Sustainable Development in China

ECOLOGIA works with innovative leaders in dynamic, fluid situations - often before trends are dominant or even clear to others. From our seventeen years of experience working in "societies in transition" (undergoing rapid and significant economic, social and cultural change), we have a cross-cultural perspective on the opportunities and challenges facing every sector of society in such circumstances. We use this experience to develop ECOLOGIA programs that are appropriate to promoting sustainable development in China. We provide international linkages and appropriate support so that the Chinese people can more effectively contribute to sustainable development - long-term solutions to social, economic and environmental problems - both within China and on a global scale.

Sustainable Fibers - Linking Inner Mongolian Goat and Camel Herders to a Sustainable Global Supply Chain

We are tackling the challenge of creating an environmentally sustainable, economically viable and fairly traded global supply chain for cashmere.

Herders shear fine quality cashmere from purebred Alashan goats in China's Inner Mongolia. This is the first step in the long journey of the global cashmere supply chain. In the past several decades, unsustainable expansion of herds has led to over-grazing,desertification and environmental degradation in the region.

ECOLOGIA's President Randy Kritkausky visits a cashmere processing factory. The "dehairing" process is the next step in the value-added chain that culminates in the production of fine quality cashmere sweaters.

ECOLOGIA is working in cooperation with goat and camel herders' cooperatives in Inner Mongolia, China to:

  • support herders' efforts to create environmentally and economically sustainable sources of income,
  • promote restoration of desert and grasslands ecosystems damaged by decades of overgrazing, and
  • create a global supply chain for sustainably raised and fairly traded cashmere.
Our work on this project is supported by the Ford Foundation.

Micro-Finance for Poverty Alleviation

Qili Village, Sichuan Province, March 2008 - Du Heng, Program Director for ECOLOGIA, discusses the micro-finance program we are conducting in rural areas, with our partner the Sichuan Xuping Rabbit Raising Company.

July 2007 - Ren and Zhang Xuping, founders of the Rabbit King Poverty Alleviation Research Center, are ECOLOGIA's partners in a new venture: to bring a micro-finance program to village communities, in conjunction with training in rabbit raising and marketing. The hallmark of this program is an emphasis on environmental sustainability rather than short-term economic growth. (The Xupings are also the founders of the Sichuan Xuping Rabbit Raising Company.) With support from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (2007-2008), ECOLOGIA is bringing international and local human, social, intellectual and financial resources together for this project.

October 2007 - ECOLOGIA staff visited the Xuping Pi Cao rabbit fur factory sewing room, in Sichuan Province. Young women from the countryside and city are learning to make rabbit-fur scarves, capes, and panda bears. Once they acquire needed sewing skills, they will be able to work from their homes and augment household income without leaving for manufacturing jobs in distant cities. Family and village life are preserved under such a cottage industry model. In addition, the items they produce are made under good working conditions and with quality local materials.

The Xuping rabbit fur business is a branch of their rabbit meat business and Poverty Alleviation Center. Rabbits and rabbit meat are a more efficient and eco-friendly method of producing animal protein than raising beef cattle or pigs. The investment is smaller and allows very poor rural families to increase their incomes quickly.

Ren and Zhang Xuping founded the Sichuan Xuping Rabbit Raising Company and, in 2006, the Rabbit King Poverty Alleviation Research Center. The Xupings' model of social entrepreneurship has lifted thousands out of poverty. ECOLOGIA staff are now working with the Xupings to create a marketing system that will assist them in obtaining added value for their products in the global marketplace.

Progress Report:
China Earthquake Relief
Loans for Village Rebuilding

Updates from earthquake zone, May 29, 2008

ECOLOGIA's base of operations in China is Chengdu, Sichuan Province. Our project site is in the mountains west of Chengdu. We currently have a micro-finance project in this mountainous region and are using this on-the-ground capacity to deliver post emergency relief aid to earthquake survivors. They need support for rebuilding and repairing damaged homes and village infrastructure.

Our goal is to encourage villagers to engage in reconstruction that will be more earthquake resistant and also more environmentally friendly. We will try to avoid some of the problems of post-Katrina and post-tsunami construction where people rebuilt the same kinds of inappropriate dwellings. In addition, we will use this opportunity to seed the creation of community funds. Reconstruction and repair loans will be repaid to the community trust fund that will then be used to promote environmentally and socially sustainable development.

To contribute, or for more information, click here. ECOLOGIA is a 501(c)3 registered charitable organization with twelve years of experience with grassroots projects in China.

Support for Socially Responsible Entrepreneurs

China’s rapid development is transforming the quality of life of its own population and that of communities around the world by impacting the economy, environment, and health. Emerging models of indigenous Chinese entrepreneurialism present uniquely hopeful opportunities to combine wealth creation with principles of philanthropy and social justice. [See "China's Socially Responsible Entrepreneurs: Native Roots for Sustainable Development" by Randy Kritkausky - April 2006.]

Networking for Support
ECOLOGIA is now developing a network of indigenous businesses whose entrepreneurial founders combine wealth generation with sustainable development and fair business practices. The goal is to create market, social, and ethical support for socially responsible businesses. We identify and connect local businesses (manufacturers, farmers, retailers, restaurants, etc.) whose founders share a drive to be "community helping" as part of their normal business routine. This can take the form of providing employees with good wages, benefits and working conditions, producing "clean" products such as organic produce, or hiring and training people with disabilities.

Our efforts to highlight socially responsible businesses in China have led to coverage by environmental journalist Bill McKibben, in "The Great Leap: Scenes from China's industrial revolution" (Harper's Magazine, December 2005), and most recently in Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future (Henry Holt & Company, 2007).

Partnering with a Multinational to Create Sustainability Programs

In Ningxia Province,from 2006 - 2008, ECOLOGIA and ALCAN Ningxia staff worked together on sustainable development and community-initiated projects
"Environment, Health and Safety for Community and Home" brought together staff at ALCAN's Qingtongxia aluminum facility, community residents, and ECOLOGIA's international team. The program was designed to increase the participation of Daba Town residents in community development activities.

Encouraging Chinese engagement with International Corporate Social Responsibility

Chinese socially responsible businesses need to succeed in the global marketplace. One reason is that such success will encourage others to follow the same practices, thus improving conditions for Chinese workers, and improving environmental impacts of business operations. Another reason is for the health and safety of consumers - both within China, and in the global supply chain.

ECOLOGIA works within the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as part of its multi-stakeholder and multi-year process to develop a global guidance standard, ISO 26000, for "Social Responsibility". Chinese involvement in creating the standard will benefit the rest of the world, as well as Chinese businesses and consumers, by shaping the standard to ensure it is relevant to Chinese concerns. ECOLOGIA has trained members of the China National Institute of Standardization (CNIS) in interpretation and parliamentary techniques, to increase the effectiveness of the Chinese delegation in this international setting. (Fall 2006) Our partner in this training program was the Monterey Institute for International Studies, especially the Graduate Schools of Translation and Interpretation, and of International Policy Studies. [See ECOLOGIA Works on ISO 26000 - Social Responsibility".]

"The Supply Chain Talks Back"

Wenjie Tang of Beijing represented ECOLOGIA at "The Supply Chain Talks Back", a conference held in Shenzhen (in the industrial area of Guangdong Province), November 2005. Participants discussed ways that employers, workers, purchasers - including multi-national corporations - and government agencies can work cooperatively to make Chinese businesses more socially and environmentally responsible. Mr. Tang particularly enjoyed the small group discussion format, and the focus on identifying areas of common ground while listening carefully to different groups' concerns.

Identifying and Supporting Emerging Environmental Leaders

In 1995, the co-founder of Green Earth Volunteers, a start-up environmental NGO, visited ECOLOGIA during an exchange visit to the US. The small grants from ECOLOGIA (through our Virtual Foundation) enabled the group's first large-scale public activity: citizen-organized tree-planting. Over several years, ECOLOGIA worked with Green Earth Volunteers to develop their projects and to locate funding from American church groups, student groups, and individuals. Over more than a decade, Green Earth Volunteers has grown to involve thousands of naturalists, scientists, teachers, students, citizens and local officials in its activities. One of its co-founders is a well-known television journalist, who has brought national attention to numerous environmental issues. The other co-founder is now the head of a Beijing-based environmental policy group, providing advice to government ministries. ECOLOGIA's role was to be there at the start, to provide the 'leverage' of a small amount of money, interest and support, to strengthen the indigenous base. [See "Trees for Life - Grow a Tree" on the Virtual Foundation website.]

In 2001, ECOLOGIA met the founders of the Green SOS student network, at Sichuan University in Chengdu, when they were just planning to start their own small grants program. Through grants for Chinese student projects, administered with transparency by the Green SOS members themselves, Green SOS encourages environmental protection and community involvement. ECOLOGIA's Chinese staff and Green SOS members are using and adapting the Earth Charter as an ethical framework for supporting sustainable development in China. By 2007, Sichuan University was also becoming a hub for business students interested in applying corporate social responsibility to their future careers; the "green culture" is spreading. ECOLOGIA's office in Chengdu takes a multi-faceted approach toward sustainable development, and is involved in many of the activities happening there.

Providing International Service Learning Opportunities in China

The "China Working Group" provides Middlebury College students with international service learning opportunities with Chinese businesses and NGOs; it provides those organizations with the work and ideas of talented energetic youth. The Alliance for Civic Engagement at Middlebury College , "ACE", has supported this expansion into international volunteerism from 2007 to the present.

ECOLOGIA cooperates with a broad range of Chinese partners, ranging from environmental groups, to private businesses producing for the national and international markets, to government-affiliated organizations. ECOLOGIA receives foundation grants for our work with Chinese not-for-profit organizations. In addition, ECOLOGIA provides consulting services to Chinese and international businesses seeking to implement innovative and culturally appropriate corporate social responsibility programs in China.