Will carrot mobs stick in France?

Will the latest eco-fundraising flashmob be a flash in the pan?

A NEW way of encouraging businesses to go green is starting to take off in France – the “carrot mob”.

The term is based on “flashmob” (when large groups turn up in a public place to perform a certain act, organised via social media) and “carrot” from the phrase “carrot and stick”.

The idea is to get as many people as possible to patronise a certain business on a certain day and time; in return the firm promises to use some or all of the extra revenue to fund named actions to improve its eco-friendliness.

“Carrot mobs” were invented by American Brent Schulkin, formerly of Google, but are being promoted in France by Rennes resident Florian Guillaume and his Association Carrot Community.

Anyone can organise one, the association says, the ideal being that a group of motivated, eco-conscious friends gets together to plan one in their area. You should not do it half-heartedly, because a poor result would be bad for the movement’s image, it says.

Organisers typically choose suitable local businesses to approach and then run a selection process whereby the firm offering the best terms – eg. by its proposed actions or the amount of the turnover it will spend – is picked. The carrot mob is then planned and promoted. It is also listed on the Carrot Community site.

More than a dozen events have been held in France so far, including one claimed as a “world record”, when a café-restaurant/entertainment venue in Paris, la Bellevilloise, took €10,000 in an evening which attracted 1,000 customers, promising to spend it all on insulation.

However not all carrot mobs have to be on such a large scale, the main aim being to substantially increase trade compared to an ordinary day. One of the latest was at Ecoffee in central Rennes, a fair-trade coffee seller working out of an electric van, which hosted a carrot mob from 14.00-19.00 on a Saturday.

Owner Damien Hervé said: “We made more than €400, which doubled our turnover compared to usual, and it was a chance for us to become better known.”

He added: “They decorated the whole square by turning the trees into giant carrots – wrapping them and leaving the top of the tree as the carrot’s leaves, it was really funny.

“It was publicised on Facebook and people gave out leaflets.”

In return, he said, they will collect used coffee grounds and have them recycled into fertiliser and will buy new bins for the grounds and for other kinds of recyclable waste. While he was already keen to be green, he said the scheme is motivating for firms who might not have considered being environmentally-friendly.

“It’s a great idea and I hope there will be more and more.”

See the association’s site for more on how to organise a carrot mob or support one.