find even cleaner ingredients for its products.
Ecover makes its cleaning products in one of the world’s first ecological factory, construced of all-natural materials. The factory’s roof is covered with grass, which provides insulation. The wood has been sustainably harvested from forests, all water used in purified, and the bricks for the walls are made from coal mine waste.
Available in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Germany, Finland, France, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, the United States, Sweden and Switzerland.
World champion of homeopathy
There are over 3,000 tinctures in the warehouses of Laboratoires Boiron. These carefully prepared extracts made primarily from plant-based ingredients are the basis for preparing homeopathic medicines. Since the French twin brothers Jean and Henri Boiron set a goal over 70 years ago of making high-quality homeopathic preparations available to consumers, Boiron has expanded into a global brand in this sector of the alternative health field.
While the original ambition of the French homeopaths was to market to medical doctors, two generations later they have significantly raised the bar: President Christian Boiron wants “all the doctors in the world to become acquainted with and use homeopathic medicines.” In particular, dentists, pediatricians and veterinarians from the conventional medical sector are increasingly enthusiastic. Understandable, says Boiron, because homeopathic medicines are safe and no side effects in contrast to pharmaceutical medicines.
Boiron also makes a whole range of over-the-counter products such as cough syrup, eye drops, nose spray, throat lozenges and Sportenine, the famous tablet for sports enthusiasts, which helps prevent lactic acid build-up and cramps. In France, this product has an ironclad reputation and in 1998 the national soccer team chose Sportenine as a support remedy. That year the French became world champions.
Available in: Europe, United States
A special whiff of success
Brian Chossek and Rinaldo Brutoco have already steered quite a few companies in the direction of increased sustainability. As business consultants and board members of the World Business Academy, which encourages companies to take responsibility for social problems, the two men have become recognized authorities in the field of responsible business. So it’s no wonder that Seven Oaks Ranch in Ojai, California—their latest joint venture—is a trailblazer in creating good working conditions for Hispanic farmworkers, who at most other ranches spend long hours in the hot sun for low wages and no insurance coverage.
Organic garlic, avocados, Meyer lemons, tomatoes and other produce are grown on the ranch, and sold at the local market. But a few Seven Oaks products are distributed nationally. These include Garlic Gold, a delicious combination of garlic and olive oil, part of a series of products from the “Rinaldo’s Organic” line. This enterprise employs 25 people and the number keeps growing because sales are climbing and because each product is hand crafted to create as many jobs as possible. Staff are encouraged to continually take on new tasks to keep their work from getting monotonous while at the same time developing their talents.
Available in: United States
A taste of local community
The Gulpener brewery is at the center of the village. Literally, it is a stone’s throw from the town square where pubs serve the local beer. But it’s figuratively at the center too, because a portion of brewery profits support village festivals, civic groups, regional environmental organizations, the local choir, the rifle club, sports teams, and the nearby Gerardus cloister: all resources that keep the community healthy and lively.
This business philosophy anchors the nearly 180-year-old family business to the of village of Gulpener in southern Netherlands strongly to the local region. This quality of being rooted in a community plays a little recognized but critical element of sustainability, equally important to environmental measures.
Nearly all the raw materials for Gulpener beer are produced locally. Barley and hops—which, until recently, were imported—are again being cultivated in Limburg province. This not only prevents additional pollution due to truck, boat and airplane transport, it also strengthens the tie between producer and product. The brewery’s moves toward regionalization are only logical, according to brewery chairman John Halmans. “It’s really strange that you see certified organic products in the store made from raw materials that come from the other side of the world.” Gulpener produces only one certified organic beer, “Limburgs Land”, a purely local beer. But the raw materials for other beers are also cultivated in an environmentally friendly way.
And responsibility for a clean environment goes a step further: recently Gulpener installed a few solar panels so that it now generates a portion of the energy it uses. The rest of it comes from clean energy sources. But Halmans adds, “Look, you don’t drink beer to make the world a better place, but for enjoyment. So making tasty, good beers continues to be the most important priority.”
Available in: England, France, Italy and the Netherlands
URL: www.gulpener.nl (only in Dutch)