Friday, June 25, 2010

Creating a Business Value and Culture of Sustainability

I stated earlier that I didn’t learn much about sustainability at the World Expo in Shanghai because of my terrific client, Nancy Goshow, co-founder and managing partner of Goshow Architects in NYC. She gave a webinar yesterday for WIPP’s Entrepreneurs, Energy and Environment series titled Creating a Business Value and Culture of Sustainability. Nancy packed so much information into the 30-minute webinar that I would highly recommend people to go listen to it online. You can find archived podcasts of this and other past training sessions on in the Resources section.

Goshow Architects is dedicated to sustainable design for the public sector and is known for its diverse range of green projects in the New York metropolitan area. These are now starting to expand internationally.

Most of us have, by now, started recycling programs and changed our light bulbs. Many have even quit using paper products. (Even me—who HATES to do dishes!). In this webinar, Nancy not only told us HOW to be a sustainable business, but more importantly for what I want to write about here -- how to create a culture of sustainability in our workplace.

Nancy outlined points on creating that culture:

- Inspire stakeholders toward a greater greener future.
- Engage by delegation and collaboration (two heads are better than one).
- Create a Green Task Force supported by a green study group.
- Foster communication up and down within your organization.
- Require accountability and flexibility from all participants.
- Ask all stakeholders to be open and on the watch for new ideas.
- Promote & Maintain an ongoing sustainability conversation with all stakeholders.

She also discussed the triple bottom line: people, planet and profits. Goshow Architects has reached their goal for the triple bottom line this year:

- People: We are a diverse firm of architects working collaboratively.
- Planet: On a variety of High performance green buildings.
- Society: For public sector government agencies serving the public good.
- Profit: We are a very busy firm and we are profitable.

She said sustainability has given Goshow a future focused strategically for success in the 21st century. However, their success has not only been on green design for their projects, but because of the diversity of their people and projects. I’ll be writing more about diversity in the future, and I love to see the importance of diversity tied in with sustainability.

Friday, June 4, 2010

New Chinese Name

I now have a Chinese name—Mary Mulan. (My African name is Njoki, meaning “one who returns”).

During my stay in China we did a three-day trip to Shang Qui in the Hunan Province. This is where the Mulan Temple is and where that entire story originated. The story became famous worldwide in 1998 when Disney did an animated movie on Mulan.

Doking Foods’ factories are located in Shang Qui, a small Chinese city of 10 million people. Most people I have met in Shanghai have never heard of it—because it’s small by China standards. It also is the hub of agriculture output for China.

Doking was the primary financial sponsor of the Legacies Dinner for the Global Summit of Women dinner in Shanghai which honored the President of Finland. Mr. and Mrs. Liu, who are one of the most delightful couples I have ever met, started the business about 10 years ago.

What really astounded me about Doking is that they are introducing a new organic grain drink in their 92 stores across China. And an etching modeled after my photo is on the cup! They decided to make me the face of this health drink since I am a six-time cancer survivor, a former basketball player and coach and still pretty healthy despite all I’ve been through.

When our train pulled into the Shang Qui station, I was a little dazed after sleeping most of the five-hour trip. But I woke up quickly after stepping out on the platform. Mr. Liu was there with flowers for me and the other women in our group. A banner at least 10 feet long welcoming me to Shang Qui was on the platform and there were photographers everywhere. As we left the station, a lot of city, regional and province government officials were there to greet us, too.

We went to our hotel and I was given a suite. At that evening’s dinner I was honored with gifts and – more pictures were taken! And yes, we did a lot of “cheers” and drinking. The top woman official for the region was at the dinner, too.

The next day we went to the Doking Factory and toured the Shang Qui area. We were given a police escort everywhere so we would not be held up in traffic and yes, there were photographers at every stop.

Doking already had a brochure and video made that had photos and editorial mention of the Global Summit dinner, which had just been two days earlier. They are one of the few factories in China that do not allow smoking on the property.

Besides the Mulan Temple, we went to the Mulan Cultural Park, the city wall and old town and the “Fire House.” It was all very interesting and informative. And of course, that night we had another celebration dinner before leaving the next morning on the train.

Mulan was a warrior from somewhere between the 4th and 6th centuries that went to war disguised as a man so her elderly father would not have to go. Of course, she was one of China’s greatest warriors for the next 10 years and not until her service was over did she reveal that she was a woman.

To be compared to the “most famous and strongest” woman in Chinese history is quite an honor. And at first I was embarrassed by it. But I know it is in fun—and I decided, why not? I have been working for many years to help further the status of women throughout the world. In the last few years, my main focus in this area has been for women in developing countries.

The woman that heads the women’s association in the Hunan Province was at the Mulan Temple to greet us as well. This is not just a group for businesswomen, but for all women. She said that the association helps women with personal issues as well as business issues. She said that many women want to start businesses. I asked her what is the biggest issue overall. I expected something like child care, domestic violence, health care services – something more on the personal front. Her quick answer was “getting capital.” It’s amazing that no matter how different things are, they are still the same. That is probably the primary obstacle for women business owners in the US, as well.

Videos from China

China Pavilion:

DEVNET Pavilion:
Caribbean Pavilion:

Iceland Pavilion:
African Pavilion:

Booth at the Global Summit of Women in Beijing:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

World Expo

I could make a blanket statement that I was really disappointed in the World Expo. I could make a blanket statement that I think countries focused more on tourism and reaching the Chinese population who is known to be the next (or already current) big tourism market. But I shouldn’t because there’s far more of the Expo that I didn’t see than what I did.

Was I wowed by any new technology? Only in the Youth Innovation area and that was about computer games, mobile devices, etc. Nothing too far “out there.” Did I see anything where I learned more about sustainability or “Better City Better Life”? No.

The US Pavilion is an embarrassment. There are two films (one with Hillary Clinton and President Obama) and then there is a large room of corporate sponsor advertisements. Each sponsor (Microsoft, Pepsi, Dow, Dove, and, gee, the other ones are lucky as I’ve already forgotten them) has an area with an LCD screen. Some use it for blatant advertising and some try to have some sustainability information, but not much. Hopefully, most foreigners won’t recognize this “sponsorship” model.

Then, following the Disneyland model, to exit you have to walk through a large gift shop.

The other thing I realized is that I really was here to work. I spent another half day with the two winery clients in the DevNet Pavilion and seeing how we could improve their display.

Otherwise, there are just too many people and the lines are too long to get into Pavilions—1-3-5 hours long. Standing in line for hours is harder on the body than walking around for hours.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Freedom of Speech

I met a woman at the World Expo who grew up in Tijuana, Mexico. We talked about the internet being blocked for You Tube, Twitter and Facebook. She said she doesn’t mind. She is willing to give up Freedom of Speech for the safety she feels here in China (there is little or no crime on the streets, etc). She asked me if I didn’t agree. I said, being from the US where Freedom of Speech is one of our founding principles, I could never willingly give that up.

But I don’t have her background—growing up where there is SO much crime that you constantly fear for your own personal safety. Interesting how our perspectives are shaped so differently depending on our backgrounds. A good thought.

P.S. People ask why there is no “crime” here. I asked too one day on another trip as we walked down an alley at 2 a.m. looking for a foot massage place….I wondered—is it because their jails are so bad or prisoners are treated so horribly? I was assured not. It is that most people who commit crimes are caught as people are not fearful of being eye witnesses here. There is no “I don’t want to get involved” or “I saw nothing.” They tattle tale!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Francoise Mukagihana

I met Francoise Mukagihana from Rwanda in the Africa Pavilion at the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai. She was selling items made in Rwanda by her Rwandan Art-Crafts & Beyond women's group. I'll be buying fruit baskets (like the one she's holding), treasure baskets, pencils, earrings and dolls from her which should be arriving in July. Let us know if you'd like any specific color on the baskets. The treasure baskets are a bright red.

Coaching Stephen and Joan

I am going to the Expo with an 18-year-old boy whose English name is Stephen. Earlier in my trip I spent a couple of days with a 16-year-old girl. She had given herself the English name of Linda but we changed it to Joan. Both Stephen and Joan want a US Visa to go to the US to study so I am trying to coach them on their English, and give them a lot of practice in speaking to me! This is necessary for them to “pass” their Embassy interview.

I have really enjoyed the time I spent with both of them. They are very sweet and appreciative. Stephen even took me shopping on Sunday to the Silk Market with his mother. His mother does not speak English but she is VERY stylish and I appreciated her opinions on what to buy – and what not to buy. Yes, I did buy a Chinese-style dress. She smiled and said that she has never bought such a dress. But that is what I have found—it is the foreigners who wear the Chinese-style clothing, not the Chinese!

Anyway, I think Stephen will be glad when I go home—a day shopping and two days at the Expo! He’s ready for a break, I’m sure.

I asked my business partner here in China, who handles these immigration matters for clients, why Chinese students want to come to America for high school, when in the US we complain about our failing education system. She says, the Chinese system is so rigorous that the students—and parents—don’t like it. They gain no “social skills”, and this is important if they want to do global work. Stephen’s father owns a very successful company that manufactures valves and taps for oil wells. Stephen does not want to go into that business, he wants to start his own business and build it up. Right now he is thinking of being an engineer—that is, when he’s not thinking about playing basketball (no wonder we get along so well!)