Shopping For Good

What’s better than ethical shopping? Buying less. The earth is buckling under our heavy consumption. So before we even consider this list,  let’s ask ourselves if we really need new things. What can be mended and re-used? What can we do without? Would the person we are considering a gift for prefer an experience?  Perhaps we could donate to a cause?

If we to buy some something, my hope is that we support businesses that are doing their best to do good – whether for the planet, animals or people or all three! Some things are great inspiration for the soul but there’s not much info on how they are made. I have still listed some here. I also don’t have the capacity to check if what companies claim is true although I try to research where possible.

For those responsible for buying corporate gifts or responsible for purchasing  supplies for your office, hope this helps you too.

Beautiful picture books for adults and children

Picture books can have have profound messages for people of all ages, yet can be finished in a matter of minutes. They appeal to the child in all of us.

Woods in the Books


Recommended picture books

If you are buying books not available in Singapore, check out Better World Books (FREE shipping and they donate to literacy projects around the world).

Things We Forget

Inspirational Posters 

Things We Forget  These post-it pad messages are left anonymously around Singapore.

Yes! Magazine Posters

More Posters

Card Decks

Virtues Cards – each card describes a virtue. One can pick a card a day as an inspiration. They come in three versions – for adults, for educators/young people and for families. Please call Bookaburra to check if they have them in stock.


An art therapy session with veteran art therapist Joanna Tan.

labyrinth walk facilitated by Edwina Yeow. (For groups only at this point).

A Transformation Game experience facilitated by me (if my time permits). This is a unique tool that enables players to gain self-awareness and clarity around a specific issue of importance to them. The game can take between one to four players. Contact me at vadivu[at] for more information on this or other work I do related to workplace happiness, servant leadership or character education.

Cruelty-Free Products in Singapore

To check if your product is cruelty-free, see

the Leaping Bunny list or the  Choose Cruelty-Free list.

Wide variety of eco-friendly products 

Simply Living Life Shop

Green Store


Healthfood/home care/personal care/natural medicine

Organic Paradise

Real Food Grocer

Brown Rice Paradise


Taste Original

Essential Living

Sebastian Liew Centre – carries St Hildegard Medicine and more.

Vom Fass – quality oils

Personal care/facials

Bud Cosmetics

Pure Tincture

Valana Mineral Make Up ( for diverse skin tones)

List by

Skincare, toiletries, vegan shoes, perfume

The Naturally Better Company

Organic Soap Nuts for laundry

The DIY Secrets

Eco-friendly detergents, baby things

I Do Care


Playhao – many beautiful wooden toys, often made in Europe. And much more.

Eco fashion

Jujube Boutique



Eco-friendly/organic baby things



Belle & Dean

After Organic

Ethical jewellery

Saught – Singapore-based company which makes jewellery from landmines and unexploded weapons.

Fur-free retailers, designers and brands

Carrier bags

Corn Bags by Olive Green

Bio Bags

Environment-friendly disposable tableware and packaging


Environment-friendly furniture/finishes/flooring


Mountain Teak


Journey East – selected pieces, they also look at fair-trade practices.

Star Bamboo – bamboo flooring

Prospec Surfaces (solid timber floors are fsc certified)

Flexible Love

Green Home

Engineered wood flooring by Evorich Holdings

Valcucine – kitchen
(I have checked with a friend who’s active in environmentalism and he says to look for FSC certified wood. It’s also not perfect but the best so far. )

Speaker for iPhone

ibam2 – made from bamboo by socially disadvantaged craftsmen.  They have a video especially on its suitability as a corporate gift.

Green Printing and Paper

Green Prints


Art by Singaporean artist Paper Girl – a resilient woman I met at Pasar Bella

Sculpture by Victor Tan – awe-inspiring pieces.

Paintings by Jean-Sebastian Choo (30 % of sales go to programmes for autistic individuals)

Willow Tree products – the loveliest figurines. 

Lisa Congdon art – has pieces with inspirational sayings


Shop for Social

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping Guide Ethical Shopping

Our Little Green Dot Eco/Organic Shops directory

Green Label products

Books and other thoughtful gift ideas from positive psychologists


On happiness at work

But you know, as a leader, my main responsibility is to bring profit to my shareholders, not to look at things like compassion or the happiness of my employees. That’s their personal matter.

– There’s extensive research to show that happier employees benefit their organisation. 

– Progressive leaders care about the triple bottom line – people, planet and profit. Leaders have a powerful opportunity to positively affect many lives so if you look at the welfare of all your stakeholders, and not just your shareholders, you are working to build a more progressive and sustainable business. It requires a long-term mentality because in the short term, it may cost more to make some changes. Have a look at this example. 

– I also believe there’s no such thing as “personal matter”. Our lives are all interconnected. Here’s an illustration. Life may not be as direct as this of course.

Consider one of your employees who has been treated well at work and is happily driving home. He is present and mindful and driving safely.  He passes your son or daughter on the road, who’s also driving. He gives way, and is kind.

If, however, he’s been overworked, stressed and under-appreciated at work, he may drive home feeling stressed, upset and distracted or even taking yet another work call on his cellphone.  If he’s on the road and your son or daughter is also driving, he’s more likely to be a danger to the safety of your child.

At the end of your life, what is the legacy you want to have left behind? On your deathbed, what matters most, according to people who have worked with dying people, is how much love you have given and received, and how much service you have rendered.

(This is part of an interview I did with Matthieu Ricard. These are my thoughts to the questions I posed to him. Please click here for his responses. )

Of Bears and Bulls

Bear in a farm that investigators visited. Photo Credit: World Society for the Protection of Animals

I was involved in the campaign to end the farming of bears for extraction of their bile when I was working in the animal welfare sector.  Various animal welfare investigators who have visited bear bile farms have found bears kept in tiny cages, so that they can have  their bile extracted out of their gall bladders. Extreme suffering results. Here’s one resource for more information.

Photo Credit: World Society for the Protection of Animals

So I shared the deep concern of animal protectionists when I recently learnt that a company that is involved in farming bears for their bile in China is trying to get listed publicly.

Amidst this disconcerting news, a light shines brightly. has committed to not allowing bear bile products to be sold on its platform. They also don’t carry cat and dog meat and fur. How wonderful that this business cares enough to give up the potential for more money and stands firm on standing up for compassion! Let’s celebrate such actions, and let people know of such businesses.

News of the  potential public listing of this company reminded me of ethical investments.  It’s another powerful way in which we can make a difference, without leaving our homes. Learn more: Global Impact Investing Ratings System, The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment.

(We still need to use our own personal compass to guide us and be vigilant. For example, if you care about animals like I do, we may choose to invest in businesses that don’t trade in animals, which may still be listed as “socially responsible” under other criteria.)

Crushed – What Can We Do?

On Saturday, 18 Feb 2012, a worker from China got folded into a dough-mixing machine as it began churning. He was crushed and killed.

The dead man’s girlfriend, Ms Feng Weijia, told Chinese newspaper Lianhe Wanbao, that they were going to get married next year. Apparently, her boyfriend had said that he had a good boss but that he  was working overtime – about 12 to 16 hours at a time – almost daily.

Investigations are undergoing.

I couldn’t turn the page when I read this news report. Various thoughts emerged:

– Let’s say it was true that he was working 12-16 hours frequently. Could working shorter hours have meant he is alive today? Could he have been alert enough to withdraw his foot fast enough? Or been more mindful of his safety? Or remember any safety instructions he had been given? Was he too tired? Maybe.

– How about his employers? Do they work long hours too that affects their own wellbeing adversely? Is that why this practice is probably trickling down and affecting their workers? If they knew in their hearts that compassion is a big part of being joyful, could this death have been prevented?

What if we know his employers, or other employers or realise that we are “employers” ourselves? We belong to clubs, associations, alumni groups, schools, places of worship and of course our own places of employment. We know others from there.  These places have staff, both permanent and contract workers. If we have influence in these settings, we could use that to enable these employees to be safer and happier. What conversations could we start to enable this? How would we invite family members, friends and others in our affiliated groups to run their businesses more consciously and compassionately?  How could we support them to be compassionate to themselves, as well as those they work with?

Remuneration, working hours, workplace safety, medical support when injured, accommodation, food, transport, and potential for growth – these are some key areas we could pay attention to. I don’t currently have a precise list of questions we could pose to contractors etc. For now, let’s try common sense and what we would want for someone we love dearly.

How could we create systems of transparency and accountability where we really get to know what’s going on the ground for contract workers especially? What could we witness and check first-hand?

– There’s alot of talk on Corporate Social  Responsibility these days. My thinking is that the best CSR starts with one’s own employees. No need to go far to find suffering to alleviate or to bring joy to others.

If you agree, and have opportunities, could you help shape the CSR discourse to integrate more of such a view?

Yes, some changes require more money.  Are we willing to pay more to enable these employees to have a better life? What would it feel like to vote for compassion with our money? How about using some of the money we want to give away in the name of CSR to actually making changes in our own companies/organisations that can help protect more lives, and help employees be happier?

How could we do as much as our compassion and wisdom guide us to, and not only follow legislation? Fo example, it’s legal to transport workers in goods vehicles. But if we really cared about their safety, we could transport them in passenger vehicles.

This week, another worker, Mr Ibrahim, 22, was killed when the lorry in which he was being transported in met with an accident. Others were injured.

But those are the few that we get to know of. I know there’s probably more employees who got injured this week. Maybe more died.

I now have a start-up that helps businesses help their employees to be happier. It’s my own small way of helping to change things. What could yours be? Where’s your sphere of influence? How could you use it peacefully and constructively?

Every small bit helps. Let’s not let this man’s tragic death be in vain.

For a start, could you bring/raise the ideas in this post to any upcoming meeting and start a dialogue around it? Or simply forward this to someone with a note on what could be done in the organisation you’re from?

(PS: I also try to heal my own blindspots, inconsistencies, short-sightedness as I believe that societal transformation starts with personal transformation. If not, I may be the unwitting cause of someone writing a blog somewhere about my actions, and how s/he needs to try and change mine!)



Conscious Diamonds

We can spread joy as conscious consumers…

If you buy diamonds, and care that they are made ethically (that is, without funding violent rebel groups, or torture or rape by militaries) please log on to these links and share them with your friends.

While there are companies which say they enforce standards by the Kimberly Process, this is what Charmian  Gooch, a Founding Director of Global Witness, a human rights group has said:

“Nearly nine years after the Kimberley Process was launched, the sad truth is that most consumers still cannot be sure where their diamonds come from, nor whether they are financing armed violence or abusive regimes.”

Here is more information on Global Witness leaving the Kimberly Process.

Brilliant Earth is a company that goes beyond the Kimberly Process in acquiring its diamonds.

Lab-grown diamonds are another alternative. Max Gordon is an option in Singapore.

Or perhaps this is a time to give up on diamonds altogether and channel the money to worthy social change projects or investing in your personal and spiritual development? :)


Better World Books

Excited to share something with you all!

FREE shipping on books + Part of money goes to literacy projects around the world + every order from Mishawaka is carbon-balanced + company is a B corporation (corporations which use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems) = a consumer who is happy her money is going to something Good.

If a book is not available locally, I now buy from betterworldbooks! Join me in supporting businesses which are conscious of their social and environmental impact?

Watch videos of Better World Books and their social impact and environmental impact.