Fetzer Vineyards is a company with a legacy of firsts.
It was the first California wine company to operate on 100 percent renewable energy, back in 1999, and in 2005 it was the first winery to publicly report and verify its greenhouse gas emissions with The Climate Registry. Nine years later, Fetzer became the first certified zero-waste winery in the world.
And there’s more.
Fetzer was the only U.S. winery to be invited to present at the United Nations’ Paris Climate Talks in 2015, and in 2016 the company became the first winery in the U.S. to be certified Carbon Neutral by Natural Capital Partners.
Josh Prigge, Fetzer’s director of regenerative development, reiterates what his company’s founder, Barney Fetzer, believed — that “Earth-friendly practices yield better grapes.”
At a winery that started making wine with organic grapes in the 1980s and relied on solar energy as early as the 1990s, caring for the environment is bred into the culture.
Today the concept of regeneration is growing more and more important at Fetzer. Regeneration describes the goal of replenishing the Earth’s soil, forests, waters and other resources to rebuild healthy ecosystems that can sustain themselves.
“This is the natural evolution of our company,” Prigge says. “[Regeneration] is the natural next step.”
Regeneration was a new term Prigge brought to the wine company when he was hired two and half years ago but he admits that Fetzer had already been employing regenerative agriculture practices for years. Grazing sheep have been used to help control weeds while chickens devour destructive caterpillars in the vineyards. And literally tons of grape seeds, skins and stems are composted and reintroduced into the vineyard soil every year.
And Fetzer isn’t solely doing this because it’s “the right thing to do” the company knows regenerative agriculture can produce a better wine grape and their energy-reducing, closed-loop practices that sequester carbon help guarantee not just the sustainability of their fields but of their entire business.
Winemaking That Goes Beyond Sustainability
Fetzer is replacing the aeration ponds that have been used to treat the winery’s wastewater with a brand new BioFiltro BIDA® System developed in Chile. The system uses worms to help digest the waste matter. They’ll be the first winery in the U.S. to deploy this technology.
Hundreds of thousands of worms inside a cement box filled with organic filtration elements and beneficial bacteria will eat and digest the contaminants in Fetzer’s wastewater, killing essentially all harmful bacteria and readying the wastewater to be used for irrigation in the company’s organic vineyards.
This new process reduces the energy used in treating 15 million gallons of wastewater by 85 percent. And the worm castings, a nice way of saying worm poop, can actually be added to the winery’s compost piles to improve the quality of the soil throughout Fetzer’s vineyards.
Although it’s already carbon neutral, Fetzer has set a goal to become carbon positive by 2030. Prigge and his team are working with a local university to figure out how much carbon the company puts back into the soil over a given period of time so they can compare that number to their carbon emissions and work toward sequestering more carbon than they emit.
Fetzer has supported a series of offset projects to sequester carbon or cut emissions all over the world, including a landfill-gas project in Colombia and one in New York, and a reforestation project along the Mississippi River in North America.
Carbon Sequestration and Regeneration Enhance the Bottom Line and Could Reverse Climate Change
Prigge points out that practices like reducing energy consumption and reusing wastewater reduce operating costs. “Any time you can use nature as a solution,” Prigge says, “you’re going to save money.”
Fetzer became the first certified zero-waste wine company in the world in 2014 and diverted 99.1 percent of its waste from landfills in 2015 by reusing, recycling or composting its garbage. During the same year, the company was able to save $900,000 in operating costs, just through the zero-waste project.
“I think [regeneration] is completely possible and scalable for companies of all sizes,” Prigge says.
Today, more millennials than boomers are drinking wine in the United States, and, according to a 2015 Neilsen study, almost 75 percent of millennials said they would pay more for products of companies that were committed to environmental responsibility. But it’s not just millennials. The study showed that two-thirds of overall consumers say they are willing to pay more for sustainable brands — an 11 percent increase from the year before. In this environment, companies like Fetzer may have a head start on their competition.
But Fetzer is looking to gain more than a competitive advantage. “If all agricultural lands transitioned to regenerative agricultural practices,” Prigge says, “we could sequester more carbon in our soil than we emit globally, and we could reverse climate change.”
It’s been a busy time for the environment. Actually, it’s been a busy 50 years, but when the conversation around the health of the planet recedes into the background, we get shockingly destructive reminders. For example, Hurricanes Michael and Florence and the earthquake in Indonesia which have all made the same point:
The time to act is (and has been) now.
These reminders have disproportionately affected those who are least able to withstand it. We still hear about broad devastation — and neglect — of many parts of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. And the earthquake in Indonesia is just the latest in a long line of extreme weather events that continue the tradition of impacting the poor and vulnerable.
So how do we move the conversation from “Why” and “Who caused it” to “What do we do about it”? Thankfully, the hard work is underway. A range of social entrepreneurs is already tackling these problems. We have a unique opportunity to focus on raising awareness around their work, at a time when the discourse is focused on increasingly unimportant questions like “Whose fault is this?”
While there is still disagreement on the causes of severe climate deterioration — as frustrating as that conversation continues to be to some — there is well-documented and verified data around the changes our planet has endured.
To start, the planet’s average surface temperate has risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) since the 19th century.
Thanks to the progressive sophistication of industry, how we make the things we frequently consume, and the extended quality and duration of our own lives, that change has primarily been driven by carbon dioxide increases (alongside other human-made emissions).
Our oceans have borne the brunt of this impact, with the top 2,300 feet (700 meters) of ocean showing a warming of 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit since the late ’60s. And according to America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average surface temperature of the seas has risen by about 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 100 years. Basically, since the 1980s, about a billion time the heat energy of the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been added to the ocean which is the same as an atomic explosion every few seconds.
Whether you believe that humans caused it, didn’t cause it or are the butt of some cosmic practical joke, the American Meteorological Society boils it down to the following overarching narrative:
Our climate is changing.
Humans are playing a role in causing that change.
Human-caused climate change poses risks that we are not prepared to address. We have numerous options to manage those risks.
Fortunately, we’ve already started thinking about how to combat these adverse impacts. Solutions to managing those risks fall into four broad categories:
Mitigation by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Adaptation by increasing our capacity to cope with climate impacts.
Geoengineering/climate engineering by counteracting those impacts through manipulation of our earth system.
Expanding our knowledge base and worldwide education through better understanding climate change’s implications and our options.
These strategies are not mutually exclusive. In order to be successful, we will likely need a range of solutions that champion mitigation, adaptation and innovation.
Sounding The Alarm – Time to Act
Despite common misconception, the infrastructure financing gap doesn’t only exist in emerging markets, though infrastructure shortages disproportionately affect those in developing economies. The Infrastructure Report Card, published by the American Society of Civil Engineers every four years, awarded U.S. infrastructure a D+ in 2017.
Officials in South Carolina, which was directly impacted by the devastation of Hurricane Florence in September 2018, must think about how to rebuild a range of physical infrastructure in the coming years. And despite the infrastructure that has been threatened with recent natural disasters, existing needs already were growing.
Across the state, driving on roads in need of repair costs drivers $502 a year, and over 10 percent of South Carolina’s bridges were recently rated as structurally deficient. Desperately needed drinking water-related infrastructure in the state will cost an estimated $1.8 billion, and 178 existing dams are currently considered “high hazard potential.” Beyond traditional infrastructure, the state’s institutions need help too. South Carolina’s schools have an estimated capital expenditure gap of $90 million.
And that was before Florence.
Our needs have steadily been increasing without a rise in the frequency and scale of natural disasters. How we rebuild — and with what capital — should be an essential part of the current conversation.
Huge Opportunities For Investors and Entrepreneurial Innovation
Impact investors and sustainability advocates have been searching for multilevel solutions for some time, thanks to a deeply felt sense of urgency.
For some reticent investors, the discussion around investing in climate only becomes comfortable as a market-opportunity (rather than an impact strategy). It’s no wonder why: Those investment gains have been — and continue to be — sizable. And in a time of increasing market volatility, investing in climate across some asset classes can offer an alternative to lower yields and inflation protection.
But moving capital — and getting investors excited about investing in climate — is only one part of the challenge. Many investors respond to this clarion call by asking “Well, who do I invest in?” It’s a fair question, but it hints at innovation stagnancy, which is simply out of touch with the numerous companies that are developing scalable, high-yield climate solutions.
For example, we don’t have to look much further than the Certified B Corporation community to find a range of catalytic companies and innovative thinkers on the case. The next time you meet someone who laments about how hard it is to invest in climate, share a few of the following examples.
Examples of Some of the Movers & Shakers
BioCarbon Partners, a newly certified B Corp (and a Best For the World winner in 2018) focuses specifically on the deforestation threats in Zambia. It sells carbon offsets generated from its local projects and channels those returns into preserving forests. Working directly with local communities, BioCarbon also offers opportunities for local income generation while creating a market for entrepreneurship.
Valley City Electronic Recycling is a Michigan-based recycling provider with clients across the Midwest. With a commitment to a “zero landfill policy,” the e-waste provider focuses on disassembly rather than shredding. This shift allows the recycler to repurpose reusable base materials and creates local jobs in the process.
Ilumexico was founded in 2009 to address a specific problem: a disproportionate lack of access to electricity in rural Mexican communities. By providing access to clean and safe energy, Ilumexico has designed a new framework for community intervention and access. Its approach includes educating households on energy use and consumption, providing energy access to schools and hospitals (often neglected by small-scale suppliers) and promoting clean and safe energy access. Illumexico combines two critical ingredients of sustainable energy use and consumption: education and access.
Carbon Capture and Credits
GreenCollar is the largest provider in Australia of carbon abatement — the practice of reducing the amount of carbon dioxide produced through “dirty” energy. To date, it has implemented over 100 carbon farming projects throughout the country, supplying over 62 million tonnes of abatement. The investment in the environment across renewable energy, carbon, water quality and biodiversity seeks to protect some of Australia’s most vulnerable natural landscapes while helping to create additional income streams for farmers and graziers in an environmentally sustainable way.
For more information on the vast number of B Corps working to protect and repair our planet and develop market-based solutions, check out the B Corps directory here.
This article originally appeared in B the Change and was published with permission.
Through research and site visits, soulbottles identifies suppliers that value the environment and work to protect it.
Like its signature product, the plastic-free drinking bottle, soulbottles has a clear business purpose. The German company, founded in 2012, helps to increase its customers’ sustainability through its signature glass bottles. But the Certified B Corp is also reducing the environmental footprint it leaves in producing the bottles while building Earth-friendly practices in its company operations and consumer messaging.
Its durable, artistic bottles are designed to break the plastic bottle cycle and encourage responsible water use. To limit shipping distances, soulbottles produces its bottles in Germany — the bulk of its sales are in Europe — and works with myclimate to mitigate the environmental impact of the process through carbon offsets. Through research and site visits, the company identifies suppliers that value the environment and work to protect it.
“We take care to keep the production as local as possible,” says soulbottles spokeswoman Nina Pestke. “Even if it sounds utopian, every single resource for a glass-made bottle can actually be found within our country.”
This attention to the environment, and continuing efforts to create more sustainable products in ways that reduce the company’s environmental resource use, earned soulbottles a spot on the 2018 Best For The World: Changemakers list with 202 other Certified B Corporations. The honor reflects soulbottles’ efforts to increase its local sourcing to 30 percent during the last two years and its focus on longer-term impact improvements to build business. Soulbottles is a Best For The World Changemaker, which is evaluated based on measurable positive impact across all impact areas, including community, workers and environment. Find all Best For The World honorees and stories.
Paying It Forward
In addition to its sustainable supply chain practices, soulbottles donates 1 euro from every bottle sold to drinking-water projects in developing countries — an amount that now totals close to half a million euros (or more than $590,000) and has provided an estimated 42,000 people with access to clean water.
While turning on the tap for clean drinking water is an afterthought for most people in Germany and the Western world, soulbottles knows that isn’t the case in countries like Nepal, where its funding helps support a water sanitation hygiene project (WASH). In November 2016, soulbottles leaders visited the project in Nepal, where they saw firsthand how the donations make a difference.
Equitable Under the Law
Soulbottles also strives to make a difference in workers’ lives by performing quality assurance reviews on up to 75 percent of its suppliers, ensuring they treat their employees equitably. In Germany, those conditions are reinforced by the Pay Transparency Act, a law adopted in 2017 to shrink the pay equity gap. It requires German companies with more than 200 employees to provide salary structure information to workers who request it. Companies with more than 500 employees are required to report pay equity in a public filing.
“As the biggest share of our production is in Germany, our costs are definitely higher than others in the industry,” Pestke says. “But we know that all of suppliers’ employees work under German law-based working conditions.”
While soulbottles had sustainability as part of its mission from the start, its initial certification as a B Corp in 2015 formalized its social and environmental values for suppliers, employees and customers. Ensuring its suppliers provide an equitable and sustainable work environment aligns with steps outlined in the B Lab Best Practice Guide: Creating Impact Through Purchasing.
“We strive not to be the best company of the world but the best company for the world, which has a bigger impact,” Pestke says. “The B Corp seal makes that main goal more visible.”
Being part of the B Corp community also means collaborating with other Berlin-based B Corps, including Coffee Circle.
A Sustainable Lifestyle
As consumer demand grows for the bottles — some featuring enviro-friendly designs like silver fern and the Alps — so do company sales and staffing levels. Soulbottles sells its product primarily in European countries but hopes to gradually expand to other markets. Now with 40 employees, the company sold more than 120,000 bottles in 2017 and expects to beat that number this year.
It also continually looks to improve its products with even more sustainable and durable materials, with plans to raise the recycling share of its glass from the current 20 percent. Producing glass from recycled materials also reduces energy use compared with using virgin glass.
Because Germany has long ranked at the top of European countries for its recycling programs and rates, an eco-aware lifestyle is the norm for most soulbottles employees and many other Germans.
“We think about our work as ‘purpose,’” Pestke says. “Working at soulbottles comes with a lot of awareness.”
That means everyday employee practices often include drinking tap instead of bottled water, riding a bike or taking a commuter train to work rather than driving, and choosing a “green” bank for personal finances.
And soulbottles employees have a short shopping list when looking for gifts, Pestke says.
“Within her or his first year at soulbottles, every employee probably has one present for every beloved one in her or his life: a soulbottle,” she says, adding that it’s a gift that also spreads the sustainability message.
Like Best For The World: Changemakers, all B Corps actively seek positive impact improvement through their business. From Sept. 25 to 27, 2018, the B Corp community will gather to share their impact stories, processes and experiments, helping all companies become stronger changemakers. Stay tuned for updates from the lessons shared at the retreat.
B the Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.
Nearly every human on this planet has a dream. Yet as we all know, some dreams come true while others don’t. Why do certain goals seem to come to fruition, sometimes with the aid of what can be described as luck, serendipity, even a touch of magic? Maybe the magic touch isn’t magic at all, but rather setting an intention, putting our goals out into our community and working hard — even when we’re not certain we’re on the right path.
Future State CEO Shannon Adkins’ LinkedIn profile touts her as a “keynote speaker.”
But Adkins recently admitted — during her keynote address at a Bay Area B Corp Leadership Development event — that it was her first time filling that role.
Sometimes, she told the audience, you have to tout first and achieve later — especially when it comes to “outrageous statements” about the future of business, the world or humanity. But of course, she knew she wasn’t telling her audience anything new.
“This is this group of people who make outrageous and ridiculous declarations of futures that no one else thinks are possible, and then build coalition and then take action and then extraordinary things happen,” she told the B Corp crowd.
She’s long heard from others that they “couldn’t possibly do that” — the outrageous, the unusual, the unexpected — for one reason or another. So Adkins suggests adopting another mindset that makes the outrageous accessible to everyone: achieving big goals isn’t luck and it isn’t magic.
“How many people in this room have been told, ‘Well, yeah, but you’re just lucky. You have magical powers, like something extraordinary happens when you’re around’? But having it be personality-based or having it be luck-based or having it be leadership-based makes it not accessible for everyone else to really see themselves inside our outrageous futures,” she says.
So just how do we go about making outrageous ideas reality? Here are Adkins’ five steps.
1. Speak the future.
“What’s really important is that you speak that future even if you have absolutely no evidence that it’s possible. Right? So I don’t have any evidence … I mean, I’m not a scientist, I don’t have any evidence, but it’s possible in my own brain. For example, I don’t know that it’s possible to reverse climate change by 2050, but I’m all in. You know, I’m gonna take that pledge, I’m gonna take that commitment and I’m gonna do what I can to do that. So speak that future, even without clarity on exactly how that’s going to happen.”
2. Share widely and boldly.
“Share your crazy dreams, your visions for reality with everyone — and not just with people that you think can help you. So not just with the one person that you know has a connection to that particular point of contact or one person that’s an expert in that industry.
“Recognize that you won’t always know who’s going to be the person who’s going to be able to connect you to that future, to that reality. So you have to share it wildly and widely.”
3. Take action.
“It’s not enough to say what you want; you have to take action as well. My personal experience is that I take action consistent with the commitment, but it isn’t usually that action that leads to the outcome.
“Take action consistent with results that align the universe for that outcome to show up and to be available in your life.”
4. Ask for help.
“Be willing to tell people about your outrageous dreams — your ridiculous hopes and dreams. Ask for help frequently. Build your coalition. Rally your community. Know that the people in your life, they want your dreams to come true for you. So it’s an honor and a gift to give people the opportunity to help make those dreams a reality.”
5. Say yes.
“Say yes, even if you have absolutely no idea what you’re going to say in front of a room of people. When I was asked to be the CEO of Future State, I didn’t have the on-paper qualifications. And in looking back through that, I don’t think I’ve actually ever had the qualifications for any job I’ve ever done, in my entire life!
“And maybe none of us do. Maybe that’s the thing, right? This illusion that there’s a formula to success and it looks something like work hard, put in the time, and eventually, someone will notice that you’re ready and they’ll give it to you. But you really have to sort of demonstrate and prove these moments along the way.”
This article was written by Wayne Wachell and originally released on B The Change
First, the dark stuff.
We are at a point in history where climate change is no longer a looming threat but a reality that’s very much upon us. Carbon dioxide levels are the highest point in 3 million years, according to the Global Atmosphere Watch program. All the while, the number of people on the planet is growing at an exponential rate. Worldwide population is 7.6 billion, and the United Nations estimates it will increase to 11.2 billion by 2100.
The situation seems dire, and it is. But when talking about climate change, it’s easy to get bogged down by the magnitude of the problem, so it’s important to lead with hope.
The good news is, as B Corps, we’re solution seekers by nature. There are actions we can take as business owners to slow the rate of climate change, and with Earth Day celebrated earlier this week, they’re top of mind.
Where to Start
A good place to start: taking a look at your carbon footprint. We collectively need to do better if we’re to reduce carbon emissions for the greater good of the planet. Investors are increasingly (and rightly) asking for information on the emissions of companies they are investing in, and we need to respond to this need.
One method of measuring CO2 output by businesses has been developed by an organization called Greenhouse Gas Protocol. This methodology acknowledges the emissions a company can actually control (such as fossil fuels used in operations, manufacturing, and heating), and the emissions a company can influence (such as those from employee commutes and third-party distribution). If more business owners were to use this methodology, they’d have a greater understanding of their business’s impact.
Once you have a gauge on the CO2 output from your business, you can look at tangible ways to reduce it, like putting an automatic timer on the lights, installing shades to help regulate the temperature without electricity, or using Skype or Zoom for remote meetings to reduce unnecessary travel.
If transport is essential to your business, consider purchasing a company electric car. In-person meetings are hugely valuable from a relationship-building perspective; that’s why at Genus we’ve recently adopted a new company mascot in the form of a Chevy Bolt. The Bolt has a regenerative braking function, which means the driver can recoup energy during deceleration. I typically gain 5 km worth of energy during a regular journey by using the downhill momentum.
If your company has investments, consider using them for impact by supporting clean energy companies over fossil fuel companies. History shows us divestments happen in three waves, and the same is true for fossil fuel divestment.
Already churches, universities, cities (like New York) and financial institutions (like Norges Bank) are announcing divestments, and we expect to see more in the coming months. While there is a moral reason for doing this, there is also a strong business case. As the world transitions to a low-carbon economy, there’s a huge risk of stranded assets — fossil fuels losing their value while still in the ground.
It is also worth evaluating the carbon emissions your company can save. Do you have a “smart” commute scheme to encourage carpooling or the use of public transit? Do you offer a financial incentive to employees who purchase commuter bikes or a stipend for bike maintenance for regular bike commuters?
Education also plays a key role in influencing change, and your employees have a lot to teach you. Invite them to share their ideas for how to reduce your carbon footprint collectively. Maybe that involves improving home insulation, eating less meat, or opting for local fruit and vegetables with fewer food miles. A single employee or a group might emerge as your in-house environmental champions.
While climate change is a daunting subject, we believe it’s too important not to broach. At an international level, the Paris Agreement set a global action plan to avoid unpredictable climate change by limiting global warming to below 2 degrees C. While progress is being made to turn these goals into actions, we too as business owners have a valuable role to play — not only by reducing our own emissions, but in influencing others to make meaningful changes, too.
We’re taking a cue from our good friends over at Manoverboard, a fellow B Corp agency in Winnipeg, Canada, who recently wrote about why becoming a 1% for the Planet member is important to them. One of our first philanthropy acts of 2018 was to join the ranks of companies committed to earmarking 1% of their top-line revenue (not profit) to specific environmental organizations each year.
1% for the Planet is a Vermont-based nonprofit started by the folks at Patagonia, another B Corp. Member companies donate 1% of their annual revenue to a list of vetted environmental nonprofits and can the organizations they want to support. This is critical philanthropy work at a time when it is really needed.
As noted on the 1% website:
“If we don’t act now, the viability of our planet and our quality of life — to say nothing of the health of our economy — face an existential threat. … Currently, only 3% of philanthropic giving in the U.S. goes to environmental causes; and only 3% of this giving comes from the business community.”
We believe in the urgency of solving this massive problem so much that we changed the legal structure of our company to better support people and planet alongside profit. Mightybytes has been a Certified B Corp since 2011 and an Illinois Benefit Corporation since January 2013.
Certified B Corporations like Mightybytes meet the highest standards of positive impact on society and the environment.
As a Benefit Corporation, we are required by law to provide a “public benefit” to society alongside the standard business goal of generating profit. No easy feat. We are also required to publish annual benefit reports that outline exactly how we made good on that legal commitment; our latest was just released.
Why is this important? Being legally committed to long-term gain for people and planet while also operating as a for-profit company requires a sustainable financial foundation upon which we can build successful philanthropic efforts. Without profit, we cannot achieve our philanthropic goals. For us, being a 1% for the Planet member is not only imperative because of the sorry state of our planet, but it’s also important to the long-term survival of our company.
As a B Corp and digital agency, Mightybytes works to benefit society through collaborations with fellow B Corps, civic agencies, associations, and nonprofits.
When we became a B Corp, Mightybytes began offering discounts to nonprofits and mission-aligned organizations that wanted to work with us. It felt good to support other social enterprises and use our skills for world-changing social impact and environmental justice projects. Over time, unfortunately, that came at great cost to the company.
Challenges With Discounts
We ran into a few recurring problems with these discounts, which negatively impacted our ability to operate sustainably and profitably:
It often was challenging to manage our hard costs on these projects.
It was tough to correlate the altruistic intentions of our discounts to budget discussions as projects wound down. This led to many difficult conversations.
In some cases, we offered discounts to companies that claimed they wanted to become B Corps but ultimately never did.
Most importantly, these projects were rarely profitable.
If the above were true for a project or two, we could weather the consequences, no problem. In 2016, however, over 70% of our work came from mission-aligned nonprofits, B Corps, and other social enterprises.
While we’re proud of this fact, as noted above, very little of that work was actually profitable. We were teetering on the verge of philanthropy run amok. Plus, through products and services like Ecograder, green web hosting, and sustainable design, we’re on a mission to make the web a greener place, which also requires financial resources.
Given all this, it’s easy to see why our good-intentioned project discounts posed a long-term challenge for the company. They weren’t directly tied to Mightybytes’ ability to generate a sustainable profit. We had to rethink how we work with mission-aligned organizations.
Mapping Philanthropy to Profitability
These were really tough decisions to make. Some of the nonprofits that we worked with had challenges making even the discounted project budgets work. While we loved and believed in their missions, it wasn’t a smart business decision to hamstring our financial prosperity in the name of their cause, which happened in a few unfortunate cases. When a plane is going down, there’s a reason you put on your own air mask first before helping someone else.
With our 1% for the Planet membership, philanthropy becomes a company-wide conversation that isn’t directly tied to any one project. The philanthropy conversation dovetails with those about overall profitability so everyone understands that our ability to make donations is directly tied to our ability to operate sustainably and profitably. Whether we make $10,000 in a year or $10 million, 1% of that is coming directly off the top to support environmental nonprofits.
Environmental Nonprofits We’re Supporting
We were thrilled to find out that the annual B Corp certification fee applies to our 1% for the Planet membership. We can always get on board with supporting B Lab and their global community of people using business as a force for good in the world. We made a commitment to help two other inspiring organizations as well:
Climate Ride produces multi-day charity endurance events that raise money for organizations working toward a better future. Their beneficiaries focus on climate change, education, sustainability, renewable energy, and active transportation advocacy.
To date, Climate Ride has granted nearly $5 million to U.S. nonprofits that are working on these causes. Over $750,000 of this money was granted in 2017 alone. In this manner, they are a multiplier organization: A donation to Climate Ride in turn supports the more than 100 local and national organizations that are their beneficiaries. Plus, Climate Ride inspires everyday people to push themselves and their communities to make change happen. We love that.
In 2011, we built the Climate Ride website. From 2012 through 2017, we gave our pals at Climate Ride a $10,000 annual grant in pro bono services. We’re proud of this work and we know Climate Ride appreciated it. But, like the discounts mentioned above, there were a few problems:
That $10,000 just isn’t enough to really dig deep into many of the marketing challenges common to a young, growing nonprofit. Thus, our commitment essentially meant making ongoing site and maintenance updates, not the strategic digital marketing work we’re best at. As noted above, our pro bono service grant wasn’t tied to any company profitability goals, so we were on the hook to do this work each year whether we could afford to or not. In 2016, this was a challenge for us.
By donating to Climate Ride through our 1% for the Planet membership, the organization can now put a portion of our gross revenues to whatever needs it may have in the form of cold, hard cash.
Alliance for the Great Lakes
This Chicago-based conservation and advocacy organization does critical work right in our own backyard. The alliance fights to protect the planet’s largest source of freshwater, the Great Lakes, which is a primary source of drinking water for 35 million people. The Alliance for the Great Lakes engages tens of thousands of people each year through advocacy campaigns, volunteering and beach cleanups, education, and ongoing research.
Through the 25-year-old Adopt-a-Beach program, Alliance for the Great Lakes volunteers have cleaned thousands of pounds of litter from shorelines.
Supporting the alliance’s work is important to us for many reasons:
The alliance’s efforts directly impact our daily lives as Chicagoans.
The alliance works on important issues like invasive species, toxic algal blooms, oil and chemical spills, microbeads, plastics, climate change issues, and a multitude of other things critical to the health and well-being of people who live around the lakes.
The alliance promotes the sustainable recreational use of the American Midwest’s greatest natural resource.
We love working with the alliance.
Our team is researching whether it is viable to support a third organization as well, one that focuses on the health, economic, and social impacts of a changing planet. The terms of the 1% for the Planet membership give Mightybytes a great deal of flexibility to evolve this program as the year progresses.
As an agile-focused organization, Mightybytes is always evolving and improving its practices and processes, so this is not to say the company will never offer discounts or pro bono services again. Currently, Mightybytes offers project estimating and grant planning workshops to help nonprofits better prepare for digital projects.
By bringing Mightybytes in early, our nonprofit partners can work with our employees to get consensus on process, tech specs, and other high-level requirements in an open, transparent, and mutually beneficial environment that supports executing projects cheaper and faster.
In the meantime, Mightybytes is happy to support these great organizations and thrilled to join the ranks of 1% for the Planet businesses around the world.
Ovenly, a New York City retail and wholesale bakery business was founded in 2010 by two female entrepreneurs.
The company “scales profit and business to create progressive social change,” putting a high premium on social responsibility, such as through its open-hiring policy.
Customers come to Ovenly for the salted chocolate chip cookie and a Brooklyn blackout cake.
They may not be aware that they are also supporting a revolutionary way to employ people who might not otherwise have a chance at a job. Employees at Ovenly’s locations are brought on through an open-hiring process, meaning there are no interviews to get a job at the company.
As described here, Ovenly has had an open hiring policy since 2012, working with organizations such as Getting Out Staying Out, Drive Change, The Center for Economic Opportunity, and the Ansob Center for Refugees, to hire political refugees and citizens returning from the criminal justice system.
Instead of a traditional interview process, candidates come in for a “trial” during which they shadow different positions for four to six hours to assess their skills and where they might fit.
These partnerships have not only given the team “some of the best staff members Ovenly has ever had,” but have created a curated talent pool based on the partners’ knowledge of their needs and ongoing support for their employees. Through these partnerships, they have been able to create higher levels of employee retention in a high-turnover industry.
The company now had 56 employees and have been expanding to additional locations quickly. An active participant in the Best for NYC Campaign, Ovenly has used the Best for NYC Challenge to think through new benefits for their team. The Best for NYC Challenge is a free, online tool to help business owners compare their impact on NYC workers, communities and the environment against 8,000-plus businesses, and the platform provides free resources to improve.
Below is an interview with Katherine Dumais, formerly with Best for NYC, and Agatha Kulaga, a co-founder of Ovenly.
What inspired you to start Ovenly?
Both my business partner and I definitely had previous careers in non-food related areas, and we both were working very hard to build our careers, and at some point we got burnt out on the jobs we were at. I felt I needed a change. I think there is the idea of wanting to start your own business to be able to make the change in your life and other peoples lives’ as you see fit. I had also been baking on the side, more as a reprieve from the stress of the work I was doing. It was a way for me to find a little bit of comfort in my own personal life.
I was also in a food-focused book club where I met my business partner. We started chatting, and we realized that we had a lot of similar characteristics in terms of our work ethic and determination and wanting to really take a leap and start new careers, and we met a week later and decided to start a business together. It was a huge leap for us, and it was something that we discussed for about a year before we landed on the idea of Ovenly.
So the way Ovenly got started is that we were really both passionate about food and baking. We knew we wanted to start a bakery and make a lot of delicious desserts, but we wanted to make some sort of bigger impact with our business and that’s how we started to work with Getting Out & Staying Out (GOSO). The rest is history.
The people who have continually surprised us are the people who have come from the most challenging backgrounds, and that to me is so meaningful. Are there specific socially responsible practices you are particularly proud of?
We instituted open-hiring practices in our businesses. We don’t require that someone has a resumé to apply for a job with us. We don’t care about someone’s education or personal background. We only care about someone coming in and showing that they are eager and excited to work and are passionate about what we are doing.
We want people to work hard and have fun in doing the work we are doing. And I think that what I am continuously impressed by is the people who come into our business who have no food background what so ever — no experience working in the kitchen — and go from working as a porter and continually move up into different positions and gain more experience. It really just showed us that you don’t need the experience, you need the work ethic and the attitude to succeed and build a career in the business we have here. That’s what’s most important to us.
How did you all begin your open-hiring policy?
In 2012, we opened our bake shop in Greenpoint. One of our regular customers was Geoffrey Galia from GOSO, and he came into the shop one day and said, “Hey, I work with young men who have been previously incarcerated or have gone through the criminal justice system, and we do really incredible job training and education with them at our program. Then we try to place them in internships in various businesses based on their interests and skills. Would you ever consider taking any of our guys as interns?”
Given that my business partner worked in nonprofits in arts management and I worked in social work and psychology/psychiatry, both of us didn’t hesitate to say, “Yes.”
It was obvious that was something that we would want to do. And so we opened up a few intern positions for some of the GOSO guys, and it was an opportunity for us to rethink how we were approaching our hiring practices and the interview process.
At that time when we had the GOSO interns come in, we had a few people that were referrals from other employees, and so it was a cousin of someone or a brother of someone. Those people who came in and didn’t have resumés — if they had come in and had to interview for the position, I don’t know if they would have answered the questions in the right way or would have presented in a way that would have compelled me to hire them. But when they came into the kitchen everything about them was right. They became some of our best employees.
I think in terms of work motivation, work ethic, and, really, the desire to want to change your own life, that is enough to be able to succeed and really build a career. We’ve been doing open hiring since 2012, and we now have partnerships with GOSO, the Center for Employment Opportunities and Drive Change — all programs that place people who have gone through the criminal-justice system. And we also work with the Ansob Center for Refugees to place political refugees in jobs at Ovenly.
What’s your step-by-step process to do open hiring?
If anyone contacts us by email or by phone, or if they just come into the kitchen and express interest for a position, we ask them what their experience is. If they do have a resumé, obviously they can provide it. If they don’t have a resumé, we just ask them to provide a few references, personal or professional, who can just give us a sense of who they are. And then, for back-of-house positions, we will schedule them for a trial. We don’t do an interview, we actually have them come in to do a four to six hour trial for a position, or for a few positions.
Generally, we decide on the spot if we want to hire that person or not. And, generally, if they come in and we think they might be a good fit, but we are a little unsure, we ask them to come back because there can be a lot of pressure and nervousness when coming in for the first time, so we often times will give someone a second opportunity to come in.
In terms of the onboarding, we generally go through the training piece. Once someone is actually hired, they go through a three-month training period. We ask people to invest the time and energy to master the positions they are in, and if they do, we are always willing to move people up and around to different positions based on what they are actually interested in. We don’t expect people to want to do the same job for five years. We want people to grow and we strive to provide people with greater earning potential, whether at Ovenly or somewhere else.
If we can continue to make a difference in that way, and really reduce the stigma for people who have faced employment challenges and overall life challenges for so long, then that is where I really think we can really make a difference.
In the food industry, there is so much turnover, and that is such a huge challenge for so many of our colleagues, anyone who owns a food business, turnover is such a huge challenge. On the flip side of that, being in the food industry right now, there is such potential for making a great impact because it is the fastest growing sector of our economy. So just in terms of our hiring practices right now and the partnerships that we have with these job training programs, what is great for us, is these partnerships provide us with an opportunity that is both financial and social.
Our turnover rate at this point for back of house is 8 months to a year, and for us, we actually think that is great. And obviously we want that to be higher. We have worked really hard to provide great benefits to our employees. We offer a wonderful paternity and maternity leave policy that other large corporate businesses don’t even offer. That is something that is very important to us and especially being a woman-owned business, is something that we wanted to do from the start. We offer paid sick leave, free yoga, and a family meal at every shift, and we provide training on financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and environmentally sustainable kitchen practices, such as composting.
Do you have any larger goals that you are striving for in your business as you are moving forward? Where do you see Ovenly in five years?
Our real focus right now is continuing to scale our business in a responsible way. We are continuing to grow our retail network and we are opening more stores, so we are continuing to create more jobs both on the retail side and the back-of-house side. I would really love to get to a place where where we are filling other positions in addition to the back-of-house openings in the company with the referrals we are getting. I think it is just a different type of training people need.
We are working with our job partners to figure out, “What are the training needs for the variety of different positions we have?” For example, if someone doesn’t have any customer-service experience, it takes a lot more training to get there on that end, so what are the skills that we can provide and what is the training required? There are so many food businesses that need the same type of trainings, so how do we share our resources better to retain employees and have employees build the strength and skills to succeed in the position they are in. I think there is a way to create training programs where people can share these resources and we can have larger trainings that employees can actually go to and build the skills that they need.
Our aim is really to build healthful communities as we grow our business. By healthful communities, we mean being able to create jobs for our employees that are meaningful to them, help them grow their careers, and create a better life satisfaction for them.
I think a huge part of it is getting other business on board to really work on being open to creating jobs for everyone. And I think a big part of it is eliminating stigma, specifically for returning citizens — especially for returning citizens. A lot of times the question is: “Do you ever feel unsafe? If you don’t know someone’s criminal history, if you don’t know their job history, how do you know what a person’s character is?” My answer to that is always, “If you accept someone off the street who is applying from Craigslist, how do you know where that person is coming from?”
The people who have continually surprised us are the people who have come from the most challenging backgrounds, and that to me is so meaningful. And if we can continue to make a difference in that way, and really reduce the stigma for people who have faced employment challenges and overall life challenges for so long, then that is where I really think we can really make a difference.
What changes have you implemented as a result of the Best for NYC program and Best for NYC Challenge?
We created an employee-wellness position, and added more employee benefits since we have done the Challenge. We ended up meeting with our management team and then with the rest of the team to redefine our mission, vision and values as a company. After we did the Challenge, we created a few different surveys for our team members to gather metrics about our employees and ask questions about their demographics — where they are coming from, the job experience they have had, what they feel like Ovenly is providing, the compensation they have had at other jobs, what they are getting here, whether they’re interested in any other types of benefits.
All of that information we gather from people who come on board, and we also instituted employee surveys throughout the year to get a sense of what our employees want from Ovenly and what their job satisfaction, personal life satisfaction and goals are as well.
Between 15 and 43 percent of LGBT workers have experienced being fired, denied promotions, or harassed on the job due to sexual orientation or gender identity.
A 2013 study by Pew Research Center found that 21 percent of LGBT respondents had been treated unfairly by an employer in hiring, pay or promotions.
Transgender people face even higher rates of discrimination and harassment, with as many as 78 percent experiencing at least one type of mistreatment at work because of their gender identity.
Fifty percent of LGBT people (myself included) live in states that do not prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Armed with some context on why some LGBTQ employees may feel vulnerable at work, here are five ways you can help create a culture that values all workers and encourages us to bring our full selves to the office.
If you have an employee manual, then most likely you already have a non-discrimination policy. Make sure that the section that says no one can be fired for reasons that have nothing to do with job performance (such as race, ethnicity, disability, religious beliefs, etc.) also includes sexual orientation and gender identity. The Human Rights Campaign offers sample policies if you’re unsure where to start.
2. Benefits for all
Does your company only offer paid paternity leave? That’s not very helpful for the lesbian woman whose wife just gave birth. Paid parental leave policies remove hetero-normative language and treat all families (including single parents) equally. Make sure you don’t unintentionally include a definition of “family” that can be used to exclude people who are more vulnerable to being underinsured.
3. Advocate in your state
As mentioned above, 50 percent of LGBT people live in states without employment discrimination protections. Is your state on the list? What about your city? Many cities in anti-LGBT states (including Boise, where I live!) have taken steps to advance equality with local non-discrimination policies. Has yours? How can your business help with these local and statewide efforts? If you’re a marketing firm, donate a logo. If you produce apparel, donate T-shirts. You get the idea.
4. It’s true what they say about assumptions
You may think you know what a gay man or a lesbian looks like, but do you really? What about a bi person, a high femme, or a transgender man? Most straight, cis-gendered (that means your gender identity matches your birth sex) people are woefully clueless about this stuff. So get to know your LGBT colleagues as people. (And yes, the stereotype that we love a good brunch is totally true.) Ask respectful questions if you’re curious, especially when it comes to using accurate pronouns. Don’t assume that one gay person speaks for all gay people everywhere — tokens are for arcade games, people!
5. Get involved locally
Most companies pride themselves on giving back. If your company prioritizes ending homelessness, make sure your employees and local charities understand that up to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ even though they only comprise 7 percent of the population. If you live in the Northwest, Pride Foundation is a great place to start volunteering with grantee organizations or selecting scholarship recipients.