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Building a Legacy or Just Making a Living?

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Building a Legacy or Just Making a Living?

In my recent travels overseas, I was inspired and delighted to discover three businesses that are making an incredible difference to the communities they operate in and indeed having major impacts on the lives of a far wider and more extended community – often reaching a global audience.

I have no vested interest in these particular businesses however the stories behind their creation and the impact they have is truly inspirational. It got me thinking about how I could make more of a difference in my community through my business.

You certainly don’t have to go overseas to find examples of amazing contribution. I know we have many businesses here in Australia that support both our two and four-legged community members however it is the scope of the change these businesses have created that is truly note worthy.

The first of these businesses is Green School. Green School first came to my attention about three years ago when I had the opportunity to send my niece there. She came back with eyes wide open to the world. Her change in attitude particularly in relation to her own personal capacity to create change and contribute was deeply moving. I saw a blossoming in her confidence that had been missing. I was convinced. My holiday finally gave me the opportunity to do a Green School tour.

Isn’t it wonderful when your expectations are met and exceeded? Green School delivered in spades. Built out of an Australian business owner’s discovery of how his existing business was contributing to global warming, Green School became a way of redressing the imbalance. Set in beautiful tropical Bali along a warm flowing river the buildings are all made of bamboo which is grown and harvested for the school and prepared by local craftsmen. Local builders used traditional tools, and building techniques and each space maximises the learning potential of its students.

And some of the results from those students is inspiring. From the aquaponics gardens to the project that collects waste cooking oil and turns it into biofuel for the school car and organic hand wash, to the goal to rid Indonesia of plastic bags the philosophy of Green School is just that – ‘green’; recycle, reuse and repurpose. Who needs windows when the climate means you don’t even need walls? Who needs whiteboards when the front windscreens from old cars can be covered on one side with white paper and the other used as the writing surface?

Many jobs were created both during the building phase and the ongoing maintenance of the school. Jobs for local people. With a commitment to supply 10 to 20% of the student places at Green School to local children I felt happy that 100% of the cost of ticket costs supported this goal. In addition, each Green School teacher was shadowed by two local teachers, and I could not help but be excited about the potential for Green School to equip the next generation with the tools to deal with issues such as climate change and the current deficit in global leadership around the stewardship of our planet.

The tour of Green School lead me to a sister business called Green Village Bali. Both Green School and Green Village focus on the creation of sustainable dwellings made from sustainable materials. As such, Green Village was a revelation on how luxury and sustainability can go together. Again, the employment of many local crafts people, builders, labourers, administrative and other staff created job opportunities where previously there was none.

As part of the Green Village tour, we got to visit the bamboo factory that supplied all the bamboo for Green School, Green Village Bali and a number of other projects. The manager of the factory was a local man as were the workers. We saw age old crafts and building techniques being brought back to life and taught to a new generation of builders and designers. Skills revived that were slowly being lost with the use of modern materials unsuited to the local climate and environment. Green Village Bali is now exporting its products and designs to other countries, creating a new market place for local products.

And finally, East Bali Cashews, located in one of the most poor and uneducated parts of Indonesia where families often survive on as little as 2 dollars per day. East Bali Cashews is a thriving export business of locally grown, harvested and prepared cashew crops that has created jobs for over 200 local people (mostly women), and educational opportunities where previously there were none. To see the potential such a business can make on a previously poor and struggling local community is heart warming.

So, what’s the moral of the story?

You will have to draw your own conclusions. I just know the impact these businesses had on my assessment of my contribution to my community was profound. I encourage you to reach out to find inspiration in other businesses, to find out how maybe your business could do just that little bit more to make a big difference.

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