Marc Gunther is a veteran journalist, speaker, and writer whose focus is business and sustainability. Marc is editor at large of Guardian Sustainable Business US and a contributor at FORTUNE magazine. He’s also a husband and father, a lover of the outdoors and a marathon runner.

How McCormick is making sustainability its secret spice

The world’s largest spice maker is greening farmers and growing fairer profits

When a tropical cyclone struck Madagascar in 2017, displacing thousands of people and damaging nearly a third of the island’s precious vanilla crop, McCormick & Co., the world’s biggest spice company and a leading buyer of Malagasy vanilla, supported the humanitarian efforts to provide emergency shelter, food and water. This isn’t unusual; global companies often help pay for disaster response in places where they do business.

What’s different is that McCormick stayed long after the waters receded, expanding its efforts to support vanilla farmers in Madagascar, one of the world’s poorest countries. Besides rebuilding primary schools and funding vanilla processing centres in remote communities, it helped create a farmer-owned cooperative, giving farmers more control over their crops. McCormick also teamed up with WWF to make sure vanilla is sustainably farmed, restoring riverbanks and training farmers on water conservation. In addition, the company provides interest-free loans and healthcare insurance to vanilla growers, in concert with the German foreign aid agency and Biovanilla, a local supplier.

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Reforming institutions through development

Spark MicroGrants is working with communities to provide cash (and possibly democracy)

This article originally appeared on Nonprofit Chronicles

Chickens. Cows. Cookstoves. Toilets. Solar panels. Job training. Clean water.

Western NGOs dole out lots of stuff to help poor people in the global south become less poor. Do such programs work? It’s hard to know, but when researchers for a series of World Bank studies called Moving Out of Poverty asked 3,991 households in 15 countries how they escaped poverty, just three of those households credited “NGO assistance.” Hmm.

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By Marc Gunther
The oldest (and most effective) anti-poverty program

This article originally appeared on Nonprofit Chronicles


People have migrated for millennia, mostly to escape poverty. Between 1880 and 1930, more than 27 million immigrants entered the US, most from Europe. Some six million blacks left the rural south for cities in the north and midwest between 1910 and 1970, in what’s known as The Great Migration. More recently, Hurricane Katrina prompted one of the biggest resettlements in American history.

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Indoor cooking

Efforts to make a cleaner cookstove have long failed to live up to their promise, but that might be changing.

Originally published on Ensia

For about 3 billion of the world’s poorest people, the simple act of cooking dinner is fraught with risk. They burn wood, charcoal, dung or crop waste, often on open fires, fouling the air they breathe. It’s no small matter: Household air pollution from cooking fires is thought to be the world’s leading environmental cause of death and disability. And cooking over open fires also contributes to climate change and to deforestation when poor people chop down trees for fuel.

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Putting families in charge

A different approach towards breaking the cycle of economic dependency for low-income families.

This article was originally published on the Nonprofit Chronicles.

Mauricio Lim Miller spent about two decades leading an anti-poverty organization in the San Francisco Bay Area, and he did it well, so well that President Clinton invited him to the 1999 State of the Union address. But Miller was disillusioned. “I became very cynical about my work,” he told me.

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Changing corporate behaviour

NRDC’S Linda Greer: Cheers and jeers for business

This article was originally published on the Nonprofit Chronicles.

Some nonprofits, and people working inside nonprofits, pursue the same strategy, year after year, without stopping to ask whether they are having an impact. Not Linda Greeran influential senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who for the past 25 years has worked to get companies to clean up their act.

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