Month: August 2016

Built On Belief, Bettered By B Corp

Earth Odyssey
My life changed in 1999 when I read Mark Hertsgaard’s book, Earth Odyssey: Around the World in Search of Our Environmental Future. At the time, I was managing strategic marketing for a tech media provider. While the work was intellectually challenging, something was missing. My time at work (which was significant) was not addressing what I saw as the fundamental challenge for my generation: how to meaningfully address climate change. That is why I made the career shift into renewable energy.

Dan Kalafatas and I founded 3Degrees in 2007 with a simple mission: to connect people with cleaner energy on a massive scale. Whether it is engaging with a homeowner about community solar options or helping Fortune 500 companies implement their renewable energy strategies, our goal is to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Perhaps just as important, though, we sought to establish 3Degrees as a company centered around values based on two fundamental notions. First, we believed then (as we still do now) that many people in this country are willing to direct their money and time to support renewable energy programs. Second, we believed we could hold ourselves to a higher standard in how we built and operated the business, including creating prosperity for all of our stakeholders — our employees, the community and the environment.

Moments that Matter: Impact Investing
As Mark Twain said, “Tough times teach trust.” The character-revealing moment for 3Degrees occurred in 2011 when we found ourselves in a challenging financial situation. We were seeking our first outside investor at a time when no one was investing in renewable energy. Solyndra had failed. The fundamentals of the renewable energy industry were being pressured by low energy prices and policy uncertainty.

It was a tremendous relief when we met ARB (the Halloran Family Office investing company). To make the risk/reward proposition of the proposed investment in 3Degrees better for ARB, however, we needed to convert debt to company equity. Dan and I talked through what this restructuring and re-commitment would mean for the company.

We agreed that if we moved forward, we wanted to officially make our company a Certified B Corporation to ensure we had the legal protection to balance shareholder and non-shareholder interests when making decisions.

Now, all we had to do was convince ARB this was a good move.

While ARB had made it clear that they were interested in us because of our renewable energy industry focus, culture, and values, we were anxious about how they might respond to our plan to become a Certified B Corporation. We had no idea that Harry R. Halloran, Jr., CEO of ARB and founder of Halloran Philanthropies, was also a founding sponsor of B Lab, a nonprofit organization that serves a global movement to redefine success in business by building a community of Certified B Corporations. Harry was thrilled by our plans. We high fived, and ARB moved forward with its investment in 3Degrees.

Bcorp

3Degrees employees volunteering

Walking the Talk
In August 2012, 3Degrees officially became a Certified B Corporation in California. What does this mean in practice? Every year, we publish a B Corp Impact Report which takes stock of the public benefits we create beyond shareholder value. We participate in B Lab’s Impact Assessment, a biannual, independent evaluation of our social impact that helps us to focus on what we can do next and how can we do it better.

We match 100 percent of the firm’s electricity usage with renewable energy certificates as well as offset emissions from employees’ transportation. While those actions may be easier for us given the work we do, we also continually seek opportunities where we can live our values. Case in point: 3Degrees provides socially and environmentally-focused 401(k) investment opportunities to eligible employees; supports up to eight hours of paid volunteer time with an environmentally-oriented organization; and gives preference to local, sustainable and fair-trade suppliers.

Why do we do all of this? We do it because we think it is the right thing to do, but also because in the long term, we think it is good business and reinforces our corporate strategy.

Join Us
When I was asked to write this blog, I, in turn, asked Harry to reflect on what stood out to him when ARB decided to invest in 3Degrees and how we have met his expectations. Harry shared, “In making our investment decision, we saw that you and Dan, as founders of 3Degrees, clearly articulated and modeled the company’s values on a daily basis in big and small ways. So, it is not surprising that 3Degrees is a success on many levels — certainly as an investment, however importantly, also as a model of what is possible when a clear vision, a good business model, and respect for all partners align.”

Today, 3Degrees is one of nearly 1,800 B Lab Certified B Corps in the United States.

If our own experience can offer any insight to others, it is that leading by your values just makes good business sense over the long term — in good and challenging times.

Originally published on HuffingtonPost.com

The Climate Registry Affirms: RECS and Offsets are Important Decarbonization Tools

driving on highway

A small organization with a worldwide reach, The Climate Registry (TCR) is a non-profit that designs and operates greenhouse gas reporting programs across the globe and consults with governments worldwide on all aspects of GHG measurement, reporting, and verification.

Measurement is the first step

“Before looking for ways to reduce your climate impact, you need to understand your baseline,” says David Rosenheim, executive director of The Climate Registry. To that end, TCR has created a General Reporting Protocol that provides guidance and consistency in reporting on emissions and emission reduction or mitigation tactics such as renewable energy certificates (RECs) and carbon offsets.

Like its member companies, TCR annually measures its own GHG emissions. And, not surprisingly, given its mission, TCR is continually looking for ways to reduce its carbon footprint. But with a large portion of their emissions coming from business travel, their options were limited.

The role of RECs and offsets in the decarbonization toolkit

First, TCR looked to reduce their emissions as much as possible, using tools and policies like video conferencing and telecommuting.  For those emissions that can’t be eliminated, the organization sees the use of RECs and offsets as a best practice.

Based on a recommendation from their policy team, in 2015, for the first time, they purchased RECS and offsets to cover their scope 1 emissions (these are direct emissions from sources owned and controlled by the company) and market-based scope 2 emissions (which are from purchased electricity, heat or steam) as well as their business and commuting travel emissions.

air travel

“With aggressive decarbonization goals needed to address climate change, RECs and offsets have to be part of the answer – efficiency is not enough,” says Rosenheim.

To ensure that the products are high quality and legitimate, it is important to purchase verified RECs and offsets from a reputable source. When TCR was ready to buy, they turned to 3Degrees and selected Green-e Climate certified offsets and Green-e Energy certified RECs.

“We knew our purchases in particular would receive lots of scrutiny. That’s why we chose to buy from 3Degrees. They are a leader in the industry and set the bar high in terms of quality and integrity.”

Small businesses are an important part of the solution

As a small organization, TCR’s overall emissions are relatively modest.  But big or small, what each company does matters, according to Rosenheim.

“Being a responsible corporate citizen is not just the purview of large organizations. Small businesses have an important role to play in combating climate change, as almost half of all private sector employment and output comes from small businesses. These businesses are making decisions that impact our energy and fuel systems. At the aggregate and individual level, it is meaningful.”

More on 3Degrees + RECs or carbon offsets

Better Business, Better World (Books)

shipping a package

Who doesn’t like getting a package in the mail? Whether it is expected or not, opening the box always carries with it a moment of anticipation. What’s unfortunate is that the delivery comes with a carbon price tag. That’s because no matter how it is transported, all shipping has some measure of carbon emissions.

So what do you do when you are an organization dedicated to making a better world, yet success also equals a larger carbon footprint? It becomes a balancing act.  

(Carbon) Balancing Workplace DemandsBetter World Books

Better World Books’ business is to relocate books from one part of the globe to another and get them in the hands of new readers. Funding for this activity is raised by selling other books online direct to consumers. To reduce the carbon cost of all this transportation the team at Better World Books works with 3Degrees to purchase carbon offsets generated at projects actively keeping carbon from entering the atmosphere like McKinney Landfill in Texas. 

To make this work for the company there were two other key considerations: keep costs low so budget can stay focused on their mission. And managing the carbon footprint of all these shipments could not become an administrative burden. In response, the organization automated the process by building it into every transaction. The system is easy: a customer buys a book, pays a few pennies more and the book’s shipping-based carbon footprint is neutralized. Those pennies then goes into a pool that is annually used to purchase carbon offsets.

It’s wise decisions like this that have helped Better World Books become the global literacy player it is today.

betterworld_2

Better World Books + 3Degrees

Once ready to purchase Better World Books knew they wanted to work with 3Degrees. “Their award winning reputation and work with Fortune 500 companies gave us confidence in their abilities,” said Diane Maier, Director of Global Marketing and Sales Support at Better World Books. “The fact that they are a B Corp too was a real bonus – we want to align our company with others that share the same values.”

Better World Books also supports renewable energy with renewable energy certificates (RECs), purchased from 3Degrees. Their combined purchase of RECs and carbon offsets in one year has an environmental impact similar to:

equivalencies

About Better World Books

Better World Books is a for-profit social enterprise and a global e-retailer providing products and information to socially conscious consumers. Better World Books collects and sells new and used books online matching each purchase with a donation, book for book, and with each sale generating funds for literacy initiatives in the U.S. and around the world. Since its founding in 2003, and Mishawaka, Indiana-based company has raised more than $23 million for libraries and literacy, donated 20 million books; re-used or recycled over 229 million books and achieved 44,000 tons of carbon offsets through carbon balanced shipping.