Julien Wh, part of the LUSH team, discusses the motivation behind LUSH events, where the funds from each event go and how transparency is key in everything that they do.
The social and environmental aspects of LUSH are extremely important and they are really what excites us about the events. Creating a great event surely is exciting and fun; however, raising funds during the event and being able to create a positive impact afterwards is really an amazing experience. We do this by developing a social and/or environmental project for each event with funds going directly to the people a project is meant to benefit. I do not believe the value of the experience is simply linked to an impression of, ‘I feel good about doing something’. Rather, it’s more about being able to see something positive and concrete happening, live in front of your eyes.
We are trying to share this experience with all our guests by posting pictures, reports and certificates on Facebook as much as we can. We also sometimes display pictures of these projects taken at the LUSH events themselves. However, we do not want to overload people with this, nor try to use it for the sole purpose of shaping our image. We just want to show everyone what is happening with the funds collected from our events while also showing some really amazing pictures on Facebook. The latest example is from the rice planting activity that we funded at the Buddha Kasettra School in Mae Hong Son. The photos, which show children planting rice and playing in the fields, are truly moving.
The LUSH event that took place on the 26th of November 2010 at Grass Concept supported the Chuay Dek non-profit initiative financing an organic rice field near the Buddha Kasettra School, Mae Hong Son. This project aims at sustainably providing healthy food to over 100 poor schoolchildren.
Sometimes delays occur until we can publish the exact details on the funds raised. There are mainly two reasons for this. The first reason is that there are some situations in which there can be several months until we obtain the entire sum raised. Each LUSH event is the fruitful collaboration of a variety of actors, including sponsors, hotels and promoters. Hotels, for example, have complex and strict financial procedures, and it can take a significant amount of time until the end sum is obtained.
The second reason behind the delays in publishing all the numbers is linked to an excess amount of funds raised. Indeed, before each LUSH event we ask the recipient charity organisation to submit a project proposal to us with a given budget, which we approve and monitor. However, in case the funds raised exceed the sum agreed on in the proposal, it is our responsibility to ensure that the additional funds are allocated towards additional components of the project or to another project altogether. So, we require time to design these additional components to make sure that 100% of the funds raised are efficiently used. It is only once everything is finally designed with the project implementer and approved by LUSH that we announce exactly how the funds raised will be allocated.
In addition to raising funds for social and environmental projects, it is also essential for us to note that all our events are entirely carbon neutral. Each event is scientifically monitored by South Pole Carbon Asset Management Ltd., a carbon-reduction project developer. The team from South Pole Carbon records the number of guests at our events, estimates the average distance travelled to get there, the type of vehicle used (e.g. by car, public transportation, foot, etc.) and calculates the amount of electricity used during the event. All estimations are rounded up so as to completely cover all the CO2 that could have been emitted during the event. South Pole Carbon then generously donates all carbon emission compensations through credits that they generate with their renewable, sustainable and clean energy projects implemented in Thailand. Thus, essentially, South Pole Carbon allows LUSH to be entirely climate friendly with projects implemented locally.
Carbon credit certification: Document certifying the carbon emission compensation provided by South Pole Carbon Asset Management Ltd.
We show these compensation certificates on Facebook and, as mentioned above, all receipts, reports and photos of the projects we fund. In short, everything is transparent. Moreover, we encourage anybody who is interested in receiving more information to e-mail us and ask us specific questions. The end results, including how much profit we make and how the money is allocated, are all available.
Currently we publish all our information exclusively on Facebook with wall posts and messages sent to all guests attending our events. This is at present the only platform we have for communicating with our public. However, it’s not an ideal tool for offering a clear overview of our achievements and presenting all the information in a summarized form. Thus, we are attempting to create a website on which we can present the information in a more standardized form. After nine LUSH events in two and a half years, it is time for us to have a solid platform that we can use to present information in the clearest and most transparent way possible.
Transparency doesn’t stop here. When it is feasible, we invite our guests to join us on visits to the social and/or environmental project sites and to participate in the setup of the project. They can then see for themselves what positive changes they made by coming to one of our events. There are usually five to twenty people who join these charity project follow-up trips. Our objective in this case is not to get the maximum number of guests joining us (though of course it would be wonderful if everyone came), but to get the message out to the 20,000 people who receive a message on Facebook and then show them that an initiative exists out there; we are inviting them to see and participate in a project that is funded by an event that they have attended, or at least heard of. LUSH, then, is not simply announcing that funds are going to charity but also is transparently showing what specific project it supports, allowing anyone to join us and see it in person. Most people will not want to join. For example, our rice planting daytrip to Mae Hong Son did not receive many volunteers. However, we hope that they will be inspired by what LUSH does and try to do something good in other realms of their lives. We hope that everyone strives, at some point, to genuinely, transparently and efficiently make positive change.
Rice was planted during the rainy season in July 2011 to provide sustainable food for the children of the Buddha Kasettra School. Volunteers and supporters of Chuay Dek and LUSH came to help out.
With LUSH we hope to create at least some measure of increased trust for social enterprises. Ultimately, our goal is to create an increase in the market demand for social enterprises that are making real positive change. We would like the public to be aware of key sustainable development issues and to critically enquire whether a given company or initiative is having a positive impact on solving social and/or environmental issues. Once customers are satisfied that the company is embracing their values, they would then reward the company by purchasing its products or services. The key lesson here is that only genuine transparency allows for such a process to emerge.
Interestingly, the public has a tendency to question social and environmental initiatives more than those purely for profit. This of course stems from a real concern to make sure that the purportedly good deeds are indeed taking place. The key lesson here, once again, is that transparency is the most useful tool to avoid any issues. Rumours that could tarnish an initiative’s image can be prevented simply by making all relevant information available to everyone. This furthermore illustrates a notion, albeit in a different context, put forth by trade economist Jagdish Bhagwati: the Dracula Principle, whereby problems may disappear once light is thrown on them.
All photos of LUSH-supported projects are available on our Facebook page.
For more information about the Chuay Dek initiative visit www.chuaydek.info.
20/10/2011 - 13:32