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Please read the following passage:

Some 50 young women--decked out in green army fatigues, pink pumps and pink berets, with pink shopping baskets tucked under their arms--march through the streets of Amsterdam. Just before reaching a large department store, their leader yells, "Halt! Bold women... disperse!" The women of the Buyer's Army storm into the store, hunting for organic food, fair-trade products and animal-friendly cosmetics.

At first, their fellow shoppers recoil in fright, but they quickly begin to smile as they realize this is a publicity stunt to raise awareness about ethical consumption. And members of the store's staff? They just wish the women would stop asking critical questions, like "How can you be sure this cushion wasn't made by children?" and "What percentage of the sales price of this chocolate bar goes to the cocoa farmer?"

In the offices of Stonyfield Farm in Londonderry, New Hampshire, co-founder and president Gary Hirshberg reflects on his journey from "long-haired, cash-strapped environmental activist" to head of America's top-selling brand of organic yogurt. "I had no intention of becoming a businessman," he says. "Although I directed several environmental NGOs, I knew very little about running a business. But I realized I needed to move into capitalism if I wanted to have a bigger influence. Business is the only source powerful enough to manifest the change we need. There is infinitely more that I've achieved in this role than I could have otherwise."

A few years ago Hirshberg sold 80 percent of his firm to Groupe Danone, the $20 billion French maker of dairy products and bottled water (known as Dannon in the U.S.). You'd think Stonyfield's sustainability ethic would be lost in the profit margins of this multinational, right? Wrong. Since moving to Danone, Hirshberg and co. have revamped their logistics and distribution system to cut CO2 emissions, installed videoconferencing technology to reduce air travel, introduced new lightweight packaging and recycling programs and launched a couple more lines of organic yogurt. All this was achieved while the company cranked out annual growth rates of some 24 percent and devoted 10 percent of its profits to environmental causes. Franck Riboud, CEO of Groupe Danone, recently told The Wall Street Journal: "Stonyfield represents an ethic and it's an ethic that we at Groupe Danone have to adopt if we're going to be successful in the 21st century."

What could organizations as diverse as the Buyer's Army and Stonyfield Farm possibly have in common? They're both exponents of the "new activism," a method of promoting positive change that mixes social critique with humour, artistic panache and business savvy. Forget the boycotts, the sit-ins, the protesters handcuffed to chain-link fences and the banners draped across corporate headquarters. The new activists--like Hirshberg and the members of the Dutch Buyer's Army--take a fresh approach to getting people's attention and getting issues on the political and social agenda. Instead of wagging a finger, they tickle our funny bones or pry open our pocketbooks, with the hope of pricking our consciences in the process.

Passage from Visscher, M., & Geary, J. (2008). Marching to the beat of a different drum. Ode Magazine, May, 54-64.