Your weekly helping of five interesting ideas to take you into the weekend. Curated by Good Business and delivered straight to your inbox first thing on a Friday, if you subscribe here.
(1) Run the World (Girls)
To mark Tuesday as International Day of the Girl, charity Plan International placed more than 250 girls in positions where they are under-represented, from taking over a national parliament to becoming the honorary head of a country’s military. The 24-hour stunt to call for greater gender equality saw teenagers swap places with presidents, mayors, head teachers and business leaders around the world. Their activities were shared on Twitter all day using the hashtag #GirlsTakeover. The majority of positions available to take over on the day were ministerial, parliamentary, at international organisations like the UN, or foundations such as the Gates Foundation. Only 22% of parliamentarians and 17% of government ministers globally are female, but the private sector has even more catching up to do with women making up fewer than 4% of CEOs heading up the world’s 500 leading corporations. That’s why, while we really liked this initiative, we feel it was a shame that more companies weren’t involved, especially given that brands likely play a bigger part in a teenage girl’s day-to-day life than government does. Perhaps next year #GirlsTakeover will spread farther into business – we’ve already started our search for Giles’ teenage replacement to head up Good Business for the day...
(2) True Blue
The New York Times has published a longform story about chocolate manufacturer Mars’ search for a natural replacement to colour their distinctive blue M&Ms. Mars has joined a growing list of global food manufacturers – including Nestlé USA, General Mills, Kraft, Frito-Lay, Campbell’s, Kellogg’s and Mondelez International – that are removing artificial dyes from some or all of their products,. While many food colourings are easily found in nature – the orange glow of Kraft’s revamped macaroni and cheese now comes from paprika and turmeric for example – blue is a rarity among plants and animals. When it occurs it is often a trick of light rather than really blue, the case for bird feathers, sky, ice, and water. In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration approved Mars’ petition to use the microscopic algae spirulina to make the first natural blue dye approved for use in the United States, but another replacement is still needed by the industry as there isn’t nearly enough spirulina dye to go around and sometimes the color degrades or tastes odd. While we fully support this level of dedication to a search for synthetic alternatives – a move that makes commercial sense too given that over half of American adults say they want to avoid artificial colors and preservatives – we wonder why the company is trying so hard to make nature look artificial. Surely there is an opportunity here to use the fact that nature doesn’t make certain colours to make the point that M&Ms are going natural? It will be interesting to see how Mars’ competitors’ approaches to blue might differ.
American cosmetics maker CoverGirl has announced that their latest CoverGirl (joining the ranks of Zendaya, Katy Perry, Pink and more) is, in fact, a boy. 17-year-old James Charles will be the face of the brand's upcoming "So Lashy" mascara range as the brand says it wants customers to see that the new mascara is "open to everyone". The move was revealed on Instagram where Charles amassed more than 500,000 followers over the last year for his makeup tutorials that cover everything from creating fake freckles to layering chunky glitter around the eyes. This is a big deal in terms of expanding representation in popular culture as the fashion and beauty industries, often criticised for narrow portrayals of what it means to be a "man" or a "woman" have started to open up and become more inclusive. The fact that CoverGirl has included a man on their front cover is simultaneously a signal that the transgender community is moving toward broader societal acceptance, and a bold and powerful statement by a brand on where society should head. We’re looking forward to seeing what moves other brands, publications and personalities in fashion and beauty make.
(4) Serving Up Sustainability
Jamie Oliver has partnered with Amazon’s Echo smart speaker to recommend recipes based on what people can see in their fridge. The speaker, which recently launched in the UK, connects to the Alexa Voice Service that enables users to search the Web, create to-do and shopping lists, shop online, get instant weather reports, and more with just their voice. This specific integration serves up over 160 recipes based on the main ingredients a user has to hand. For example, someone who says, “Ask Jamie Oliver for some chicken recipes,” will be recommended a selection of recipes with a short description to choose from as well timing advice and the suggested skill level for a chosen meal. Though the Jamie Oliver & Alexa partnership was not created with food waste reduction in mind, we see great potential for the service to serve up some sustainability as consumers are inspired to work with what they already have rather than wasting it. Other smart options, like Samsung’s wifi-enabled refrigerator, can similarly offer up exciting opportunities for solving some of the pressing sustainability issues of today.
(5) Championing Emotions
BfB Labs’ crowdfunding campaign for their emotionally responsive video game, Champions of the Shengha, has had a fantastic response from the media, with features from Mashable and Sky News being watched over 100,000 times. We’ve put this game on your radar before – via a previous Friday 5 and a dedicated email when the campaign launched – but are bringing it up again because we would love you get involved with bringing the product to the world. Five trials have demonstrated that Champions of the Shengha effectively trains players to manage their emotional state through diaphragmatic breathing, which we know helps them deal with stress and build resilience to mental health problems. You can buy the product (the game and its accompanying sensor) for yourself or your family, or support a teenager in our network of schools and mental health partners to get the benefits. Full details are on the Indiegogo campaign page but do reach out if you have any questions. We would love to have our network play a role in helping BfB Labs reach their $75,000 funding target.