14 December 2016

GA/GBN: US SIF Foundation Releases 2016 Trends Report on Sustainable, Responsible, and Impact Investing

by Scott Kitson | Dec 01, 2016
According to the latest report from the US SIF Foundation, sustainable, responsible, and impact (SRI) investing assets have expanded to $8.72 trillion in the US, up 33% since 2014. This equates to one in five dollars invested under professional management. The full reports explains this growth, in addition to exploring the top issues concerning money managers and their clients.

The Trends Report, now in its 11th year of publication, is a snapshot of US-domiciled assets engaged in sustainable, responsible, and impact (SRI) strategies at year-end 2015. The report measures two SRI strategies: (1) ESG incorporation, and (2) Filing shareholder resolutions on ESG issues.

The report shows a 33% growth over the past two years, and a 14-fold increase since 1995.

To read more highlights or download the full report, visit US SIF.

US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable Responsible Investment is the leading voice advancing sustainable, responsible and impact investing across all asset classes. Its mission is to rapidly shift investment practices toward sustainability, focusing on long-term investment and the generation of positive social and environmental impacts.

The US SIF Foundation undertakes educational, research, and programmatic activities to advance the mission of US SIF.

(Source: http://www.greenbusinessnetwork.org/us-sif-foundation-releases-2016-trends-report-on-sustainable-responsible-and-impact-investing/)

GA/GBN: New 2017 National Green Pages Released

by Scott Kitson | Nov 17, 2016
Green America is unveiling today its newest issue of National Green Pages (NGP), the ultimate sourcebook for green living, purchasing and investing. This year’s edition is available in hard copy or online. The NGP continues to honor the greenest businesses in the country and provides consumers with an extensive range of ideas for greening their lives, work, and community. Readers can also take advantage of 450 freebies and discounts from Green America’s Certified Green Business Network members nationwide.

Featuring thousands of socially and environmentally responsible businesses, the 2017 National Green Pages is a great resource for those who wish to create a safe and healthy home, promote peace and justice, protect the environment, and support a living wage for workers. Readers can discover tips for green remodeling, eco-travel, non-toxic cleaners and clothing, responsible banking and investing, and much more.

“With each green choice you make, you help solve our planet’s problems,” said Alisa Gravitz, president and CEO of Green America. “When you buy fair trade food and gifts, you ensure fair wages for producers around the world. By choosing organic food and clothing, you put an end to the dangerous pesticides used on conventional crops. By making your home more energy-efficient, you promote a clean-energy future. You restore the Earth. You save lives.”

All of the companies in the 2017 National Green Pages go through a careful certification process to ensure that their environmental and social responsibility claims are accurate. These businesses are certified by Green America for their social and environmental impacts.

In addition to providing information on specific companies, the 2017 National Green Pages details the types of green businesses “you need in your life,” as well as the types of business “sucking the life out of your community,” and helps readers avoid greenwashing.

Hard copies of this year’s National Green Pages can be ordered for $12.45 per copy (including shipping) online or by calling 1-800-58-GREEN. Green America members also receive the National Green Pages for free. Information about companies certified by Green America can be accessed online at greenpages.org, which includes a search feature to find green, healthy, and ethical products and services.

Green America is the nation’s leading green economy organization. Founded in 1982, Green America (formerly Co-op America) provides economic strategies and practical tools for businesses and individuals to solve today’s social and environmental problems. http://www.GreenAmerica.org.

The Green Business Network® is a program of Green America, the nation’s leading non-profit organization working to build a green and just economy. Comprised of 3,000 businesses, the Green Business Network is home to both rising social and eco enterprises and the most established green businesses around. We provide the tools, the information, and the consumer base to help you thrive in today’s competitive green marketplace.

MEDIA CONTACT: Max Karlin, (703) 276-3255, or mkarlin@hastingsgroup.com.

(Source: http://www.greenbusinessnetwork.org/new-2017-national-green-pages-released/)

GA/GBN: Hold Corporations Accountable with The Shareholder Action Guide

by Scott Kitson | Nov 15, 2016

We know we can make a big difference for people and the planet through our financial decisions and actions. As a green business leader, your impact could go even further if you own direct company stock. Green America is proud to promote The Shareholder Action Guide from our partners at As You Sow, and to offer you a 25% discount.
Purchase The Shareholder Action Guide
Here are some easy steps you can take:
  • Have a checking and savings accounts with a community development bank or credit union instead of a mega-bank helps strengthen our neighborhoods and those in need.
  • Use a green credit card rather than a conventional card supports community development and the mission of groups like Green America.
  • Choose socially and environmentally responsible mutual funds, including fossil free funds, supports better businesses.
If you’ve already checked off these first three tips, and own direct company stock (not mutual funds), consider becoming a shareholder activist. Get started with The Shareholder Action Guide, which is available for purchase for only $14.95.

As a shareholder, you are a part-owner of the companies in which you invest. That power gives you the responsibility and voice to change company practices. These practices could be about issues affecting human rights, labor rights, the environment, and much more.

The Shareholder Action Guide is a great read – informative, inspiring, and you don’t need to understand financial jargon to see how to be an active shareholder.

Green America has partnered with our colleagues at As You Sow to offer you a 25% percent discount on the book. You can order your copy today for only $14.95 with the code green25.

(Source: http://www.greenbusinessnetwork.org/hold-corporations-accountable-with-the-shareholder-action-guide/)

15 November 2016

Green America / GBN: Find Your Place in the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

by  | Oct 31, 2016

While there have always been entrepreneurs working for social good, recent years have seen tremendous growth in programs and organizations to support them. From incubators and accelerators to business plan competitions and co-working spaces, a vast ecosystem has developed to support social enterprises.
As you navigate how to take advantage of this booming ecosystem, here’s the latest insights from an expert panel at the Mentor Capital Network’s 2016 Annual Gathering.
Panelists included Avary Kent, Executive Director of Conveners.orgVanessa Ferragut, Founder of GreeneaseLaurin Hodge, Executive Director of Mission: Launch, and Ben Powell, Founder and CEO of Agora Partnerships.
Find Accelerators and Networks
The ecosystem for entrepreneurs has seen such a boom that there’s been a trend in the past five years towards hyperlocal or focused programs. If you’re in a major city, chances are good that there’s not only an accelerator program near you, but even a specific program targeted for your work.
Conveners.org helps to accelerate accelerators, serving 125 programs in the Conveners.org network, and Kent reported growth in accelerators only serving food, clean energy, or other specific areas.
Ferragut recommends using the F6S platform to search for programs that meet your needs. “Keep applying to accelerator programs until you’re accepted. Have your template in a word doc and it will become easier. I keep a good paper trail and have everything ready to go,” she advises. And make sure you’re not applying solo—accelerators need to see you have a second-in-command.
It’s a sign of a maturing ecosystem that there are more hyperfocused programs, but many communities are left behind and lack access to even general opportunities. The high population density of certain cities leads to concentrations of ecosystems for entrepreneurs in places like New York, Silicon Valley, and DC. Smaller hubs of innovation such as Columbus, Ohio, don’t gain the same support. Entrepreneurs outside city areas are isolated from business communities.
Continuing to grow and build out this ecosystem for all is important to give entrepreneurs the network of support they need to survive the challenges of business. Powell runs a social enterprise accelerator program that serves entrepreneurs in Latin America where there isn’t a strong ecosystem, and brings them together for in-person bonding and deep dives with consultants. “This makes them feel like they’re not alone, like they have someone to walk with them. People need to feel like there’s light at end of the tunnel,” he said.
But when entrepreneurs lack in-person opportunities, virtual networks can bridge the gap to make connections.
Mentor Capital Network works with 600 individuals building businesses in 40 countries. MCN uses video conferencing and other online connections together with in-person networking whenever possible, bringing people together for a dinner to meet.
If you’re outside a major hub, look for online networks to build your connections, and take advantage of Skype and Google Hangouts to get more of a human touch. When you join organizations like Green America’s Green Business Network or the Social Enterprise Alliance, you can find like-minded peers across the country to connect to.
Tip: At Green America’s Green Business Network, we’ve launched a Facebook Group for members to connect to each other online. Request to join »
Virtual networks help the ecosystem grow towards greater inclusion for entrepreneurs outside big cities. There’s still much work to be done for authentic inclusion of people across many other areas of difference, such as socioeconomic background.
Hodge focuses on entrepreneurship for people with convictions and arrest records, and sees a long way to go to achieve true diversity in the entrepreneurial community. She sees a push for “inclusive entrepreneurship” as a buzzword, but emphasized how people are held back from launching businesses due to social disabilities, like lacking the privilege or access to money. “We have to be honest that it’s not a level playing field,” she said.
Kent added that “you can’t have a friends-and-family round of raising capital if your friends and family don’t have capital.”
Build Partnerships & Find Mentors
Strategic partnerships are also key to strengthening ecosystem connections and building social impact. For Powell, it’s what social innovation is all about—“figuring out where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
One strategic partnership model that’s effective in the non-profit social impact world is connecting small and innovative organizations to larger organizations with greater capacity. Smaller organizations may lack the competency or capacity to apply for large grants, while larger but less innovative organizations may have the grantwriting expertise and capacity. “There are lots of under-resourced organizations. Incubating them in larger organizations and helping them stay on the cutting edge is part of what a robust ecosystem does,” Powell said.
Hodge’s organization has used this method. While they achieved 501©3 status in 2014, they have formed a partnership with an organization that’s been around since the 1990s, and can access more grants for their work through the partnership.
Plucky new for-profit businesses follow a parallel model by partnering with larger, well-established businesses, providing fast-moving innovation while partners offer stability and standing in the marketplace.
“Stick to your commitments, make time for each other, and share clearly and honestly when things aren’t working,” Kent advised on building partnerships. “There’s an added burden in social impact because the risk if we fail is a lot higher, the systemic problem will continue to exist. What is your critical path to success, and what does your partner need?”
Mentorship also plays a huge role. Ferragut gained a critical mentor through her participation in Food-X, who has supported her on the journey to build Greenease, a mobile app that connects consumers to locally sourced and sustainable food. When Ferragut gets a call for help, she takes it. “Once somebody was there for me, so I want to keep being there for the community.”
The central importance of mentorship is the foundation of the Mentor Capital Network, which draws on a global web of experienced mentors and investors to provide support to early stage, visionary entrepreneurs who are using business to solve the world’s biggest social, economic, and environmental problems.
Find the Right Investors
Getting to scale is a challenge in the world of social good, but necessary for truly world-changing impact. Social impact businesses continue to struggle to access the financing needed to achieve greater scale. Companies like Amazon that are all about scale can go for ten years in the red, but social impact businesses and organizations face different standards.
Funders want to see the impact of their work throughout development, but it takes time to build something with depth that’s ready for scale. And when organizations and companies scale too quickly, the unintended consequences can undermine the intended impact.
Social impact businesses are also navigating a different exit strategy from conventional businesses seeking funding. “In impact investing, selling out to another company is not the primary objective. If you’re doing this to solve a problem in the world, how do you talk about exits and making sure investors get their money back? Social enterprises need different support to scale. They’re not allowed to lose million before they see revenues. Tech companies play a different game and it’s somewhat unfair we’re held up against them,” Kent said.
Search for investors that understand the world of social impact. Work your local networks for opportunities and explore online marketplaces like ImpactUs and Mission Markets.
After Food-X, Greenease raised a round of funding through a pitch competition. It was refreshing to her that the investors she connected to had a realistic understand of the slow growth in food, and didn’t expect a return for seven years. “They said, we’re not just investing in your business we’re investing in you,” she said.
But the investors asked Ferragut to focus on just the DC and NY areas, and she wanted to go nationwide. Ferragut ultimately stopped fundraising and focused on growing the business through her own funding.
Powell has seen much change in the field since starting one of the first impact investing funds, but feels the field continues to grapple with fundamental questions. “Impact investing was born with an identity crisis. Is this about changing and evolving capitalism for the 21th century, or how we modify existing [investing] products to satiate demand from investors for money to do more than just replicate itself?”
Hodge said there’s an awareness that “somebody needs to pay” for social impact, but governments, foundations, and the private sectors haven’t figured out who’s going to pay the bills.
Powell emphasized the importance of values-aligned investors recognizing the tradeoffs between return and impact. He painted an example where a company may have gotten thousands of children nourished and the investors aren’t going to make back thirty percent—but they’ll get their money back and can reinvest it and continue to make an impact. “We’re kidding ourselves if we say there’s no tradeoff,” he said.
And even when there is positive impact in the world, it can present more challenges. Hodge’s organization Mission: Launch is a not-for-profit social enterprise that creates opportunities for citizens facing barriers to employment due to an arrest or conviction record. They have to work quickly through strategic partnerships to move from sustainability to greater scale, driven by the heightened national interest in the past year around criminal justice issues.
As you navigate the challenges of investing, make sure you’re seeking investors who understand the unique challenges of growing social impact businesses and are willing to take the journey with you. “Do due diligence on your investors! Investors are going to do due diligence on us. But I failed to do my due diligence on them because I was so excited to have raised a round. Find out who they have invested in and talk to those folks,” said Ferragut.
But while conventional companies may have fewer investing challenges, you have communications and marketing opportunities based on your mission and impact that can help you stand out. “Realize how much communications and marketing matters to this space,” Hodge said. “If your product is more expensive, it’s an opportunity to explain why it’s better. Be a differentiator.”
Powell offered one last piece of advice from “the most successful social entrepreneur in the US,” Benjamin Franklin. “’Energy and persistence conquer all things.’ It’s about sticking with your vision, finding your allies, doing whatever it takes to succeed. Because we need to succeed.”
This article draws on insights shared at the Mentor Capital Network‘s 13th Annual Gathering in 2016 from a panel discussion on the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem. Since 2002, MCN has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs launch organizations that have gone on to create more than 20,000 jobs.
MCN’s entrepreneurs make the world a better place with their success, with focuses on clean energy, sustainable agriculture, educational innovation, sustainable construction, financial access, and dozens of other critical areas. Entrepreneurs can apply for MCN’s Sustainable Business Plan Collaboration Program. The Mentor Capital Network Annual Gathering is an opportunity to engage in the conversation around social entrepreneurship on a global scale, with two full days of intimate, challenging sessions that address big topics including public health, off-grid technologies and refugee camps, food security, and clean energy. The 2016 Annual Gathering was held Sept. 29 to Oct 1.
Photo credit – Mission: Launch

(Source: http://www.greenbusinessnetwork.org/find-your-place-in-the-entrepreneurial-ecosystem-mentor-capital-network-2016/)

Green America / GBN: Now’s the Time to Come Together

by  | Nov 10, 2016

A note from Alisa Gravitz, Green America‘s President and CEO:
I think we can all agree that this was the most wrenching campaign of modern times.
When it comes to the core issues that you and I work on together through Green America, I think it is fair to say that many of President-elect Trump’s promises on the campaign trail were in direct opposition to creating a green economy. Most significantly, Donald Trump does not accept that climate change is real, and wants to ramp up coal. His agricultural advisors all support Big-Ag over family farms and local food systems. He is on record stating he wants to eliminate the EPA. He does not support policies that will protect our diversity or help the most vulnerable amongst us when it comes to wages or responsible banking.
This is a time to take action. Together, you and I have put the foundations in place for a green economy and made enormous progress over the past three decades. Together, we can continue our progress in the economy for clean energy & climate, sustainable food & agriculture, responsible finance and fair labor, even in the face of gridlock or worse in the national political system.
And, as we’ve done since our founding, with you by our side, Green America will continue its leadership role in working directly with consumers, businesses, and investors to create green economy solutions that don’t rely on Washington. We’ll use the voice and buying power of our 200,000+ consumers nationwide to encourage companies to be truly green, support the greenest small businesses nationwide, and help companies dramatically change their supply chains to improve labor and environmental conditions worldwide.
Together, we’ll protect the progress we’ve made and advance our important green economy work on:
  • Clean Energy & Climate: Build on the historic Paris Climate Accords by rapidly scaling up clean energy in the US, moving the country away from fossil fuels, significantly reducing methane emissions, and protecting our most vulnerable communities from the impacts of extreme weather events.
  • Sustainable Food & Agriculture: Create a truly sustainable and just food system that uses incentives to move farmers away from destructive farming practices, including GMOs, pesticides, and factory farms towards organic, regenerative agriculture.
  • Small Green Business: Support small green businesses in their roles as job creators and innovators and increasing opportunities for women and minorities to succeed as entrepreneurs.
  • Responsible Finance: Crack down on the abuses of Wall Street, strengthening the role of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in protecting our most vulnerable citizens, and reining in predatory payday lenders.
  • Fair Labor: Reject trade deals (TPP and TTIP) that are bad for people and the planet, increasing the US minimum wage to $15/hour, protecting farm workers, and working to end slave labor in the US and overseas.
So, let’s all take a deep breath and become ever more tenacious about creating an economy that truly works for people and the planet.
Looking forward to continuing our work together.
– Alisa Gravitz, President and CEO, Green America

(Source: http://www.greenbusinessnetwork.org/nows-the-time-to-come-together/)

28 October 2016

Green Business Network: Denise Hamler Retires After 34 Years at Green America

 | Oct 27, 2016

After 34 years, Green Business Network Director Denise Hamler has retired from Green America.
Whether you’ve met Denise once or have worked with her for a lifetime, you know she is a force for good and makes real change happen. Her joy for life—and bubbly laughter—always leave you energized.
Green America (then Co-op America) first opened its office on September 25, 1982, in Washington, DC. From the beginning, Denise gave 34 years to the organization, working hard to grow the green economy. She has enjoyed working with so many innovative green business leaders and change-makers over the years.
Denise tells the story of first starting at Green America, working from a shoebox full of index cards with members’ names and addresses. She adds, “I thought I was only going to have this job for 6 months!”
Three decades later, Green America engages with millions of people, from every background, who share our vision for environmental sustainability and social justice. Denise’s fearless spirit has helped lead us every step of the way.
When Green America began, Denise had a two-year-old son. Now, she has a two-year-old grandson.
View highlights from Denise’s retirement party:

Green America’s Board of Directors invites you to make a gift in honor of Denise’s many contributions to social justice and environmental sustainability. Gifts will be placed in a special Denise Hamler Endearment Fund that will support our powerful green economy programs.
Our goal is to raise $1,000 for every year she has served our mission — $34,000! The fund will remain open until December 31, 2016. Please celebrate Denise’s extraordinary legacy by making a tax-deductible donation today.

(Source: http://www.greenbusinessnetwork.org/denise-hamler-retires-after-34-years-at-green-america/)

Green Business Network: Join us at the San Francisco Green Festival, Nov. 11-13, 2016

by  | Oct 27, 2016
Join us to celebrate the 15th annual San Francisco Green Festival Expo, Nov. 11-13, 2016, at a new location: Pier 35. Green Festival is excited to spread healthy and sustainable initiatives in convention centers. San Francisco presentations and mentoring sessions kick off on Friday, Nov. 11. Enjoy the vibrant green marketplace and attend programming all weekend long on green business and green living.

Exhibit in the Green Marketplace
Ready to exhibit and make holiday sales? Join the nation’s leading sustainability event and reach new green customers.
Green Business Network Members: Save 10% on exhibiting with your exclusive discount.

B2B Power Seminars for your Green Business
Get the most out of Green Festival to grow your business. Sign up for a free 20 minute power session on topics critical to your success, from leading entrepreneur growth engine Expert DOJO. To register or for more information, contact Rob Butler at rbutler@greenfestivals.org.
Green Business Experts at Green Festival Expo
Learn from a wide range of experts in sustainable business and social enterprise at the San Francisco Green Festival Expo. Check out some of the weekend’s inspiring speakers:

Plus join Green America’s featured session with President and CEO Alisa Gravitz:
Clean Energy, Agriculture & Climate Justice: The Three Essential Climate Strategies
After the hottest summer on record, we need to ramp up climate solutions. Alisa Gravitz will discuss the trends and the most effective climate strategies. We can win—if we double down now. Find out how we can do it.
Help your favorite non-profit working to improve the bay area win $5,000. Green Festival supports inspiring organizations that educate and benefit their local communities with the Green Festival Community Award. You’ll have a chance to vote online prior to the Festival or on the show floor. The winner will be declared Sunday afternoon at the Expo.
All exhibitors are nominated for the Green Festival Brand Award. Exhibitors: invite your followers to vote for you.
For lodging, directions, volunteering opportunities, and more general show info, head to the Green Festivals website.

(Source: http://www.greenbusinessnetwork.org/join-us-at-the-san-francisco-green-festival-nov-11-13-2016-pier35/)