On her first day of college at Arizona State University, SEED Spot Co-Founder Courtney Klein Johnson would have told you she’d be well on her way to being the next Katie Couric by now. Instead, a life-changing experience working in rural Mexico significantly altered her life course and she is now thriving as a social entrepreneur working to catalyze and grow a business community that values impact as well as profit. Courtney will participate in our Make Money by Doing Good: Designing A Triple Bottom Line Enterprise Workshop, Thursday, December 6 in Phoenix — but first, we’ve got a primer on the Triple Bottom Line concept and how it plays out in the world of business.
GoGreen Conference: To get us started, can you give us a quick backgrounder on SEED Spot and what it is that you do there?
Courtney Klein Johnson: Chris Petroff and I started SEED Spot in February of 2012. The name behind SEED spot comes from the idea that everyone has a seed inside of them — an idea that is yet to be born. We’re a place where you can go to get the resources and guidance to take that idea out into the real world. We’re working with social entrepreneurs in Phoenix with dreams of creating sustainable businesses that have impact via a product, service or technology that improves lives and communities. We have 16 full-time companies and 40 part-time companies that we’re supporting this year.
GG: On your website you talk about the intersection of purpose, passion and work. What happens when you align these three elements? What lies at that intersection?
CKJ: Magic. Incredible stuff. I think that authenticity lies at that intersection. People who find a cross-pollination of all those things often arrive at the most authentic place for themselves and for the businesses they create. And with that comes a loyal customer following; a base of people that believe in the “why” even more than the “what.” And I believe that brings more value to whatever project or service you’re providing.
GG: A lot of times when we talk about sustainability, the conversation can stagnate on environmental performance metrics — efficiency, consumption, technology — but SEED Spot seems to have a broader perspective on what it means to be sustainable. Fill us in on your philosophy.
CKJ: We would argue that a sustainable business is one that is not only created in a way that is fruitful for the entrepreneur, but fruitful for the people that intertwine or interface with the company as well. That goes for your employment practices to the product or service itself — how is it made, the lineage of its components and the impact they have. Sustainability also means sustainable revenue. SEED Spot itself is set up as a non-profit organization, but we’re still charged with setting up sustainable revenue channels for ourselves. It’s important to look at setting up your organization properly in the market and assessing your costs appropriately. The tension comes in when you look at the higher costs that come with supply chains to be sustainable or eco-friendly. It matters where and how things are made, but so does the price point — and the most sustainable companies are the ones that have found the right balance between that sacrifice and sustainability.
GG: Have you seen a big shift in the Millennial and Gen Y generations in terms of better integrating the concept of “doing well and doing good” into their business models? Is the traditional belief that profit is king be on its way out?