Category Archives: Responsibility

The 4 Rs…

Reduce, Reuse, Repair and Recycle…. The 4 Rs are a great guideline for lowering our impact on the planet and cherishing its limited resources! These verbs are not always the easiest to practise in our personal and corporate lives. We as a global community clearly still have a long way to go.

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One R that is often hard to practise is Repair. So many of the products that are made today are built in such a way to break and fail. The term for this is called “planned obsolescence.” For more information about this, watch this short film by The Story of Stuff! It is a pretty crazy that we have come to the point that most of what we build is meant to fail and break. Surely we should be aiming to build things to last!

 

 

Anyway, I want to highlight a company that has been moving in the opposite direction for years: the clothing company Patagonia. These guys make both technical and casual apparel and if you have been on a trip with me you will have noticed that most of my mountain clothing is from Patagonia. After reading their book ‘The Responsible Company’, I was pretty inspired by their ethics and their openness about their journey as a company, seeking to be both environmentally and socially responsible – something that all companies should be aiming for, especially in light of the current climate crisis.

 

One of the decisions I made after reading the book was to slowly replace kit as it wears out and to replace it, if at all possible, with Patagonia kit, often through sales or by buying second hand gear. Not much of a sacrifice if you are patient, like their colour schemes and designs, not to mention their commitment to build durable, long-lasting kit. Over the last few years they have been publishing the Worn Wear Stories which people have sent in about their gear, their adventures using it, and the repairs made to the gear.

 

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So here is my first story:

 

 

As you know, we do a lot of winter mountaineering trips in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco and being a qualified Mountaineering Instructor, I have also spent loads of time in Scotland in the winter. Since about 2009 I have been using the ultra classic R1 hoodie. I put it on around December time and it stays on until around April depending on the winter season’s length. This hoodie rocks whatever version you have of it.

 

Of course, due to how much I wear it, the hoodie finally needed some repair: the main zip on the chest pocket started to separate from the rest of the garment and I couldn’t fix it myself. I’m currently visiting family in California so I was able to send the hoodie to Patagonia’s repair centre in Reno (you can also repair kit in Europe). I got it back about a week later as good as new and ready for the upcoming winter season! Once again, I am incredibly impressed with Patagonia and the way in which they make the mountaineering world a little bit more sustainable and ethical.

 

Let’s hope that more companies look to bring this type of ethic and practice back!

 

 

 

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Me happy after getting back my repaired R1 hoodie!

 

Three practises that you can count on from Patagonia – check out there website!

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It’s a mule’s life

 

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Stunning views, epic summits, great days out in the mountains of Morocco: all made possible by… the humble mule. Here at The Mountain People we are very aware that we have a responsibility not only towards our clients and staff but also for the welfare of the mules who are so vital to our treks.

 

Which is why our Imlil-based staff have been particularly grateful to get to know and work alongside Glen Cousquer, current President of the British Association of International Mountain Leaders (BAIML). Living in Imlil on a part-time basis, Glen is trained vet and is working on a PhD looking into the welfare of mules within the mountain tourism industry. He is also heading up a lot of the local initiatives for pack mule welfare here in the High Atlas, working in collaboration with a number of partners, including The Donkey Sanctuary, the Expedition Providers Association and Kasbah Mules.

 

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Glen training a local mule

 

We sat down with Glen recently and asked him more about his work here in Imlil:

 

TMP: Glen, firstly, what brought you to the High Atlas?

 

Glen: I first visited the High Atlas twenty years ago and was blown away by the beauty of the mountains. Mountain life, however, is very hard – for the people and their animals. I saw firsthand just how much the mules working in tourism suffered. Back in 1995, I saw one mule on a trek I was on that was very ill and in great pain due to a nasty sore on her back. The team had no protocol for dealing with such situations and for the muleteer to abandon the trek, meant losing his work.

 

I came back in 2008 to try and study how the industry could better meet its responsibilities to these hard-working mules and their owners. This led me to produce a syllabus and course on pack mule care for the Mountain Guide Training school here in Morocco. Between 2009 and 2015, I was responsible for delivering that course and for training the next generation of guides.

 

In the last two years, I have been based predominantly in Imlil and have been able to get to grips with some of the complexities of the mule’s life and wellbeing.

 

TMP: What drives you to seek to better the mules’ welfare in Morocco?

 

Glen: Good question. I think that I fundamentally believe that the mountains give mankind so much and they have certainly given me a lot. They are fragile places, however, and we need to look after them. For me, it is very important to give something back, to make sure they are not exploited irresponsibly.

 

And it is quite obvious to me that those who cannot stand up, cannot speak, cannot be heard, are easily exploited. The mountains are exploited. The mountain people are all too easily exploited. And, of course, the mule is exploited.

 

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Mule that was overloaded and injured in a fall

 

Tourists care about this. Many of the better agencies care about this. But they often don’t know enough about the problem and even when they do understand, they don’t know what to do.

 

The industry does not have the resources needed to solve this problem. They can make small fixes and small changes but the problems go much deeper than that. That is why I believe that my work can make a difference, can provide alternatives and can encourage people to adopt practices that promote good mule welfare.

 

TMP: What initiatives have you started here and why? And what other areas can you see that need to change?

 

Glen: There are a number of initiatives. Amongst the problems we have identified and that really impact on the mule, three stand out. These are overloading, mouth injuries caused by the use of the traditional bit and the pain and frustration associated with traditional tethering practices.

 

  • Overloading can lead to saddle sores and is also responsible for tendon and joint injuries that will go on to trouble these poor mules for the rest of their lives. Just this morning, James, you and I, together with Mohamed went to see a mule that had fallen over a 100m drop somewhere above Tachedirrt. She had a nasty wound on her leg but fortunately had not broken a leg. Breaks spell disaster here for mules as there is no tradition of euthanising mules. In the case of this mule, it was very clear that she was thin, old and very weak. She had also been overloaded. Hardly surprising then that she fell! Sadly, these stories are common-place, especially with companies that do not check the mules on departure and make sure basic standards are respected.
  • The traditional bit is a medieval instrument that allows man to control the mule thorough pain and fear. It has no place in a good relationship based on trust, respect and understanding. The same can be said of tethering.
  • There are many other problems though, including the lack of health care and insurance. Good handling and training is rare here, food is often deficient in quantity and quality and the standard of farriery and foot care is appalling.

 

 

TMP: What is your long-term vision and dream for the mules of the High Atlas Mountains?

 

Glen: In an ideal world, the industry would move towards a set up in which the muleteers were more respected and were not exploited. They should have access to health care themselves and deserve to be pulled into the social security system. In the same way that the trekking industry recognises its responsibilities to porters across the world, it needs to recognise its responsibility to muleteers.

 

So the muleteers benefit. But their mules need to benefit too! They need better working conditions. They need good equipment (including humane tethers and good quality head collars), protection from overloading, good food, shelter at altitude, health care, rest and even retirement.

 

That may be a lot to ask just now but we should not forget that in the UK this battle was fought for pit ponies nearly one hundred years ago. Their working conditions improved as a result and it became harder to exploit them as a source of power and labour.

 

In a few words, we need to care about these mules.

 

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Training muleteers to use the bitless bridle

 

TMP: What can people do to get involved and contribute to the initiatives?

 

Glen: People need to ask questions of the companies they are travelling and trekking with. Do these companies apply any code of good practice when working mules?

Is that code audited?

What numbers of mules are provided for a certain size of group?

What is the load limit set for the mules?

Are all the mules worked free from the traditional bit?

How long has the owner had his mule and do they have a good relationship?

 

I am glad to say that The Mountain People are taking a real interest in these issues and are working hard to put a system in place that will improve the welfare of the mules they use. They have recently started collaborating with The Donkey Sanctuary to provide training for their muleteers.

 

There is much more on this kind of stuff on the Donkey Sanctuary website and on my academia page.

 

Thank you to Glen for this interview! We look forward to continuing in our partnership with you to improve the lives of the mules and muleteers of the High Atlas.

 

Categories: Blog, Company Values, High Atlas, Mule Welfare, Responsibility
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Patagonia’s latest Campaign – Sign the petition!

 

This is the latest campaign from Patagonia. The campaign centers around protecting the public lands of Southeastern Utah known as Bears Ears. Check out this blog for further details:

 

http://www.patagoniaworks.com/press/2015/5/4/defined-by-the-line

 

Sign the petition!

 

Here is the  full-length video: http://www.patagonia.com/us/the-new-localism/Bears-Ears

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Video: A conversation with authors of ‘The Responsible Company’

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Following on from yesterday’s blog…. check out this video of a conversation with authors of “The Responsible Company” held at Yale University!

 

click here: The Responsible Company: Lessons From Patagonia’s First 40 Years

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Patagonia’s book The Responsible Company

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I have read through Patagonia’s book “The Responsible Company” a couple of times now. As we are in the early stages of forming our company/community I found the book to be both very inspiring and highly thought-provoking.  If you are looking for a book with sustainable business principles and practices that have been tried and tested, then look no further. The book itself can be read in a couple of sittings and there is a very helpful appendix which includes a “responsible company checklist” and recommended readings!

 

The authors’ aim is to invite people onto a journey of doing business responsibly and sharing what they have learned over the years. They are forthcoming with their shortcomings and clear about key principles that work. There is no hint of condemnation but rather an inspiring vision that brings hope for a better world, filled with businesses that have less environmental impact, are more socially responsible and provide meaningful work.

 

One of the most helpful things was the way the book spells out what a “responsible company” should look like as we move into a post-consumerist world. The authors outline five elements/responsibilities: a business is responsible to – Shareholders (be profitable), Workers, Customers, Local Community and Nature.  This is a very helpful framework for us as we are laying the foundations of our business. The book comes from the point of view of a manufacturer of goods but the principles are transferable to service-based companies.

 

We are as a community currently exploring ways to reduce our environmental impact. So be on the look out for future blog posts:-) This is one of those books that we as a company will refer to often for guidance, inspiration and as a measure of how we are doing in our pursuit of becoming an environmentally friendly and socially responsible company.

 

Here are a few quotes from the book to give you a feel:

 

“How is a company responsible? Should it profit its shareholders, provide for the well-being of its employees, make excellent products, be a good force in the community, and protect nature? We think that a responsible company bears all these obligations.” (23)

 

“As of this writing, two thirds of the U.S. economy relies on consumer spending…. Much of what we produce to sell to each other to earn our living is crap, either ever more luxurious, specialized goods like electronic temple massagers and personal oxygen bars, or cheap salty junk food and disposable clothing. Every piece of crap because it was manufactured, contains within it something of the priceless: applied human intelligence, for one, natural capital for another- something taken from the forest or river or the soil that cannot be replaced faster than we deplete it. We’re wasting our brains and our only world on the design, production, and consumption of things we don’t need and that aren’t good for us…

 

We are in transition to a post-consumerist society, and toward the recovery of our collective sense – of time, of public space, of proportion.

 

In a post-consumerist world, goods are likely to become more expensive, to reflect their true social and environmental cost, prompting us to shop less as a form of entertainment. That’s not so bad. We’ll be able to recover time for satisfying pleasures that derive from pursuing our deepest interests; we’ll have more time with our friends and family, and more time for meaningful work.” (26-27)

 

 

 

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