Directed by Jesse Borkowski (2013)
Real Value is about the reform potential of “social enterprise” – a business model in which local entrepreneurs pursue profit while delivering tangible benefits that strengthen their local communities.
The film profiles four North Carolina businesses:
TS Designs – an organic T-shirt manufacturer that morphed out of a vibrant textile industry destroyed by the North American Free Trade Act. In addition to growing organic cotton an manufacturing T-shirts, TS Designs, which is entirely solar powered, grows organic vegetables to ensure their employees have access to healthy local feed.
Sow True Seeds – an heirloom seed company dedicated to preserving crop diversity (in contrast to companies like Monsanto and Cargill that aim to increase profits by promoting monopoly ownership of monoculture* crops). Sow True Seeds donates leftover seed to schools and community gardens and allows local residents to trade their labor for free seeds.
Piedmont Biofuels – a cooperative that produces biofuels from locally sourced food waste.
Redwoods Group – an insurance company working to keep kids safe by gathering actuarial data and educating local businesses how they can reduce their insurance costs.
The film also explores the general theory of social enterprise (as taught by Harvard Business School). The model challenges the conventional wisdom that big and centralized is always better for the economy. They give the energy industry as an example – how the consolidation of control among a handful of corporate CEOs has resulted in a system of energy production that is enormously inefficient and environmentally destructive – mainly because the end users have no voice in how it operates.
It also explores one of the major hurdles social enterprises face at present, namely educating consumers about their purchasing habits, eg the value of paying slightly more for a T-shirt that doesn’t fall apart after three months or purchasing biofuel that doesn’t result from the destruction of Indonesian rainforests.
*Although they are extremely profitable for Food Inc, the major drawbacks of monoculture crops are their need for massive inputs of synthetic fertilizers that destroy the soil and their heightened susceptibility to pests.
** In Indonesia, thousands of acres of rainforest are destroyed every year to plant palm oil plantations for biofuel. This wholesale rainforest destruction is a major factor in creasing atmospheric CO2 levels.