Qi GLOBAL is a most fascinating Internet-based social enterprise focused on sustainable innovation and development, aspiring to generate positive change by pushing the social and environmental agenda in our societies.
The message is clear and people are increasingly getting it: Exploitation has exceeded the limit that nature can bear and ‘business as usual’ will not be sufficient as it disregards its true value. Poorly managed economic growth continues to worsen many environmental problems. The scale and scope of the challenges we face are daunting and businesses and consumers out there asking what can we do, where are the solutions?
It is by no means any small issue that the successful Danish entrepreneur has devoted her creativity to by launching Qi GLOBAL: scripting a better future for the world. But the method is a positive one: focusing on optimism; that moving to a sustainable society is exciting and beneficial. Mankind has the potential to change patterns and preserve nature. And the challenge lies in finding that new path to sustainable growth.
That is where Qi GLOBAL aims to play a role in coming up with the proper solutions.
CEO Kristine explains the life-changing Qi GLOBAL start-up with her background. Previously she had worked for the fashion brand DIESEL and also started a trend agency called Style-Vision in France.
“On one hand, professionally, I was actively pushing for more consumption in sectors often exploiting natural resources and vulnerable people such as fashion. On the other hand, privately, I used to be very interested in politics, reading all the intelligent newspapers as a young girl. Later I became involved in charity as head of fund-raising for a children’s charity in China. With all the awareness of climate change I had also become a keen environmentalist.”
The successful Dane started thinking twice about how she was conducting her way of life.
“There was a stage when I thought: Why am I doing one thing during the day and something else during the night? Why can’t I do both during the day; meaning doing business and making money but also something good? And that’s how Qi was born, Kristine explains at their discreet shop house office in Bugis, Singapore. Here she is also a Goodwill Ambassador for Copenhagen.
Kristine strongly believes in social entrepreneurship and that one can do good both as a professional and privately. Instead of causing negative things to happen, like child labour, because of business and then feeling bad about it and giving to charity as a kind of green hand-washing to feel that everything is fine again.
“I think you can bring your heart to work and still be successful and I believe in this in general for people. So that’s what we are aiming to show with Qi; that we can create an enterprise that is successful in environmental, social and financial aspects.”
Changing for the better
Qi is pronounced ‘Chi’ which stands for the ‘natural life source of everything’ in Chinese. It is about bringing together the thinkers and doers spearheading a new paradigm for a sustainable world.
As for the ‘chi’ connection Kristine explains: “The meaning behind using it is that in social and environmental fields you have a lot of negative people and negative news. I have little girls and I know that when they grow up they might become depressed by the sheer amount of negativity and the uncertainties about the future. Now we know it’s a finite planet and we’re trashing the place and for our future generations. Thomas L. Friedman has written about the Green Revolution: a really massive global revolution can only be happening because of you wanting to change something for the better. Not because you’re so scared about what will happen in the future, ‘cause when you are you’ll react negatively by rejecting, lying.”
‘Global’ refers to the French meaning: encompassing, holistic. While many people are specialized in something, like cleantech or sustainable fashion, they like to focus on the big picture, by having ten different communities: from fashion and design to energy and CSR.
‘Sustainable’ a must
Their next Qi 2011 event is taking place 13-14 October 2011 in Singapore and has been themed ‘Meeting of Asia’s Best Minds on Innovation’.
The idea of the theme came from one of last year’s speakers, President Jose Ramos-Horta of Timor-Leste, who said: ‘What you do is gathering Asia’s best minds. You focus the talks on solutions and innovations and you don’t need to say sustainable because everything has to be that anyway.’
Those coming to their events are already convinced, or otherwise curious, and most definitely aware – in Asia constituting the early adopters who understand the need for all of us doing our bit to make the needed structural changes to how we live.
The summit as well as Qi innovation workshops have proven to invigorate people to think and act according to how their decisions will affect future generations, becoming proactive instead of reactive.
Out-of-the-box ideas already realized are presented and new collaborations lead to churning out creative solutions.
“We’ve had several speaker and sponsors who are now working together on projects.”
“It’s the how, what to do about it, and where do we go from here? And that’s a great inspiring area to be in because it means that every day I meet amazing people and social entrepreneurs who create new businesses and new projects. They are ones that are going to drive it. I also meet such persons who are inside the companies and pushing the environmental and social agenda. And I see that there are more of them, mostly still from Europe.”
“It is part of something bigger really and we are the forefront of sustainable innovation in Asia. You’re a movement. So if companies want to be part of it they join in. Then the ones that wish to explore further we then talk to about consultancy services that are more on a case-by-case customized to their needs. What’s some of them are not so sure about is how to go about it – and in an innovative way that is also taking care of the bottom line. That’s the big issue and the level we are at.”
Waves of change
And how does Kristine deal with the very obvious prevailing lack of consideration for the relationship between economic growth and sustainability?
“I am stepping out of the box, instead of standing in there. Let’s forget for a second about economic growth as the only way forward. Let’s think how you can create a society that has some kind of economic model – and we’re not talking about going back to the Stone Age – that is financially sustainable but also embracing the people and the planet. And that’s a very big concept that I’m then breaking down to people who are doing this under various different fields. And that’s where you have the interesting things. For example, what if all the stock exchanges would be rating not only the financial but also the social result and potentially the environmental result which is what Impact Investment Exchange Asia is doing; creating the world’s first social stock exchange. What if we created rural-urban areas, villages that are so attractive that you’d want to stay? What if we got into not using oil but energy from sugar palms like Willie Smits is pioneering?”
And Kristine goes on to list examples from the last summit: chocolate bars that contributes to planting trees, a one-car-per-family rule, fashion bags that provides poor women education, cruises that protects endangered species etc. – all of them concrete steps for what we can do tomorrow.
“And why don’t we, let’s get started! That’s what we want to show. Hopefully we’ll create some waves of change and actually we can see that we’re doing that already.”
Also the governments and policy makers play a key role in ensuring all reasonable and economically viable measures are implemented to provide the balance between human progress and nature’s preservation.
“The pricing is very important to really create the framework for pushing this forward. As long as energy is so cheap, oil and electricity, we won’t have the big breakthroughs because the [renewable] alternatives are too expensive. I don’t think people can push this through, neither can businesses, if they can’t make money out of it. But the governments can make it expensive to do bad things and cheaper to do good things. Politicians are using the voters as an excuse, but I do believe it is time for being bold now.”
Positive change can be achieved, it just takes action.