Heat and lighting are necessary elements for survival beyond bare-bones subsistence; in the developing world, however, these two necessities require a lot of labor for fuel sources that threaten the health of people who use them, as well as the planet. Women spend hours each week collecting wood for cooking, and lights, where available, are almost always powered by kerosene. Various social enterprises have worked to tackle the first issue with clean cookstoves; others are now stepping in to address the need for clean lighting with a variety of solar-powered technologies.
Those of us in the developed world may have trouble wrapping our heads around the threats posed by invasive plant species. Sure, those massive patches of kudzu, for instance, aren’t particularly attractive, but we’re generally removed from direct effects on biodiversity.
Not so in places like Kenya. Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest body of fresh water, serves nearby population’s water needs, and provides fish for food. These people are feeling the direct effects of an invasive species: water hyacinths, native to South America, have infested the lake, and created a whole host of problems.
As the temperatures drop, you may be reaching for sweaters, jackets, and other garments made from some kind of wool… maybe lambswool, merino, or cashmere. If Julian Wilson and Aaron Pattillo have their way, yak wool may soon be a part of your cold weather fashion mix.
Wilson and Pattillo founded Khunu, a company that makes apparel from this unique material, in 2009. The two discovered yak wool while trekking on the Tibetan plateau, and recognized an opportunity both to introduce this soft, warm fiber to a larger market, and to create a business that supports the impoverished people of Tibet and Mongolia (their main sourcing areas). Launched as a social enterprise, the company purchases the wool at fair trade prices, and returns 2 percent of sales to the communities that supply the raw material.
Can business save the world? Those who answer “Yes” don’t just include industry trade groups and chambers of commerce: the SEED Initiative, a joint project of the United Nations’ Environmental Programme and Development Programme, along with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, “identifies, profiles and supports promising, locally-driven, start-up enterprises” in the developing world that are focused on alleviating poverty and managing natural resources more sustainably.