Sustainability for One Small Business

When I started Cultivating Capital, I wanted to create a company that would not just help others to become more sustainable, but would also meet high standards for sustainability. 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 used office space in an inefficient building.

In this post, I’ll share some of the steps I took to align my own small business with my values.

Supporting Companies with Shared Values

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. Ensuring that your own supply chain reflects your values is also an important step in your own business sustainability efforts.

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 implement sustainable business practices:

  • LLC Filing & Legal Services: Katovitch & Kassan Law Group, a local Certified Green Business and B Corp in Oakland. We specified in the LLC operating agreement that due consideration would be given to the company’s effects on stakeholders and the environment. This ensures that the triple bottom line of “people, planet, and profit” is in the DNA of Cultivating Capital (it’s also the legal framework for B Corps).
  • Business Banking: Bank of the West. One of the most important decisions that any of us can make around sustainability is deciding where we put our money.
  • Business Cards: Greenerprinter, a local B Corp. Beyond using recycled paper, Greenerprinter has implemented progressive practices within the printing industry, and offers high-quality printing at competitive prices.
  • Business Insurance: Avail Insurance, a local Certified Green Business.
  • Certifications: I would be remiss if I didn’t adhere to the very standards that I most respect for sustainable businesses! As a result, Cultivating Capital is both a Certified Green Business and a Certified B Corp.
  • Giving Back: I’ve been involved with the Sustainable Business Alliance for several years, first as a member and then volunteering my time on the Board of Directors. Most recently, I’ve helped to launch an Advisory Board for the organization.
  • Office Space: Cultivating Capital is based at the Hub, a progressive co-working space that attracts people working on “solutions for a better world.” The Hub is a Certified B Corp located in the David Brower Center, a LEED certified building in Berkeley and itself a Certified Green Business in Alameda County.
  • Transportation: With the excellent public transit system that we have in the Bay Area, I rarely drive anymore. BART can usually get me anywhere I need to go. In addition to reducing emissions and avoiding the traffic congestion on Bay Area freeways, there’s the added benefit of being able to use the time in transit productively to get work done.

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! Areas in which I would like to improve include:

  • Office Purchases: My office purchases are quite minimal, so ordering online from the two local Certified Green office supply stores isn’t an option since I don’t order enough to meet the minimum requirements for delivery. I used to purchase items from a local office supply store in Berkeley, but unfortunately it closed recently.
  • Local, green web hosting: For practical purposes, it was easier to use the hosting service that my original web designer used. I am still exploring the option of switching to a green web host but haven’t made the switch yet.

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.


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