Changing Patterns for a Better World

Joakim Persson, ScanAsia China, August 1, 2011

In 2009 Mette Kristine Oustrup co-founded the Singapore-based Qi, a global network of leaders in design, innovation and sustainability.


Qi is a most fascinating Internet-based social enterprise focused on sustainable innovation and development, aspiring to generate positive change by pushing the social and environmental agenda in our societies.


The message is clear and more people are beginning to understand it. Exploitation has exceeded the limit that nature can bear and ‘business as usual’ will not be sufficient as it disregards its' true value. Poorly managed economic growth continues to worsen many environmental problems. The scale and scope of the challenges we face are daunting. Businesses and consumers out there are asking questions like what can we do or where are the solutions?


It's not a small issue that the successful Danish entrepreneur has devoted her creativity to launching Qi GLOBAL, thus scripting a better future for the world. The method is positive and focused on optimism, which is, moving to a sustainable society, exciting and beneficial. Mankind has the potential to change certain patterns and preserve nature but the challenge lies in finding that particular new path to sustainable growth.


This is where Qi GLOBAL seeks to play a part in coming up with the proper solutions.

The start up of Qi GLOBAL is best explained through Mette Kristine’s own background. Previously, she had worked for the fashion brand DIESEL and also started a trend agency called Style-Vision in France.


“On the one hand, professionally, I was actively pushing for more consumption in sectors often exploiting natural resources and vulnerable people such as fashion. On the other hand, privately, I used to be very interested in politics, reading all the serious newspapers as a young girl. Later, I was involved in charity as the head of a fundraising for children charity in China. Due to the consistent increase of climate change concerns, I had also become a keen environmentalist.”


The successful Dane started thinking twice about how she was conducting her way of life. “There was a stage when I thought ‘why am I doing one thing during the day and something else during the night? Why can’t I do both during the day?’ which may be a business generating revenue but for a good cause."


That was how Qi was born. Based in a discreet shop house office in Bugis, Singapore, Kristine is also a Goodwill Ambassador for Copenhagen here.


Kristine strongly believes in social entrepreneurship and that one can do good both professionally and as an individual. “I think you can bring your heart to your work and still be successful and I believe this in general for people. That is what we are aiming to show through Qi, that we can create an enterprise that is successful in environmental, social and financial aspects.”


Qi is pronounced ‘chi’ which stands for the ‘natural life source of everything’ in Chinese. It's about bringing together the thinkers and doers spearheading a new paradigm for a sustainable world. 


As for the ‘chi’ connection Kristine explains that the motive behind using it, is that in social and environmental fields, there are many negative people and news.


“I have little girls and I know that when they grow up they might become depressed by the sheer amount of negativity and the uncertainties about the future,” she said. "Now we know it’s a finite planet and we’re trashing the place for future generations. Thomas L. Friedman has written about the Green Revolution: a really massive global revolution can only be happening because of you wanting to change something for the better. Not because you’re so scared about what will happen in the future, 'cause when you are you’ll react negatively by rejecting, lying.”


‘Global’ refers to the French translation of encompassing and holistic. While many people are specialized in something, such as clean tech or sustainable fashion, they prefer to focus on the big picture, by having ten different communities that range from fashion and design to energy and CSR.


Their next Qi 2011 event is taking place 13-14 October 2011 in Singapore and has been themed ‘Meeting of Asia’s Best Minds on Innovation’.


The idea of the theme came from one of last year’s speakers, President Jose Ramos-Horta of Timor-Leste, who said: "What you do is gathering Asia’s best minds. You focus the talks on solutions and innovations and you don’t need to say sustainable because everything has to be that anyway."


Those coming to their events are already convinced or curious, and most definitely aware that about Asia constituting the early adopters, who understand the need for all of us doing our bit to make the needed structural changes to how we live.


The summit, as well as Qi innovation workshops, have proven to invigorate people to think and act according to how their decisions will affect future generations, becoming proactive instead of reactive.


Out-of-the-box ideas already realized are presented and new collaborations lead to churning out creative solutions.


“We’ve had several speakers and sponsors who are now working together on projects.

It's the ‘how?’, ‘what to do about it?’, and ‘where do we go from here?’ that matters and that is an inspiring area to be in because it simply means that every day I meet amazing people and social entrepreneurs who create new businesses and projects. They are the ones who are going to drive it,” she said.


She added: “I also meet people who are inside the companies, pushing the environmental and social agenda.”


“It is really a part of something bigger and we are the forefront of sustainable innovation in Asia."


"We are a movement so if companies want to be part of it, they can join in, and the ones that wish to explore further, can negotiate with us about consultancy services that are more on a case-by-case, customized to their needs."


How does Kristine deal with the very obvious prevailing lack of consideration for the relationship between economic growth and sustainability?


“I am stepping out of the box, instead of standing in there. Let’s forget for a second about economic growth as the only way forward. Let’s think about how you can create a society that has some kind of economic model, that is financially sustainable but also embracing the people and the planet, and we’re not talking about going back to the Stone Age.


That is the big idea I am conveying to people who are doing this in various fields.

 For example, what if all the stock exchanges are rating not only the financial but also the social result, and potentially the environmental result? This is what Impact Investment Exchange Asia is doing, creating the world’s first social stock exchange.


What if we created rural-urban areas, villages that are so attractive that you’d want to stay? What if we got into not using oil but energy from sugar palms like Willie Smits is pioneering?”


Kristine goes on to list examples from the last summit, chocolate bars that contribute to planting trees, a one-car-per-family rule, fashion bags that provides poor women education, cruises that protect endangered species, etc. All of these are concrete steps for what we can do tomorrow.


“Why don’t we? Let’s get started! That’s what we want to show. Hopefully we will start some waves of change. Actually we can see that we’re doing that already,” she expressed.


Also, the governments and policy makers play a key role in ensuring all reasonable and economically viable measures are implemented to provide the balance between human progress and nature’s preservation.


“The pricing is very important to really create the framework for pushing this motive forward. As long as energy such as oil and electricity is cheap, we won’t have the big breakthroughs because the [renewable] alternatives are too expensive. I don’t think people can push this through, neither can businesses, if they can’t make money out of it. But the governments can make it expensive to do bad things and cheaper to do good things. Politicians are using the voters as an excuse, but I do believe it is time for being bold now.”


“Positive change can be achieved, it just takes action,” she passionately concludes.


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