Feb 1, 2011

The I in Ideal

Jon Ramer’s Idealnetwork.com launched today. You remember Jon – He was the Interra guy, the singer at Center for Spiritual Living and that guy who is behind and in front of many a – sustainability curtain. And today he launched Ideal Network.

Well, who cares?

Have you ever asked yourself whether sustainability and business diametrically opposed? Whether doing business means the inevitable destruction of the environment? Is sustainability a world without businesses? Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, would say it does. Ray Anderson, founder of Interface carpets would say it does not. He set the goal of being the first environmentally restorative business.

The jury is still out, but one thing we know for sure: All of us participate in business activities everyday. Whether it’s the clothes you are wearing, the bus you took to work (fueled by? Built by?), the lunch you ate, the laptop you click away on, our everyday lives are seeped in business. Business, or trade, infuse and inform our lives. Think back to the Greeks. As xenophobic as they were (the word barbarians comes from their perception of foreigners talking barr-barr-barr), they embraced trade with those across the seas and mountains, and their culture changed and flourished from it. Today, we are in a similar place, but the trade we participate in is a different one – it purposely forms our culture and we, sometimes, feel at its mercy. Is Coke it for you? Or Pepsi?

How do we, as people – not “consumers” – but people who need to eat, sleep, clothe ourselves, take care of each ourselves and others – take a role in answering the question of whether business is good or bad for sustainability? Certainly your choices of what you buy make a difference. Your lifestyle does too. And the market – or method of purchasing – makes a difference. Online, at a farmers market, in the mall, at the corner market. From a mega multinational corporation, locally owned, a mom-n-pop, a cooperative, a B- corp.

Idealnetwork.com takes online shopping, group-on and B-corps and blends them all together. With Idealnetwork, about one quarter to one third of the money goes to a local non-profit. But it goes beyond that. IdealNetwork is looking to foster relationships between businesses and local activist, and to inspire people into community activism. You can just buy your stuff, and no cost to you, some of the money goes to make your environment, community or economy a healthier place. Or you can buy your stuff, learn more about efforts and organizations in your community and get engaged.

This week Idealnetwork launches with Theo’s chocolate. The International Labour Organization tells us about 80% of the worlds chocolate comes from the Ivory Coast and neighboring countries, and most of it is harvested by slave child labor. Theo’s chocolate is fair trade. Today, for $10 you can get $20 of fair trade chocolate and donate $2.50 to many causes – including the Seattle Area Happiness Initiative!

We don’t have the facts yet to answer the question of whether sustainability and business are antithetical or business can be done to make our environment, society and economy a better, fairer and more healthy. But we can contribute to making the facts so that when the jury is in, it’s not because we destroyed anything. We all know we have a long way to go to reach sustainability. We also know that new ways of doing things are needed. The IdealNetwork is a way for us to start thinking about those new ways, and to contribute towards the creation of the path towards sustainability.

written by Laura Musikanski, JD, MBA


  1. What happened to the idea of being physically present in the world? Our relationships are being degraded. It is nice to be able to support Sustainable Seattle and other great causes effortlessly, but the value of it goes no further than the money we spend.

  2. Hi anonymous

    Agreed. We are more than happy to have you join us in our work - our SAHI team meeting is F3b 8th at 4 pm and we have happy hours the last Tues of every month at 4 pm at Fonte Please come!!- and encourage people to engage in their community- take action to connect by being the catalyst to create a neighborhood sustainability scorecard or planting an urban ag patch.

    Money is an important part of how we are present, but not at all the most important part. It can't buy love!!