Thanks for stopping by the Cultivating Capital Blog! You might have noticed that it’s a bit quiet over here. It’s not that I’ve stopped blogging. In fact, I’ve been blogging over at the Cultivating Capital marketing blog: CC Marketing Online. Some of the topics that I blog about over there include SEO, business blogging, making the most of your business website, and other things related to marketing your business online.
The Cultivating Capital site will be redesigned soon to make it easier to share with you information to help you green your business and market it online. In the meantime, please visit CC Marketing Online and stay in touch!
As a business owner in the East Bay, you are in a unique position with the sustainability options available to you.
There’s a sustainability progression that is available to East Bay businesses, and each step along the way provides an opportunity for you to establish a solid sustainability foundation for your business:
It could be argued that business owners everywhere have access to this same sustainability progression. However, there are a few features that make the East Bay unique:
Do you own a business in the East Bay? Where are you in this progression?
Over the weekend, Governor Brown signed two important pieces of legislation that will help to advance socially and environmentally responsible businesses in the state: AB 361 and AB 913.
AB 361: Benefit Corporations
With AB 361, California joins a growing list of states that now recognize Benefit Corporations. The bill was introduced by Assemblymember Jared Huffman and creates a “new, entirely voluntary type of corporate entity to let California businesses balance the pursuit of corporate profits with environmental and social goals.” Under current state law, corporations are required to prioritize profit and financial interests. Benefit corporations are different in that they allow corporations to give equal consideration to social and environmental interests instead of just to financial profit. This is a significant step that gives triple bottom line businesses legal recognition in California.
AB 913: California Green Business Program
AB 913 requires the Depart of Toxic Substances Control to establish a California Green Business Program. Under the Hazardous Waste Source Reduction and Management Review Act of 1989, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is already required to establish a program for hazardous waste reduction. AB 913 requires that, as part of implementing its source reduction program, the DTSC develop:
“A California Green Business Program that provides for the voluntary certification of businesses that adopt environmentally preferable business practices, including but not limited to, increased energy efficiency, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, promotion of water conservation, and reduced waste generation.”
Green and Sustainable Businesses: Onward and Upward!
Taken together, these two pieces of legislation can have a significant impact on businesses that want to incorporate the triple bottom line into their business practices. AB 913 will provide additional resources to the many small businesses in the state that want to go green but may need guidance and support in order to do so. AB 361 will give corporations that are ready to adopt a new corporate form that better reflects their social and environmental mission an option for legally doing so. Both the creation of a statewide Green Business Program and the new Benefit Corporation entity will also help consumers to distinguish between businesses that make green claims versus those that either meet green business certification standards and/or incorporate social and environmental interests into their legal framework. It should also be noted that both Benefit Corporation status and Green Business Certification are entirely voluntary.
When I started Cultivating Capital, I wanted to create a company that would not just help others to become more sustainable, but would also incorporate the best sustainable business practices. After all, if we are to reimagine business for the 21st century, we can’t just set up and operate our companies in the traditional way.
Most of the companies that I’ve worked with are B Corps or Certified Green Businesses. When it comes to defining what it means to actually be a green or sustainable business, there are few agreed-upon standards, which makes it easy for a business to call itself green even if it isn’t. However, Certified Green Businesses have met local standards in the Bay Area for environmental responsibility, and B Corps have met national standards for social and environmental responsibility. I know that these companies share my social and environmental values and have been vetted by reputable, third-party organizations. If we are to transition to an economy that supports local, sustainable businesses that minimize their environmental impact and give back to local communities, we need to support those businesses financially. This means making conscious choices about how we spend our business dollars and remembering that every dollar spent is a vote in favor of a company’s practices.
With that in mind, below is a list of some of the things that I’ve done and suppliers I’ve used to help Cultivating Capital be more sustainable:
Of course, this isn’t to say that I’ve done everything that I can to make Cultivating Capital the kind of company that I want it to be! These are simply the first steps that I took when I started the business; I just didn’t feel that I could honestly say that I wanted to create a triple bottom line, sustainable business if I created a traditional LLC, banked at Bank of America, printed my business cards at Vistaprint, and purchased my office supplies at Staples. But there’s still a lot more that I’d like to do. Here are some projects that are on deck:
It’s important to remember that what it means to be a sustainable business is still being defined: “Make my business sustainable” is not something that can just be checked off a list! Rather, it’s an ongoing, evolving process of continual improvement. Nevertheless, that’s a rundown about what I’ve done so far to make Cultivating Capital a sustainable small business. I’d love to hear about what you’ve done in the comments.
If you offer a green product or service, it’s important to also incorporate green initiatives into your own business. That’s why I’ve enrolled Cultivating Capital in the Bay Area Green Business Program.
The Bay Area Green Business Program was launched in 1996 and serves to “distinguish small businesses that protect, preserve and sustain our environment.” It operates in all nine Bay Area counties and has certified over 2200 businesses. The program is unique in that it is coordinated by the Association of Bay Area Governments and has partnerships with cities, utilities, and environmental agencies.
Why Should You Get Certified?
Going through the Green Business certification process can help you in different ways. First, you can identify opportunities for reducing expenses through implementing water and energy conservation measures, among other things. Second, you’ll be able to differentiate from your competitors who either may not be green or may not have the third-party certification to support their claims. And of course, there’s the satisfaction of knowing that you’re doing your part as a responsible business owner to reduce your environmental impact!
As more businesses go green, it’s becoming increasingly important to be able to verify the claims you make about how your business is sustainable. Indeed, if you market your business as green, you should be aware that the FTC is revising its Green Guides and that there are guidelines regarding the claims that you can and cannot make. As part of this, the FTC is cracking down on rogue certifications that are effectively worthless. Receiving third-party certification can be an asset to your business, but only if it comes from a reputable organization; aside from the Green Business Program, B Corp certification is also worth looking at. [Full disclosure: As a Green Business Consultant with Alameda County, I assist businesses that are going through the certification process.]
The Green Business Certification Process
The process for getting certified is simple. You can enroll online by filling out a short form. After you enroll, you will need to fill out an online checklist. The checklist consists of six sections: Solid Waste, Energy, Water, Pollution Prevention, Wastewater, and General, and in each section you will need to indicate if you are performing both required and additional measures. The final step after you submit your checklist will be to coordinate on-site audits.
For an overview of ways to cut costs and emissions in your office, you might be interested in this previous post about “Going Green in Alameda County,” which features an interview with Alameda County Green Business Program Coordinator Pamela Evans.