During this interview, Danny proposed a special offer to EWB’ers for one of the businesses in the Small Giants family, The Herd. The Herd is Australia’s newest social movement, migrating you to greener products, ethical suppliers and better prices. By joining the migration to % renewable energy, EWB will receive up to $ per person!
EWB: Danny, since leaving EWB in , what have you been doing?
I thought I would have much more spare time since leaving EWB but I seem to be as busy as ever running Small Giants (SG). It is always a bit hard to explain exactly what we do at SG but in a nutshell, we are focused on developing, managing and investing in companies with a social or environmental purpose. Some of our companies include an organic tampons and pads company (TOMS), a magazine about extraordinary and inspiring people (Dumbo Feather), a restaurant in Vietnam that works with former street kids, in partnership with Koto (Pots n Pans), sustainable property development (The Commons), D printing (Beehive) and even a very exciting new movement called The Herd. I guess I wanted to link the values and mission driven ideas of the non-profit, with the influence and rigour of the for-profit, and out came social enterprise.
I also work part time at RMIT as the Social Entrepreneur in Residence, which is very exciting. My drive in this space is similar to what EWB is doing. If EWB is transforming the engineering sector to have social and environment outcomes at the forefront of their minds, I am trying to do the same in business.
EWB: How do you decide what to invest in?
I am still incredibly influenced by one of the things I read in the early days of EWB, the book ‘Small is Beautiful’. Our first filter at SG is covered by answering these three questions. Is it good for people? Is it good for the environment? Is this helping create the world I want to live in?
If we can answer yes for those three, then we look at the business case, the financials and if we are confident that they will work, we jump in. When we talk about sustainability, that must also mean financial sustainability. If we lose money, it limits our ability to do more cool stuff, so we have to be very conscious of the financial situation of these businesses as well. Of course we must be passionate about the idea too. I mean, who isn’t passionate about organic tampons?
EWB: Danny, You mention The Herd, what is that?
We are building a movement of people who share similar values and want to buy ethical and sustainable products and services. Instead of using advocacy (which many groups are already doing), we want to use the market to change things. Think of how GetUp! mobilises a huge membership to take action on their campaigns – send letters, donate money, etc. Those are powerful tools for change but I think that we have been missing an even more powerful tool, which is voting with our wallets. If the same group decided to buy from one supplier, or demanded a better product from another supplier, business would respond, even without legislation. For example, we can migrate to % renewable energy, green mobile phone plans, ethical superannuation, organic food delivery, fair trade milk bars, etc. The members of the Herd can lead in the direction they like, as long as it is in line with the core Herd values. We can all do this on our own, but our power is hugely magnified as a group. That power can secure better products and better prices, making the sustainable and ethical choice much more accessible to many more people. Also, because of the group, you don’t have to research every item you want to buy on your own. The wisdom of the crowd will filter out the best ones for you.
EWB: What is the Herd’s first migration, and how does it relate to EWB?
We migrate to greener pastures, get it. Hehe. Our first migration is to % renewable energy. Imagine knocking on the door of power companies and demanding the cleanest energy available, imagine the power companies responding with new investment in renewable energy. Imagine it becomes competitive with dirty energy. Well, if the Herd is large enough, we will get all of this, and more.
And because the Herd is driven by a social agenda, we want to support the communities that help us get there. For every electricity account that migrates we will reinvest $ per customer and for every gas account that migrates we will commit $ per customer back to the community, in this case, EWB. Just follow this link: http://www.herdpower.com.au/ewb-migration-re
EWB: Speaking of The Herd, we heard that Stewart Davies is also working with you in Vietnam. What’s happening there? (Note: Stewart was EWB’s first paid staff member and ran EWB’s programs for years)
After leaving EWB, Stewart and I decided we wanted to continue to work together, but he wanted to live in Asia, so we decided he would create and run the Small Giants Asia office (go Stewy!). Our first exciting venture there is this new concept restaurant. I am actually heading over there in a few weeks for the official opening of Pots n Pans. It is a very unique structure where we are – with a non-profit called Koto. Koto takes street kids and trains them in hospitality through their restaurant. Pots n Pans will be the next step in that journey.
EWB: Wow. Anything you don’t do?
Drugs. Someone told me they are bad for you. But seriously, I am just loving every part of what I do. Learning about so many new industries, meeting amazing people and being inspired each day. That said, I do miss EWB. I am still very involved but am glad Lizzie is at the helm now. EWB is just awesome and she is taking it to the stars.
EWB: We could continue to chat for ages about everything that you are doing but, seeing just how busy you still are, we should probably let you get back to it. Thanks Danny and let’s get another update again soon.