A different way of looking at disability

 

For our CSR activity, our group worked with Leonard Cheshire Disability Foundation Philippines Inc (LCDFII), a non-profit organization whose aim is to enrich the lives and promote independence of people with disabilities.  One of their programs is the access to livelihood which is funded by the Accenture Foundation.   Through their Livelihood Resources Center, they build the skills and confidence of people with disability and create opportunities for them to succeed in work or enterprise.

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The foundation together with the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office of Mabitac, Laguan, assessed and identified 25 people with disabilities, which will be awarded a livelihood program.  They interviewed the 25 people with varying disabilities and asked what type of livelihood they want to pursue. Some of those livelihoods are sari-sari store, electronic loading, poultry, and repair shop.

Before the livelihood was awarded to the recipient, a basic financial literacy seminar was conducted.  This where my group comes in.  The foundation coordinated with ANZ Bank and a representative of the bank will conduct the seminar entitled Money Minded.  Our group assisted in the facilitating the seminar.  We go around to check and assist the participants in the activities.  Since the participants have varying disabilities, they need special attention which we gladly provide, though there are participants who came in with their family members.

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One of the activities they did and we assisted with is the Vision Board, where they will draw or write their goals in life.   Afterwards they were divided into two groups and discusses among themselves their vision boards.  Before they were asked to accomplish their vision board, the difference of dreams and goals was discussed to them.  Several examples were given as to distinguish one from the other.  Since the facilitator is busy discussing the content of the seminar, it is up to us to hand out materials and guide the participants in doing their vision board.  Most of them are reluctant to start their vision board, it’s as if they are afraid to put down into drawing/writing their goals in life.  After several minutes of coaxing they eventually started working on their vision board.  Their goals were very simple; a sari-sari store as source of income, a house of their own, and a bicycle repair shop.  Watching them go through the activity gave some weird feeling; a mixture of sadness and happiness.  Happy that they were given access to livelihood and sad because it is apparent how hard life has been for them.  If I had my way, I will help all of them.

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One of the participants (a deaf mute) discusses the contents of her vision board through her mother

They were also taught to differentiate needs from wants and was given an activity where they will identify things that they either need or want.   They also taught the importance of having a budget and how to prepare one.  In this topic, they were given an exercise where they have work on a budget where the actual expenses exceeded the income.  They adjusted the budget and try to cut down some expenses to decrease the overall expenses.

Not everyone was cooperative but the program was a success.  After the seminar, the livelihood of their choice have been awarded to them.  While the livelihood given to them was not that much, it is a good start.  If they apply what they have learned during the literacy seminar in running their business, they will succeed in managing it.  May God bless them and their new business ventures.

The entire experience was very rewarding for me.  I enjoyed interacting with the community.   It is quite challenging to communicate with them because they are very shy and wary of strangers.  I like talking to them because they are very straight forward and simple.  There are a few who doesn’t mind sharing some stories with us and I was willing to listen and I realized that they have so much to say and it seemed like no one really bothered to listen so the moment someone actually pays attention they talk endlessly.  I even made friends with one of the recipient/participants, Bitoy, who drew a flower for me and wrote best friends forever.  I was so touched, I almost cried.  I enjoyed and learned so much from this community service.    This is one experience I will never forget.

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The livelihood awarded to the recipients will change their lives for the better.  This signals a new beginning in their lives, one that is full of hope for great things to come their way.  Giving these people opportunities to earn a living and be independent is very important.  While talking to them I have learned how much the hate being a burden to their family and having the chance to actually ease the burden is such a huge gift for them.  The seminar they attended also taught them practical ideas that they cause in their daily lives.

 

This experience has thought to appreciate all the blessings I have received.  I also realized that there are so many ways that I can help those people in need.  This experience made me consider a career in social enterprise.  Not only will I earn a living but will also be able to help those people in need.   I strongly believe that it is possible for a company to earn a profit while being ethical and philanthropic.  I intend to volunteer on future projects of the foundation.  As my continuing support to this cause, I plan to sponsor a livelihood package for at least one PWD per year.  I have also started spreading the word to families and friends, one friend of mine already expressed interest in volunteering.

 

People with disability should be given opportunities to better their lives.  Their disability should not stop them from getting a chance at a good life.  I strongly believe that the government and private agencies should assist them not just in the treatment of their disability but also in terms of education and livelihood.  How can they get a job if they didn’t attend school?  How can they qualify for a job, if they don’t have the skill?  I am sure they don’t want to be burden to their family and the society and they don’t have to be if we give them the access to education and livelihood.  They don’t want to rely in charity and they won’t if we empower them.  They don’t need our pity, they need our encouragement and acceptance.  They are just like us.

Sustainability is the name of the game

 

Sustainability at its simplest form can be defined as the ability to sustain.  While for me, sustainability is about the impact of our present actions to future generations.

Do we have the ability to sustain this environment? Does our society have the capacity to endure?  To answer that question we have to assess our present condition.  The environment is deteriorating at a rapid rate and we are already experiencing the effects of climate change.  We consume so much so the industry also produces so much.   At the rate that we are going it seemed like we don’t have ability to sustain nor maintain what we have so that the next generation can still enjoy it.

We need to evaluate our behavior and change our ways if we want to save this civilization we call mankind.  Everyone has the responsibility to ameliorate the current situation and transform the way we do business before it’s too late.  It is a good thing that more and more company now are integrating sustainability in their business model.  Some of these organizations are:

  1. Coca-Cola Enterprises

 

2. Ford Motors

 

3. SAS

 

4. Whole Foods 

 

 

Some of the benefits of becoming a sustainable business.

  1. Cost Reduction. In developing a more sustainable business practices, operations will be streamlined and costs will be reduced. Take preventive maintenance for instance, this practice keep equipment in good working order and prevent them from breaking down and also lead to longer “useful” life.

 

  1. Market Advantage. Sustainability is a market strategy. A company that is viewed as a positive and favorable member of the community is likely to have less opposition and less likely to be perceived negatively. Some can call this a “reputational’ capital, an investment that will pay off over time. According to the The Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) consumer research, a company that is mindful of its impact on the environment and society makes consumer 58% more likely to buy their products or services.

 

  1. Increase Employee Retention and Recruitment. Integrating sustainability in their business practices will make a company more attractive to future employees and retain current employees.  Employees want to work with companies who are ‘doing the right thing’ and being proactive with corporate environmental and social programs.  A 2007 survey by Adecco, an international HR company, found that 52% of employed adults feel their companies should do more about the environment. More importantly, companies want their employees to be loyal and ethical to the organization. According to a Global Study of Business Ethics by the American Management Association, one of the top five internal practices for ensuring an ethical corporate culture is developing corporate social responsibility programs.

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-friedman/sustainable-business_b_1576400.html

http://www.eco-officiency.com/benefits_becoming_sustainable_business.html

The lone woman in the room: women in the corporate world

 

Human rights are those rights which apply to every single person simply because he or she is a human being.  They are innate.  Human rights apply to every person in every part of the world without exception and therefore universal.  They are also apply equally to everyone regardless of race, religion,  gender, sexual orientation, skin color, age or other features that may distinguished one person from another.   The three dimensions of human rights are as follows:

  1. Political and civil liberty rights – this include
  2. Economic, social and cultural human rights – equality between men and women falls under this dimension
  3. Rights of groups

Gender equality is a human right, a right that has been denied for women for so long.  The advocacy for gender equality has been around for decades and one would assume that we have finally reached the era of achieving said equality.   We would think that women of today have it easier.   That the society would be more supportive and welcoming to the women who wanted to excel in the fields of their choice.   Well not really.  Take a look at the business world for instance.  There are currently only 20 female CEO in the top 500 fortune companies.   Studies after studies show that women hasn’t really made it yet to top of the corporate world yet.

Visit link for the complete list of female CEOs in Fortune 500 companies

 

The documentary produced by PBS entitled Makers: Women in Business, featured stories of women in corporate America, women who defied the odds, fought against discrimination and changed the corporate landscape for the better.

For most part of our history, a woman’s success is measured through domestic life and being a wife and mother, which defines the limits of her ambitions regardless the field of her work.  In the 1960’s, women were deprived of power and opportunity.   When they came in for a job interview they would be informed that there is no job for a woman or that they can’t be executive but they can be assistants instead.  The most elite colleges and universities during that time are only open to men.  As early as that, women’s chances of success at the corporate world is already being limited.  For ambitious young women who wanted to earn their college degrees they have to go to exclusive colleges instead such as Barnard College.

One of success stories featured in the documentary is that of Mary Wells who revamped the lackluster image of Braniff Airlines while she was working for Jack Tinker & Partners. She was promised the presidency if her Braniff campaign become successful.  She succeeded in her advertising campaign but the promotion didn’t happened.   She was told that she will be given the salary and authority of a president but not the title because men are just not ready for a female president yet.   Wells quit her job and set up her own agency instead.   She had a rough start but eventually became the best advertising brand there is.   Almost everyone wanted her on their advertising team.  Wells was the first woman CEO of a company listed on the New York Stock Exchange and was once the highest-paid executive in the industry.

Mary Wells

Another noteworthy story is that of Ann Hopkins, former consultant of Price Waterhouse, a leading accounting firm in the US.  Hopkins took four years to work her way to the ranks of Price Waterhouse.  She became senior manager and aspired to become a partner of the firm.  She was the only woman among the 88 nominees, a top consultant and won the firm its largest contract in history.  Despite that, her name wasn’t included in the final nominees for partner.   Her husband told her to sue the firm and she did.   During the legal proceedings, Hopkins found out that she was denied the partnership not because of her performance failure but because she didn’t acted in a “womanly fashion” for her male colleagues.  It turned out she was supposed to style her hair, wear make-up and jewelry and take a charm course.   They found her to be macho, overly aggressive and harshly; characteristics that are totally alright if you are a man and unacceptable for a woman.  They even go as far as to claim that she overcompensated for being a woman.   After seven years of litigation, Price Waterhouse was found guilty of gender discrimination and was ordered to make Ann Hopkins partner.   Hopkins went back to Price Waterhouse and led the most diverse and profitable team in the firm, validating her almost a decade fight.

Ann Hopkins

There are more success stories about women who fought for place in the corporate world despite discrimination and sexism.  They shattered the “glass ceiling”, paved the way for the next generation of women, and changed the landscape of the corporate world.  However, we are not there yet.  In 1990 only 3 Fortune 500 companies have female CEO.   By 2010 only 3% of Fortune 500 companies were led by female CEO.   Only 16% of the corporate board is made up of women.   Data painted a clear picture of gender inequality in corporate America but it was believed that women are actually making huge progress in the corporate world.   Until Sheryl Sandberg brought the issue to light in her TED talk in December 2010.   During that time only a few know her name despite being the COO of one of the hottest companies in the world, Facebook.   Sandberg decided to give the talk because she noticed that every year there are more and more men in the room with her and those who get the promotion were also men.  She was experiencing for ten years what the data show and that is complete stagnation for women at the top of corporate America.  There was no increase in leadership roles, CEO level jobs and board memberships but she believes that women can do better.  Sandberg is hoping people to notice that we are not in an equal world (for the awareness of inequality to set in) and to take actions to change their own lives.   Sandberg went to write the book Lean in, which turned up to be successful.  Lean in spent over a year in the bestselling lists.  Despite the success of the book, Sandberg had been accused of preaching individual female empowerment in the workplace instead of collective social action.  Some argue that her philosophy is only applicable to a particular class, women in the top management.

Sheryl Sandberg

 

I will be always grateful that I existed in this era.  I could not imagine myself living in a world full of stereotype and discrimination against women, not that they don’t exist anymore but the landscape is so much better now more than ever.  It is now my generation’s duty to continue the fight because there are still so much work to do as Sheryl Sandberg pointed out.  The fight for equality starts within each and every woman.   It begins with the awareness of the situation, then the decision that you want to change the status quo, and the lifelong commitment to be part of the revolution for gender equality.  We can’t rant about the issue without doing something about it.

The great thing about living in this age is that women are allowed to have any ambition that they can dream of, if you can dream, you can do it. (Shelly Lazarus)

 

Women don’t want to rule the world, we are not taking over.  Men shouldn’t be threatened by this movement.   We just want equal rights, opportunities and responsibilities.

 

Be ambitious, start out with big dreams, big goals.   Every single one of you has the ambition to run the world because this world needs you to run it.  (Sheryl Sandberg)

 

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Pages/WhatareHumanRights.aspx

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Women/WRGS/Pages/WRGSIndex.aspx

https://newrepublic.com/article/121249/sheryl-sandbergs-lean-feminism-puts-women-issues-risk

http://www.adweek.com/sa-article/lifetime-achievement-mary-wells-131861

 

Advantages of Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility has become a buzz word in the business world.  When we hear about a company and its CSR projects we instantly see them as exemplary organizations that is not only concern about the profit.  I have been noticing that while CSR program is not a requirement to conduct business more and more organizations are integrating it to their business practices.  It gives me the hope that soon all organizations will be socially responsible.  Ideally, a company will embark on a project that is beneficial to the society and environment because that is the ethical thing to do and if they were able to cut down their costs due to that effort it is just a positive by product.   However, there are also companies that are implementing CSR projects for the sake of good public image.  I still look at it as a good thing because for me it doesn’t matter if the company’s first priority is to simply improve their image and lower down operating costs as long as the effect to the society and environment is positive.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility? The World Business Council for Sustainable Development in its publication Making Good Business Sense by Lord Holme and Richard Watts, used the following definition:

Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large.

 

We know that companies with CSR projects impact the stakeholders in a good way but what do they get from it?  Why should they engage in CSR?  What is in it for them?  Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. Good public image. Yes, we want to believe that companies are engaging in CSR because they genuinely care about the society and the environment but we cannot deny that one of the main reasons why they do it is because of the impact of their projects to their public image.   We all know how important company’s reputation is, it can make or break them.  Companies do well when the community feels like they can be trusted.   When a corporation is suffering from a scandal, their sales went down and if they are publicly traded their stocks plummet too.  A good publicity on the other hand, makes a company look good in the eyes of the customers and creditors which will make their sales rise and easier for them to get investors or secure loans.

Watch how Nike redeem itself from being the villain (due to sweatshop and child                   labor allegations) to the hero through its CSR efforts.

 

  1. Gets the best raw products/materials. When a company is doing good and fair business with their suppliers, they get those suppliers loyalty and support.  In Starbucks’ case, they source their coffee from regular suppliers/farmers.   They go back to the same coffee farm every year; they know the farmer and build good relationship with that farmer, and as a result Starbucks get the best coffee in the world by working with that farmer.

Watch this video on how Starbucks engage in CSR, specifically their relationship with           the farmers and how they make sure that these farmers are protected.

 

 

  1. Attracts employees. Employees nowadays also care about how socially responsible their prospective employers are.  They care about what CSR projects a company have and how it affect their community.   An organization’s CSR also factors in the decision of a person when accepting a job.

 

  1. Employee retention and boost employees’ morale. Employees who take pride in being part of an organization that is socially responsible are less likely to leave a company.  It also adds to employees’ job satisfaction and when employees are satisfied and happy they are more efficient in their job.  CSR projects also give employees chance improve their various skills such as leadership and teamwork.

Read more on the effects of CSR on employee engagement

hrmagazine.co.uk/…/csr-and-its-impact-on-employee-engagement

  1. Help a company grow. When engaging in CSR, a company has to go beyond what it can already do for the community and think of better ways to further help them.  In doing this the management and employees have to brainstorm for new ideas, innovate to come up with better processes, product and services, and improve policies which will turn them into a better company.

 

  1. Build strong relationship with its stakeholders. By following the laws, a company they can be trusted and that the government doesn’t have to worry about them.  When an organization operates in eco-friendly manner becomes an organization that shows concern not just for their customers but to the environment as well.  Customers then feel that the company care about them and become loyal to company.   Socially responsible companies also have reliable suppliers and creditors.

 

So it’s a win-win situation for the company and the community right?  So why don’t other organizations join this crusade and together create a better world not just for us but for future generations?

 

 

http://www.business2community.com/social-business/5-companies-corporate-social-responsibility-right-0951534#C6iFJICFrXFhBVS3.97

Global CSR Benefits: The Bottom Line https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eh03R83c4Pg

http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/topics-domaines/other-autre/csr-rse.aspx?lang=eng#CSR

 

The best place to work

GlassDoor released its list of 50 Best Places to Work (U.S.) with Air BnB at the top. Glassdoor is an American website where employees and former employees anonymously review companies and their management.   Winners were determined based on company reviews shared by employees over the past year.  Employees are asked to share their opinion on some of the best reasons to work for their employer (pros), any downsides (cons), and are encouraged to provide advice to management. The ranking given by GlassDoor impact the recruitment and retention of a company.  Ranking high in the list, such being in the top ten, gives a company advantage over to other in recruiting the most talented and skilled people.

Check out this video and find out why employees love working in Airbnb.

 

Companies like Airbnb enters GlassDoor’s list of Best Places to Work because they received good feedback from their employees.  These employees are happy and satisfied with their job and the company they work for.  They are satisfied and happy because of the benefits, perks, salary, promotion, corporate culture and management.   Airbnb for instance, gives all of its employees $2,000 a year to travel anywhere in the world.  Employees are also allowed to bring their pets to work, they have pingpong table, have weekly Yoga classes at work and eat organic lunches on a daily basis.

We see the effect of these benefits to the employees but what is in it for the business owners?  What do they get from being generous to their employees?   How does job satisfaction affect their company?  Here are just some of them:

  • Recruitment advantage. According to GlassDoor’s survey, nearly 3 in 5 people consider benefits and perks their among top considerations before accepting a job, while 4 in 5 say they would prefer new perks over a pay raise.   This study shows that companies offering comprehensive perks and benefits have a better chance of getting best and most talented employees.

 

  • Satisfied employees impact stock market. In another GlassDoor research, they compare financial performance of companies with satisfied and less satisfied employees. The result they got suggests an economic link intangible company asset such as employee satisfaction and broader stock market performance among publicly held companies.  Although the analysis cannot establish a causal relationship between employee satisfaction and stock returns, it clearly suggests the value of employee company reviews as a meaningful predictive indicator of financial performance.

 

  • Employee engagement. When employee are engaged and satisfied with their company, they are more committed, loyal and invested in the success of the company.

 

 

  • Productivity. When employees are satisfied in their jobs, they are willing to go the extra mile to help the company succeed.  Happy employees have lower absenteeism and are more motivated.

 

  • Lower turn-over.  Keeping good employees is vital in the success of a business.  Employees who are satisfied in their job are less likely to leave the country.

 

 

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/airbnb-best-place-to-work/

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/top-20-employee-benefits-perks/

http://thenextweb.com/insider/2012/04/09/12-startups-that-offer-their-employees-the-coolest-perks/#gref

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/top-20-employee-benefits-perks/

https://glassdoor.app.box.com/s/49y1ulkftvbpsbqjgeo1zh3lvijbb9uo

 

The Power and Responsibilities of Consumers

In 1995, Gap, Inc. was criticized by the media and moral rights groups for its alleged unethical sourcing practices.    They were accused of contracting suppliers involved in human labor violations like child labor, bad working conditions and paying subsistence-level wages.    Despite the reports of violations committed by Mandarin International and the testimonies of some of its workers, Stanley Raggio, senior VP for international sourcing and logistics, repeatedly made statements denying any non-compliance on the working conditions on Gap’s part.

 

 

While the obvious culprits in cases like this are the apparel companies who want to maximize profit margin by taking advantage of cheap labor costs, we cannot overlook the consumers’ part in the sweatshop culture.   Consumers play a big role in the whole situation without even being aware of it.   Demand for products drive companies to produce and sell more.   Our buying behavior influences the society and how we spend our money create huge impact not just on the company we patronize but on all the stakeholders such as the people who make the products we buy.   As consumers we have to realize the power that we have and the responsibilities that come with it.  We often talk about customers’ rights but we rarely discuss consumer obligations.  The Consumer Council of Fiji listed the following as consumer’s responsibilities:

  • Critical Awareness –consumer should be more alert and inquisitive about the price and quality of the goods and services they use.
  • Action –  consumers must not be passive in ensuring that they get a fair deal and to avoid exploitation.
  • Social concern –consumers should be aware of the effect of their consumption on the society.
  • Environmental Awareness –consumers should understand the environmental and consequences of their consumption and recognize their responsibility to conserve natural resources and protect the earth for future generations.
  • Solidarity –consumers should stand together to develop the strength and influence to promote and protect their interest.

If we care about the people who make our clothes or any other products we use, we have to make sure that they are being treated well otherwise we are also condoning unfair business practices such as setting up sweatshops.   We have the power in our hands, we can let these companies know that if they not doing their business legally and ethically then they will lose their customers and might end up in bankruptcy.

I hope that we also take into consideration the effects of our buying behavior not just to the society but also to the environment.  Our generation lives in abundance and we just consumed so much, never thinking about the consequences of such actions.    Just think about how much energy and resources are needed to produce a piece of clothing and its wastes by-product.

We can take advantage of the power we have to make a positive change in this world.   As consumers, we can contribute to the society in our own little ways like the following:

  • Look into the company’s background and its business operations. Before buying a product, try to know the company behind it.   Do they follow the laws?  Are they ethical?  Do they treat their employees well?  How do they source their materials/products? Do they care about the environment?  Remember that whatever principles a company embody, you are supporting it when you buy their products or services.   So when you buy a shirt, a phone or a pair of shoes, from a company that overlooks human rights violations and labor laws, you are condoning their practice and encouraging them to keep on doing it.
  • Buy local. You don’t only help the local industries to flourish; you are also helping the environment by reducing the carbon footprint of the products that you buy.  A carbon footprint is defined as the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide (CO2)

Check this video out and be informed about carbon footprint, its contribution to                     climate change,  and how you can make informed choices.

 

As mentioned in the video, you should ask three things when you are shopping; How             was it produced?  From where did it come?  How did it get here?

 

  • Support businesses that are socially responsible. Let them know that their efforts didn’t go unnoticed and which will encourage them to keep on improving their CSR programs/projects.  This can also inspire other companies to follow their lead.

 

  • Buy products with less packaging, the simpler the better. We should train ourselves to scrutinize the products we love and check if the packaging is just too much.   I once bought a candy stick which is wrapped in a paper but when I opened it there is another plastic wrapper and the candies themselves are individually wrapped in plastic.  I got so annoyed because it was very inconvenient then I realized how much waste there was just for a tiny product so I vowed never to buy that candy ever again.

This video features a Zero Waste No Packaging Supermarket.  These people are so                    innovative.  I wish there are more business owners like them who are not simply                    profit driven but also care about the impact of their business to the society and                        environment.  I am at awe.  I went to YouTube to check out products with less                          packaging and I stumbled upon a zero packaging system.

 

  • Spread awareness about corporate greed and misbehavior. Use technology to your advantage.  The next time you feel like updating your status in your social media account, share news articles or videos about unfair business practices to spread the word.

 

  • Quality and quantity. The next time you are about to buy something, ask yourself if you are going to use it for a long time because buying a cheap product  that you will end up tossing in the trash just after using it  for a couple of times is probably more expensive than buying quality and but more expensive one.

 

  • Check the labels and stop buying products that are harmful to your health. They don’t just harm you, they harm the environment.  Read the list of ingredients for instance and research about their effects on your health.   A lot of us don’t notice it but most of the personal care products available in the market contain chemicals that are harmful to our body, some can even cause cancer.  This should alarm us because we use these products on a daily basis and we become willing victims.

Watch this very informative video on the harmful effect of chemicals.  I bet you                      wouldn’t be the same after watching it.

We can find substitute to this harmful products such as organic ones.  We can’t use the excuse that organic products are too expensive because there are few companies out there who try to produce and sell organic products at affordable prices.

 

There are number of ways to help in our own way.  We don’t have to be Noble Peace Prize winners to spark a change.   We don’t have to aim for dramatic transformation all the time; it’s those little things we do regularly that actually generate more impact.

 

References:

 

http://www.consumersfiji.org/about-us/consumer-right-and-responsibilities

timeforchange.org/what-is-a-carbonfootprint-definition

http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB122304950601802565

http://storyofstuff.org/