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Pierre Johnson

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Fair Trade : new approaches

Despite a sluggish context, fair trade market continues its growth. In France, it it reached 429 million euros and 11.1% growth in 2013. But before being a “market” trade fair is an innovative approach to national and international trade. Supported by an economic movement of producers and companies, fair trade has been evolving for over 40 years. Its players do not always have converging interests, which is its evolutions, particularly in the area of labeling, are often debatable.

Fairtrade International, the pioneer (but not unique) fair trade label, opened 2014 by introducing a new label to expand the market for labeled products. This development, insufficiently coordinated, led to controversy. In France, several players have also come together to develop a Local Fair Trade Charter. This expansion of fair trade to local trade is the result of a long-term trend, producers and consumers in the North and South being more and more aware of their belonging to the same trade system.

Biodiversity and Trade: The Nagoya Protocol enters in force on October 12th

cbd_nagoya mujica-conferencia-prensa

Ratification by Uruguay (above) allows the Nagoya Protocol to enter in force on October 12th, 2014, that is 90 days after the reception of this 50th ratification. This date is the day before the first Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, from October 13 to 17.

Social entrepreneurs and innovators, transformers or alibis of the system? SOIA Europe (4)

This last article of the series “social entrepreneurs and innovators SOIA Europe” shows the wealth of meetings and exchange of ideas at the Social Innovation Assembly in Amsterdam in November 2013.

European social entrepreneurship against food waste at SOIA Europe (3)

Our third chronicle of the European Social Innovation Assembly (SOIA) in Amsterdam is dedicated to the answer to food waste.

The cloud against food waste

In Europe, 30% of the food are thrown away before being eaten.

Multiple causes explain this situation, which can be summarized through our highly normative and fast social life. Thus, fruits and vegetables bent or out of template are thrown away before even leaving the field. Food waste is also huge in retails and catering. The sale deadline dates do not match the specificities of different types of food or  products. We found that even some organic supermarkets, manage their stocks hastily.

Social entrepreneurship and social innovation for a more united world at SOIA Europe (1)

On Monday 26 and Tuesday 27, November, 2013 the first European Social Innovation Assemblytook place in Amsterdam. Organized by Fay Divina, this event, unique in its kind, brought together 100 social innovators from the 4 corners of Europe, and even North America and South America. Thematic approaches went from stories of social entrepreneurship to the conditions favoring its development and governance challenges. The attendance was composed of social entrepreneurs, some academics and finance people.

Located on a canal in the center of the city, looking like a Paris or Berlin cabaret , the Odeon offered an appropriate stage for this event inspiring and learning .

The first wealth is, here as elsewhere, human.

That is why , before returning to the teachings of the European Social Innovation Assembly and on concepts of social innovation and social entrepreneurship, we propose to English-speaking public a series of portraits of social entrepreneurs , youth and other more experienced.

Let’s meet social innovators at SOIA Europe: “Why not” (2)

Cooperation as a lever for social innovation

The dynamism and relevance of social entrepreneurs appeared evident in the presence of Ana Aguirre, Markel Gilbert Gutierrez and Iñigo Ibiriku , three young people from a recent promotion of Mondragón University.  Mondragón University belongs to the Mondragón Cooperative Corporation, the largest and most emblematic of Spain and possibly Europe. The Mondragón Corporation owns as many companies as the Cuypstraat Albert Amsterdam market has stands (over 300) .

At dinner , Ana explains that despite this venerable position, Fagor, the  founding company of the group, is already in deep trouble. It has shut down, leaving 1,800 jobs lost (see this report from France 24). The market for household electrical equipment, specialty Fagor is in significant decline, the population equipping less. The explanation given by Ana seems a little short. In a changing economic environment, being part of a cooperative group should not remove a company ‘s ability to innovate. Mondragón situation also illustrates the social tensions and changes in social economy in the current context, marked by short-term oriented policies and fragmentation of engagements.

#obsolout: How to hack obsolescence in 3 steps

From a technical term reserved to engineers, the obsolescence of our everyday objects has become in recent years a common term, and an important social issue. Overview of this phenomenon, and solutions for de-planning obsolescence: #obsolout.

Tired of the crisis? Come and live in Goodland!

In the economic world as narrated by mainstream media, politicians and media pundits, fashionable economists and philosophers, each one of us is like Alice trying to catch up the Red Queen Alice: you must run behind the growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the new holy Grail of our time, without ever expecting to see the landscape move forward. But recent studies show that while the GDP of rich countries has grown over the last 40 years, indicators measuring wellbeing such as the Genuine Progress Indicator and the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare have remained stagnant in these countries. The priests of our modern times have probably not read Tim Jackson, Andrew Simms or Hervé Kempf.

Above all, they have forgotten that political and economic structures other than the ones we are often presented as models exist and work well. Together, these social, economic or political innovations gradually trace channels to exit a system that maintains a self-destructive mechanic for human life adn the support systems of the planet. Yet, few experts and politicians refer to such promising avenues. Those are called: democracy and participatory budget, cooperativism, mutualism, new indicators of wealth. They are alive and well, though scattered in different countries of the world.

In the text that follows, Andrew Simms of the New Economics Foundation has brought together the most promising innovations in an imaginary country he calls Goodland, a nation where values ​​of equity, social justice and sharing predominate.

Study on inclusion of contract farming in fair trade standards pledges for caution

A recently released study commissioned by the Fair Trade Platform (association of major French fair trade organizations) and carried out by the NGO Agronomists and Veterinarians Without Borders on the integration of contract farming in Fair Trade since 2005 and 2006 recommends utmost caution in the deployment of this new form of fair trade, initiated by Fairtrade International and Ecocert.


Age of co-construction: what intellectual property rights for biodiversity and its knowledge?

At the end of the year 2012, Earth is number One. To the point that it could be named Person of the Year by Time magazine, if we take into account the number of events and news that have been dedicated to it during the year.

Several important events, conferences, exhibitions and meetings were held at the end of the year, on the themes of biodiversity,  dialogue between companies and local communities, scientific research, industrial development and traditional knowledge on biodiversity.

Salone del Gusto – Terra Madre: Taste is a friend of biodiversity

With Taste Salon and Terra Madre, two annual events of the Slow Food movement organised this year together at Torino, biodiversity was playing in a specific register.

Born in Italy, the Slow Food movement movement  is known to work for the restoration of local varieties and culinary specialties. With an epicurean ethos, the goal of Slow Food and its founder, Carlo Petrini, is in fact multiple: to preserve local varieties involved in biodiversity, to contribute to food sovereignty by fighting against bad and fast-food as well as the influence of agribusiness.

Our public agenda in 4th quarter 2012

Here are the events to which I participate from September to November 2012

  • Participation to the Planet Workshops – Global Conference – Sept. 24-26, 2012 in Evian (France) : Roundtable of the commission “Cross-cutting perspectives on biodiversity resources and sharing it in equity“.

  • Presentation at Rio, 20 years after, organized by the International Research Institute for a Civilization Policy, founded by Edgar Morin, in Niort (France) from Sept. 27 to 28, 2012.
  • Participation to a roundtable of the Symposium “Sciences, Techniques and Traditional Knowledge“, on November 29th, 2012 at Villeneuve d’Ascq.
  • Participation to a roundtable on bio-economy at the Assises du Vivant, on November 30th, 2012 at l’UNESCO. Informations : Vivagora.

Putting the Rio+20 agenda heads back up: from green economy to transition

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, nicknamed Rio + 20 was celebrated a few weeks ago. Twenty years after the famous “Earth Summit,” is humanity finally ready to take up its commitment to sustainable development, or maybe even just the concept of sustainability?

5 findings on the development of argan oil supply chains

From April 30 to May 2, 2012, Pierre Johnson and Eugénie Malandain went on an exploratory mission in the region of the argan forest near Agadir (Morocco).

Pierre Johnson  participated in the roundtable organized in partnership with Rencontres Solidaires Nord-Sud entitled “What social responsibility in the argan oil supply chain”, by giving the public of the 2nd international conference on corporate social responsibility at Agadir an overview of the challenges of the industry. He then visited several  argan oil cooperatives and a company of aromatic and medicinal plants, with local professionals.

Slides: From biopiracy to the creation of shared value

Slide presentation “What alternatives to biopiracy?”, which presents a very synthetic summary of the main topics of my book “Biopiraterie : quelles alternatives au pillage des ressources naturelles et des savoirs ancestraux ?“ (“Biopiracy: what alternatives to the plundering of natural resources and traditional knowledge?”). You can also view my presentation at Centifolia 2011 (in English).

Exploitation of tar sands: a failure on the path to an energy and ecological transition


Despite an activist victory to avoid the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline over a sensitive area, oil from Alberta State in Canada is still likely to flow through North America. More important than the route to refineries in Texas is the origin of the oil: tar sands of Northern Canada. Photographer Garth Lenz shows us the beauty and the destruction of the Canadian Boreal Forest. Until now, its mountains, plains and wetlands hosts 60% of Canada’s 800 bird species, and a million indigenous people who speak 500 different languages. These are now under threat.

The Boreal Forest holds hundreds of billions of exploitable oil barrels, under the form of bituminous oil, a form of oil trapped in a natural mixture of sand, clay, and water. Taking the oil means taking the soil away and removing everything that grows from it. This unconventional form of petroleum comes at an extremely heavy price. Heavy equipment is needed to extract oil with a poor quality. Also adding to the problem with oil from tar sands is that this type of oil exploitation is creating 3 to 4 times more greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional oil exploitation. The insanity of this tragic development is that it doesn’t come from a resource-hungry country, but from the wealthy and lightly populated Canada. By giving an open license to the exploitation of tar sands, the country turned from climate change champion to climate change villain. Environmental activists from around the globe elected Canada as the unbeatable world champions in stimulating human made climate change, for five years in a row.


Biodiversity is the fabric of life, the variety and diversity of species and ecosystems, and the relations beween them.

This short animation film from the students of the Vancouver Film School explains in 2 minutes 40 secondes what biodiversity is.

The figures are not always quite exactly right, but the video is nice and comprehensive.


Publication: “Biopiracy: What are the alternatives?”

I have the pleasure to announce you, after a year and half of research, the publication on January 24th 2012, in France, of my newest book:

Biopiraterie : quelles alternatives au pillage des ressources naturelles et des savoirs ancestraux ?

[Biopiracy: what alternatives to the plundering of natural resources and ancestral knowledge?]

Biodiversity explained visually

The Vancouver Film School students produced an excellent film to explain visually Biodiversity, and its links to human society. The number of species (mammales, plants, etc.) are undervalued by 10 to 20%. But they got the basic concepts right, and the film is both visually attractive and educative.

It’s less than 3 minutes long, and worth seing. Just look!

Conference: What alternatives to biopiracy?

How do the Cosmetic, Ingredients and Food industries ensure that their quest for novelty doesn’t create a gap in their relations with local indigenous and rural provider communities? The Convention on Biological Diversity creates new rules on access and benefit sharing. But there is more than compliance to create win-win relationships.

Watch our presentation at Centifolia 2011 in Grasse (France) to get some insight on those issues:

All the Centifolia 2011 conferences will soon be posted on their Web site.

Many thanks to the organizers of Centifolia 2011: Catherine, Geneviève, Jean-Français, Fernanda, and many others.

The main words of this conference (click on the image to enlarge):

Wordle: Centifolia-2011-biotrade

Conference on alternatives to biopiracy at Centifolia 2011

Centifolia 2011Centifolia 2011, the International Congress in Cosmetics and Perfumery, which will be held in Grasse from October 19 to 21, 2011, is an adventure open to all the stakeholders of the beauty industry (Executives, Sourcing Directors, R&D, Buyers, CSR, Production, Marketing, Communication, producers of ,…).

Any product carries and transmit a vision of the world, that which is inscribed in its gene and production. To buy a product (ingredient, service, finished product…), is to subscribe to this vision. To buy is to vote. Today, social media combined to mobility can celebrate or destroy a product and its brand, sometimes in a few days. Markets are becoming conscious.

The pursuit of happiness and the economy

English English Happiness is a trending topic, which seems to defy economics: Can a society be ruled by the “pursuit of happiness” (this is part of the oath of US citizens, isn’t it?). And if the answer is positive, how can you measure happiness to ensure there is progress in the pursuit of it? Here are several indications of the new importance of happiness in economics and hints on the relationship between the two concepts.

Read on and watch the trailer of a documentary to be released very soon!

What international clothing brands are certified by fair trade?

This is an open question asked on Quora, the qualified questions & answers community. I apparently was the first one to provide an answer.

Our answer is part of an ongoing clarification and training effort we are leading on fair trade. Here goes the answer (edited a bit for this site).

What social media adapted to social business ventures?

Networking is a key activity for social business ventures, as well as solidarity economy initiatives (cooperatives, etc.). Networking means keeping in contact with follow initiatives, but also facilitating communities of practice in areas related to your business’ core activity, facilitating a community of users, or a social learning platform.

In this article, we won’t enter into details of the why and how networking should be conducted in a social business or a solidarity economy initiative. We assume that you already have an idea of this. We will however go back to this in a future article.

Launching of Solecopedia, the shared international encyclopedia of social and solidarity economy

Solecopedia, the shared international encyclopaedia for solidarity and social economy has been launched this week, in 5 languages: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and German. An invitation was sent to more than 300 actors and investigators involved in solidarity and social economy.


Is the concept of ethical luxury sustainable?

Can you consume luxury goods and have ethical preoccupations as a consumer?

This article is interesting. Research on ethical consumption usually focus on consumer products at relatively low value, such as food products, cosmetics and clothing. Do we know if consumers show the same ethical concerns when shopping for luxury goods? In addition, the author examines the nature of luxury. Intuitively, we would think that luxury is inconsistent with ethics. But if one defines luxury beyond superfluous, it is perhaps more appropriate.


In particular, it explores whether there is a significant difference between consumers’ propensity to consider ethics in luxury versus commodity purchase and whether consumers are ready to purchase ethical-luxury. Prior research in ethical consumption focuses on low value, commoditized product categories such as food, cosmetics and high street apparel. It is debatable if consumers follow similar ethical consumption patterns in luxury purchases. Findings indicate that consumers’ propensity to consider ethics is significantly lower in luxury purchases when compared to commoditized purchases and explores some of the potential reasons for this reduced propensity to identify or act upon ethical issues in luxury consumption.»

Luxury represents global sales of 77 billion dollars. It is not exempt of certain scandals, like the “blood dimands”. Punctual scandals related to production conditions also have affected punctually brands such as Garnier, LVMH ou Prada.

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