Alison’s Story

alison business photo snappy

In 2003 I returned to London after living in South America for four years and started to ask myself some questions.     Why are we so busy that we barely have time to say “Good Morning” to the people we work with let alone to get to know them well?  Why aren’t we content despite having so much more material wealth and creature comforts than my friends in South America?  Everyone seemed to assume that I would be so relieved to be back in the developed world but I really missed the very people centred way of life, where people came before goals and achievements (despite it having frustrated me initially when I was trying to deliver on deadlines!).

Then I started asking more questions about stuff.   Where does the stuff I buy come from? What are the impacts of my shopping on someone else the other side of the world?    And what about the environmental impact in countries where legislation is weaker and not enforced?   It made going shopping rather uncomfortable; every time I picked up something I had so many unanswered questions. And as a self-confessed hoarder my cupboards were bursting with stuff too.

I started a journey which took me to meet cotton farmers in India, fruit pickers in Africa through to executives of high street retailers such as Marks & Spencer and John Lewis.   I decided I wanted to be part of the solution so I changed careers and began working to reduce poverty amongst the people who make the products in our high street. I put my experience in big business to practical use by working with retailers to help make their products and supply chains more sustainable. On one level I saw change happening. I saw Indian farmers with money from the Fairtrade premium who could now buy sewing machines to teach their teenage daughters a trade. I saw a reduction in pesticide poisoning and child labour; new standards being agreed by our retailers and implemented; illiterate farm labourers in Africa becoming farmers in their own right. But another issue began to concern me; our role as consumers.

Six years ago, whilst flying back from visiting farm labourers in South Africa I had the idea of Planet & Soul, although its name came much later. I imagined a website which looks deeper at the issues which drive our behaviour as consumers and why we have chosen the lifestyles we have chosen, despite the impact on our planet, our souls and our neighbours. It would offer a space to explore the spiritual dimensions, the impact on our souls and seek to pioneer new paths for living and relating.    My hope was that we could learn from the ancient spiritual disciplines as well as exploring new ideas for our modern context.  Our souls would enjoy a detox and the planet would benefit too.

I will be blogging about personal stories and anecdotes about my steps on this journey plus some top tips I’ve learned along the way.   I’ll also be bringing some stories from the frontline, of those who grow our food and sew our clothes  and the bigger issues surrounding our everyday decisions.