Bike to Work Days (Year-Round)!

by Mark Frieden, Crossbow Strategies

Tired of road traffic or Metro delays? Have you ever considered riding a bike to work? The annual Bike to Work Day is celebrated on the third Friday of May, (5/19/17), not only in the Washington, DC area, but also around the country. In the Washington area, Bike to Work Day is organized by Commuter Connections and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) and sponsored by area companies and biking organizations. If you’re looking for people in your area to ride with, you can post on the Bike Arlington forum, even if you don’t live in Arlington. On your way to work or on your way home next Friday, you can stop at one of the 85 area pit stops along the way.  

Bike infrastructure in the Washington area has grown substantially over the last several years with protected bike lanes and connected bike trails, making bike commuting much safer for riders and for motorists. Capital Bikeshare has grown to over 440 stations with 3,700 bikes in DC, Arlington, Alexandria, Montgomery County and now in Fairfax County centered around the Tysons and Reston areas. The service offers daily, monthly, annual and corporate memberships. This is a great solution for getting to and from a bus or train station that may be further away than you want to walk.

Want to make biking to work a habit instead of just one day a year? Here’s what you’ll need to commute by bike to your office and back home. In addition to having a bike in good working condition, you’ll need a helmet, water bottle and a backpack or panniers to carry clothing and other work items. To lighten your load while cycling in on the middle days of the week you can drive in or take public transit to work on Monday with clothes for those days then do the reverse on Friday when you bring home all the clothes.

The obvious benefit of biking to work is the exercise, but it can also save you money in terms of fuel, maintenance and parking. When I biked to work from Arlington to DC, I was also able to enjoy views of the Potomac River, Jefferson Memorial and the Mall. Once I got to work, showered changed and sat at my desk, I was more energized for the work day.  

Employers can earn LEED points for their building and add points for their company’s B Impact Assessment in order to become a Certified B Corporation by providing incentives for employees to bike to work such as bike racks and changing facilities. In the Washington area, benefits are available for bike commuters and employers.

If you want more tips on biking to work, providing incentives for your employees to participate or how you can make getting to work easier for your staff, please contact me at mark@crossbowstrategies.com

Experience the Living Building Challenge at the Alice Ferguson Foundation

During the last century, residential and commercial buildings have evolved from one- or two-story structures heated by fireplaces, lighted by candles with no running water to ones of several stories connected to the grid to provide energy for heating, cooling and lighting and modern plumbing to provide potable water and sanitation. The LEED standard was developed by the U.S. Green Building Council in the 1990s to help architects, designers and developers create buildings that are more energy-efficient, use recycled materials and are generally healthier for their occupants.

Now comes the Living Building Challenge, an even higher standard launched in 2009 by the Cascadia Green Building Council located in the Cascades region of the U.S. and Canada. The standard considers seven performance areas: site, water, energy, health, materials, equity and beauty. These areas are then subdivided into twenty imperatives such as net positives for energy, water and waste.

If you’re located in the Mid-Atlantic region, you can learn more from the experts who have had experience managing a living building project. The Greater Washington DC Chapter of the International Society of Sustainability Professionals (ISSP) is hosting Experience the Living Building Challenge at the Alice Ferguson Foundation in Accokeek, Maryland, on Saturday, May 20, from 9:45am to 2pm.

To learn more about the event, the speakers and to register, please go to: http://bit.ly/2mcIxIk 

What Is Your Business Doing For Earth Day?

The first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, brought together over 20 million Americans for rallies, speeches and meetings to talk about the environment and ways they could fight pollution of the air, water and land. Earth Day celebrations have been held ever since by average citizens in their communities and, increasingly, by businesses.

Does your business have plans to celebrate Earth Day in 2017?

This year Earth Day falls on a Saturday, which is also the March For Science in Washington, DC and many cities around the U.S. If you can’t make it for that, here are a few ways your company can take part:

·      Partner with a local environmental non-profit organization. They will often organize clean ups of parks or local waterways, and not just around Earth Day.

·      Conduct a waste audit of your company’s facilities. (I know, fun!) Find out how much is thrown away, recycled and composted, by weight over a week, and see if waste can be reduced and recycling and composting can be increased.

·      Visit a local farmers market. There are almost 150 markets in Virginia, DC and Maryland. The people working the stands will often provide you with cooking tips and recipes.

·      Invite an environmental expert to speak to your employees. They can often be found at local universities, schools or museums.

·      These are just a few ideas, and if you can’t schedule something for April plan an event any time of year. Remember, every day is Earth Day!

Did you know that the idea for Earth Day started in Virginia? In 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin gave a presentation about sustainable practices to a conference of law and medical students at the Airlie Conference Center in Warrenton, Virginia. That same year he had witnessed a massive oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara and was inspired to tap into the energy of the Vietnam War protests at the time and create a movement to demand a clean environment.

Employee Profit Sharing: Is It Right For Your Business?

If employees at your company are paid well, offered benefits such as health care and paid time off, then the company is like many in the U.S. What other compensation can be offered to new employees or added as an incentive for current employees to stay, thus reducing the time and cost of hiring replacements? Many companies that want to differentiate themselves from their competitors and attract and retain the best talent can offer employee profit sharing.

Employee profit sharing may or may not be a good fit for your business or something to implement right now. The business should be profitable for at least three years for consistency. While profit sharing can be attractive to employees, company owners and managers need to be sure the profits are there to share and that employees are truly motivated by financial rewards.

Here are some things to consider for a successful profit-sharing plan:

·      Make sure you have a written plan that includes who’s eligible. Eligible employees should have worked for the company for a minimum number of months. 

·      Consider giving a higher portion of the profit shares to those who have worked for several years at the company.

·      If you have part-time employees, will they be included in the plan?

·      Determine how often profits are distributed, quarterly, semi-annually, annually.

·      Reward employee behaviors, especially those who go above and beyond their job requirements.

·      Number of employees, rate of employee turnover, profit margins and industry

While these are only a few items to look at before implementing profit sharing, you’ll also want to consult a tax professional to determine how the profit sharing is distributed with regards to state and federal taxes.

Treating employees well with good pay, benefits and rewards that motivate them whether financial or otherwise should translate into a more valuable workforce which, in turn, translate into happier customers. For those companies seeking B Corp certification or recertification, all these things can mean a higher score on the B Impact Assessment.

Giving Back (Strategically)

Businesses, large and small, and in every industry, often give back to their communities in the form of monetary or in-kind donations, volunteer time or through a foundation. Do you know how your company gives back?

The reasons vary as to why companies donate time, money or products to a local charity or a cause. It could be a favorite of the CEO; the company could have ties to a local non-profit, or it may be left up to individual employees to choose the organizations to which they donate, often with the company matching employees’ donations dollar for dollar. Giving back can make a company’s employees feel good about working there, enhance the company’s positive image and provide tax benefits for the company.

Companies that think strategically by donating money, time or products may also find that their generosity can also benefit their bottom line.

Technology companies such as Google and Microsoft run community programs that align with their business models. This includes educating school children about computer programming or donating computers. Some technology companies provide equipment or technological expertise to non-profit organizations that need technology for operations, fundraising or outreach communications.

Food and beverage producers rely on a steady stream of high-quality inputs needed to produce their products whether it’s water for soft drinks or ingredients for hummus. Pepsi’s philanthropic causes include sustainable agriculture and access to clean water. The Love & Hummus Company, a Certified B Corp based in San Francisco, donates to K-12 education-based organizations that support school garden programs.

Some companies such as MarketPoint, a strategic marketing and communications company based in Harford, Maryland, have adopted a three-tiered strategy of giving employees paid volunteer time, donating a portion of their revenues and providing products and services to deserving non-profit organizations.

Laura Pasternak, MarketPoint’s Principal and Chief Strategist explained her company’s strategy for giving back. “Since our inception, MarketPoint has believed in giving back to the community. But we were ad hoc in our approach. We wanted a way to ensure that as we grew, our contributions to the community – through financial donations, time and pro bona work – grew with us. Our 1-2-3 CSR Initiative puts a framework to our charitable work and ensures that all team members understand the targets and personally contribute to our corporate social responsibility efforts.”

Pasternak offered advice for companies who want to establish a CSR program. “Involve your employees in the process and define criteria that works for you.  Establishing metrics and goals provides clarity for the effort and communicates to employees the value your organization places on giving back to the community.”  

For those companies that are pursuing or have achieved Certified B Corp status, incorporating a strategic giving program into their business plans is a no brainer. Certified B Corp companies benefit all stakeholders – community, workers, suppliers, customers and the environment – not just shareholders. They are profitable businesses that also contribute to building an inclusive economy where everyone thrives.

BetterWorld Telecom, a founding B Corp based in Reston, Virginia, supports the community by donating 3% of its revenues to charities supporting children, education, the environment and fair trade. More than 75% of employees take paid time off to volunteer for community service and more than 10% of the company’s suppliers are located in low-income communities. James Kenefick, BetterWorld Telecom’s Chairman, says, “the B Corp movement shows us that business can be a driving agent of change.”

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A Good Search

Consumers are increasingly turning to their computers to do at least some shopping online whether it’s for food, clothing, gifts or pet items. Often we log onto to the same big online retailers because they usually have a larger selection, and we trust that they’ll deliver our order on time and without hassles. If we do a Google search, for example, to find products, we often click on the top links on a search result even if they’re paid ads.

What if we could shop with our values and purchase quality products from mission-driven companies that may not always land at the top of a search result?

On Black Friday 2016, DoneGood launched as both a mobile app and as an extension on the Chrome browser. Both are free to download, and they help shoppers find mission-driven companies selling products such as men’s clothing, women’s clothing, kids’ clothing, outdoor gear, shoes, bags, home, personal care & beauty, gifts and pet products.

Products can be filtered by values that support the environment, good labor practices, diversity or sustainable manufacturing processes and/or materials. All the companies featured on DoneGood have businesses practices that benefit their employees, their customers, their supply chain or the environment. Many have also have earned some type of third-party certification such as B Corporation, Fair Trade or GOTS certified organic cotton.

The idea for DoneGood came from founders Cullen Schwarz and Scott Jacobsen, who wanted to vote with their wallets and buy products from companies that aligned with their values.  They both moved to Washington, DC, in 2007 to work in politics. Conversations often centered around buying from companies that treated workers well or didn’t use toxic materials in the manufacturing process or in packaging. They continued to talk about the idea of buying from good companies and sharing this with others.

While Scott entered a Master’s degree program at Harvard, Cullen’s continued to advance in his career as a press secretary. While at Harvard, Scott discovered an incubator called iLab, which helped him and Cullen turn their idea of finding good companies into a business. They found an MIT grad with app development experience. The pilot app featured brick and mortar businesses making a positive impact in the Boston area.

To scale up and feature online businesses, they needed a data scientist. Scott found one who helped develop the search capability to identify online vendors that have third-party green certifications or align with any of the ten categories in the application under the filter heading “What Matters to You?” – Green, Organic/GMO Free, Vegan, Gives Back, Supports Workers, Women/Minority Owned, Made in the USA, Toxin Free, Cruelty Free, Recycled/Upcycled.

Some of the vendors that are featured offer discounts on purchases when you find their company through DoneGood. More features and capabilities will be available soon, and the company is fully funded through 2017 thanks to angel investors. Keep an eye on how DoneGood will help more good companies reach new customers and connect them to companies that are doing well by doing good.

 

Buying Local for a Stronger Community and Economy

With the holidays upon us we reflect on what we’re thankful for; prosperity, good health, good friends and family. It’s also the time when many of us start our holiday shopping and head to the malls or to our Internet devices. After all that shopping we may meet up with family and friends at a restaurant or bar. What if we shopped, dined and drank at locally owned businesses instead of national chains?

Falling in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday™ started in the town of Roslindale, Massachusetts, on November 27, 2010 to encourage holiday shoppers to buy from small, local retailers. Small Business Saturday™ is trademarked by American Express and is now championed by small businesses and elected officials in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In 2014 over $14 billion was spent at small independent businesses on that day, and in 2015 over 95 million Americans participated in Small Business Saturday™.

While these are great statistics for one day, what are the benefits to small businesses, their customers and the communities they serve the other 364 days of the year? Several independent studies have shown that the “multiplier effect” of spending money at locally owned retailers returns three times more money to the local economy versus spending at national chains. When compared to online retailers it’s a multiple of 50 times more going to the local economy. Dining at locally owned restaurants versus chains returns twice the money.

Small retail and restaurant owners often support other locally owned small businesses by purchasing products and services needed to run the business. This includes accounting, technology and printing services, office supplies and equipment and food. Locally owned businesses often pay higher wages compared to big-box retailers thus strengthening the local economy and reducing government assistance. When there is a critical mass of local businesses in a city or county, it’s an even bigger boost to the local economy.

Since many locally owned businesses locate in residential areas, customers can walk, bike or drive fewer miles to get there, creating less traffic and pollution versus driving to the big-box retailers or the malls. Locally owned retailers often carry locally produced products, thus boosting the “maker economy” in their communities. Restaurants often source from local farms where food tastes better than if it’s shipped across the country.

Other reasons to Shop Small include higher overall customer satisfaction, more knowledgeable staff and more community involvement – including making donations to local charities. As you shop and dine this holiday season think about your community and supporting the local store and restaurant owners, employees and producers that make it a more prosperous place to live, work and play.

 

Why I'm Starting Crossbow Strategies

The experience of working at both for-profit businesses and non-profit organizations has given me a perspective on the pros and cons of each. Businesses, for the most part, exist only to satisfy shareholders by increasing profits. They may donate to charities but it may not be part strategic in the sense that it benefits their stakeholders. Non-profit organizations focus on issues such as health, education or the environment and may have multiple revenue streams.

Businesses generally operate with the purpose of increasing profits but often don’t focus on solving social issues. Non-profits may struggle to bring in enough money through fundraising, memberships or other streams in order to solve the issues and meet the goals on which they’re working. What if there was a hybrid organization that could be profitable as well as be beneficial to society and the environment? In my opinion as well as others in the social impact space, there should be more profit-making impact businesses in the world.

That’s why I started Crossbow Strategies, a consulting practice that helps for-profit businesses increase value and increase their impact on the community and the environment. I’m also helping to grow the Certified B Corp movement.

Many companies have found that they can increase their value by growing profits while making a positive impact on their employees, customers, community and also the environment through reducing the use of resources such as energy, water and packaging. That’s where the B Corp certification comes in. It’s a third-party certification that similar to LEED certification for buildings or a USDA Organic certification for food products, but it certifies an entire company.

To become a Certified B Corp a company must complete the B Impact Assessment and earn a minimum score of 80 out of 200 points. They must also change their legal status to a benefit corporation if they’re located in one of the 30 U.S. states or Washington, DC, that recognize this type of business. Becoming a benefit corporation does not change a company’s tax status.

Certified B Corporations only make up a small percentage of the millions of companies around the world. As of the summer 2016, there are 1,800 B Corps in 50 countries covering 130 industries. Some familiar Certified B Corps include Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, Etsy and Seventh Generation. Large multinational corporations such as Unilever and Danone are exploring the certification.

The B Corp certification was developed by B Lab, a non-profit organization based in Pennsylvania, which has also worked with state legislatures to create the benefit corporation legal status for companies.

Some benefits of businesses becoming a Certified B Corporation include:

·      Differentiating themselves from competitors

·      Attracting investors who want long-term value

·      Attracting potential employees, especially millennials, who want to their work to have meaning

·      Benchmarking economic, environmental and social performance

·      Generating publicity

·      Partnering with peers

If you would like to find out how to increase your businesses long-term value and benefit all stakeholders, contact us at Crossbow Strategies.

Give Yourself a Gift By Opting Outside This Friday

Originally published on November 24 2015

On the day after Thanksgiving most of us are tired - and may still feel stuffed from overeating - but we're happy that we spent time with family and friends the day before. If you follow most of the nation's retailers, they want you to believe that you have to visit their stores to buy holiday gifts or things for yourself, often at prices you won't see again until the next Black Friday. 

There are others who believe that gifts are more than just physical stuff like clothing, electronics or gadgets that may give one instant gratification. If we want to really have something that lasts, something we can talk to family and friends about, something that stays with us a lifetime then we need to step outside and explore and opt for being outside this Friday. 

Even if you've lived in the same area for a long time as I have, there is that trail, that street, that park, that river or lake that you've not seen before or in a while or at this time of year. Spend a few hours outside and you'll see, hear and smell things you haven't experienced in a while. Want to take away something? Bring a camera.

Since many people are in front of a screen for several hours a day, exploring the outside world can help with relaxation and increased creativity at work. At the very least it's good exercise. Being outside for more than a few minutes may also  help create more of a work-life balance. According to a study published in Psychological Science, interacting with nature gives your brain a break from everyday overstimulation, which can have a restorative effect on your attention levels.

Do yourself a favor and join me, my wife and millions of others who won't be inside with the crowds trying to find a bargain (most aren't) and #optoutside. You'll remember it for a long time. You may change your mind about gifts for family and friends and give them an experience instead.