Alegria Partners http://alegriapartners.com Sustainability Engagement Strategist Fri, 11 May 2018 19:00:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.10 Climate Leaders Taking Cues From Nature To Inspire Optimism http://alegriapartners.com/blog/climate-leaders-taking-cues-from-nature-to-inspire-optimism/ Thu, 03 May 2018 19:52:57 +0000 http://alegriapartners.com/?p=24793

“How do you work in the field of sustainability or environmental issues without getting depressed?”

Maybe you’ve been asked some form of this question. In my line of work, it is one I field often. My answer has always taken on a holistic outlook. In the natural world, everything is connected. There are millions of relationships, many that we don’t understand or even acknowledge. That means that every negative action is multiplied through the effects it has on these relationships, but it also means that even the smallest positive change can create a huge impact for good. (I also try to remember that even though “I” think an action is positive, that same move can be felt as negative to someone else, depending on the circumstances.)

When an ecosystem leader creates positive change, the ripple effects of that change can have unintended consequences that lead to increased health for the whole system. In an essay published in 1945, Aldo Leopold found that wolves, seen as an ecosystem threat because they prey upon deer (wanted by human hunters), actually maintain balance within the forest, helping the entire system to thrive. When the deer population increased as a result of exterminating wolves in a certain area, plant life dwindled rapidly, which meant that many animals did not have food or places to nest. Leopold found that the wolves are ecosystem leaders who greatly contribute to more positive aspects of the forest than originally thought.

It is easy to think that companies merely respond to consumer demands, but just as wolves shape their surroundings, business choices shape consumer culture.  When a business “does the right thing” and acts in a just, environmentally responsible manner by setting aggressive sustainability goals or mandating company initiatives, those actions affect not only company employees, but the entire business ecosystem–customers, suppliers, and community members.

Recently, Larry Fink, the CEO of investment company BlackRock, penned an open letter to CEOs that states: “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.” This is a bold, important declaration. Corporate leaders are waking up to the fact that their actions dramatically influence the earth’s future.

In 2016, the United Nations Global Compact and Accenture Strategy conducted the largest ever CEO sustainability study, gathering information from over 1,000 CEOs from more than 100 countries. They found that 97% of the chief executive officers “believe that sustainability is important to the future success of their business.” This understanding is crucial, because even when sustainability initiatives and projects are mandated from the top down, these initiatives give employees who have a sustainable vision for the company’s future a chance to band together and spark action. A simple idea from an employee can change the entire trajectory of a company for the better.

It’s 2018, and while the teams that focus on environmental and social issues in companies are rapidly evolving, the principles that guide healthy systems remain the same. Known by many names – Environmental Stewardship Committees, Sustainability Councils, or the standard Green Team – CEOs at companies such as Dr. Bronner’s, Alaska Airlines, and Genentech are understanding the contribution and impact that these teams have on both the short and long-term success of the companies and are leveraging the interests of their employees to make a sustainable difference.

For example, at Dr. Bronner’s (a family owned-and-operated activist and social enterprise company that produces soap), the vision and mission of company leadership creates an environment in which grassroots, bottom-up development can thrive. “When I look back at the success that our Green Team-like initiatives have had in the last four years, it’s been the ideas that have come from the specific departments where those ideas have actually been implemented that have been the most successful,” said Darcy Shiber-Knowles, Quality, Sustainability, and Innovation Manager at Dr. Bronner’s.

 

When someone asks me, “are you feeling depressed about the current state of our environmental situation?” I share about how wolves are an integral part of nature and trust that their contributions will continue to serve the planet. I share about the many businesses that are developing thriving initiatives that will help to decrease their resource use. I share that these initiatives are not only stemming from grassroots groups of employees, but also from high-level managers who understand that the bottom-line is about more than just profit and are making decisions as ecosystem leaders that benefit all members of their community.

 

While there are still many obstacles facing the convergence of business and the environment, knowing that there are many smart, motivated people who are in action and striving toward positive change – helps me to stay optimistic about our future.

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Why Sustainability Now http://alegriapartners.com/blog/why-sustainability-now/ Thu, 08 Feb 2018 18:58:24 +0000 http://alegriapartners.com/?p=24779 In addition to profitability, there are significant “soft benefits” to eco-friendly business practices. Corporations that practice sustainability see higher levels of worker engagement, better PR, more engagement from their customers, and more opportunity in the global market.(1) These benefits may be less measurable than bottom line profit, but they are equally powerful in driving revenue growth. Growth leaders have already begun capitalizing on these opportunities, and sustainability is becoming the “new model” for being successful at scale.

Public Opinion, On A Global Scale

It is important to remember that the vast majority of Americans, and an even greater percentage of global consumers, feel strongly about sustainability. According to a January 2017 Pew Research Center Survey, 74% of adults in the United States agreed that the country should “do whatever is necessary” to preserve the environment.(2) Studies in Europe and East Asia found similar results, and governments in those countries have reflected this investment by implementing massive regulations restricting business with companies that excessively pollute. Even without such drastic legislation, brands that market their sustainable actions have a tremendous PR advantage over less green conscious competitors, in almost any market.

Considering your business’s environmental impact in context of the global market is incredibly important. Even though the importance of sustainability may not be reflected in the current political administration, it remains a massive global priority.

Last year, China pledged billions of dollars to develop clean energy sources and has levied strict penalties on polluters. The European Commission has created many laws within the European Union that support corporate social responsibility and sustainable development.(3) Any company with aspirations of tapping new global markets will need to begin implementing sustainability now.

Companies in the US can embrace the “new model” of sustainability to scale, connect with their local communities, and engage their customers. It is possible. Drop me a line for a free 30 minute consultation and together we can talk about how your business can implement soft benefits into its practices.

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Saving Money For Your Business At Every Step http://alegriapartners.com/blog/saving-money-for-your-business-at-every-step/ Tue, 05 Dec 2017 16:52:28 +0000 http://alegriapartners.com/?p=24760 While there is little argument that eco-friendliness should become a driving principle for all businesses in the near future, considering the high investments costs and seemingly scarce short-term benefits can make some business owners balk. Add to that a political tide that seems to be turning against sustainability, and it is understandable that many business stakeholders are uneasy with the prospect of going green now.

The analytical cliche: “the most important thing is the bottom line,” is likely the first thought that comes to mind when making this kind of decision. If a business doesn’t make money, it can’t stay in business. The bottom line is as important as its ethical impact when considering the future of a company.

This very reason is why every business needs to go green now. Contrary to popular belief, in today’s economy, “sustainable” equals a better bottom line. Why?

Tax Credits
Despite a chill to climate change, there are still millions of dollars in tax credits available to businesses that invest in green-initiatives. Most are artifacts of the 2009 economic stimulus plan, which provided incentives in the form of tax credits for companies to go green, enhancing their bottom lines by investing in the environment. At the time, credits were made available to companies that utilized environmentally friendly business practices; like switching to renewable energy sources (solar or wind power) or using electric vehicles for their transportation fleets. Most of these credits are still available to businesses.

Two of the best:
Up to 30% of cost tax credit for switching to sustainable power sources
A $1.80/ sq ft credit for buildings built or renovated to be energy efficient
There are still dozens of tax credits available like these, and businesses with sustainability on their minds would do well to pounce on them now, before they go away.(1) Many states, like California, also provide generous tax subsidies to green initiatives, over and above federal credits, meaning higher profit via a lower tax liability.

Cost Reduction
Aside from reducing your business’s tax burden, going green now will also slash your operation costs. As Emily Reyna, project manager for the Environmental Defense Fund, asserts, “sustainability is first about improving the bottom line.”(2) Unilever is a shining example of this. By first reducing their environmental footprint and then adding ingredients that are better for the planet into all of their products, they saw higher margins and their sustainable product line is now a multi-billion dollar business.

To replicate this success, businesses can:

  • Eliminate almost all electricity costs by switching to solar panels (and get a tax credit)
  • Reduce gas expenses by switching the corporate fleet to hybrid vehicles (and get another tax credit)
  • Spend less on waste processing by training employees to use resources more efficiently (Dr. Bronner’s is a great example of this in the upcoming book about Climate Action Teams!)

On a purely statistical cost:benefit analysis, going green wins out completely. While most businesses will need to start small – first by taking advantage of low hanging fruit such as switching off lights and processing waste better – they will see that sustainability saves money at every step. Next week we will look at the soft benefits sustainability brings to the table.

 

Sources:
(1)https://www.thebalance.com/tax-credits-and-deductions-for-your-going-green-business-4052679
(2)http://www.businessinsider.com/the-top-10-benefits-of-convincing-your-company-to-care-about-sustainability-2012 3
(3)http://smallbusiness.chron.com/businesses-should-green-766.html
(4)https://www.environmentalleader.com/2016/01/how-unilever-ge-ikea-turn-a-profit-from-sustainability/
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How Your Company Can Reduce Its Impact http://alegriapartners.com/blog/reduce_impact/ Wed, 18 Oct 2017 17:58:53 +0000 http://alegriapartners.com/?p=24752

 

Our New Reality

The fires are finally decreasing in Northern California and people are starting to rebuild their lives after devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico, Texas and Florida in the last few weeks.

At the current rate we’re going, climate scientists have recently shared that in the future we will experience less hurricanes overall, but will see an increase in Category 4 or 5 hurricanes. Heat waves in places where they do not normally occur will happen more often in locations that hadn’t experienced this phenomenon in the past. Groundwater will be drier, which means that wildfires can spread more easily in many parts of the world.

The environment links communities, people, and businesses. Despite these challenging examples of severe weather events, we can work together to discover new opportunities for our businesses that do not come at the earth’s expense.

What You Can Do

As a business owner or an employee who cares about how the company you work for, there are many simple actions you can take to support it in creating a lighter footprint on earth. Instead of simply decreasing and measuring emissions, a new goal of many companies is to entirely reverse climate change with the solutions provided in Paul Hawken’s new book, Drawdown. If you are someone in your company who is responsible for making decisions about its sustainability strategy, I highly recommend reading this book. If you are someone who would like to make these types of decisions for your company, I also highly recommend reading this book.

Many business leaders that I’ve spoken to over the past few months about their company’s sustainability initiatives have told me about their incredibly innovative campaigns that support their company’s climate change strategies. A few have already integrated Hawken’s ideas into their plans. I look forward to sharing these stories with you soon so that you can use them as inspiration for your sustainability initiatives!

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Summary of Interview With Jacqueline Drumheller at Alaska Airlines http://alegriapartners.com/blog/summary-of-interview-with-jacqueline-drumheller-at-alaska-airlines/ Wed, 28 Jun 2017 05:47:54 +0000 http://alegriapartners.com/?p=24748

This interview is one of the companies that will be featured in my upcoming book on Climate Action Teams.

Today I talked to Jacqueline Drumheller, the Manager of Sustainability at Alaska, which is a US carrier based out of Seattle, Washington. She oversees the company’s green team, which is a voluntary group of people from all different departments. Their green team focuses on employee engagement to ensure that all employees are aware of all the company’s sustainability initiatives.

Check out www.alaskaair.com for more information.

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Summary of Interview with Gretchen Grani at Nutiva http://alegriapartners.com/blog/summary-of-interview-with-gretchen-grani-at-nutiva/ Wed, 28 Jun 2017 05:45:44 +0000 http://alegriapartners.com/?p=24746

This interview is one of the companies that will be featured in my upcoming book on Climate Action Teams.

Nutiva is a conscious curator of organic, plant based foods and their mission is to revolutionize the way the world eats.

Between 2014 and 2015 Nutiva diverted 94% of their waste – this means that only 6% of their overall waste went to landfill. This earned Nutiva the Gold Standard Zero Waste certification from the United States Zero Waste Business Council. The company has donated $4 million to organizations that support some of the most important environmental issues of our time. Nutiva has also achieved 69% diversity.

Grani in is the Director of Sustainability and Corporate Giving and Executive Director of the Nutiva Foundation.

Check out Nutiva at www.nutiva.com.

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Summary of interview with Dustin Holland at Better World Books http://alegriapartners.com/blog/summary-of-interview-with-dustin-holland-at-better-world-books/ Wed, 28 Jun 2017 05:41:28 +0000 http://alegriapartners.com/?p=24743

This interview is one of the companies that will be featured in my upcoming book on Climate Action Teams.

Better World Books is a truly amazing company that is making a difference in the world. The company was started by 3 guys selling their old textbooks with the intention to create a company with a built-in social benefit. Every time you buy a book from Better World Books, they make a book donation to someone in need. The company has donated over 20 million books to people in countries all over the world, making an incredibly positive impact. In addition, the company employs nearly 500 associates in three countries, has donated over $24 million dollars to libraries and literacy causes around the world and has prevented close to 240 million books from becoming landfill. It is truly a triple bottom line company focused on the circular economy.

Today I’m talking to Dustin Holland, the Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing at Better World Books. He’s been with the company for 12 years and started as the national director of the library program.

Check out Better World Books at http://www.betterworldbooks.com.

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Summary of interview with Melissa Malkin-Weber at Self-Help Credit Union http://alegriapartners.com/blog/summary-of-interview-with-melissa-malkin-weber-at-self-help-credit-union/ Wed, 28 Jun 2017 05:38:03 +0000 http://alegriapartners.com/?p=24741

This interview is one of the companies that will be featured in my upcoming book on Climate Action Teams.

Self Help is a community development finance institution and non-profit real estate developer.

Self-Help Credit Union is very unique. It is a community-serving financial institution that invests in sustainability projects across the country and its mission is to create and protect ownership and economic opportunity for all.

By providing responsible financial services, lending to small businesses and nonprofits, developing real estate and promoting fair financial practices, the credit union is in a position to support communities of all kinds.

I love that this credit union has a focus on those who may be underserved by conventional lenders, including people of color, women, rural residents and low-wealth families and communities.

Self-Help has consumer branches in North Carolina, California, Chicago and Florida. Many Self-Help members in other parts of the country make deposits in Self-Help’s socially responsible certificates of deposit and money market funds. They earn interest while supporting Self-Help’s mission of “Economic Opportunity for All”. You can read more about their sustainability efforts here: www.self-help.org/green.

Melissa Malkin-Weber is the Sustainability Director and is responsible for the actions of the Environmental Stewardship Committee. She also oversees the sustainability initiatives for the credit union.

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Summary of interview with Acterra/Nicole Angiel http://alegriapartners.com/blog/summary-of-interview-with-acterranicole-angiel/ Wed, 28 Jun 2017 05:36:05 +0000 http://alegriapartners.com/?p=24739

This interview is one of the companies that will be featured in my upcoming book on Climate Action Teams.

Acterra is a nonprofit located in Palo Alto, CA and brings people together to create local solutions for a healthy planet. The organization focuses on what you can do locally to address current environmental problems. Acterra recently launched the Silicon Valley Green Team Network to provide a venue for employee green team members to exchange information, share successes and challenges, and support the collective effort to increase sustainable behavior and practices in the workplace.

Nicole Angiel is Director of Business Partnerships for Sustainability at Acterra. She develops and manages programs to support and encourage sustainable business practices in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the Business Environmental Awards and Silicon Valley Green Team Network.

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Summary of interview with Antoine Ambert at Alter Eco http://alegriapartners.com/blog/summary-of-interview-with-antoine-ambert-at-alter-eco/ Wed, 28 Jun 2017 05:33:36 +0000 http://alegriapartners.com/?p=24737

This interview is one of the companies that will be featured in my upcoming book on Climate Action Teams.

Alter Eco is based on the premise that food is fundamental to life, and whole, healthy food can make life better for people all over the world. The company works directly with small farmers who grown quinoa, rice, sugar and cacao, helping them institute Fair Trade and Organic practices and assisting them in improving both quality of life. This company is amazing and I can tell you that their chocolate is delicious! So many people all over the world benefit from Alter Eco’s efforts, as the company focuses on creating systems that benefit the flora, fauna and fields. And another cool thing about Alter Eco – it is a Carbon Zero business, which means that it offsets more carbon than it emits.

Antoine Ambert is the Director of Marketing. www.alterecofoods.com.

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