Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Present of Life

I can't believe how many boxes this ticks for me, but before I talk about that, take a look yourself at The Present Of Life!

It is:
- amazing
- festive
- for an animal charity
- done jointly with cool ethical fashion brand Rapanui

The list could go on and I have't even mentioned that David Attenborough, hero and legend, features. Nuff said. Get behind them and back this thing!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

One T, five ways

More creative deliciousness from Down Under...

Click here to see another of my posts for Ethical Fashion Forum, this time describing five ways to upcycle a basic T.

Proof that an old t-shirt can find a new sexy life, if you handle it in the correct way!

For Upstyle Virgins

Currently learning a few things Down Under...

On of them is the true meaning of Op Shop and that recycled fashion is pretty big here.

Check out my latest post to the Ethical Fashion Forum Network, with thanks to Erica at Recycled Fashion.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Commercial Success + Development Impact...

= Inclusive Business!

Check out my most recent article for the Ethical Fashion Forum SOURCE here.

Full credit goes to the report's author, Anne Stubert of Corporate Citizenship.

It seems an industry ripe for inclusive business models so I, for one, will be watching the fashion sector for clever companies who choose to adopt them sooner rather than later.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Cat o' Nine Tails

Supposedly one of the most haunted places in Australia, the Fremantle Prison is now an important site of historic value. It held prisoners until the early 1990s and conditions weren’t great. So bad were they, in fact, that they have been called ‘the worst in the world’.
I learnt on the ‘torchlight tour’ on Halloween that many British and aboriginal criminals built the prison from limestone originally. There were 44 hangings in the prison and many suicides, as well as both murders and ‘unexplained deaths’ inside the prison.
It was a place filled to the brim with violence, illness, humiliation and misery. The most violent division was actually often the one for ‘non-violent’ crimes because there, criminals who were practically harmless (perhaps they had not paid their tax once) were kept in quarters with stronger criminals. Upon arrival, prisoners were communally strip searched and washed. They were asked their profession and crime. The Officer judged whether their occupation put them at risk- if they had formerly been a policeman for example, then they would be kept in a single secure cell. Apparently some of these troubled souls still live there, chained to the stones inside which they met their end.

With no plumbing, each shared cell had a bucket. With no air conditioning, cells could reach 50 degrees in summer. For me this raised questions about human rights and welfare- even if their crime was horrendous, is it right that they are kept for so long in such inhumane conditions? How much should they be punished? Where is the line?

One of the things that struck me was the flogging which took place in a courtyard purpose built for punishment. If a prisoner broke the strict prison rules, they may have been ordered ‘100 lashings’ with a cat of nine tails whip. One strike of that across the back and there would be nine long welts each the width of a finger.

There would be a doctor standing by who was there to judge when the prisoner was on the brink of death and to order him down from the wooden posts to which he was tied at that moment. Most could take about 15-20 lashings. Next, the prisoner would be untied and laid on his front so that salt, a cheap disinfectant, could be rubbed directly into the wounds. They would be allowed to recover for a few weeks and as soon as the scars had more or less healed, they would receive the next set of lashings.

And so it would go on…until they reached their 100.
Sometimes it would take over a year.


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

$100 million

I sadly won nothing on the horses at Melbourne Cup today in Perth but still have a chance at the Oz Lotto for $100 million tonight!

I have already decided that if I win I will spend $1 million on myself, family and friends. Then I will use the other $99 million to set up 1) a foundation and 2) a venture capital fund which would invest in organisations that have as their primary aim reducing carbon emissions and/or waste to landfill, with evidence that the reductions will be significant. Organisations who help developing communities and conserve natural habitats will also be looked upon favourably.

I have yet to confirm a name for the foundation and fund- the "Dr not-so-evil Fund" doesn't quite cut it...perhaps I can decide after I win.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Killing your employees is a little extreme?

Really loved the film Water For Elephants- I know it's an old one but I only recently watched it. Thanks to a bit of Reese, RPatz and the hero of the whole show being an elephant called Rosie, I was delightfully drawn into the world of the early 1900s travelling circus. One could almost smell the straw, the candy floss and the heat of the stage lights.

That circus was also a pretty good (or bad) example of how NOT to run a company sustainably. As the whole purpose was to make more and more money, this meant that both people and animals were worked until they dropped, and in poor conditions. With 'star attractions' coming and going, it was all very well when times were good but in the hard times, cuts were made in more innovative ways. In the film, circus employees were fired when the company was not making enough money to cover their costs, by simply throwing them out of the fast-moving circus train with an unlikely chance of survival! Drink, violence and corruption common backstage, none of this was apparent to audiences who were wowed with all the glitz and glamour of a fantastic big top spectacle.

Luckily today we have more stringent measures for understanding the operations of a business, even when it is all rosey on the surface.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

All is fair in love and war (and skin creams)

This is definitely one for debate.

And probably does not count as news for most.

The above photo is just a sample from some lesser known brands; Nivea, L'Oreal, Clarins etc do it too.

It is said that in SE Asia (and also in other areas of the globe), that it is desirable to have fairer skin as darker skin implies that you are poor as you must work in the fields, out in the sun, in order to live.

The selection of skin-whitening products in Malaysian stores in unbelievable! Use of the stronger ones is basically akin to bleaching your skin.

I know that in England we have a lot of tanning products available. Although, somehow it seems to be a different scenario if you are adding something in order to enhance existing features, as opposed to using chemicals to take away something (colour) that you were born with? Particularly if it is attached to status connotations, or at least supposedly was originally.

There are some health concerns with skin whitening processes in the longer term, but equally tanning products use chemicals and tanning on sun beds is increasingly linked to skin damage and even increased risk of cancer. But one can tan naturally too.

Which is worse- tanning lighter skin or whitening darker skin?

Or is that a false dichotomy? Are both simply products of advances in our ability to change what exists naturally? If both processes are a demonstration of societal and technological development then perhaps both are very good things? Perhaps the wider debate is around how far we will go in order to enhance our own beauty. And how far cosmetics companies will go to make money. Hmm...

Saturday, 13 October 2012

The UN High Commission for Refugees in Malaysia

I am going to let a few nice photos tell most of the story here…

Zomi refugees in KL
In Malaysia, particularly in Kuala Lumpur, there is a high number of refugees coming mostly from Myanmar. They call themselves Zomi, are usually of Christian faith and are therefore a minority group in the largely Buddhist country of Myanmar. As a consequence, they are often abused, unable to find work in Myanmar and are generally undermined in their everyday lives.

Kuala Lumpur is actually a stepping stone for them as most of them are destined for the United States. The process they must go through in order to be accepted into America can take up to about five years, during which time they remain in KL.
English class
A crucial element of their settling into America is the ability to speak English. The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) provides volunteers to teach these refugees many subjects including English.

My uncle Patrick, a KL resident, is a regular volunteer and I was lucky enough to assist in one of his classes this week. The children were aged 12-16 years and were incredibly bright. I am grateful for their enthusiastic welcome: upon our entering the room they all stood up and said “Good Afternoon Teacher Patrick and Rosie!”

Team Patrick and Rosie helped them through spelling tests, learning new vocabulary, playing word games and holding a conversation. One topic of conversation we had to avoid was their journey from Myanmar. Otherwise, the more talking that went on, the better!
My overall impression was that they were very friendly, keen to learn and very respectful to educators.
They insisted on fetching me a chair and a glass of water, offered to carry my bag and kindly walked us to the car after the class, holding an umbrella over us during an electric storm. I really enjoyed the two hour class and it was a pleasure to meet such delightful students.
A smoother journey
Some come across to KL in whole family groups and some are orphans who come across alone.

Regrettably, many landlords in KL take advantage of Zomi refugees, squeezing many families into small flats and charging much higher rents. Although it can take years, the permit to America can sometimes be given quite quickly; Patrick receives updates on which children have moved on already and which are new to the class on a weekly basis. Some are also unfortunately taken out of the programme to help provide for their families.

Their lives are not yet ideal, but hopefully this programme helps their journey to a better life be that little bit smoother.

Friday, 12 October 2012

No plastic bags in KLCC

The Malaysian supermarket Cold Storage has a no plastic bag day every Saturday, with a charge of about 4p per plastic bag used for those who forget. That's one way of (very gently) encouraging consumers to behave in a slightly more environmentally-friendly way. I guess the next step would be to have no plastic bag day every day!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Batu Cave Conservation

The Dark Cave at Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur is so called because...OK I am not going to treat you like children. But it is amazing to stand in the middle with all head torches turned off and not be able to see your fingers in front of your face!

It is home to the "rarest spider in the world"- a species of trapdoor spider that is endemic only to Batu. They actually have a trapdoor in their home to surprise prey, but also an emergency back door to escape their own prey. They are blind but keep an extended string between each leg so that if a creature comes near, they can feel the vibrations- if it is a small vibration, they will pop out and grab the animal in less than one second. If it feels like it is a pretty big creature (like the long-legged centipede), then the trapdoor spider can escape quickly out of the back!

Most of the animals are blind and have long legs and antennae so that they can feel their way around.

The cave is also home to a rare cave snake and tiny flat worms. If you cut the latter in half, it will form two new flat worms, if you cut it into eight, there will be eight new flat worms. So these clever worms are important for medical stem cell research.

Of course there are also a lot of fruit eating and insect eating bats, which make guano, which in turn provides nutrients for a whole host of small creatures.

The cave has a marketing and communications dilemma- they do little marketing themselves (other than the website and facebook page) as too many visitors are likely to damage the equilibrium of the cave. However, there is a balance to be had as they need the income from tours to fund the vital conservation work (a bat detector can cost 10,000RM)...

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Who knew pixies were eco too?

So yesterday I arrived for the first part of my adventure- 10 days in and around Kuala Lumpur.

The first thing I heard on the taxi radio when travelling from the airport was:

"Hi Malaysia, it's Pixie Lott here! Climate change is something that affects us all and we can all do our bit by making simple changes such as switching off lights. Keep up the good work Malaysia!"

Last time I was in Malaysia I discovered that kareoke was very popular and at the time (2.5 years ago), Lady Gaga was a big hit. Perhaps Pixie Lott is the next most popular thing to hit this Asian country and celebrity endorsement is favoured by the government to promote energy efficiency?

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Chucks away!

What is my role in life? That is a bit dramatic. What I mean is: what will my next job be?

Having finished my wonderful internship with Corporate Citizenship at the end of September, I spent a week in Devon and quite liked the job I had there for that short time: it was regular hours, the commute was incredibly short, I was always appreciated- the only downside was that it was unpaid.

What was my job last week at home in Devon?

I was Head of Chickens.

As Head of Chickens, I learnt a lot about living more sustainably. As I woke up, I let them out. They were normally found huddled up together to keep warm.

I checked for eggs- which make a lovely orangey colour when scrambled...

They came running when it was time for their feed, always grateful to see me.

I had to be careful about where to place the grain so that the one of the three who has a bad leg could get a look-in as well (I call her 'hop-along'- a slightly mean name for one of your colleagues, but luckily she does not understand - you may be able to see her as the white dot in the background).

At the end of the day the reminder on my phone said 'chucks away!' which was probably the most important part of the job. If the chickens were not shut back in their home properly, there may not be any chickens left by morning. We never encountered such issues under my term of office.

Ahh the simple life.

Unfortunately there's nowhere I can really go from Head of Chickens, unless I wanted to open a chicken farm, which I don't think I do. So for now I will keep looking for the next job... this time a bit further afield... in Sydney.

Let's keep it brief

Corporate Citizenship Briefing is pretty good and is also handy because brief summaries on the key international sustainable business news stories are delivered to your inbox every lunch time. This means you can keep up to date whilst not taking away from your core working activities. You also get a monthly breifing including guest written analysis pieces by sustainability leaders, and more!

The world of global social and environmental activity is moving so fast. With frequent regulatory changes, NGO vs corporate campaigns, governance scandals, to name but a few, it is nice for someone to hand the news to you on a (clear and simple) plate! I wrote the briefing myself May-Sept 2012 so I know it is worth a gander...

Oh and did I mention it is free to subscribe? :)

Monday, 17 September 2012

London Fashion Week!!!

OH HELLO stunningly draped dresses and stylish My Fair Lady hats made in an environmentally- and socially-sound way!

THANK YOU, Livia Firth, Lucy Siegle and others for making an ethical fashion statement with The Green Cut just in time for London Fashion Week.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Women at the Top

Hilary Devey's Women at the Top is particularly enlightening given the recent EU discussions and consequential debates about mandatory quotas for women on boards

Europe's listed companies will be forced to reserve at least 40% of their non-executive director board seats for women by 2020 or face fines and other sanctions under a proposal being drafted by the European Commission. Some businesses do not agree that it will help matters as each business is different and often they prefer to exercise their own diversity policies in recruitment, believing there are other ways to achieve diversity. The second episode looks at this quota system as exercised in Norway.

I loved the first episode of Women at the Top (you have 5 days left to watch)!  One key thing stuck out for me: it was proved that gender-mixed teams are more productive. This was shown in a couple of businesses' financial figures, but also in an exercise where three groups of people were asked to build a paper tower under a time limit with limited resources.

The first, all-male, group were all competing to be team leader and to come up with the chosen idea. It was a bit tense and serious. Their tower was not structurally sound and collapsed.

The all-female team were all trying to take account of one another's ideas (or at least attempting to show that they were), yet there was a few moments where a quieter team member (with a great idea) had to weigh up her aims for this task: did she want to speak over the lady who's idea was being accepted and risk being rejected by the group, or go along with the other lady’s idea and remain accepted as 'one of the team'? The result of the chosen idea was a tower that was too short.

The group comprising 50% men and 50% women had an entirely different atmosphere about them from the off- they were smiling (almost flirtatious at times), relaxed and all felt comfortable to put forward their ideas, justifying them whilst listening to others, without the pressure of trying to ensure their own idea shone through nor trying to be seen as a leader. The gender-diverse team held a clear win with a tall and sturdy tower.

Obviously this was one experiment with a small selection of people; however, with the backing of financial statistics, the benefits of mixed gender teams are obvious. I also thought this experiment represented an interesting insight into how same-gender and mixed-gender groups operate from a business psychology perspective.

In another exercise, groups of male and female students in blue and red t-shirts provided a striking visual representation of the number of women and men at each hierarchical level in UK business. I probably do not need to add that it was really quite shocking how few women reach senior level and particularly executive board level after graduating, despite having the same qualifications as their male counterparts.

Even though this topic is not new, it is being brought to light in the mass media thanks to this programme. I think this is possibly the first time that the opportunities and challenges of women in business has caught the attention of those outside the realm of governance or HR in this way. If it helps people (male and female) at all levels of business become more aware of the situation, then we are beginning to create a culture of change, with or without official quotas.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Classic Zara trench coat

In the spirit of giving clothes a second life I am selling my trench coat on ebay! The auction will finish at 10am  on Sat 15th Sept 2012. If you live/work in London and I can deliver in person then there is no postage fee.

Do please take a peak and a bid if you fancy x

Friday, 14 September 2012

Gatsby Gothica

At a recent autumn wedding, I went for what I am terming "Gatsby Gothica" style.

My cape is made from gorgeous dark cockerel feathers which were sourced as a by-product of the food industry (i.e. they would have gone to waste otherwise).

The (Great) Gatsby part is from the tassel dress and necklace as well as feather head band. The 'dark romance', gothic style comes from the dark shoes, bag (with a skull on the clasp) and of course, cape. Oh- and attitude.

I am proud that I have combined two current trends to create a new one: Gatsby Gothica!

Monday, 13 August 2012

The Big O: Who comes first?

Wow. I mean- WOW!

You mean... that’s it?

Well, how was it for you? was...energetic, euphoric and...ELECTRIC!

For those who hadn’t yet cottoned on- I am talking about the Olympics, people, the OLYMPICS! Nothing Fifty Shades going on here.

Yes, although the Spice Girls reunion last night did soften the blow, everything has come to a climactic end and, it’s over. Phew. What now?

There is a constant stream of news articles quoting Seb Coe, Boris, even our dear old David Cameron, all of them saying one thing. We must act fast to ride on the back of the post-Olympic euphoria and use it to its maximum potential to promote social good, before it fades out.

But who comes first? Women in sport, those uninspired by or unable to take part in sport, or young people. What about using sport to address issues like homophobia and racism? The answer is, all of the above should be tackled, and more. There is no end to the good things that sport can bring- social cohesion, promoting multicultural harmony, helping keep people fit and healthy, reducing heart disease and obesity rates.

If there’s one thing London 2012 gave us it is a new awareness of strong, empowered women. Jessica Ennis and Nicola Adams, to name but a couple, are naturally becoming heroines of the sporting world and with that, role models.

Our beloved Mo is also a role model. In fact, they all are! All of these athletes are in the spotlight and will be for a few more weeks- I just hope Mo uses his signature ‘m’ move (aka the Mobot) to represent “kids, do MORE sport” and not Maccy D’s...

The venues, the athletes, the atmosphere. All of these can be utilised to affect our nation in a positive way for generations to come. Of course, a lot of the changes are already taking place and the big ‘O’ may just be the push needed to take some of these activities to the next level. Just one example- Stylist’s Fair Game Campaign to promote women in sport is making headway and getting great recognition (you can help by signing the petition too).

With ticket sales currently soaring for the upcoming Paralympics, the national excitement is set to increase again. It just needs to be harnessed to create longer-lasting impacts and a fantastic Olympic legacy.  

It’s been good. Now let’s make it great...

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Mainstreaming Ethical Fashion

Two pieces of content today (I am nice like that, giving options and choices and that):

1. Here is my two pennies worth on mainstreaming ethical fashion.

2. And here is a shameless plug about The Briefing:
- it has been running for over 20 years
- one of the Founding Directors of Corporate Citizenship started it
- it is free to subscribe
- it is popular (not just because it is free! Click the Free Subscription tab top right)
- the top environmental and social business stories will land in your inbox daily
- they are succinct and bite-size
- you also receive the monthly briefing
- the contents is important to know for the world, and in business today
- it is pretty good (I should know, I write it)

Happy Wednesday!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Dear Lucy Mangan

I think that you are all-round bloody brilliant and I bloody love you.

Your surname should be 'WomanCan' not Mangan. Maybe.

You are probably the wittiest, most engaging and amusing writer I have come across. And that's genuine. I would love to be able to write like you (although we do share some similarities in style, as demonstrated in the against-the-rules deployment of extra long sentences and lots of brackets).

Now that I have your attention, Lucy, (please do not think the above flattery to be false- I genuinely do love reading your articles each and every week), I would just like to make one small point. Following my reading of your recent article 'The rain washes away my global warming guilt' in the fabulous Stylist magazine, I was prompted to return to my  university texts for clarification (cue the image of huge dusty, damp-smelling encyclopaedias being fork-lift-trucked off my own library shelves that go on forever, whilst I in fact click to Google, sorry).

Unfortunately, the recent British rain shouldn’t really be washing away your guilt about global warming and in fact yours, and everyone’s guilt, should remain. And should prompt the big wigs at Rio+20 to stop jabbering on about it and get on with it, or at least make them jabber on until they make a proper, legally-binging plan about getting on with it. Yes, global warming is doing as it say on the tin, but there are thousands of other impacts that the rise in global temperatures will have, and is having.

For example, we will see an increase in extreme weather events such as this ‘a-month’s-worth-of-rain-fell-in-the-last-24-hours’ (Mangan, 2012) nonsense. Now, I am no expert (in fact, I mostly took the ‘human’ geography options at university- who doesn't love a good ol' gander at the inner workings of our catastrophically wonderful society?) But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are, and I am betting that’s not where you sourced your info from, is it love? Their last Assessment Report was produced in 2007 and clearly states that the negative impacts of global warming felt in Europe ‘will include increased risk of inland flash floods’. Another IPCC Assessment Report is due soon- keep your eyes peeled- it’s gonna be a corker.

On another weather-related note, there is also a 50% chance of El Nino effects occurring this year. Now I’ll let you ponder that one yourself.

I am sorry if that means that you will now worry whatever the weather, whatever the guilt-filled time of year. Oh no please don't worry! I hope I haven't caused you extra worry? There are lots of things you can do to help- you already do one of them by not flying very much at all! Getting involved with something like Global Action Plan may be a nice thing for you to do? Or at The Guardian, where you are most of the time, electronically at least, the Guardian Sustainable Business section, as well as your own internal Sustainability Manager know and do a whole bunch. Go and have a chat and a cup o' tea.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. 
I hope to hear back from you soon.

Yours sincerely,

A huge LM fan- Rosie Helson

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Smiles all around my face...

...and office today as it was announced that the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony has the theme of celebrating how lucky we are to be blessed with gorgeous countryside- 'our green and pleasant land'!

It is of course valuable and this will highlight the need to take care of it. Although apparently there will be dramatic changes taking place during the event- hopefully not a big skyscraper rising up through the middle...

London 2012 is set to be the greenest games ever so we know they will take good care of the sheeps and goaties and other animals taking part. BAArilliant MOOve!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Fashion Exclusive: Only 1 week to go!

Oh my goodness, this is really quite exciting, particularly for the ladies.

I have often marvelled at the sustainable fashion labels of From Somewhere and Goodone, which create sexy clothes from factory off-cuts and upcycle using reclaimed textiles. Despite how marvellous they are, marvel is all I can do, due to the expensive nature of the designs.

However, on June 15th,  in both the Oxford Circus store and online, Topshop will be releasing their new range, which is…wait for it… made entirely from off-cuts!

Finally: an affordable, high street version!

Thanks to a collaboration with Reclaim To Wear, these products will be just as distinctive.

Many, many thousands of tonnes of waste are produced each year from the bits of material left over when a factory machine cuts out the garment shape. This goes for swimwear brands, luxury wear as well as high street.

Making use of that fabric seems like a fairly good idea- not only can sewing the pieces together make for something rather unique, but it is also positive for the environment.

Yes, this is a capsule collection, but if it proves popular there is no reason why Topshop couldn’t continue the partnership for our benefit!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Run Run Run

Inspired, in part, by the London Marathon 2012, I am running the Bupa London 10km on May 27th with my sister. We are running for Cardiac Risk In The Young, in memory of my friend Marion.

Have a read of our page and if you can spare a dime, any donations are much appreciated!

Marion passed away whilst running along the beach of Reunion Island in April 2010 and is sorely missed. Having run 2 half marathons last year I feel very grateful I am able to do this.

Many thanks x

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Big Mama

Mum's are rather fab and without them we wouldn't be here! The same goes for life-giving Mother Earth. Like we have Mother's Day, today is Earth Day.

If you weren't running the London Marathon (you probably will need this moment to stretch/bath/cup-of-tea-yourself silly and think about what an achievement you just completed), perhaps you can take a mini moment to think about the beautiful amalgamation of rock and ocean and biodiversity that was here before us, that puts up with us living on it and that we take for granted.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Go girls!

I'd just like to take a short moment to BIG UP International Women's Day (#iwd) and also Vivienne Westwood's Ethical Fashion Africa collection, aptly sloganned 'THIS is not charity, THIS is WORK'.

The message is clear: empower women to create their own livelihoods in an environmentally sustainable way and it will bring positive benefits to the whole community.