Tag Archives: triple bottom line

Green Line Series PHX | Courtney Klein Johnson On Building A Triple Bottom Line Enterprise

ImageOn 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?

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Green Line Series PDX | Cylvia Hayes On Transforming The Economy Via A Triple Bottom Line

Cylvia Hayes might happen to be Governor John Kitzhaber’s better half and consequently Oregon’s First Lady, but she’s a visionary in her own right. For the last installment of the Green Line Series for Portland, we sat down with Cylvia to get her unique perspective on how government and business can work together to get it right for Oregon’s economy, communities and its environment.

GoGreen Conference: Give us a sense of your role in Governor Kitzhaber’s Administration and how your own professional expertise plays into that.

Cylvia Hayes: I wear two hats around here. I have a more than 20 year career in sustainable economic development and clean energy. So I have that professional perspective. And as First Lady of the state, I’m very involved as a volunteer policy advisor for the administration on those two issues. To give you some specifics, I was the co-chair on Governor Kulongoski’s (the previous Governor of Oregon) renewable energy working group, which was the body that was put together and worked to pass several of Oregon’s big energy policies — including our renewable portfolio standard and renewable fuels standard. But towards the end of that term, my fellow co-chair and I became a little frustrated, because although we realized that we had passed a number of lofty and important measures, we had no comprehensive plan on how to actually get there.

So, now one of the big clean energy policy efforts we have underway in the Kitzhaber administration is a 10-year energy plan. The intent being that in 10 years time our trajectory is to meet and exceed our renewable portfolio standard, our fuel standard and emission reduction goal, but that we have credibly bent the curve so that we are moving towards a low carbon energy and transportation system.

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GoGreen Austin 2011: Recap + Resources

Our crew has a great love for the Pacific Northwest, but we have to say that Austin blew us away. We are so inspired by the ideas, the passion and incredible commitment to sustainability and the triple bottom line we witnessed in your fine city. We hope that everyone who attended left as excited as we were and armed with actionable practices to take back to your businesses and organizations.

We want to kick this post off by saying a humble and heartfelt thank you to everyone who attended the conference, and all the speakers, sponsors, exhibitors and community partners that made GoGreen Austin 2011 a smashing success. We absolutely could not have done it without your participation and support! Our special thanks to the City of Austin and all involved departments for the warm welcome and commitment to the mission of GoGreen. We are also incredibly appreciative of support from Lucia Athens, Jessica King, the Austin Convention Center, Texas Gas Service and the Austin Business Journal.

In case you missed out on GoGreen Austin 2011 or just want to relive the fun, we’ve put together a recap with session highlights from three of our favorite talks and resources to explore. We also hope you’ll add your insights, takeaways, links we missed and links to your own recap blog posts in the comment section. Sustainability is a conversation and we want to hear your take on it!

Keynote (Lucia Athens, City of Austin)
Austin’s Chief of Sustainability, Lucia Athens, certainly came armed with inspiration and new resources from the City. Her talk on changing operations to create viable solutions was both practical and visionary—taking into account human behavioral psychology to form the foundation of creating sustainable change. Her approach centered on 4 New Operating Principles to use:

1. Try a new operating system
2. Keep up with the Jonses
3. Backyard Pride
4. Pay it forward

Lucia also announced several new initiatives the City of Austin is starting to enhance green business and provide additional resources for those committed to sustainable practices.

Greenwashing (Valerie Davis, Enviromedia)
Enviromedia CEO and co-founder Valerie Davis (fellow co-founder Kevin Tuerff spoke on the Green Branding and Marketing panel) gave us a lot to think about with her session on what constitutes greenwashing and how to avoid it. We watched several commercials that showed what a wide spectrum there is between intentionally misleading people outright and inadvertently playing up your sustainable efforts a little too much.

The key, said Valerie, is to be transparent, authentic and prepared to prove your claims. How you deal with challenge says as much about your brand’s commitment to sustainability as the initiative you are promoting. An example of a company getting it right is Patagonia, which breaks down their products and reveals all of their sustainable and not-so-sustainable components in a compelling way through the Footprint Chronicles.

If you want to learn more on greenwashing (and how NOT to do it), visit the Greenwashing Index, which is an interactive website designed by Enviromedia and the University of Oregon to give the public tools to vet advertisements and render judgment on the level of greenwashing each employs. It’s a great resource.

Equity + The Triple Bottom Line (Sheryl Cole, Austin City Council; Armando Rayo, Cultural Strategies; Brandi Clark, EcoNetwork; and Susan Roothaan, A Nurtured World)
An increasingly important issue on the sustainability front is the “people” aspect of the triple bottom line (i.e. taking care of people and planet, in addition to profits). The GoGreen Austin panel on equity brought a robust conversation on fair access to information, resources and jobs in the green economy to the forefront of the conference agenda.

Bringing to light that sustainable living is a something to be enjoyed by all people, our panel made a convincing argument for realigning our goals and priorities to be more inclusive of groups historically left out of the sustainability movement—including people of color and low-income populations. One of our favorite takeaways was that we, as a culture and a civilization, have to get beyond the idea that a sustainable citizen is a middle-class, white, hybrid-driving, yoga-practicing American—because most of the world and an increasing portion of America does not fit that stereotype. We need to broaden the definition by bringing more people to the table, recognizing the vast array of cultural contributions to the green movement, creating solutions that fit a wider set of needs, and fostering participation in sustainable living by all.

Cultural Strategies’ Armando Rayo wrote a great follow-up post on this topic as regards bringing the Latino community further into the “sustainability” fold and recognizing their cultural approach to being stewards of the earth. Read that here.

Another group that is actively broadening the reach of green practices is the Sustainable Food Center (this is pulling in a resource from the Austin Business Journal Going Green Award Winner Session, but their work is extremely relevant on this front). SFC is finding ways to provide sustainable, farm-sourced produce to a wider spectrum of Austintonians. Visit their site here.

So what was your favorite session? What did you take away from GoGreen Austin that’s stuck with you over the past 10 days? Our comment section is ready and waiting for your insights!

P.S. Pictures from the day are on their way—so check back for those. We’ll also be releasing select video of the main stage sessions throughout the spring.
And remember, you can get the latest green news and information on GoGreen Austin hot off the press year-round at @GoGreenConf and #GoGreenAUS. We’ll see you on Twitter!

PDX 2010 Green Line Series: Verde’s Alan Hipólito Talks Equitable Access To The Green Economy

We’ve heard the rumors and seen the proof about explosive growth in what’s called the new “green economy.” But not everyone’s getting a fair share of the benefits. Verde’s Executive Director, Alan Hipólito talks with The Green Line Series on how to better integrate underrepresented populations into this new green economy, the advantages of a richly diverse workforce and why it’s crucial to the sustainable business movement’s success.

GG: Can you give us an overview of Verde’s programs and what your mission in the community is?
AH:
We used to say that our goal at Verde was to connect low-income people and people of color with the economic benefits of protecting the environment. But over time that’s evolved into a broader goal of building environmental wealth in those communities. Environmental wealth coming from traditional, natural resources —like clean air, clean water, uncontaminated land, parks, green spaces and habitat—to environmental technologies—like storm water management, ecoroofs, solar installations, weatherization, etc.—and then lastly a third kind of group which involves knowledge and economic opportunity—so environmental education, job training, jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities.

We build wealth in a community in two ways –through social enterprise, and through outreach and advocacy activities.

GG: We obviously talk a lot about making businesses more sustainable at GoGreen–what’s the missing link in your mind that Verde is trying to address?
AH:
If you accept, as I think most folks do, that the definition of sustainability involves a triple bottom line or a three-legged stool—highlighting environment, economy and equity—the sustainable movement has done a pretty good job delivering environmental performance and economic performance, but it does a terrible job of delivering equity. It comes down to the fact that most sustainability practitioners do not wake up in the morning and think about how their activities are going to impact lower income people and people of color. They wake up thinking about how they’re going to make money and protect the environment. They’re lacking that focus and so it doesn’t always happen.

GG: Other than the obvious reasons of fairness, what are the additional advantages to bringing those stakeholders to the table?
AH:
There are a number of them. One is, as we’ve seen with climate change legislation, sustainability practitioners don’t have the political numbers to consistently carry or achieve their legislative priorities. That’s a big building block right there in front of them, that’s often completely discounted.

There’s also an intellectual benefit, that’s been documented many times, to having diverse perspectives around the table. Instead of coming from one limited perspective, you have broader perspectives that tend to uplift the entirety of a program or movement. And there are competitive advantages to having a more diverse workforce as well, because we live in a global economy and the nation is getting more diverse over time. Monocultural, monochromatic initiatives and businesses aren’t well poised for success as we go forward.

GG: Do you think it’s possible for us to make the transition to a green economy if we leave behind low-income populations and people of color?
AH:
No. Absolutely not. It’s not possible. Some states are majority minority now. How are you going to have sustainability when you leave half the population out? You can’t do that.

There’s a train of thought out there, which recognizes that a lot of sustainability involves adopting practices that low-income immigrant communities never got rid of. So these notions of basic reduction of consumption, and reusing items that have already been purchased, local economies, bartering and exchange, local economic networks, alternative transportation—these are behaviors that low-income immigrant communities use all the time. Granted, some of them are forced upon these communities because of economic marginalization—they can’t afford a car or to dispose of items purchased that could be used again. But there are a lot of sustainable practices that already exist within these communities that the mainstream culture is just trying to reorient itself towards.

GG: How is the green economy specifically suited to provide high-quality jobs to historically underserved populations?
AH:
It depends on which people you’re talking about. For adults and specifically adults of a certain age, generally speaking there are more limited career pathways available. A 47-year-old immigrant laborer has less of a chance to become a wetland hydrologist or an environmental engineer as opposed to their son or daughter or granddaughter or grandson, who are exposed to issues of environmental protection or environmental careers early on, and have the opportunity to make decisions about their future that a lot of other people make all the time.

For us, the way we always identify appropriate business avenues is through a combination of market demand–what environmental industries or businesses seem to have demonstrable demand for the foreseeable future—capital needs—how much do these businesses need to get started—and training needs—what are we training people to do and what’s the skill set required for the job. If, given the adult population that we want to serve, it doesn’t make sense for us to be heavy on professional services then we won’t. With the population we’re working with in Portland, you can see why we would have a nursery, and landscape and weatherization contracting businesses based on our populations criteria.

Speaking more broadly, a number of organizations exist at the community level that have begun to develop resources and programs to help take individual community members, who might be underemployed or unemployed, with some or multiple barriers to employment, and provide them with both the support and training necessary so that they can be ready for a long term job or career opportunity in the green economy. We have programs like that which have started up over the last three to four years—which was not happening before—in which we’ve started to see the community-based organizations that serve low-income people, people of color or a given geographic area, really try and figure out how to take somebody from where they are all the way to a good job, that’s going somewhere, at a green business.

GG: What are some of the best practices, methodologies and things that need to happen in terms of legislative support or government support to manifest a shift towards a more diverse and equitable sustainable movement?
AH:
I won’t jump into all the things that need to happen in our education system to support the children of low-income families and youth of color, because I’m not really qualified to speak to that—other than to mention that what we try to do is bring them real world examples from their own community that can say: “I’m your neighbor or someone who lives down the street. I look like you and talk like you and I have a green job. I have health benefits and am getting job training. We’re improving your neighborhood. We built that playground over there and planted that tree over here and weatherized the homes on your street—and you can do it too. In fact, you can do things beyond what I can do. The physical work that I do is good and honorable, but you have even more choices. And myself and my partners want to tell you what they are.”

But that’s just a small part of the solution to support disadvantaged youth in our communities. Governmentally and with other organizations, there are two big things. The first is concerning governments, and this is something we work on quite a bit with our partners, where we’re looking for progressive or inclusive public contracting mechanisms. These kinds of best practices are pretty late to come to the sustainable movement. In the past, many people all over the city and country have worked really hard to develop models and practices that help incentivize participation by minority and women owned businesses, support a diverse work force, etc. And those have, to a great extent, happened on large construction projects like stadiums and skyscrapers.

These practices are late to come to sustainability for a lot of reasons, although we’ve started to see a change in that over the last couple of years. But if environmental policy makers—who are trying to incent the growth of an ecoroof industry or the green building industry, or who are trying to bring the Oregon Sustainability Center to life—if they adopted progressive and inclusive contracting practices they would make a big difference in the economic lives of low-income citizens and people of color in the community, not to mention the businesses that employ them. When government comes to the market place it can make a big difference and government is certainly coming to the marketplace around sustainability.

The other thing that I’ll say is that one of the challenges that has existed in connecting disadvantaged community members with good, green jobs that are going somewhere, is the current and historical disconnect between these communities and the environmental movement. So, for example, there are people in the community and at community-based organizations who know all about these inclusive contracting practices and all about designing a job-training program to meet the needs of a certain employer or sector. They know how to create public contracting models that would incent and employer to hire a diverse workforce—but they don’t know a lot about sustainability. They generally don’t know a lot about the specific job skills that are required for a particular green business or sector.

On the other side of that divide are the business owners and industry advocates. There are folks who know everything you every possibly want to know about how to fund, build and operate a bio-fuel facility or to grow the alternative fuel industry in the region or the state. They know everything about ecoroof design and construction, and what kinds of public policies would encourage further ecoroof use in the region. But these practitioners, correspondingly, don’t know much at all about how to create jobs for low-income people and people of color.

What we see is a real need to bring those two arenas together—the people who know how to create jobs and know how to train people with the sustainability practitioners who know what kind of job their businesses are going to need and know what is driving demand for these jobs.

GG: If I’m a business owner, and I want to integrate progressive and inclusive hiring practices into what I’m doing. What are some things I need to start thinking about and resources to reach out to in order to start the process?
AH:
Obviously, we’d encourage you to reach out to us, but only because we’re part of a larger group of community-based organizations from the Native-American community, the Black community, the Latino and immigrant communities—and we’ve come together to design a comprehensive training pathway to connect our residents to good green jobs. Together with the workforce system, trainers, apprenticeship programs and some employers, we were awarded a $4 million Federal grant to further design this pathway. So if an employer knows they will have a need for four weatherization technicians and six solar installers, and so on—then that’s the arena to engage, because we’re designing the training to meet the needs of the employers.

Alan Hipólito is the Executive Director of Verde, a Portland-based non-profit working to provide green career opportunities to disadvantaged citizens and communities. He’s also a featured speaker at the GoGreen Conference 2010 in Portland, Oregon on October 5, 2010. The conference is next Tuesday + GoGreen 2009 sold out, so register for GoGreen Conference 2010 Portland soon to join us: http://www.portland.gogreenconference.net/registration.

To learn more about the awesome work going on at Verde: http://www.verdenw.org