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Interview met Omar Vargas (IDEAM) over water voetafdruk in Colombia

Omar Vargas (IDEAM): "De watervoetafdruk helpt om de efficiëntie van het watergebruik te bepalen in onze stroomgebieden."

Interview met Omar Vargas (IDEAM) over water voetafdruk in Colombia

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Research and education

Here we provide access to the lessons, experiences, knowledge and information that we gathered over the years that we feel are relevant to the mission of Good Stuff International to explore and promote ways for people to live the best possible life while caring for the natural environment and other people. If you feel something should be added or have questions please do not hesitate to Dit e-mailadres wordt beveiligd tegen spambots. JavaScript dient ingeschakeld te zijn om het te bekijken..

  • Yes, it is possible to run a company with a fully societal mission.

  • It is challenging to do and a matter of the continuous choice to keep working on the mission at all times.

  • It is about having human and environmental values as the objectives of the company.

  • It is about having open human relationships and communications between everybody in the company.

  • It is about everybody using and expanding their knowledge, networks, capacities and creativity all the time.

  • It is about keeping material consumption and needs as low as possible.

  • It is about maintaining a continuous internal exchange about how our daily work, our company strategy and personal life activities support or not support the mission and what we can learn from or do about it.

  • It is about achieving real results in support of the mission.

  • It is about not believing the non-belief that is all around in society.

These lessons are based on a quantitative evaluation of social, environmental and economic indicators that is found here.

Lessons for working towards a Green Economy lessons can be found here.

 

Five years ago, Good Stuff International was founded in the Netherlands and soon after it opened its doors in Kenya. This year we opened doors in Switzerland as well. In 2007, we could not have imagined where we would be in 2012. One thing we do know, Good Stuff International exists because of its people: Mohamed Awer, Joshua Gathungu Waweru, Hamida Abdallah Erika Zarate Torres and Derk Kuiper. And it exists because we share a dream. This dream is embodied by the mission of Good Stuff International: to explore and promote ways for people to live the best possible life on Earth caring for the environment and other people.

Since the start, Good Stuff International was an experiment to answer the question if a company can work towards a societal mission while at the same time maintaining itself in the marketplace? Now we are five years down the line and we felt it was time to evaluate where the Good Stuff International experiment stands. We have executed a quantitative evaluation based on social, environmental and economic indicators which can be found here. And, we have done a qualitative assessment of the findings and lessons in running a sustainable business. The lessons provide cues for establishing the green economy and can be found here. Below we present the main conclusions and lessons:

A big thanks goes to all our customers, partners, family and friends for supporting us in the last five years. We hope that you share the inspiration of the result to work towards creating better lives, a better environment and a better economy.

It is really possible!

As part of its work towards its mission Good Stuff International presents "Plan B" a guide to family risk management. It is our experience that feeling prepared to deal with risks makes you feel more comfortable and relaxed. We have written up this experience in the guide.

We live in highly dynamic times. People around the world face many different types of crises at the same time. Right now, financial, social, economic and environmental crises unfold. Their impact is real and direct on people's lives. The result is that people feel more insecure and anxious in our nowadays society. We all know these feelings of insecurity. And, intuitively we sense the risks we run. Insecurity and risk can generate anxiety, restlessness or fear. And if that happens, you generally do not feel very well. In the spirit of the mission of Good Stuff International, we are continuously trialing ways to generate better quality of live for ourselves and our families. It is our experience when you are prepared to deal with the higher levels of insecurity, the quality of your life increases . In other words if you know and are prepared for the risks to you and your family, you generally feel more comfortable and thus your life improves.

 

We thank Wouter Bakker, www.wouterbakker.info for the illustrations in the guide.

 

Check out our family business planning and financial planning tools to see how you and your family can live a happier and more sustainable life. Just use a spreadsheet, word processor and some common sense.

Do some business planning for a happier and more sustainable life

Often,  people say to me that I should feel lucky that I am so happy with the work that I am doing. The sentence that follows generally is: “This is rare and not the case for many people”. I do fully agree, however, the odds of being happy in your work and life in general can in my opinion be vastly increased. I do not want to give a full guide on this here because I am not a happiness specialist, but I do want to share one thing. Me being happy in my work (and life) relates for a large part to a feeling of material security while not being rich at all. What I want to share with you is how me and my family came to that.

Humans behave as humans, It sounds like an open door. We often forget what it is to be human. Humans are social animals and thus we behave socially. Human social behaviour is founded in the brain and the genetic programmes. Our social behaviour is subject to selection. Different types of social behaviour lead to differing outcomes. For example, social behaviour can yield better relationships and more societal success. We are aware of and want to influence what our surrounding society thinks of us. We do this by assessing and improving our reputation. Among other behaviours, morally and ethically just social behaviour1 adds to reputation23. A lot of humans say they aspire to behave morally. However, when out of sight, humans can easily behave in ways conflicting with the morality and ethics the say to aspire. Experience tells me that a lot of us lie and cheat up to a certain extend when the odds are that nobody will find out. Apparently the human brain is able to express itself through morally conflicting behaviours while at the same time being convinced of the necessity to display morally just behaviours. It does so without being overly troubled. This is also shown by the relative ease with which humans exchange one coalition for the other, most of time based on self interest. This happens a lot in politics and violent conflict. When one's side is losing, people are able to run to the other side. Becoming part of the other alliance means underwriting the new and often previously conflicting views, opinions and even morality of the new group. Humans are very effective in reasoning that moving between morally conflicting behaviours is 'rational' and “not a bad thing to do”. Whole religions have been founded on this notion. For example, the practice of confession in the Catholic church provides its believers with a way out for behaving immorally at least up to a certain extent. Just by confessing afterward, God will forgive you and in the process you will clear your own conscience.

Humans compete with each other. This is clearly seen in markets where businesses compete for clients. But this is not solely confined to businesses, individuals compete in schools, in the job market and in society in general. Humans also collaborate with each other. Either formally or informally, humans create groups to get what is in their interest consciously or unconsciously. Collaborative behaviour normally exist within groups. 4And these groups while internally they are made up of mostly collaborating humans, externally they most likely compete with other groups of humans.

Every human is dependent on material resources like water, food, clothing, shelter. Every human wants the highest security possible in having access to these material resources for its survival. It seems one of the main reasons why humans forms groups. It is to increase the security of access to material resources. Through in-group collaboration, the group tries to secure access to material resources in competition with other groups. We see examples of this competition between businesses in the market, between cities and provinces within nations, between nations in geopolitics and in the global economy, between tribes or races within regions, or between the global religions etc. Often this competition leads to a form of conflict with the most intense one being war. The conflict seems to be always underpinned by competing groups trying to increase the security of access to resources in competition with other groups.

Because the human is dependent on material resources, the human by definition alters the environment in which it lives. The living environment of the human is currently confined to Earth. Since its occurrence the modern human has been altering the Earth living environment in many and major ways. There many examples in our days like climate change, increased water scarcity in many places, the rapid decline in ocean, river and lake fish stocks5.

Humans invent stories to make sense of their behaviour and to also guide it6. Stories change according to the circumstances that humans are in. Formally we had the story of good and secure banks lending us the money to buy nice houses, now we have the story of crook banks filling their pockets and strangling societies and their citizens. Stories are fiction, they are unreal, they are unscientific. Yet stories guide our behaviour. Stories often incorporate true scientific findings but tend to interpret these in order to make sense of the world. While more and more is known scientifically, we weave stories around a minimum of scientific fact. And then we rely them to guide our behaviour. Because stories are mostly made up, the behaviour that they guide can actually be not our own best interest. In short we believe many stories and behave accordingly which tends to give us problems that we do not foresee because of the fictitious nature of stories.

Let us talk one of these stories, the one of sustainability. Following the Brundlandt definition: “Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” Sustainability implies solidarity between and within the human generations. By my online dictionary, solidarity is defined as an entire union or consolidation of interests and responsibilities; fellowship; community. If we go back to how humans behave, the story of solidarity is very much in sync with the collaborative behaviour that we display. And it feels morally just to do. However, humans are just not completely like that as we know. Humans not only collaborate but they also compete. The fact based conclusion should be that solidarity with everybody now and in the future is not likely to exist. It is likely that solidarity will exist but within restricted groups. The sustainability definition implies solidarity between all including the future generations. This group does not exist. And with that the notion of solidarity underpinning of sustainability has become a fictitious story. And by that, the definition of sustainability has become by definition a story. A nice story but a story.

Based on my own research and experience I have only experienced a few moments that felt like something working towards sustainability through solidarity. These moments can be described as moments where a relation with another human felt in such a way that I myself had become less important. My own interests moved to the background and made way for the shared interests or even fully, the other person's interests. While often we think about sustainability in legal, institutional and technological ways, these experiences tell me that we are forgetting something crucial. We need to better understand the way in which human relationships come about and in these relationships can spur solidarity. If we go by the story of sustainability, is time for a new and at least partly scientifically founded story about human solidarity. It is an area of science that is lying barren and needs attention.

1Morally and ethically just behaviour is defined here as behaviour that is in line with the prevailing moral norms and ethical values of the group or society that the human being is part of. In science this type of behaviour is often defined as altruistic behavirour

2Reputation is defined as what positive of negative estimation the group has of an person.

3Of course there are many more types of behaviour that influence one's reputation, success in team sports or business. The definition shows that reputation is highly subjective and is a perception. Here the focus is on morally just social behaviour influencing reputation in light of the argument in the rest of the text. N. Mifune et al. 2010, altruism as an in-group reputation mechanism, Evolution and Human Behavior 31 109–117 shows that the display of in-group altruistic augments reputation.

4Novak, Martin, A, 2006, Five rules for the evolution of cooperation, Science, Vol 314 is an insightful publication that discusses how cooperation can exist in an evolutionary competitive world. The piece on network reciprocity and group selection refers to within group cooperation and the evolutionary benefits of that.

5Global Environment Outlook, UNEP, http://www.unep.org/geo/Index.asp and Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, http://www.maweb.org/en/index.aspx

6I focus on stories here as there is a lot of evidence from philosophy and sociology that stories are one of the main methods by which humans try to make sense of the world and themselves. I loosely refer to some of the reading I did on various philosophers, especially Foucault and Wittgenstein. Also I point to to our heritage of Greek mythology, sagas, etc. And, I was lucky to experience this type of mythology first hand when I was working in Colombia, South America. My Indian guide told me the story about how according to his culture the world had come about. After that he asked me about that he heard that people had traveled to and landed on the moon. He could barely believe it as the moon had a strong own identity in his story and was something that could not be reached or stepped on. His culture's story truly met modern science in his house under the starred sky in Colombia and the story will eventually be experienced differently. My sense is that we highly underestimate how much stories guide us in our thinking, opinions and actions. Stories seem to vital to equip us to live in the world.

 

Sustainability is mostly seen as a technical subject. We think of sustainability in the light of working on efficient resource use technologies, recycling and upcycling like cradle to cradle, clean energy production by windmills and solar panels and calculating sustainability indicators for carbon, water, wood and the environment. But in essence sustainability is not technical at all. In essence, sustainability is an agreement on what we decide it to be. This sounds a bit vague, I know. Let me say it differently, sustainability is what we agree is sustainable. And thus, sustainability is a social process or set of social processes.

 

Subcategorieën

Here you find basic information and global and regional statistics on water and environment. We hope that the information is useful to you and helps you to understand the importance of sustainable water use and the protection of our living environment.

Access the Good Stuff International Consultancy manual.

Here you find the recent work and thinking of Good Stuff International in the field of applying the water footprint for river basin and catchment management, for irrigation planning, for development and for environmental management.