Whole Kids Has a Whole Lotta Love for the Environment

Conscious Capitalism

James and Monica Meldrum knew when enough was enough. After working for years in high-powered corporate careers, they were becoming increasingly disillusioned at how most companies focused on, in their words, ‘the health of their profits rather than the health of their people and products.’ They resolved that if they ever started their own business, they were going to run it completely differently.

Even before they had their own kids, it was by chance that they found out that there were no delicious – and genuinely healthy – snacks for children. Their respective siblings shared how hard it was to find lunchbox snacks that were not packed with high levels of sugar, sodium, fat, preservatives and additives, and the Meldrums recognised that this was a great business opportunity. And so, the idea of  Whole Kids was conceived.

Conscious Capitalism

I first met James at the Conscious Capitalism Conference in 2014 in Sydney. I was impressed by how he and his wife, Monica, approached their business, always ensuring sustainability and community are at the core. This aligns with the tenets of Conscious Capitalism,  described by co-founder Raj Sisodia in Everybody Matters as, ‘A belief system, a philosophy of business… It’s not just about self-interest, it’s also about caring; it’s not just about making money, it’s also about making a difference.’

Almost 15 years since the Meldrums manufactured their first run of certified organic products, back in 2005, James and Monica have remained true to their commitment to run a business they truly care about – and one that has made a positive impact in the community. They have consistently championed ethical sourcing of ingredients that are all organic and non-genetically-modified (GMO). They started the Unjunkit movement to reduce kids’ exposure to junk food to ensure that they grow up healthy and happy. They also use Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper and cardboard where possible in their packaging. 

Credit: Whole Kids

B Corporation – a global standard


These initiatives (and more) have since earned them the distinction of being the first food business in Australia to be certified as a B Corporation by the non-profit  B Lab,  joining the ranks of companies that aim to solve social and environmental problems through the power of business. In a nutshell, B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk.

For companies to become B corp registered they go through a globally recognised and rigorous certification process. The aim is to ensure that businesses balance purpose and profit, and B Corp businesses are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, community, and environment. Currently, of the 2,788 Certified B Corporations across the globe, 272 are from Australia and New Zealand.  Go B Corp!

Today, Whole Kids actively call for government accountability and changes in national policy to mitigate the consequences of climate change. Closer to home, they’re also exploring innovative packaging alternatives and working with recycling companies to keep their pouches out of landfills. 

In the words of Monica Meldrum, Whole Kids co-founder and CEO, ‘We are proud to be a founding B Corp in Australia and the mantra for Whole Kids to not just be the best in the world, but be the best for the world is something we consider on a daily basis. Being a snack brand, we recognise that convenience and environment don’t always go hand in hand and we’re looking to change this. The driving force behind our environmental focus is to ensure we leave our children with a healthy planet for their families. Companies carry a large portion of accountability for the next generation and this can’t be ignored.’

Credit: Whole Kids

We couldn’t agree more.

How Positive Stories Can Help Save the World

Negative vs positive narratives

I don’t know about you, but now, more than ever, climate change seems real. More freak weather events. More protests. Daily news items on the mass extinction of species. In the past year, things have speeded up.

Of course, we’ve known for years what climate change is and how it’s devastating our planet. A good percentage of us know how to mitigate its effects and do our part. Yet, why is it that we’re still so divided on this issue? Why so many non-believers? And why, even amongst those who dobelieve and acknowledge the problem, is there still inaction?

This is a big thorny question. Here in our new Sustainability Corner, we’ll be exploring this issue through a business lens. In particular, we’ll be featuring inspiring stories of individuals and organisations making a difference for the environment.

Because what I’ve realised is that how we talk about this issue, and how the message is shared, matters. It matters a lot.

Negative vs positive narratives

Right now, the predominant narrative theme on climate change is pretty negative. This is no surprise, considering the latest predictions that what we do in the next 10 years will impact the next 10,000 years. Gulp.

However, research has shown that using fear to provoke a behavioural change can be counterproductive. So, when we see visions of scorched earth and plastic-choked wildlife, it makes us anxious. Or worse. People feel depressed, which invariably leads to denial or avoidance of the environmental issues at hand. Similarly, too many facts and numbers can blur on a page, especially in the staggering volume that they are being produced today.

How positive narratives can help

It’s important to go back to our roots and connect with our core humanity. Numerous studies have shown that emotionally engaging stories affect more areas of the brain than data-centric messages ever could.

Without going into the neuroscience of it all, our brain has the unique ability to recognise patterns that help us predict likely outcomes, which makes narratives and storytelling the most elegant and effective way to communicate messages. We’ve been doing it, after all, since our ancestors sat around the campfire tens of thousands of years ago.

In particular, stories that focus on positive outcomes with positive role models can lead to concrete action. They actually get people thinkingabout what they could do and how they should do it. In contrast, negative narratives that convey hopelessness and despair can lead to avoidance and inaction.

This was confirmed at an April workshop I ran for North Sydney Council. For one exercise, community groups came together to create a narrative of change.

One local leader said that, ‘Since the ABC series, War on Waste,  ordinary people have woken up to the impact our daily rubbish is having on the environment. Now they’ve accepted this is a reality, they are able to do something about it. It’s actually empowered them to act.’

That’s certainly true for me. Now I’ve accepted climate change as real, I feel motivated to do something about it. Indeed, positive storytelling is a powerful tool that can help bring about the change that our planet needs, and it’s one that we should use and use well.

As more people and businesses are doing their share, more positive stories are generated… encouraging others to do theirs. So, I encourage you to send in your own stories hereto be featured at Sustainability Corner– inspired by ‘Speaker’s Corner’ at Hyde Park in London where everyone has the chance to stand on his or her soapbox.

Together, let’s do our bit to save the environment, one beautiful story at a time.