Social Footprint

I debated what to title this post and finally settled on Social Footprint, but it needs some explanation.

Early into our soap making business we stumbled upon a few sources of essential oil, or ingredients that were unique.  They were sources that were making amazing products we could use, but they were also impacting their world through their own economic endeavors. We learned that what we purchase can serve a purpose for us, but have a greater good for someone in the world and impact their lives in powerful ways.

Barb Stegman formed a company known as The 7 Virtues from the idea of a Canadian Military friend who saw the wonder of convincing Afghan  farmers to grow roses and orange blossoms, rather than poppies for the opium trade.  The fragrance and essential oil produced by Afghan roses and orange blossoms formed the center of phenomenal perfumes she custom blended using the essential oils of these two crops.  As a result, more farmers are planting roses for harvest to make her essential oil, and less planting of poppies for opium.   And more Afghanis have purpose, value and economic gain.  Demand has increased, and farmers are being paid great wages for their crops.  Yes, paid as much to grow roses and orange blossoms as they were to grow Poppies for opium.   Reducing the amount of  poppies gown reduces the opium trade world wide.  Changing the world, one field at a time!  And her slogan is “Make Perfume, Not War”.

We love that idea.  We were moved by the dignity and grace of changing the world to the good, employing people in a respectable fashion, and valuing their product, transforming it and marketing it to the world.  Finding positive solutions for age old problems, and revolutionizing the world through these small steps is probably not new, but her take on the issue was remarkable and powerful.  Barb Stegman had the power economically to impact a wide swath of a nation.  Our purchasing capability is not that of Barb Stegmen, yet, but we like to think that we add a small ripple of economic good with each purchase we make.  I have written of Argan Oil and the economic good to the North African women.  That said, we are actively researching how we can make more ofthese connections to our business, and ultimately our soap production can change the world one bar of soap at a time.

Last Thursday we had the pleasure to meet another vendor partner of Cosmic Bobbins at a fund raiser, and learned from her of how Indonesia is going through a transition from rain forest to palm plantations.  Forest being clear cut, palm trees planted, and the loss of natural habitat to make certain that there is an increase in ready supply of palm for palm oil.  Where there were once virdent rainforest filled with wildlife, and an eco-system that sustained life for as long as life has been had been ripped out to commercially farm palms.  And the world demand for palm oil is up significantly, so the supply continues to grow.  This was one economic ripple we were not fond of supporting.  And that has caused us to look at and retool our soap recipes to reduce the amount of palm oil in our products.

What each of us does, how we live and what we choose to buy has a social footprint… an impact on someone else.  Social footprints have always been a part of life.  What we do, buy, grow, or associate with has impact on someone else.  Buying bread from the local bakery is an example.  We come to know the baker, and their skills.  We value the product, and enjoy the taste.  And the baker benefits from selling their handcrafted goodness… economic benefit with social good.

So that is what we are thinking about these days.  The question of “How can we incorporate ingredients that create economic and social benefit to someone else?”  and “How can we tell these stories in such a way to raise the level of understanding of others?”  And how can we give purpose with dignity to others who have something viable to offer the world. We believe that these stories need to be told, and the way we choose to live our lives, and practice business must always be aware that we are not alone, and our work will impact others.  We want to choose to build others up, and strengthen the relationships that will do the greatest good.