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37 LEADERS ON HOW TO USE BUSINESS FOR GOOD

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LEADERSHIP | WORKPLACE | SUSTAINABILITY | ENTREPRENEURSHIP


TABLE OF CONTENTS

SPOTLIGHT: BUSINESS TO THE RESCUE

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HOW BUSINESSES CAN STAND OUT BY DOING GOOD BY KAREN B. MOORE

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BUSINESS TO THE RESCUE: 28 LEADERS WEIGH IN*

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TIPS ON USING YOUR BUSINESS VOICE FOR ADVOCACY* BY DAVID LEVINE

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THE INSIDE STORY OF HOW MEETUP DECIDED TO #RESIST*

*Cover Story

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT WORKPLACE CULTURE

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FEATURE: HOW HIRING REFUGEES TRANSFORMED THIS MANUFACTURING BUSINESS BY ABIGAIL B. SCHNEIDER AND CHERI A. YOUNG

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INTERVIEW: SCOTT KRIENS’ JOURNEY FROM TECH MOGUL TO CONSCIOUS LEADER

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BUILD YOUR NEXT-GEN LEADERS BY JESSICA G. HARTUNG


SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS

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BAKE CONSCIOUSNESS INTO YOUR COMPANY’S FOUNDING DOCUMENTS BY J. KIM WRIGHT AND LINDA ALVAREZ

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP

THE NEW ECONOMY

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INTERVIEW: ADAM LOWRY OF RIPPLE FOODS AND METHOD

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HOW TO KEEP CO-FOUNDER LOVE ALIVE BY MOE CARRICK

A NEW SCALE FOR TRUE BUSINESS CONSCIOUSNESS BY NATHAN HAVEY

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ARCADIA POWER IS BRINGING RENEWABLE ENERGY TO THE MASSES


EDITOR’S NOTE May / June 2017 | Issue 13 The Conscious Company Magazine Team EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Rachel Zurer CO-FOUNDER Meghan French Dunbar CO-FOUNDER Maren Keeley CHIEF COMMUNITY OFFICER Kate Herrmann ART DIRECTOR Cia Lindgren CHIEF EXPANSION OFFICER Aaron P. Kahlow CHIEF CULTURE OFFICER Amber Lee Eckert COPY EDITORS Robin Dickerhoof Shane Gassaway WEBSITE GURU Chad Kelsey Bunsun Designs TRANSCRIPTIONIST Carla Faraldo NEWSSTAND CONSULTANT Curtis Circulation Company PRINTING Publication Printers

GENERAL INQUIRIES, SUBSCRIPTIONS, AND REPRINTS

info@consciouscomag.com WRITER’S GUIDELINES

consciouscompanymedia.com/pages/submit-a-story ADVERTISING

THE MEANING OF “CONSCIOUS COMPANY” “So what exactly is a conscious company?” It’s a question we get asked a lot, and one we’re constantly asking ourselves. It’s one I myself had to answer for the first time a bit more than a year ago when I announced I was leaving a promising job at a 43-year-old magazine and joining this small, scrappy team of entrepreneurs and dreamers. I had an answer then, I have a different answer now, and I expect I’ll have yet another one by this time next year as my understanding of this topic and movement evolve. So far, the Conscious Company Media team has deliberately avoided nailing down a set of criteria or a rigid definition. Instead, we’ve relied on the somewhat vague definition of “a company that takes all stakeholders into account and has a higher purpose beyond profit,” plus that old, trusty, and not necessarily illuminating mantra: “We know it when we see it.” Lately, though, a three-part framework has started to emerge in our whiteboard sessions, conference room conversations, and Google Docs. It’s one we’re using to organize the agenda for our first-ever conference of business leaders convening in San Francisco in June — the Conscious Company Leaders Forum. So what makes a conscious company? My answer today is that it’s any business that subscribes to a holistic view of sustainability that includes the self, the workplace, and the company’s effect on the world. It has to do with leadership, mission, and values, with a definite undercurrent of vulnerability and love. There’s a commitment to solving social problems, a sense that this universe and the people in it are all fundamentally connected, and an awareness of the impact we all have on each other every moment of every day. It’s related to the power of choices, to being intentional about how we show up, as individuals and as collections of humans working in teams. And it usually carries a mood of hope, possibility, and gratitude amidst the inescapable truth that it’s pretty darn hard work to be alive. If all that sounds impossibly abstract for the hard-boiled business world, I invite you to flip through these pages (and find us online) to read stories of real leaders and CEOs running successful companies that — whether or not they use the language of “conscious business” — align with those ideas. They’re proving every day that businesses can thrive while valuing personal development, a supportive workplace community, and a positive effect on all stakeholders. For now, these “conscious companies” hardly represent the mainstream. But that’s changing, fast. We’re committed to accelerating that transition and expanding its reach to help create a new economy that serves us all and leaves no one behind. If you’re already on that path, thank you — and let us know how we can serve you more. If you’re intrigued, or new to this whole “conscious business” thing — welcome. I can’t promise you clear-cut clarity, even on exactly what the phrase means, but after my first year on this train, I can promise that it’s a game-changing, life-affirming, inspiring ride. We hope you’ll hop aboard. — Rachel Zurer, Editorial Director

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A QUICK-START GUIDE TO

CONSCIOUS COMPANY STEP

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EXPLORE THIS ISSUE Read these three stories first for the best overview of the field. • Karen B. Moore’s explanation of how and why corporate advocacy is important (page 10). • The inspiring true story of James Ruder (page 34), the Harley-loving, devoutly Christian owner of a pallet manufacturing business who transformed his company and life by doing the hard work necessary to hire a workforce of refugees. • Our interview with tech mogul Scott Kriens about what conscious leadership looks like and how it’s important to business success (page 46).

STEP

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DIVE INTO DEEPER READING These visionary books can give you a good baseline of the theories and ideas that are shaping the emerging conscious business movement. • Self: “The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success” by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, and Kaley Klemp (2015) • Workplace: “An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization” by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey (2016) • World: “Firms of Endearment: How World-Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose” by Rajendra Sisodia, David B. Wolfe, and Jagdish N. Sheth (2007)

STEP

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REACH OUT TO RESOURCES These industry groups and organizations are a great place for those new to thinking about sustainability in this way to learn more and connect with role models. • Conscious Capitalism (consciouscapitalism.org) Through local chapters and national events, this group helps companies and leaders enact its four guiding principles for how business can bring value to the world. • Great Place to Work (greatplacetowork.com) The research group behind Fortune’s annual Best Companies to Work For list offers resources and expertise around how to build a high-trust workplace culture that engages employees and drives better business. • The B Team (bteam.org) This international movement, co-founded by Richard Branson, has a mission to deliver a Plan B that puts people and planet alongside profit. CONSCIOUS COMPANY MAGAZINE

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SPOTLIGHT: BUSINESS TO THE RESCUE

6 WAYS CORPORATIONS CAN STAND OUT BY DOING

An effective advocacy strategy can differentiate you from the competition and build passion among consumers and clients. HerE's why your corporation needs one, and 6 steps to get you there. BY KAREN B. MOORE

Advocating for social change is becoming an expected part of doing business, fueled by consumers who demand that corporations use their resources and inuence to accomplish good in the world. Millennials in particular are more likely to spend time and money with brands that are committed to social impact. Doing the right thing, then, is good business strategy. Advocacy can differentiate you from the competition and build passion for your brand, but successful action requires authenticity and a plan. Here are six important things to consider to help you meet those requirements.

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Build The Framework Most business leaders value strategic planning, but they often overlook the role of advocacy in this process. We’ve seen companies seizing upon current events as opportunities for social action, but their efforts would be even more powerful if executed through an existing framework of advocacy. Here are several considerations for getting started on building such a framework: • Identify causes that align with your brand and the actions you want to influence. • Determine what success looks like and how you will measure it. • Weigh potential risks and outcomes. • Define target audiences and what actions you want them to take. • Identify internal and external champions and potential partners. • Develop key messages and the channels you will use to relay them. • Consider other logistical elements, such as budget and timeline. Thinking about advocacy now will add an element of sustainability to your efforts and strengthen results.

Empower Your Employees Employees can be your brand’s most effective ambassadors. They know your story better than anyone and wield strong credibility. When they’re empowered to share and act, they transform customers into loyalists. Employees’ passions can also guide your company’s advocacy in ways that impact your audiences. In addition to its corporate commitment to zerolandfill production plants and fuel efficiency, Subaru of America Inc., for example, encourages retailers to meet local needs through the “Subaru Love Promise.” Retailers have hosted animal adoption events, placed recycling bins in a national park, built homes, collected food, and raised money for local nonprofits. Subaru has contributed $50 million and 28,000 volunteer hours over the past 20 years to diverse causes while creating one of the auto industry’s most loyal customer followings. In 2016, Subaru topped Experian Automotive’s manufacturer and brand loyalty rankings, which analyzed about 6.8 million auto repurchases from 2014 to 2015. Subaru’s advocacy culture resonates with customers who keep coming back, and letting on-the-ground employees have a role in shaping that advocacy is part of why it works so well.

View Customers And Other Stakeholders As Partners The first levels of business advocacy are taking a stand and devoting corporate resources to a cause or issue, but brands that truly connect with audiences take it farther and engage clients in action. Consumers want to do business with brands that share their beliefs and values, and they want to help shape corporate advocacy. Airbnb, for example, followed its #weaccept Super Bowl ad with a plan that enlisted the help of its community members. The company offered free housing to refugees, set a goal to provide short-term housing for 100,000 people displaced for various reasons, and pledged $4 million to the International Rescue Committee. Airbnb then asked, “How do you want to help?” People could respond by opening their own homes, making donations, or by telling Airbnb about other urgent housing needs. Give your stakeholders multiple ways to communicate with you, bring them into the creative process, and empower them to influence your advocacy.

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Understand Your Audience

Be Transparent and Honest

Traditionally, brands have been reluctant to support controversial issues because of the uncertainty involved. The risk is that you will alienate customers or potential customers. If you avoid social action altogether, however, you miss out on a powerful opportunity to make a difference and cultivate champions — of both your brand and your cause — who share your values. Understanding your audience is the key to operating in a landscape where more consumers demand social action. Remember, your advocacy doesn’t have to appeal to everyone, but it must resonate with your core customers. What happened with Uber in January 2017 demonstrates the importance of staying in tune with your stakeholders. As taxi drivers stopped working at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport in protest of President Trump’s executive order on immigration, Uber turned off surge pricing. Some consumers saw this as a move to profit from the cab drivers’ work stoppage. The ensuing #DeleteUber movement prompted at least 200,000 people to delete their accounts. Uber saw its action as a business decision, but some customers viewed it as a cynical anti-labor ploy or at least evidence of a company not in tune with the effects of its actions. Although the long-term effects of #DeleteUber are unclear, the company obviously did not anticipate the strong reactions to its decision. There are many strategies and data tools available to help business leaders understand their audiences and avoid similar mistakes: • Survey employees, customers, and other stakeholders regularly. Ask them about their thoughts, priorities, and passions. • Mine consumer reviews, customer service interactions, and social media messages for insights. • Test corporate messaging and make adjustments based on audience feedback. Advocacy might, at times, call for taking an unpopular stand, but companies should do so from an informed point of view and be prepared to manage reactions.

Before engaging in social action, examine your brand. Remember, a brand is not a logo or an identity, but rather a gut feeling about a product, service, or company that must be nurtured over time. Advocacy works best when it’s authentic and aligns with your brand. Audiences will be suspicious of action that doesn’t mesh with what they already know about you. Be up-front about your advocacy alignment; the why of your supporting or directly engaging in causes. If you take a position that represents a significant departure from your brand, do so carefully and take the time to explain your motivations. Being transparent and consistent fosters buy-in, cultivates employee morale, and increases consumer trust.

Tap Into The Power Of Social Media More and more consumers are bypassing search engines and turning to social media as their initial point of contact with brands. They’re also using social media in lieu of the company website to submit reviews and customer service inquiries. For these reasons, social media can’t just be a box that you check. It must be a strategic part of your overall operations and advocacy. • Share stories that connect you to your consumers and your consumers to each other. • Post regularly to keep audiences informed and engaged. • Issue specific calls to action. • Provide prompt, thoughtful, and genuine responses. Advocacy represents an opportunity for many companies to create positive change in the world and achieve powerful business results. Build your plan, commit to transparency and authenticity, know your audiences, and then act boldly. Karen B. Moore is founder and CEO of Moore Communications Group and author of “Behind the Red Door: Unlock Your Advocacy Influence and Success.” Find her at karenbmoore.com.

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BUSINESS

TO THE

RESCUE WE ASKED OUR NETWORK OF TOP CEOs, SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS, AND LEADERS IN THE CONSCIOUS BUSINESS MOVEMENT THIS TIMELY QUESTION:

“What do you think is the role of companies and businesses in solving social problems and advocating for policy?” Here’s some of what we heard >>>


SPOTLIGHT: BUSINESS TO THE RESCUE

“We don’t lose sleep over a few people who may disagree with our advocacy efforts.

WHAT KEEPS US UP AT NIGHT ARE RAPIDLY PROLIFERATING SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS, and the very real possibility that our planet’s outdoor playgrounds might not be around for the next generation to enjoy. That’s why we will continue to act as we have since the first day we set up shop —

FIGHTING FOR WHAT’S RIGHT AND EMPOWERING OTHERS TO DO THE SAME.” // Ann Krcik, senior director of brand communications and outdoor exploration, The North Face

It’s important now more than ever for businesses to stand up for the change they want to see in the world. No longer can a business stand on the sidelines and hope elected officials create change.” // Bryan Papé, CEO and founder, MiiR

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Apply to become part of the Conscious Company Leaders Roundtable at consciouscompanymedia.com/roundtable.

CONSCIOUS COMPANY MAGAZINE


Every company has a moral duty to play an active role.

After this beautiful experiment of democracy we’ve had for 250 years, it’s clear that government alone can’t do the job.

I’ve often said that if every company adopts its hometown, we can solve every problem around us.” // John Replogle, president and CEO, Seventh Generation

“Businesses have a right, and indeed a responsibility, to advocate for sound public policy that advances societal wellbeing. It’s important that they not advocate in a purely self-interested way, though societal interests and those of the company can often align. Businesses should view society as a key stakeholder and seek to help solve problems that are related to the company’s purpose and competencies. Done right, this can result in positive impacts on the company’s other stakeholders as well.” // Raj Sisodia, co-founder and chairman emeritus, Conscious Capitalism Inc.

“We have to lead by example. Thanks to social media, the voice of a company is just as loud as the pundits’.” // Matthew Griffin, co-founder and CEO, Combat Flip Flops

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SPOTLIGHT: BUSINESS TO THE RESCUE

“Our goal has been, and will always be, to bring to bear all this brand can muster in defense of and advocacy for our values.” // Ted Manning, CEO, Ibex Outdoor Clothing

“There are social issues at stake within every industry, and how we use our resources and influence in service of those issues can have real impact. For us, that takes many shapes, from encouraging our employees to volunteer on company time to speaking up on policy that supports a healthy food system.”

“If we did not take a stand when it came to causes we believe in, we would not be true to our values as a business.” // David Bolotsky, CEO and founder, UncommonGoods

// Kevin Cleary, CEO, Clif Bar & Company

“Unlike many companies, we are actively asking for more regulation over our own industry. We believe that regulation does not squash innovation. The whole reason Beautycounter was started was to solve the social problem of the unregulated beauty industry. We’ll continue to advocate for stricter laws.” // Gregg Renfrew, founder and CEO, Beautycounter

“As business owners, we do not operate in a vacuum. We benefit from our interaction with everyone in the supply chain. If we are blessed enough to prosper, we have a moral obligation to reach out beyond ourselves and our corporate interests to serve humanity.” // Betsy Babcock, founder, Handsome Brook Farm

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“I don’t think all business leaders should be addressing all social problems, but they should be engaged on the issues their businesses are purposely and actively changing.” // Jeff Shinabarger, founder and executive director, Plywood People


It’s our core purpose and ultimate intention to

empower people

— through education and solutions — so they can live their healthiest, happiest life. And translating that work to advocacy and legislative and regulatory reform is equally important, as business is traditionally more nimble and progressive in this arena.” // Christopher Gavigan, co-founder and chief purpose officer, The Honest Company

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“We need to be discerning in how we position ourselves. Our clients are not all [liberal] yoga teachers in San Francisco. They’re small-business owners, and a lot of them are Republican and conservative. We need to respect that point of view. Yet there’s opportunity in almost all things. We’re going to take an active role in lobbying for the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act. Two congressmen from two different states — one Republican, one Democrat — are co-sponsoring a bill that will allow people to use pre-tax earnings to pay for fitness. What we’re talking about is leveraging the 60,000 customers we have, the 330,000 practitioners they employ, and the 5 million registered users of the MINDBODY app to get into some political lobbying for this one thing that I’m certain every one of our [studio-owner] customers agrees with.” // Rick Stollmeyer, co-founder and CEO, MINDBODY

“My personal point of view is that to enter political arguments with any specific policy prescription is a no-win situation right now because the political discourse is just so toxic. Go beat the businesses that are lining the pockets of the politicians who are doing nothing for us. When we beat them, then that entrenched special interest goes away.” // Adam Lowry, co-CEO and co-founder of Ripple Foods and co-founder of Method

“One of my favorite quotes from the ‘Spider-Man’ series is ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ I believe that companies are here to serve the consumer, employees, investors, the community, and citizens of the planet. That also means we need to be responsible by taking into account the true costs of goods, including the impact on the earth.” // Kevin Rutherford, president and CEO, nuun

“We regularly use our company voice to stand up for our core values and beliefs. And it’s our responsibility to view each of our own policies and practices as ways to build the world we want to see.” // Kristin Hull, founder, CCO, and CEO, Nia Global Solutions

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BUSINESS CAN AND MUST PLAY A ROLE IN SOLVING SOCIAL PROBLEMS AND ADVOCATING POLICY. WE BELIEVE OUR ROLE IS TO:

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Be a living example that business success and social and environmental responsibility can go hand in hand, in order to inspire other companies to follow suit. Begin meaningful dialogue with people who don’t share our views. Unlike a group of self-selected friends, as businesses we cater to a political mix of customers and are therefore provided a powerful opportunity to genuinely engage with folks who disagree with our viewpoints. At Peak, we strive to maintain respectful productive dialogue with customers who disagree with our words or actions. Use our business platform for sharing our values with the goal of mobilizing our customers to take action, even if it means we might lose customers who do not share our views. Provide customers an opportunity to “vote with their dollars” by being a company that stands for something. And, similarly, to vote with our business dollars. We joined Patagonia in taking our tradeshow dollars out of the Outdoor Retail Show in Utah [due to conflicts over the state’s public lands policy] because we believe it is the right thing to do.

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Use our marketing as a tool for consumer education instead of mass consumption by encouraging customers to buy less, to buy better, and to keep and use longer. Redefine, by example and open dialogue, what business “success” means today so that it’s not merely a measure in financial terms but also in how a business addresses social problems. Leverage our business resources to develop innovative ways for raising awareness and doing good. Give a Shot, a website we developed that connects photographers wanting to donate their talent with nonprofits in need of visual content, grew out of our work as a company in the photography industry. We began hearing photographers talk about wanting to help but not knowing how. Cashstrapped nonprofits are always in need of good photo and video content but can’t afford to hire professionals much of the time. Give a Shot connects these two groups.

// PETER DERING, FOUNDER AND CEO, PEAK DESIGN Beautycounter’s Gregg Renfrew (center) lobbying in DC with her team (see page 16).


SPOTLIGHT: BUSINESS TO THE RESCUE

Companies have a unique role to play in solving social problems, as a market-based approach requires you to put your customer first and really think about what they want and what they need. If you’re selling something, the willingness to pay is a strong indicator for whether a solution is valuable.” // Jonathan Cedar, co-founder and CEO, BioLite

“Advocating for a social cause can help shape public opinion in powerful ways.

EVERY COMPANY MUST DECIDE IF AND HOW THEY WILL USE THIS SUPERPOWER. Companies risk alienating consumers who disagree with their point of view, but hopefully it at least opens up a dialog about that subject.” // Roy Glidden, co-founder, Beanfields Snacks

“I see my role as driving change in the marketplace — not so much at the policy level. It’s my hope that progress in policy matters will naturally follow, because the marketplace will demand it.” // Fred Haberman, founder of Haberman and co-founder of Urban Organics

“It’s important that every single person within the company is for solving the social problem or addressing policy. A company cannot be on board as a united force unless its employees are also on board.” // Sandra Nomoto, CEO, Conscious Public Relations Inc.

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Businesses and business leaders have a responsibility to be activists. I use the word ‘activist’ rather than ‘advocacy’ because it includes that core idea of action. That’s certainly what this company is committed to do —

now, more than ever.

It’s incumbent upon all businesses to rise to the occasion, and it’s in their self-interest. I continue to be perplexed by how many businesspeople I still run into who don’t seem to understand the most fundamental of connections: that without a healthy planet supporting healthy societies, none of them are going to have healthy markets.

If none of them can see long term, they don’t really deserve to be in their positions of leadership.” // Rick Ridgeway, vice president of public engagement, Patagonia

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SPOTLIGHT: BUSINESS TO THE RESCUE

Through our company, we can make our own voices heard, as well as the voices of our customers, to effect real and lasting change.”

Companies represent the collective actions of millions, and those actions have weight. At the end of the day, companies — and the men and women who run them — have enormous power in shaping the world we all live in. I believe in using that power for good.” // Tom Matzzie, founder, president, and CEO, CleanChoice Energy

// Nova Covington, founder and CEO, Goddess Garden Organics

“Don’t just throw [advocacy] out there to be part of the conversation. Do so with the same tenacity and commitment you give to any other business decision.” // Scot Tatelman, co-founder, STATE Bags

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For the full versions of these quotes and answers from another 20+ business leaders, go to consciouscompanymedia.com/may17_bttr.

CONSCIOUS COMPANY MAGAZINE


“ With so much at stake in today’s world,

social awareness isn’t just good for business, it’s a moral imperative.” // Anna Auerbach, co-founder and co-CEO, Werk

“The role of business is to inspire all stakeholders in society to shift their thinking and behavior in ways that serve everyone as well as themselves. This is critical, as brands cannot survive in societies that fail and the compounding social challenges we face require the full might of the private sector if we’re going to meet them with equal force.” // Simon Mainwaring, founder and CEO, We First Inc.

“Modern businesses must be strong citizen advocates, as ‘business’ carries more clout than an individual. We must take risks now. The future is at stake.” // Joel Solomon, chair, Renewal Funds

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Today, more than ever, policymakers need to hear from conscious business leaders. Here’s how to best use your platform to engage and advocate for the world you want to create. BY DAVID LEVINE 26

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Since the start of his campaign for president, Donald Trump has made his point of view clear: run the country more like a business, and success will follow. The qualifications of many of his top advisors and cabinet members reflect this idea that a “business mindset” is the solution to our country’s ills. But many leaders in the conscious, sustainable business community strongly disagree with the view of business that has taken hold in Washington. The Trump administration and its allies in Congress seem to see business as extractive and focused on short-term profit at all costs. This version of “running government like a business” actually threatens, rather than strengthens, much of what responsible businesspeople hold dear — and is a step backwards on the journey to a triplebottom-line economy.

YOUR BUSINESS VOICE IS POWERFUL — USE IT. For conscious business leaders who want to advance a sustainable economy, the course of action is clear. It’s time to stand up and let your voice be heard — together with others in the business community. It’s our responsibility as business leaders to turn the country towards an economy based on the promise and practice of business as a force for good. When business leaders speak up for what they believe, they get more attention than average citizens. CEOs get quoted in the media and business perspectives hold a lot of sway in Washington and in statehouses. This credibility — and power — gives socially-minded, mission-driven business leaders an important role in protecting the progress we’ve made in areas like high-road employment practices and protecting the environment. This special clout also enables conscious business leaders to push for the systemic changes needed to put the economy on a path towards a sustainable future. Convinced? Use the following advice to start or enhance your engagement as a business leader in advocating for positions you believe in.

THREE TACTICS FOR ENGAGING WITH POLICY AS A BUSINESS LEADER 1 // BUILD YOUR POWER BY JOINING WITH OTHERS

You don’t have to act alone. You may know other business owners and executives who share your views and are interested in stepping up. Connect with them and build an informal (or formal) support network, starting with those in your own community, state, or region.

Also look for business allies in the groups you are already part of, such as chambers of commerce and industry associations. Push them to endorse principles and values you support as they engage in policy discussions. In addition, join local, state, and national organizations that you know align with your values and business goals and are willing to speak out and advance a conscious agenda. Our organization, the American Sustainable Business Council, is an easy place to start. Finally, Conscious Company is pulling together a Conscious Business Coalition made of industry groups and business leaders committed to finding new ways to act on their principles. Get involved by joining the inaugural Conscious Company Leaders Forum this June in San Francisco. The focus will be how to improve our own capacity as leaders to create amazing places to work and advocate for causes and issues important to the world at large.

2 // LEVERAGE THE MEDIA’S INTEREST IN BUSINESS LEADERS

As a business leader, you probably already do everything you can to promote your business, products, and services via the media. By adding your policy perspectives to all your communications, you can build support for healthier policies in the same way. In fact, it can be more appealing for journalists to engage with you to talk about your point of view and your business case with a view to a larger societal issue. When policy issues arise that matter to you — and are relevant to your business — you can let the media know


SPOTLIGHT: BUSINESS TO THE RESCUE

where you stand. Offer yourself as an interview subject, or volunteer to appear on talk shows to share your perspective from the business point of view. Just make sure to prepare as you would for a sales meeting with your most important prospect! If you work with a public relations professional, make sure they know and understand the nuances of the issues you’re interested in advocating for, in addition to the operations and goals of your business, so they can help you spot and secure relevant opportunities as they come up. Easier to control, but equally important, is taking the time to write op-eds and letters to the editor. If you’re new to this kind of writing,

offices and ask to schedule a meeting the next time they are in. Tell them that you want to share your experience as a businessperson in the community they serve, and why this specific issue matters to you and your business. In your meeting, ask them what they hear from other business leaders. Explain how your direct experiences as a businessperson have led you to the conclusions you have and the policy solutions you support. This is a great opportunity to focus on the business case for your policy position. Counter any arguments that support the short-term-profit-at-all-costs business agenda and mindset. Ask elected leaders what it would take for them to be persuaded to your point of view.

example, how immigrants are among your valued employees and customers and how they bring financial benefits to your business and to the entire economy. Or why providing living wages and good benefits for your employees advances a stronger economy. Or why a healthy ecosystem matters. In the face of deregulation or the de-funding of the enforcement of policies you agree with, you can point out needed protections for your community, employees, environment, and your business. One of the strongest messages a responsible business leader can deliver is that business can be a force for good and that businesses, and the society in which they operate, do well

“When business leaders speak up for what they believe, they get more attention than average citizens.” start with your local paper to get some experience before turning to bigger platforms. Finally, consider joining a public insight network of some kind so journalists know you’re available for comment and can send out requests around specific topics. American Public Media runs one at publicinsightnetwork.org; Conscious Company Media is also creating a roundtable of business leaders and CEOs. (Learn more at consciouscompanymedia.com/roundtable.)

3 // ENGAGE WITH POLICYMAKERS TO MAXIMIZE YOUR IMPACT When you identify yourself as a business owner or executive, elected officials will want to hear from you. Get familiar with your US representative, senators, and state elected officials. Research where they stand on the issues important to you and your business. Contact their district 28

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Let them know that you will support them if they support the proposals you care about. Invite them to tour your facility so they can see firsthand your principles and values in action. Plan to follow up to keep the dialogue going. Find more ideas on how to proceed at asbcouncil.org/resources-advocacy. Don’t forget you have the power not just to influence current elected officials, but to get involved in determining who will represent you in the future. Support people running for office who stand for your values, or consider running for office yourself.

MAKE THE BUSINESS CASE No matter which of the above routes you follow, remember to enhance your clout by telling your business story and making the business case for your point of view. As a business leader, you are in a unique position to point out, for

CONSCIOUS COMPANY MAGAZINE

(financially) by doing good. As the current administration and its allies in Congress prioritize the short-termprofit-at-all-costs agenda, responsible business leaders have unique power to prove that there is a better way. Use it.

David Levine is CEO and co-founder of the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC), which advocates for policy change to build a more sustainable economy. ASBC has a membership representing over 250,000 businesses and helps its members engage with policymakers, gain media exposure, inform the public, and more. Find out more at asbcouncil.org.


SPOTLIGHT: BUSINESS TO THE RESCUE

THE INSIDE STORY OF HOW MEETUP DECIDED TO

#RESIST In February 2017, this online community platform launched a network of groups to encourage civic participation. We got the inside scoop on how and why the company decided to take a stand. Meetup’s New York offices

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MEETUP AT A GLANCE Employees: 175 Location: New York, NY Founded: 2002 Traction: Nearly 300,000 groups on the platform Mission: “Meetup brings people together in thousands of cities to do more of what they want to do in life.”


Meetup has always been about community. Launched in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the online platform allows individuals to organize groups and in-person events around topics of their choice, from comic books to dog breeds to hiking. And, of course, politics and activism. Yet, until 2017, the company had always left the organizing to its members. All that changed on January 27, 2017, when President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning citizens from six Middle Eastern countries from entering the US. As protests erupted across the country, Meetup took a stand of its own. Within a week, the company had created and launched more than 1,000 #Resist Meetup groups with a mission “to bring people together to act in our neighborhoods on the values essential to democracy, like equality, human rights, social justice, and sustainability.” Unlike typical Meetup groups, which have designated organizers who pay a fee for using the platform, the #Resist Meetup groups are free and any member can host an event. At press time, the #Resist Meetup groups comprised 120,000 members in 50 US states and multiple countries, and had hosted more than 20,000 events. We spoke with Meetup’s communications director, Kristin Hodgson, to learn more about how the company decided to take a political stand and what they’ve learned from the experience. How did Meetup decide to get involved in this kind of advocacy? Kristin Hodgson: We didn’t take the decision to do this lightly. Meetup has never taken a political stance before, and it has always been core for Meetup to aim to bridge divides, to create community among people who share interests but might have different perspectives. Today, as ever, we welcome well-meaning conservatives as well as well-meaning Democrats. To come out in a way

that was on one side of the ideological divide was a real departure for us. So, of course there was a vigorous debate before we went forward. The spark that motivated us was the first travel ban the Trump administration issued. It was not our intention to wake up that week and take this kind of partisan action. Ultimately, we decided that the right thing to do was to use the power of our platform to help people meet up. We also felt as though the ban crossed a line that had to do with our values. What are those values that the travel ban crossed? KH: Meetup works because people are open to strangers. We stand for creating welcoming spaces for people. This ban was all about blocking people on the basis of nationality and religion. Meetup wouldn’t work if people didn’t trust each other and open themselves to strangers. So, in a very fundamental way, it felt like our values were being stepped on. We made this call that we had to leverage our platform to do what we could to fight for the other side. If people were upset about that, as they were, we accepted that and didn’t let it prevent us from taking action. What was the behind-the-scenes story of how you decided to start these #Resist groups? KH: On the Monday after the ban was announced, our CEO held two sessions that were open to the entire company. Probably two dozen employees participated in those roundtables to brainstorm ways that Meetup might get involved. After polling the company, it turned into a leadership-level discussion about whether or not to proceed. Tuesday, the directors made the call to go forward. On Thursday and Friday, we held a company-wide hackathon, which we called a “Resist-a-thon.” We basically stopped operations

KRISTIN HODGON’S TOP 3 LESSONS FOR TAKING A STAND 1. BE WILLING TO BE BOLD. The moment that we’re living in requires it, and it’s going to take boldness of leadership to preserve basic democratic American values that we hold dear — not just in our individual lives as citizens, but also operating from our positions of power inside companies. 2. GET YOUR EMPLOYEES INVESTED. This is a best practice when-

ever you’re launching a new initiative. Make sure that there’s a shared vision and a shared sense of ownership for the outcome across all levels of the company. What was really, really special in this instance was how the entire company banded together and turned on a dime to make this thing happen. It turned out to be, for many involved, a really great teambuilding experience.

3. ACT FOR REAL IMPACT. In set-

ting this up, it was important not to just do something that was lip service or brand-building for Meetup, but to take action that was actually going to address the real need and the real issue at hand. People across the country wanted to get involved, but they weren’t exactly sure how, they weren’t exactly sure what actions to take, and they were seeking different ways to organize. We had a platform that addressed that key need, which made it possible to go for a really impactful solution. No matter what business you’re in, you know your assets. So think carefully about what you’re going to do that’s going to actually move things forward in an important way.

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SPOTLIGHT: BUSINESS TO THE RESCUE

for two days. The entire company — engineering, product, design, all the functions — worked together to launch these 1,000 groups and to add a bit of extra functionality that would make it so that the groups were free, that anyone within the group could schedule an event, and to make it really easy for us to distribute actions from partners we were bringing on, including Planned Parenthood, the Women’s March, Amnesty International, the ADL, and others. All this work happened in a really short period. The company was making a choice to invest all its resources in this direction. What’s the continuing investment to keep it functioning now that it’s built?

work is — the unusual assignment of taking this network that we’ve kicked off and finding a good home and a good steward who can take it forward on a permanent basis. Has there been any surprising or notable reaction from within the company to Meetup taking this stance? KH: There are probably a handful of employees who might have preferred that Meetup stay neutral, as we have in the past. When you get to be 175 people, you do have employees who have a variety of political viewpoints. The management realized some might not agree with the political direction we were taking. If this was something that didn’t speak to your

That’s a lot of events in a month. KH: Right, exactly. Each of those events is not like a march or a protest that’s going to have millions of people show up. It might be 10 people gathering in a coffee shop. But mobilizing people in real life in their local communities is what Meetup does best, and that is the unique contribution that our platform has to make in this moment. Let’s hear about any negative response you’ve had. KH: There was a week or two close to when we first launched the initiative where we did hear a lot of complaints from members who are, I assume,

“NO MATTER WHAT BUSINESS YOU’RE IN, YOU KNOW YOUR ASSETS. SO THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO DO THAT’S GOING TO ACTUALLY MOVE THINGS FORWARD.” KH: We’re in the platform business. We make the tool. We’re not in the business of actually running meetups, and so we recognized that to give this a real chance at making its full impact, we needed to bring in people with different kinds of expertise. Meetup has hired, on a temporary, contract basis, Jessica Morales Rocketto and Ashley Kroetsch to help us make these groups as successful and impactful as they can be. They are community organizers. They are political organizers. They’re some of the best around. The plan all along was for us to transition this network to another partner, person, entity, organization that is philosophically aligned, that can run [these Meetup groups] over the long haul. Just because we started them, we don’t want to hold them. That is part of what Jess and Ashley’s

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values or you had concerns with, you didn’t have to participate [in the Resist-a-thon]. But to my knowledge, nobody stepped out for ideological reasons, and my sense is that this was a source of great pride for employees, to work at a place that was willing to take such a bold stance and to feel like we were part of the solution.

supporters of Donald Trump or who otherwise just felt like we had gone too far in taking a political stance. And on social media, there were calls to boycott Meetup. There were some heated tweets that came our way.

What has the response been from your customers or audience to the company getting involved in activism in this way? Have you seen results yet?

KH: Just the way people are showing up. It’s so inspiring to see how motivated people are, and the ingenuity of the actions they’re taking. I feel like there’s more elbow grease in our political process and in civic issues than has been applied in my lifetime. We’re living through a difficult moment, but I’m hopeful that this level of engagement is something we’ll sustain and will lead to better outcomes in the future. Photo: Meetup

KH: We launched these groups, people joined them, and people are actively scheduling and showing up for resistance activities. So, in the most meaningful way, our members are responding really positively to these groups. We’ve seen 20,500 events so far.

CONSCIOUS COMPANY MAGAZINE

What’s giving you hope?


A TRUE STORY OF HOW HIRING REFUGEES TRANSFORMED THIS MANUFACTURING BUSINESS By Abigail B. Schneider and Cheri A. Young Photos by Andrew C. Repp

L&R Pallet owner James Ruder (center) with two of his department supervisors, refugees Htoo Htoo (left) and Ah Hki.


WORKPLACE CULTURE

Facing an embezzlement scandal and a 300 percent employee turnover rate, L&R Pallet was about to close its doors. Then the owner got a call from his local refugee resettlement agency — and reinvented his company.

O

n March 20, 2010, James Ruder, 42 years old and six feet tall, a Harley Davidson enthusiast with a solid build and spiked dark-blond hair, sat with his family holding hands around the dinner table in the house they had built just two years earlier. Typical brisk, sunny weather marked the start of spring in Castle Pines, CO, a small town south of Denver. Yet as the sun fell below the horizon, more than the temperature outside grew colder — it hardly felt like a day to celebrate new beginnings. With a leaden feeling in his chest, Ruder and his wife faced their three children to tell them that their company, L&R Pallet Service Inc., was dying. After 36 years as the family business, L&R was facing dire financial trouble, and Ruder wasn’t sure he could fix it, especially during

L&R PALLET AT A GLANCE Location: Denver, CO Founded: 1974 Team Members: 120 Structure: Private manufacturing company Impact: Nearly 70 percent of employees are refugees

the ongoing recession. Tears traced Ruder’s cheeks as his family sat in stunned silence. Then the volley of questions began. “Will we have to sell our home? How much will we have to downsize? Will the kids need to change schools?” L&R’s woes had already been weighing on Ruder; the fear in his family’s voices brought the hurt to another level. His business challenges felt like a deep, dark, winter night that might never end. Little did he know that the company’s troubles were about to get even worse — and that finding his way out of the mess would require a series of transformations both more intimate and more public than he could have conceived. Yet by 2017, L&R Pallet would become a prime example of how businesses can flourish, in all senses of the word, by investing in a purpose beyond simply making money. In L&R’s case, that newfound purpose is creating

a supportive community for an employee base of refugees — a goal the Ruder of 2010 couldn’t have fathomed. The remarkable evolution of Ruder as a leader, of his priorities for L&R, and of the company’s role in society took years to unfold. It followed a winding path, full of false starts and dead ends, and lots of stress and pain. Looking back on it now, there were probably easier ways to get from there to here, but Ruder couldn’t see what “here” looked like, as he had neither role model nor map available. That’s why it’s so important we share this story of how L&R became a flourishing, inspiring example of an exceptional workplace culture — especially in the manufacturing trades — and how Ruder himself found a new sense of meaning in his life’s work. L&R’s story holds universal lessons about the power of culture, purpose, and mission in both the workplace and life.

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uder’s parents, Larry and Dorris, founded L&R Pallet in 1974. Larry, a former employee of Coca-Cola, saw an opportunity in the number of pallets the company used every day for storing, shipping, and transporting goods. With $500 on a credit card, the Ruders started a business in the family’s basement, building new pallets and refurbishing used ones. Over the next decade, they grew L&R into a thriving company, earning enough to allow them to take a family vacation for the first time. In 1993, Larry began to transition ownership of the

and sorting them for refurbishing. Whenever employees had the opportunity to leave for other jobs, they did. In 1996, the company was raided by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service. Ruder staffed his team primarily with Latino workers whose immigration status he hadn’t confirmed; that day, officials dragged away 38 of them. Twelve more narrowly escaped after hiding within the plant, but never returned to work. L&R Pallet was never fined for its immigration violations, but its workforce was decimated, and hiring and retention soon became the company’s continual sore spot. For

workers to fuel his growing drug problem. The workforce L&R could attract was struggling just to build enough pallets each day. By 2010, L&R Pallet’s annual sales had fallen from a high of $17 million in 2008 to $15 million, and the business had stopped being profitable, no matter what Ruder tried. As he sat with his family around the dinner table that night in March, he felt as though he had hit rock bottom. After a long, difficult conversation, Ruder’s wife assured him that they would get through whatever was going on. But Ruder felt tortured by a sense of failure. That week, in a renewed at-

“AT ITS WORST POINT, L&R PALLET FACED 300 PERCENT ANNUAL EMPLOYEE TURNOVER.” business, with its 12 employees and annual revenues of $1 million, to his son James, who was in his mid-20s. Like his father before him, James Ruder believed in an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, and made a point not to get involved in his employees’ lives. He expected them to show up and work hard, and in exchange L&R would provide a stable job. The vibe was, as one employee put it, “When you get here, you check your emotional baggage at the door because I need your full-time focus.” Ruder was somewhat suspicious of his employees, expecting that they were there just to collect a paycheck and maybe file a worker’s compensation suit. It was a typical manufacturing setting with typical management. His workers, meanwhile, had little loyalty for the company. Building pallets is not a glamorous job; entry-level workers stand in an open yard in all weather, pulling 50-pound pallets off trucks

the next 14 years, the business was chronically understaffed. “We hired six to seven people a week,” says Ruder. L&R would provide each new worker with $50 worth of uniforms and some brief training, and then, time after time, the employee would quit within a few days. At its worst point, L&R Pallet faced 300 percent annual employee turnover. Ruder was paying $20 an hour, yet even as the 2008 recession sent unemployment soaring, he and his plant manager were constantly struggling to recruit and retain. Meanwhile, because the company was desperate for anyone willing to work, hiring managers didn’t perform drug screenings and couldn’t be picky about who they brought on. With a scant three days of training, workers would drive forklifts too fast, injuries were piling up, and quality issues were mounting. Verbal confrontations were common, and — unbeknownst to Ruder — the plant manager was blackmailing

tempt to understand where the business’s money was going, he tried some new procedures he thought could help the situation, including requiring every delivery truck to stop at the front office for a cargo inspection. Much to Ruder’s surprise, over the next three days the company received less than half the goods it had typically been recording and paying for — from multiple outside vendors. A few days later, Ruder bolted awake at 2:00 a.m. with an idea: he should watch the surveillance video of the delivery trucks coming into the yard. Within an hour, he was at the office reviewing the previous day’s surveillance tapes. As night turned to morning and then to afternoon, Ruder shut himself away to review days of video and compare records for a week of transactions. The discrepancy between the deliveries L&R was paying for and what it was actually receiving added up to about $25,000. And that was just for one week. Ruder felt a rising sense


of shock, panic, and disbelief. With hands shaking, trying to keep his voice calm, he called his local police department and asked for an officer to be there as he fired the assistant manager responsible for turning in those trumped-up invoices. Over the next few days, Ruder discovered that during the previous six months, not only his assistant manager but his plant manager, in collaboration with four vendors, had siphoned approximately half a million dollars from the company. The plant manager was supporting a cocaine addiction by stealing, manipulating paychecks, and threatening to fire workers if they spoke up. L&R Pallet was entangled in a major embezzlement scheme involving long-tenured, trusted employees. Ruder was devastated — and watched any faith he once had in his staff evaporate. “I felt like the business had cancer and was dying,” he says. As the embezzlement case moved

through the criminal justice system over the next few years, Ruder decided to run the business without replacing the managers. He worked 14+ hours a day, sleeping in the basement at home so he wouldn’t disturb his wife with his restlessness. Yet all his grinding, all his effort, didn’t seem to be making a difference. He was still shortstaffed, exhausted, and desperate for a change. He rarely saw his family. He knew there had to be more to life than just work and stress. Something had to give.

T

he call from the local refugee resettlement agency came on an ordinary Tuesday in October 2013. Would L&R Pallet be open to hiring workers who had fled their home countries and were making new lives in Colorado? Ruder mulled it over. He’d tried hiring refugees once

before, in the mid-’90s, but five of the six Bosnian workers he’d brought on had quit within a few months, just as the rest of his staff usually did. Still, the risk seemed low — he was always desperate for workers. Within two weeks, Ruder welcomed seven men from Burma to L&R’s standard three-day training on pallet assembly. It was quickly clear to Ruder that these workers were different somehow. Within less than a week, the Burmese men were outperforming nearly all of their peers. They showed up to work early and waited outside the door to begin their shifts. They didn’t try to sneak in breaks when they thought supervisors weren’t looking — in fact, they never stopped working, even in cold, wet weather. Ruder felt like he’d hit the jackpot. He called the agency back and asked for as many more workers as they could send. By December 2013, L&R had hired another 18

Ruder in his office. Employees now call L&R “a/ second home.” CONSCIOUS COMPANY MAGAZINEPallet | MAY JUNE 2017 37


WORKPLACE CULTURE

refugees, including people from the Congo, Nepal, and Somalia, plus more from Burma. Rather than the magic bullet he’d hoped for, though, this batch of new employees was, as Ruder puts it, “a complete disaster.” Instead of being reliable and eager like the first group, the 18 new hires would often just not show up to work, without even calling. Almost every week, a new employee would shoot himself in the hand or ankle with the high-powered nail guns workers used on the job. In the past, Ruder might have simply fired all the poor performers and chalked the experiment up as a failure. But over the previous year or two, something inside Ruder had started to shift. The transformation was gradual and complicated — as most big things in life are. On a day-to-day level, the trust he felt in

An employee stamping pallets. Ruder now fields inquiries from other businesses about how L&R has such a strong workplace safety record.

the new plant manager he’d finally decided to hire, a man named Jay Doyle whom he’d spent years getting to know and months courting to join his team, must have helped. With the company’s day-to-day operations in reliable hands and the sting of the embezzlement fading with time, Ruder found himself feeling hungry for something more to his work than just running a decent business and cracking the nut of making more and more money. He was looking for purpose, for meaning. The embezzlement right on the heels of the recession likely had something to do with it; as Ruder puts it, “If somebody doesn’t hit bottom, do they look up?” The maturity of midlife, of being in his 40s and starting to think about the legacy he might leave, also played a role. Ask him about what changed, specifically,

and he’ll tell you about a mission trip to Peru, an electric touch on the arm from an orphan girl that brought him to his knees, and a message from God like a kiss on the forehead, saying, “I need you to care about people.” As he began to soften and open, what he heard God telling him, again and again, was a strong message about love for those around him — including his employees. So instead of giving up on the new refugee hires, or focusing on the negative, Ruder made a choice that would turn out to be pivotal for the business: he decided to listen. His first move was to talk with each of his 25 refugee employees individually. He quickly learned how many of his basic assumptions about these men were wrong. For example, he’d figured that if 10 of them were from Burma, they’d all speak the same language


and need just one translator. The resettlement agency hadn’t mentioned otherwise. Instead, he found that men from the same country spoke different languages or dialects and came from different sects. Even basic communication was going to take more work than Ruder thought. But instead of getting discouraged, he sought out additional translators. The interviews helped him piece together why the first batch of hires had been so much more successful than the second: the seven Burmese men he’d brought on first had all been in the US for several years before joining L&R. That meant that they’d had time to get settled and learn the expectations around attendance and other norms at US workplaces. Meanwhile, the men in the second group, who were mostly new arrivals, had all kinds of immediate needs Ruder hadn’t considered: doctor’s appointments for long-overdue physicals, vaccines, and medical care; school registrations for their children; connections to social services; obtaining social security numbers; finding housing; figuring out public transportation; getting a driver’s license; etc. No wonder they were missing a lot of work. Despite the obvious challenges of working with a population with so many needs, there was something about the refugees that made Ruder want to double down on figuring out how to connect with them. It was partly that he already had clear evidence of their unusual dedication: even when an injured refugee’s doctor told him to stick to light-duty work after he nailed his fingers together, for example, Ruder would find the worker back on a heavy-duty job. But Ruder’s growing connection with God and sense of a mission to spread love probably played an even bigger role. He was truly ready to try something different than the “stay out of employees’

lives” mentality that was the norm in his industry. After the interviews, he realized that he’d have to invest more if he wanted this new batch of refugees to be the ray of sunlight the first batch had been. After all the spiritual work he’d been doing, he was open to that. So he set to work. Knowing he had to do something quickly to stop the injuries, Ruder built a complete replica of the shop floor in a separate small building that he could use exclusively for training. Company foremen started labeling every refugee’s hard hat with the language he spoke and gathering those with a common language together to help make communication more effective. Rather than relying on translators to explain what to do, trainers began focusing on demonstration and using touch. Where the company used to throw a new hire on full production after three days of training because it was so desperate to increase output, it now began spending two months getting each refugee up to speed. The new training program solved the injury problem, but Ruder soon faced another challenge: some of his existing workforce and office staff resented the focus on the newcomers. He would have to do even more to create a sense of community where all workers felt valued.

“W

orkplace culture” isn’t a term Ruder would have used when talking about what he was changing, because it’s not a term that any of his mentors or role models ever used. But looking back, changing the workplace culture was exactly what he was learning to do. Most experts define “workplace culture” as the sum of the norms,

5 BENEFITS

OF HIRING REFUGEES 1. OPTIMISM. Refugees have faced

much more difficult situations than those they’ll encounter at your company, so they are often resilient, optimistic, and hopeful. They tend not to get stressed out over things your other employees might freak out about unnecessarily.

2. APPRECIATION. Due to differences

in language and culture, refugees’ knowledge, skills, abilities, and talents tend to be overlooked. By investing in the training and processes necessary to put those assets to use at his company, Ruder has tapped into a generally respectful and appreciative workforce.

3. LOYALTY. Refugees have fled their

home countries seeking safety from persecution, war, or violence. If welcomed into a company and provided with the psychological safety they need, they tend to be very loyal and dedicated employees.

4. WORK ETHIC. Most refugees want

to work in order to restore the sense of self that was stripped by the persecution they faced, and to repay their debt of gratitude to the resettlement country providing them with protection. At L&R Pallet, Burmese refugee workers quickly set a new standard for the pace of operations.

5. FRESH PERSPECTIVE. Refugees

who have spent years in a refugee camp before being resettled have learned to make do with extremely limited resources. As such, refugees are courageous, resourceful, ingenious, and creative, and they may perceive problems from a completely different perspective. The key to tapping into this perspective is to ask the refugees what they think and to make sure to show them that speaking up and giving ideas to management is an acceptable and appreciated practice. Many might have come from cultures where employees would never question or provide suggestions to the boss.

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12 Important Things to Know BEFORE HIRING REFUGEES

1

Hiring refugees will not solve all your labor problems. While refugees constitute a potentially effective workforce, hiring refugees is not a magic bullet for solving staffing issues. Many refugees come to the US so traumatized, so misinformed, and so untrusting that they require special attention and handling from other employees and managers. In fact, some refugee resettlement specialists will tell you that refugees can experience more trauma from simply being resettled in the US than they did as refugees. Ruder learned from his experiences that when he let go of thinking refugees would solve all his labor problems, he was able to take the time to approach their onboarding more patiently and thoroughly.

2

Trust is very important. Ruder learned that he had to follow through on promises and demonstrate caring for their wellbeing to gain the trust of the refugees. To provide the psychological safety they need, you’ll need to help them negotiate, secure, and maintain their lives outside of work. For example, many of L&R’s workers’ apartments

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were infested with bed bugs and they weren’t sleeping well. Ruder sent a manager to take care of the issue — on company time. While it might seem small, gestures and outreach like this go a long way toward creating a trusting and caring — and thus high-performing — company culture.

3

Get trained by your refugee resettlement agency. Ruder attributes his early failure with hiring Bosnian refugees to his lack of knowledge about how to work with them. Make sure you ask lots of questions. Important areas include languages and dialects spoken, possible animosity among different groups of refugees, what motivates the refugees, and cultural factors that could help increase the satisfaction, productivity, and commitment of your refugee employees.

4

Help them create community. Refugees have been uprooted from their home countries and dumped into an unfamiliar society, so it’s important to help create a workplace community. That means hiring and placing together more than

CONSCIOUS COMPANY MAGAZINE

one person from a particular country so they have each other for support. Ruder realizes now that he made the mistake of scattering newly hired Bosnian refugees throughout his company, thinking it would help train them. Instead, it made them feel alone and isolated, and all but one quit.

5

Take into consideration how long refugees have been in their resettlement country. When refugees are first resettled, they have a lot to learn about their new country, and they will have many appointments (e.g., doctor’s visits, registering kids in school) taking up a significant amount of their time, causing them to potentially miss some work. Consider alternative work schedules for new arrivals. Refugees who have been in the country for a few years will still need services, but they will likely miss less work due to mandatory appointments related to recent arrival.

6

Training is really, really important. One of Ruder’s greatest lessons was that he had to slow down. Instead of handing over


a nail gun and expecting refugees to be competent after three days of training, L&R Pallet extended the training period to a couple of months. Not only did the training involve verbal communication and a lot of pictures (see below), but Ruder’s company also built an entirely new training facility to mimic the environment of the shop floor.

cultures. Make it a point to be able to pronounce your refugee employees’ names. It will mean a lot to someone who has been persecuted and whose life has had little value to those opposed to them. Also, be cognizant of hand gestures you use. These, too, can be insulting or have different meanings across cultures.

7

Be ready to provide support services. This might mean hiring a social worker, an attorney, or even a chaplain to connect refugees to the services they need and are eligible for, and working closely with refugee resettlement agencies that can help with some of the refugees’ needs. Offering English classes at your workplace can also make a huge difference, as many refugees don’t have transportation to get to such classes, or may not want to take even more time away from their families to attend.

Know the difference between translation and communication. Simply translating policies and procedures from English won’t do the trick. First of all, many refugees come from countries in which dozens of languages or dialects are spoken, so just getting the message across might be challenging. Second, due to cultural differences, what is obvious to you will not be obvious to them. For example, having been exposed to heavy equipment for years, Americans will likely be cautious in the manufacturing facility, but refugees have not necessarily developed that fear of getting too close to dangerous equipment. Focus on demonstrating rather than talking; try written instructions with pictures. Rather than using language, use the other senses, including sight, sound, touch, and even smell and taste.

8

Learn everyone’s name. While creating a pet nickname for an employee might be a sign of endearment in the US, it can be insulting for those from other

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Focus on rewards and positive reinforcement, not punishment and discipline. Refugees come from difficult circumstances. They feared for their lives and the lives of those they love. The last thing they need is to fear being punished at work. Therefore, reconfigure your policies from a reward perspective. For example, rather than giving demerits for being late to work, give points for being on time, and let those points be redeemable for things they value. Or give employees points they can

“spend” on being late or missing work when they need to, rather than taking points away. Also, make sure to communicate really clear expectations and consequences so any actions you need to take don’t seem arbitrary.

11

Transportation is important. While some refugees will come to the US with enough resources to buy a car, most will not. As such, they rely on public transportation to get to work. Providing them with a free monthly bus or rail pass is a benefit that refugees will likely value.

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Don’t create an “us” versus “them” situation. Fostering diversity in the workplace is a noble goal, but it’s not always easy to accomplish. When you start mixing ethnic groups, says L&R’s management, “the body can reject the organ.” Current employees may become jealous if one group appears to be favored over the other, and existing employees may fear that they will be replaced. Create an atmosphere that emphasizes teamwork and a common goal (e.g., the overall success of the company). Show each employee how their role contributes to the collective achievement of that goal. Simply saying aloud that “Nobody can do everything well, and everyone does something well; we all need each other to succeed” can foster greater trust, respect, and a desire to work hard for the greater good.

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WORKPLACE CULTURE

behaviors, values, and expectations around how a workplace operates. It’s everything from the routines of how people start their day to the way leadership teams handle conflict to the expectations about what “good customer service” means. The idea that workplace culture matters is becoming increasingly mainstream among, say, tech companies or startups, but for a family-run manufacturing business like Ruder’s, it’s not a buzzword that comes up very often. Yet for any business, a high-functioning culture is arguably the number one driver of innovation, employee engagement, job satisfaction, and — by extension — financial success a company can have. “No company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it,” says Jack Welch, former CEO of GE. There are resources and research out there about workplace culture best practices, but none were visible in Ruder’s world. So he and Doyle began to focus on employee culture using a process of trial and error to invent practices that worked and aligned with Ruder’s newly elevated values around relationships and love. With the refugees’ high motivation level and strong performance, management soon could be more selective and let go of underperforming employees or those with bad attitudes. They put new programs in place to recognize employee milestones like anniversaries and installed a screen in the front office to display rotating photos of the team at work. Managers began holding daily pre-production meetings to discuss and support employee needs. Meanwhile, Ruder started doling out bear hugs and shoulder rubs and talking with his employees more regularly. He learned whose wives were pregnant, how many children each of the workers had, who was trying to buy a home, and who was having marital problems. The longer-term workers who’d stayed on slowly discovered that Ruder wasn’t just helping out refugees; he was treating all employees differently. “He was not the same guy as he previously was,” says Doyle. “He started to love his employees.” By 2016, Ruder was ready to ramp up the investment in creating a truly supportive workplace, both for refugees and for “regular” employees. Starting that February, he assigned one of his managers, Chris Courtney, to spend 20 hours a week handling 42

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employee issues. Ruder gave him the informal title of “internal ministry director,” a nod to the religious mission trips that had been important catalysts of his own evolution toward compassion and care. Courtney’s scope extended far outside the workplace: he reviewed apartment leases, accompanied employees to court in custody disputes, and even went to homes to spray for bedbugs when landlords were derelict in their duties. The company started an annual free clothing drive for employees, weekly church services in four languages, and optional English

assets,” he explains, “but who was watching out for my human capital? We have to offer something beyond just a wage. We need to give people a family; we need to give them a support group.” Ruder is now more concerned about the people who work for him than he is about sales, production, or other more traditional business metrics. He even turned this newfound passion for relationships toward his clients: in 2013, he decided to stop working with customers who didn’t treat his staff with respect. In practice, that meant walking away from two big

fixed Ruder’s business, or changed him into a new man, or that Ruder had a clear plan when he decided to bring them on. The magic came from the synergy of the personal transformation that allowed Ruder to lead a more open-hearted culture with the societal mission L&R stumbled into. It took both an internal evolution on Ruder’s part and a reorienting of the business’s priorities to drive the change. But now, in addition to selling its product, L&R Pallet is playing a big, important role in its community by building a safe haven and providing jobs to a vulnerable

“SO INSTEAD OF GIVING UP ON THE NEW REFUGEE HIRES, OR FOCUSING ON THE NEGATIVE, RUDER MADE A CHOICE THAT WOULD TURN OUT TO BE PIVOTAL FOR THE BUSINESS: HE DECIDED TO LISTEN.” classes on site. After learning more about how to work with refugee populations, it also reworked attendance policies to be more focused on rewards than on punishment. In 2017, Ruder hired another employee — this one full-time — as an actual chaplain to help counsel all employees through whatever challenges they were facing. “We used to say the refugees were broken and hurt,” Ruder says. “But now we treat every employee that way.” Because of all the changes that have taken place at L&R over the past four years, “Everyone has become more tender and humane,” says Ruder. His favorite example: a tough Mexican manager brought in one of the Burmese workers who was crying and implored Ruder to “help my little guy.” Ruder has no doubt the investment is well worth it. He’s employing 1.5 managers to handle worker relations, yet he doesn’t need much HR staff because there is such low turnover now. “Before, I hired six-figure people to take care of my physical

accounts and hundreds of thousands in revenue, but it showed his own team how serious he was about the importance of love in the workplace. Meanwhile, employees have begun to think of L&R Pallet as a second home. Creating a safe, caring community for refugees hasn’t just given Ruder a renewed sense of joy and purpose in life; it has also reinvigorated the business. In 2016, L&R Pallet finished with its best financial year yet. Because of the focus on creating community, when the company needs to add employees, existing staff now recommend their friends and family members. Turnover has essentially been eliminated, down from 300 percent to between 5 and 10 percent. And of the 120 employees working for L&R Pallet, 85 are now refugees. Ruder’s next goal is to be the best-paying pallet company in Denver. Ruder looks back on that rockbottom day in March 2010 and feels like a different person. It would be wrong to say the refugees themselves

population. And Ruder now spends more time than his wife might like talking to vendors, customers, and other manufacturing businesses about how he keeps his injury rates and turnover so low — the secret to his success. In his words, it’s actually radically simple: “We just have to love on people.”

Abigail B. Schneider, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of marketing at Regis University’s College of Business and Economics in Denver, CO. Schneider’s teaching and research interests focus on judgment and decision-making and how the tools of marketing can influence people to consume consciously in service of people and the planet. Reach her at aschneider@ regis.edu. Cheri Young, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Knoebel School of Hospitality Management in the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver. An award-winning partnership she created partners students in the Knoebel School with refugees from a Denver-based refugee resettlement agency to teach each other about American hospitality skills and being more culturally intelligent. While her primary teaching areas include organizational behavior, labor relations, and human resources, her life’s purpose is to help others realize their highest potential. Reach her at cheri.young@du.edu.

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FROM TECH ENTREPRENEUR TO

CONSCIOUS LEADER

This former tech executive found new meaning in life by discovering the secrets to better relationships — at work and beyond. Now he’s creating a space to teach those skills.

Juniper Networks chairman and former CEO Scott Kriens’ new venture, 1440 Multiversity, is all about supporting the inner journey of self-development, wellness, and leadership.


A

fter decades as an executive in the tech industry, Scott Kriens resigned as CEO of Juniper Networks in 2009 to follow his passions in the areas of authentic leadership and integrated living. Now his new project, 1440 Multiversity, is scheduled to open in May 2017 as a retreat center offering “teachable skills for better living” programs presented by top names in personal development, health and wellness, leadership, career development, and more. Conscious Company team member Aaron Kahlow caught up with Kriens on a tour of the new Santa Cruz, CA, campus to hear more about how he found a renewed sense of mission in life and what he’s learned about values-driven leadership along the way.

Tell us about your journey to get where you are today. Scott Kriens: I was born and raised in California. Every once in a while, what you might call “life’s bigger questions” would pop up and I would consistently put them off by saying “I don’t know the answer to any of those things.” I only went to college because it seemed easier than the trade union jobs all my buddies were getting when they left high school. I ended up in the middle of the tech world at the time networking became a big deal, building infrastructure underneath all these things we now take for granted, like the internet itself. When you address something and click “send,” underneath all of that, somebody has to magically, invisibly keep track of several billion places that [data] might go. That’s what we started doing 20-plus years ago. The world continues to demand more of that at an even faster rate all the time. It’s good to be in a good place at the right time, which is where I was. I was in the very early days of starting a company called StrataCom that ran for about 10 years and went public. Then, in 1996, I joined Juniper Networks as the CEO and chairman, really just to see if I could do it. In a couple of years, the company went from a handful of engineers to $1 billion in sales. I

was CEO for 12 years, from 1996 to 2009, and I’m still chairman of the board today. You’ve obviously made a decision to do more than be a corporate chairman or CEO. How did you come to that moment, to say “it’s time to do something different”? Some people might call it a second act, some people might call it your real purpose. Tell me a little bit more about that piece of the story. SK: When my dad died in 2004, it was a harsh confrontation with mortality and it brought up questions I could no longer deflect about what matters. I didn’t, nor do I today, claim to have all the answers, but it led me on a journey into, initially, leadership development. The belief I came to form about leadership development is nobody cares what you say until they know who you are. That quest for authenticity and for the skill of building trusted, authentic relationships was formulated a couple of years after losing my dad. It was what I did as a primary mission for most of the rest of the time as CEO. It planted the seeds for the observation that being in high-quality relationships and being a skilled relationship practitioner is not just valuable in the workplace. It’s a life skill, and it needs to be taught in all domains. The discovery since

then was that it’s a very learnable thing. High-quality relationships aren’t just something that happens because you happen to meet somebody you get along with. What was the path there? Where did you go to get the teachings and grow as a person? SK: I thought leadership started with authenticity, showing up as who one really is, but it turns out there’s a prerequisite for that: self-awareness. Because I can’t show up as who I am if I don’t actually know. Stepping back from the intention of authenticity to self-awareness led me to study with a Buddhist monk and find contemplative practices. How would you define “contemplative practices”? SK: I use that term because it can be a lot of things. It can be meditation and mindfulness practices, it can be prayer and Christianity, it can be dance. There’s no particular denomination required. It’s the intention of setting aside quiet time. I do that in the form of meditation and journaling. The question is, “What matters?” While I don’t claim to know, I’m pretty sure the answer isn’t on the outside of us. It’s on the inside of us, or at least it originates there. That notion of “living from the in-

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PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

side out” was very different for me. I spent 45 years basically ignoring the inside, and instead working from the outside in — backwards, I would say today. So for me, meditation, journaling, ultimately everything is a mechanism for learning to live from the inside out. And spending time inside is a requirement if one’s going to do that. Eventually, my time as a CEO over 12 years and 40-something quarterly earnings calls in a row became a little repetitive. In retrospect, not because any particular occupation or practice is more or less appropriate to an authentic, mindful, relationship-based life; I just wasn’t in a balanced place where I could get both feet back on the ground after being knocked flat when my dad died. There are mindful practitioners doing everything, so it isn’t that you can’t do it as a

life I was leading without some stark realignment. It would be wonderful to think that these changes or growth edges that we all come to and sometimes cross over are driven by inspiration and vision. But, unfortunately, it seems they’re more often driven by trauma and tragedy and sadness and desperation, which is where my redirect was born from. I just needed things to be different than they were, even without knowing what that meant. Sometimes it’s what I call “a onearm trapeze act,” because I don’t think you can undergo fundamental transition by swinging with one hand on one trapeze bar and then reaching over and grabbing the other one and then letting go. Bill Bridges wrote about this in a book called “Transitions.” You have to do it with one arm, which means

we all [make transitions] in times of desperation and despair. We’re afraid, but we’re so desperate to change that it’s not scarier than the thought of staying put. What’s the vision behind your current project, 1440 Multiversity? How did this all come about? SK: My wife Joanie and I started the 1440 Foundation in 2010. There are 1,440 minutes in the day; really quite a lot of time if you can be present. It’s not as fleeting as it seems. The foundation was all about grant-making. We got a great piece of advice when we started: “First listen and learn, don’t actually do anything. Just support all the people you can find who can tell you all the things they’ve already done in areas you’re interested in.” To our delight, we found that

“Nobody cares what you say until they know who you are.” CEO. It was just that I wasn’t able to do it in that role at that time in my life. So what did you do? Did you just quit? Did you take a sabbatical? How did that change unfold? SK: It took me five years. My dad died in January of 2004 and I was the CEO until 2009, because I spent the first couple years denying that this question of “what really matters” needed all that attention, and the last couple years trying to find a succession solution that I was comfortable with for the company. I have two children; the company is like a third child to me, having been now 20 years a part of it. Ultimately, for me, the change was driven by — almost desperation and inability to continue the

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you let go of the bar and now you’re in mid-air and you’re hanging on to nothing and at some point the ground is approaching. Then either by faith or fate or forces I don’t pretend to understand, a bar comes along. For me, that was it. I just had to let go of the bar I was on and it wasn’t with any vision for 1440 Multiversity or anything like that. It was just “something needs to be different than it is, and all I appear to be capable of at the moment is to stop doing what I’m doing.” One of the best descriptions I’ve ever heard of courage is that it’s not the absence of fear, it’s being afraid and doing it anyway. One of the barriers for all of us in making a change is this wish that a path is going to present itself before I have to commit. It doesn’t. That’s why

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there’s a whole community of people, quite significant and growing at an accelerating rate, who are believers and practitioners and teachers and learners in how to live more purposeful, compassionate, connected, meaningful lives. We made a number of grants and had the benefit of getting to know people like [contemplative practice teacher] Jack Kornfield and many others. And then it became time to figure out the next chapter for 1440, and we wanted it to be something that would serve all of this energy we had come upon. By creating the Multiversity, what we’re really doing is holding a container for this movement and hopefully becoming a gathering force that will nurture and connect and illuminate. To borrow several labels from Meg Wheatley’s emer-


gence theory, which is the framework we use around how change happens, you name things that are going on, you connect them to one another, you nurture those connections, and then you illuminate that for others to see. We believe that with Multiversity we can bring another container, more nurturance, and another spotlight on the work. The best way to make the greatest impact is to find something that already wants to happen and help it. That’s what we’re doing. How do you boil down what the Multiversity is all about for people who might attend? SK: First of all, why come here? What would one do and why would one do it? That comes back to this notion we have of “integrated living.” There are two ways to think

about that. It means integrating a personal life and a professional life and a pursuit of one’s own health and wellness into one, more integrated self. I don’t have to be one person at work and a different person at home and set aside my own health and wellbeing because of what I’m trying to do either for my family or for my job. What if you could be one person and you could serve all those in a much more connected way? That’s one way of thinking about it: integrating the various lives we all live into one. Another way of thinking about it is integrating the classic teachings at school — which address your intellectual self and physical self — with one’s emotional, relational, spiritual self. What can I learn about myself, what can I learn about myself in relation to others, and what can I learn about

a meaning or a purpose that’s more thoughtful? What’s learnable in all of that is how to be in more connected, richer, deeper relationships. There are learnable skills to do that. There are practices of empathy and dialogue and compassion. Think of relationship as the fourth “R” after reading, writing, and arithmetic. It’s every bit as learnable as the other three — actually, it ought to be the first one. But you learn it the same way. You’re taught by people who practice and have studied it, and you do it in practices with others, and you evaluate how well you are doing at it, and you try to learn and grow and iterate. It’s not magic and it’s not mystical, but once embarked on, the practice of learning how to be in richer, stronger relationships, whether it’s with self, with others and family,

1440 Multiversity’s Sanctuary — a renovated mid-century chapel — CONSCIOUS will host meditation and educational programs. COMPANY MAGAZINE | MAY / JUNE 2017 49


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with work, with life — then it’s for each person to discover what’s best for them. When I was putting this question off for 45 years, it would have been great to come to a place like this not as old as I was and not driven by the trauma that drove me. It would have been better to just come to a classroom setting and start learning about things like this in a nurturing, welcoming way with other people who are interested in the same things, so that I could have stepped into life in a more thoughtful way. To do that well for 1440 Multiversity means that we have to have offerings that meet people where they are. You might have that desire [to get better at relationships] because of a marriage, it might be with a

it’s swung back into a place in the middle. The blending of personal motivation and drive with the benefits enabled by community is an opportunity to have more, do more, be more than just “lost in the ’60s” or “on your own in the ’80s.” But you have to put time into it. It has to be a serious commitment like anything else. There’s no magic. It’s one thing to muse about these questions and to ponder them. It’s another thing to really establish a clear intention for self and life. How does one get to that intention? SK: One of the best pieces of advice I got about it was to skip over the situation you’re in today. Don’t get

people to get a better grasp of who they are first. And then teach the requirement to put yourself out there before you ask anybody to believe or do anything. So you do the work first. Before you implement your mindfulness program, the leader must have at least had the experience behind it. SK: One of the ways we say it is “leaders have to be first to offer.” People will respond. But if you want that energy, if you’re the leader, you can’t wait for somebody else to offer it first. And, in my experience, it’ll always be recognized and be responded to and you’ll be rewarded. What you’re building in that interaction is trust. Trust is the central

“Building trust is not just some abstract thing to put on a poster on a wall and then go do something else. It’s actually the prerequisite to success.” child, it might be in wanting to be a better leader at work, it might be in wanting to take better care of yourself. They’re all doors into the same space. The one that you should go through is the one that you’re most compelled by, not the one anybody else might advise you to go through. What kind of advice can you give this Millennial generation, which seems to have a great need for purpose and meaning? SK: The most important thing is to put time into it. Don’t just make a cocktail conversation out of it or some way to pass time in the middle of your workouts. Growth is a commitment that takes time. Speaking generationally and being much older, there was a time when it was all about free love and communes and so forth, and then it swung all the way back to “every man for himself,” and now 50

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caught up in having the intention include an understanding of all the steps you’re going to take to get there. It’s a leap of faith. Clear your mind of where you are and how hard it might be and what might prevent it and all of that stuff. Just give yourself the luxury of a purely unencumbered description of your intention. And then work backwards. Don’t try to do it by starting today and figuring out tomorrow or the next day. Start at the end and work back to the beginning. What’s the call to the fellow leaders in this world? What do we need to do, collectively? SK: I go back to this principle: nobody cares what you know until they know who you are. And so the first role and responsibility of leadership and development and for cultivating leaders in a corporate setting is to create some time and space for

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element to success in the workplace. It’s the largest contributor that I know of to the success of a person, of a team, of a company. But if you want trust to happen, you have to be explicitly intentional about establishing it, not incidentally hoping it will occur by virtue of your good acts. You have to call it out and you have to be the first to demonstrate it. It’s a very rewarding thing to do, and it works. It’s also the most effective way to produce a high-performance team and get a high-performance result. Trusting teams iterate faster because they’re more willing to admit mistakes and to call out problems and challenges and ask for help. And if two teams are equally smart, why would one team do more than another? It’s because they iterate faster. They learn faster. Well, why do they do that? Because they trust each other to point out the things they’re discovering, and the discoveries


come more quickly and they become more clearly understood and they become a part of the next thing you can do, while the team that doesn’t have that is worried and doubtful and hesitant and guarded. And it can get much more toxic than that. This is not rocket science. Building trust is not just some abstract thing to put on a poster on a wall and then go do something else. It’s actually the prerequisite to success. If you say that and know that, then the next question would be how do you do that? To do it, you better offer it up first. How do you do that? You better know who you are and you better be ready and willing to put that out there. There’s nothing mysterious about it if you stare at it.

What is it we need to do now in the current political era? How do we need to cultivate community? SK: Seek out and spend time in authentic relationships. And the definition of “authenticity” is when someone is telling you something that they believe as opposed to something that they want you to believe. If we spend our time authentically and share what we believe, and spend our time with other people who we can help along that path, or participate in a community that behaves that way, then we’re going to be fine. Personally, I think this country is far more resilient than any one person, no matter what seat they sit in, can really do a great

deal of harm to. But that requires that what is authentic and what is real is cultivated. If anything, if we see the absence of that being more prominent, it should just serve as a call to action. History may write [this turbulent era] down as being the most valuable contribution you could’ve asked for to this [consciousness] thing we’re talking about. What’s one of the biggest mistakes you’ve made, and how did you learn from it? SK: Almost every big mistake I’ve made has been a byproduct of not acting. Seeing somebody who needs help and walking by them. Looking the other way. Having a choice to

The 1440 Multiversity campus includes four miles of hiking trails.


PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

make, and instead of choosing one or the other, making no choice at all. An example is bad behavior in people working for me that I haven’t confronted. I rationalize it by thinking what I’m doing is giving people the benefit of the doubt. But what I’m really doing is turning my head and looking the other way. The consequence of that

especially after seeing it 50 times and telling ourselves 50 times that there’s probably some reason it’s okay. In my opinion, only maybe 30 percent of the right outcome is a consequence of making the “right decision.” And the other 70 percent of getting there is about making the decision right once made. “You miss 100 percent of the

What gives you hope for the future? SK: In my little world, it’s all of the people and forces and energy that have come to help with the creation of 1440 Multiversity. Our intention and aspiration is to lead generative lives, and by that we mean lives that create more energy than they consume. And what’s happening at the Multiversity is a generative

“In my opinion, only maybe 30 percent of the right outcome is a consequence of making the ‘right decision.’ And the other 70 percent of getting there is about making the decision right once made.” is to allow something to continue that I later know, after I change it, that I should have changed a long time ago. I’ve never made a move to change things that I’ve thought I did too soon. I’ve made a thousand of them long after I should have. We’ve heard that from other leaders of big organizations, almost the exact same words. SK: It’s a common shortcoming. Why is that, though? What’s the human deficiency that allows us to not get better at that? SK: It’s because of what we want to be true replacing what actually is true. So it’s our own projections. SK: “It would be better if all this worked out and I didn’t have to confront it and do anything. It would be better if I were wrong about what I see.” But for the most part, we usually aren’t, 52

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shots you don’t take.” So take the shot, and if it doesn’t turn out to be what you thought, which is almost certainly going to be true, then adjust and take another one. What about in other business leaders? Where do you just want to say, “Guys, please just stop?” SK: I think we get a lot further by finding the things we’d like to reinforce than we do with the things we’d like to stop and change. But if anything — and it goes with my compass always pointing at authenticity — it’s to stop thinking people can’t see what you’re doing. Stop thinking you’re smarter than anybody else, because we all know. If you’re trying to make us believe something you don’t really believe and you think we don’t know you’re doing that, stop. Because we do. Telling a story versus telling the story. SK: Tell your story.

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thing. There is far more energy coming out of this whole adventure than what all of us collectively are putting into it. That gives me hope. There are times in your life where you can work incredibly hard and sleep very little and wake up with more energy to do it the next day. That’s generative. It is possible to create more energy than one consumes. Imagine that. What could that lead to? It gives me a lot of hope. Photos by Crissie McDowell

Join Scott Kriens and top conscious leaders June 7–9 at the Conscious Company Leaders Forum, where the conscious business, sustainability, and corporate advocacy movements unite. Find details at consciouscompanymedia .com/forum.


PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

BUILD NEXT-GEN LEADERS

FOR YOUR CONSCIOUS COMPANY People work for socially conscious companies because they’re driven to make a difference; if you don’t facilitate their leadership development, their next job will. BY JESSICA G. HARTUNG Janice was excited when she got a job as a systems analyst with a solar company. She saw the position as an opportunity to act on her passion for the environment and to finally do work that mattered. Her actual work experience, however, was far from fulfilling. The projects were ill-defined, piecemeal, and stressful. Her manager was mostly unavailable. No one talked with her about career goals, and her suggestions for improvement went nowhere. Her frustration level was growing daily. Maybe this company wasn’t a great fit after all. A friend at another startup said they were hiring… If you want to lose your most motivated, creative, and ambitious employees, Janice’s company is a great example to follow. People who are drawn to working for socially conscious companies seek compensation that goes beyond a paycheck. They want to learn new skills, feel the reward of making a difference, and experience the joy of being their authentic selves. Whether they’re second-career job hunters or new grads, those who are driven by a personal mission choose employment specifically to build a path towards meaningful impact. These change-makers want to develop themselves and build skills and knowledge to move forward. If they’re not getting development in their current role, the most talented people will change jobs to find it. Actively encouraging growth and developing talent is key to keeping your workforce engaged. It’s how you retain your most skilled team members. It’s also how you build a next generation of leaders with a 54

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sense of context and ownership so they can carry the mission forward. Professional growth doesn’t just happen by putting in time on the job. Someone can accumulate years of experience without expanding their skills, developing self-awareness, or finding their role as a leader. On the other hand, a company can push its employees too aggressively, essentially throwing them in at the deep end without enough support. It takes skillful guidance to help employees ride the wave of growth without putting them in situations that are simply too challenging for their current level or too risky for the enterprise. When we are “surfing the developmental edge,” as I like to call it, we ride in the zone just at the edge of our abilities, a rich environment for learning to handle new challenges while getting work done. Here’s how you can help emerging leaders in your company find that edge. These three approaches allow you to facilitate growth in a targeted manner, with compassion for the process of developing in small steps, over time.


1. SHOW, TELL, AND ASK

2. TAKE TRAINING FURTHER

• Explain what you are doing and why to emerging leaders. During the course of your day, share your decision-making process. Don’t just announce your conclusions, but explain how you reached them and the alternatives you weighed. Listen to emerging leaders’ ideas about the situation and respond to their questions. This ongoing, intentional communication is contextualized leadership development — helping to build engagement, understanding, and good judgment among staff simply by sharing your process in tackling everyday decisions and issues. • Model team leadership. Eyes are on executive leaders as exemplars of the real culture and practices that are endorsed by the company. Does your team operate the way you encourage your staff to? Team interactions are a source of significant professional development, whether it’s growing relationships, improving processes, or innovating solutions. Show emerging leaders how to work collaboratively by teaming up with them. Point out what makes teams work in your culture. Ask if they would like to improve their contribution to the team. This opens the door to direct development conversations.

• Ask learners to lead application of their training. Encourage staff to take part in trainings, conferences, and educational experiences. Upon their return, ask them to summarize what they learned for the rest of the team, lead discussions about implementation, and take charge of initiatives that come out of the trainings. • Have everyone read and discuss the same book. Select a book that’s relevant to the opportunities and challenges your company faces. Assign chapters for all to read, and discuss them over several weeks. Then, decide where and how to apply what you’ve learned. Implement and revisit every few weeks to check effectiveness. • Create a “virtuous cycle” of education. As emerging leaders grow their knowledge and skills, they gain respect among team members, which creates opportunities for more challenging assignments and teamwork, furthering their on-the-job education and learning. As needs for additional training emerge, implement a mutually agreed-upon individual development plan rooted in accomplishing important work for the organization.

3. STEP BACK SO OTHERS CAN STEP FORWARD • Break up your work into discrete projects and assign some to leaders ready for a next-level assignment. Coach them as they take on these responsibilities, providing support as needed. Give them the opportunity to stretch, excel, and be appreciated. While it may take more time — at first — to delegate this way, the investment yields emerging leaders who “get it,” because they have been developed by senior leaders in their own organization. • Use the “coach approach” in meetings. Ask team members to identify issues, make suggestions, and develop plans. Create space for others to contribute. Only mention your ideas and opinions after all other ideas have been put on the table. Asking effective questions and appreciating useful responses helps build engagement, uncovers new ideas, and encourages collaboration while getting the job done.

CONTINUOUS GROWTH TAKES A CULTURE OF LEARNING

Organizations hungry to make a difference foster the continuous growth of their people and teams in order to retain the best talent and develop innovative solutions. In a fastpaced, growing organization, many people get promoted beyond their current level of competence. If they are smart, they grow into it, work at it, and learn from it as fast as they can so they can live up to their responsibilities. This includes developing the emerging leaders around them to help take the organization to the next level. A culture of deliberate development builds leadership at all levels while getting work done. Before we are open to learning, we have to recognize that we don’t already know it all —

which is especially important for established leaders. An organization’s culture can reinforce lessons learned in team meetings, be open about failures, create time for reflection, and promote the conversations and experiments needed for team members to keep growing themselves and the business. Organizations that develop a learning culture will not only see less turnover and an increase in shared leadership; they will also see employees amplify and accelerate their efforts toward accomplishing their mission. Whatever your overall leadership development strategy, you can add real-time workplace learning to enhance implementation. Especially in a socially conscious company, it’s important to align these approaches with your company’s mission and culture.

Jessica G. Hartung is the founder and CEO of Integrated Work, a company that partners with mission-driven organizations to apply leadership development in everyday work experiences, accelerating impact and achieving measurable results. Building customized, real-time, applied leadership development systems for executive teams is their passion. They help clarify focus, co-design strategic options, provide tools and mentorship, and build leadership capacity to accelerate positive impact. For more info, visit integratedwork.com/resources and its sister site, workthatmatters.com. CONSCIOUS COMPANY MAGAZINE

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SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS

BUILD MISSION AND CONSCIOUSNESS INTO YOUR COMPANY’S

DNA

By getting the right advice and creating the right legal structure and documents from the start, you can ensure your company maintains conscious integrity no matter what. BY J. KIM WRIGHT AND LINDA ALVAREZ

I

magine this unhappy scenario: you founded a conscious company with the support of impact investors. You had a great team that loved working together. You were ready to catalyze positive change with carefully designed plans and products. You signed agreements and hit the ground running. But the ink was barely dry on the contracts when an economic downturn turned customer flow into a trickle and a key vendor changed management. The vendor’s new leadership doesn’t subscribe to the environmentally friendly policies of its predecessors. They’ve begun using environmentally unsustainable methods to manufacture a key ingredient of your product. Looking for another supplier, you discovered that the next best option is twice as expensive. This is the sort of crisis that tests the conscious values of a company’s leadership. Suddenly, focus narrows onto profitability. Many companies fall into conventional business practices from habit or because they don’t know what else to do. Financial recovery becomes the sole priority as visionary values fade into the background or vanish altogether. When the financial terrain gets rocky, how do we stay true to our purpose and values while “taking care of business”? To inoculate a conscious company against “values atrophy,” we must find a way to integrate purpose and values into the company’s operational logic. The early honeymoon and harmony period of planning and formation, when we are strongly connected to purpose and values, is the best time to build our “why” into the DNA of the business by conscious design.

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SYSTEMIC SUPPORT FOR SUSTAINED CONSCIOUSNESS

STEP 2 CONSIDER A CONSCIOUS CORPORATE STRUCTURE

Your legal structure safeguards the integrity of your company’s DNA. “Legal structure” includes your formation documents, funding agreements, and the array of contracts every business has with employees, vendors, customers, and other stakeholders. Conventional business draws on the power of the legal system to set and enforce the structure of decision-making. Conscious companies can do the same.

In a business’s formation stages, a conscious corporate structure can be part of the plan and design. Formal Benefit Corporations can integrate social impact, the environment, and stakeholders’ needs into the company’s legally defined goals. In the US, 30 states plus the District of Columbia provide for this structure. Forty-two countries provide a similar option.

STEP 1

STEP 3

CHOOSE A CONSCIOUS LAWYER

CREATE LEGAL DOCUMENTS FOR SUSTAINED CONSCIOUSNESS

Too often, businesses see lawyers as a necessary evil … or maybe just evil. Lawyers can help you influence how your company interfaces with the legal system; however, conventional lawyers may not fully understand the unique needs of a conscious company. Hiring or training a conscious lawyer is a crucial strategic choice for establishing and maintaining purpose-driven values and culture. When searching for a conscious lawyer, look for descriptive terms like “collaborative,” “integrative,” or even “cooperative.” Ask questions about their values and beliefs and their approach to conflicts. Conscious lawyers often have advanced communications training and other skills beyond standard legal knowledge, and can provide important insights into how the legal system impacts your company’s purpose. They rarely see jumping to litigation as the first response to a problem.

In addition to a formal corporate structure, legal documents can be used to sustain the shift from conventional to conscious business practices. Every contract is considered the “private law” of the parties. So long as it does not conflict with laws of the larger system or public policy, the rules and systems we put in our written contracts will be enforced. Lawyers sometimes forget or are not aware how much leeway we have to design our own legal systems using contracts. Typical contract negotiation and drafting tries to foresee and pre-solve every potential problem. A conscious approach replaces unwieldy “predict and control” schemes with “sense and respond” systems for dealing with unpredictable challenges and controversies. Rather than pages of text that set out what will happen and who will be punished if a hypothetical unpleasant event occurs, the docu-

ments can say how the event will be resolved in a conscious and purposeful manner. Many pages can be replaced with a framework that supports flexibility and agility, establishing an approach that deals with the actual problem, not the many possible nightmare scenarios. We can even build the capacity to shift crisis and conflict mindsets from destructive combativeness to conscious and collaborative creativity.

WHAT MAKES CONSCIOUS CONTRACTS DIFFERENT All contract language should provide clarity about obligations, exchange of value, milestones, and the parameters for dispute resolution. A “conscious contract” has three additional elements:

1 TOUCHSTONE

A clear, written expression of the parties’ core motivations, values, principles, constraints, and imperatives. The Touchstone is the result of an engaged and robust conversation through which the parties calibrate alignment of their respective visions and values. In times of crisis, when emotions are heightened and the slide into non-consciousness threatens, the Touchstone reminds and reorients the parties to the “why” at the heart of their efforts and relationship. It shifts the contract from a contest to a partnership in service of a shared goal. For example, Linda’s contract with her clients begins with: “I envision a world where the power of love has replaced the love of power. This vision includes a legal system that inspires and supports sustainable, beneficial, and regenerative behaviors, relationships,

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SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS

and enterprises — a system that allows individuals, organizations, and communities to conduct all their legal affairs in alignment with their values, their principles, and their vision for a better world.”

2 ADDRESSING CHANGE AND ENGAGING DISAGREEMENT (ACED) PROVISIONS

Neuroscience tells us our analytical brains can’t solve problems when under stress. Most of us need a firm

they will engage in their designated ACED process, working together to co-design solutions that align with Touchstone criteria. It triggers systemic mechanisms that help us shift out of habitual mindsets, returning everyone’s focus to what we agree really matters and giving us the power to co-create our own ideal resolution — one that works for everyone. In the example we opened with, having “conscious contracts” would have made a crucial difference. When hard times came, you could turn to

a stimulus for creative response and innovation without loss of dedication to vision and purpose. We don’t have to relinquish our power to a non-conscious system or process. We can create our own “private law” that keeps us in the driver’s seat and puts purpose and meaning on equal footing with other priorities when crises or conflicts erupt. We can use the legal structure to reawaken our connection to purpose and trigger creative, collaborative design-thinking in response to disruptive change.

“WE CAN CREATE OUR OWN ‘PRIVATE LAW’ THAT KEEPS US IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT AND PUTS PURPOSE AND MEANING ON EQUAL FOOTING WITH OTHER PRIORITIES WHEN CRISES OR CONFLICTS ERUPT.” place to stand, a frame of reference to orient us, and a recipe for what to do in crisis. Even conscious people need support to avoid falling into habitual, conventional approaches. ACED provisions lay out the customized procedure the parties choose for dealing with their conflicts, interrupting habitual, unconscious reactions to crisis, and orienting problem-solving along creative rather than destructive logic paths. What’s our early alert system for sensing rising tension and engaging with it before it gets out of hand? When disruptive change occurs, what is our procedure for addressing it quickly? Importantly, ACED provisions link to the Touchstone so that decisions and course corrections continually orient to and align with core values, purpose, and meaning.

3 CONDITION PRECEDENT

The Condition Precedent harnesses the power of the larger legal system. In this provision the parties make a legally enforceable commitment that, before they turn to any other process or procedure for dispute resolution (e.g., before going to court!), 60

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the documents. There, you would find your own step-by-step process, a recipe for whom to alert and how to engage together in problem-solving rather than arguments or threats. Perhaps your ACED would call for a meeting of key people at the first sign of trouble. Your early-response team would have the Touchstone already in place to provide the criteria by which all proposals and options could be evaluated. Your conscious lawyer would have helped you make core values clear in your agreements and governance documents. The vendor contract would include a commitment to environmentally sustainable methods and a process allowing for you and the vendor to grapple with designing solutions rather than with each other. Investors and managers would be signed on ahead of time to your process for honoring purpose and meaning while designing viable financial solutions. Instead of devolving into backward-looking, blame-assigning exercises in frustration, your conscious lawyer would help you and your stakeholders shift into focused creativity based on the foundations and framework set out in the existing documents. What might have been a disaster becomes

CONSCIOUS COMPANY MAGAZINE

Licensed as a lawyer since 1989, J. Kim Wright is a pioneer and leader in the integrative law movement. A digital nomad since 2008, she trains integrative lawyers around the world. Kim is the author of two American Bar Association books: “Lawyers as Peacemakers” and “Lawyers as Changemakers.” Find her at jkimwright.com, and learn more about Conscious Contracts at consciouscontracts.com.

Linda Alvarez is an attorney licensed in California and Texas. She provides “conscious contract” trainings, facilitation, and mentorship services to businesspeople and their lawyers. Her book “Discovering Agreement: Contracts That Turn Conflict Into Creativity” was published by the American Bar Association in 2016. She can be reached through her website, DiscoveringAgreement.com.


ENTREPRENEURSHIP

MAKE NO

SMALL PLANS

Method co-founder and Ripple Foods co-founder and co-CEO Adam Lowry reveals his bold philosophy of how business can lead the way to a better world.

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ADAM LOWRY THINKS

BIG

When he and his former roommate founded Method in 2000, their goal was to revolutionize the cleaning products category. Within two years, the eco-friendly brand had landed a bigname designer to create its distinctive packaging and had convinced Target to carry its products nationwide. In 2012, the company was acquired by Ecover to form the world’s largest green cleaning company, and Lowry started considering his next act. A couple of years later, he teamed up with chemical engineer Neil Renninger to form Ripple Foods, which launched the first yellow-pea-based nondairy milk into US markets in 2016. But nondairy milk is just the beginning for Ripple, and for Lowry, who has dedicated his life to using business as a force for positive change. Our co-founder Meghan French Dunbar recently spoke with Lowry — who will be presenting at the Conscious Company Global Leaders Forum in June — to hear more about thinking big, serial entrepreneurship, and the role of business in shaping our world.

RIPPLE FOODS AT A GLANCE Location: Emeryville, CA Founded: 2014 Structure: For-profit B Corp Mission: “We envision a world where innovation and technology, responsibly applied, unleashes a wave of healthy eaters who choose plant-based foods because they are delicious above all else.” Recognitions and awards: Fast Company World Changing Ideas 2017 Finalist, East Bay Innovation Award 2017

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I’m interested in the inspiration for Ripple Foods. What is the main purpose of the company? Adam Lowry: The inspiration for Ripple is really impact. I’m a big believer that, particularly in our toxic and broken political environment, business has got to lead the way toward benefits for people and for the planet, and there is no place you can have greater impact than our food system, broadly, and the food that we put in our bodies, specifically. The mission of our company is to make plant-based foods delicious. We think there’s a huge opportunity with mainstream consumers who are starting to eat more plant-based. We want to see that trend continue. The best way for that to continue is for those foods to be nutritious, but also — most importantly — really, really delicious. Why start another company after you’ve already had such success in the business world? AL: For exactly the same reason. I think we need a lot more businesses that align environmental and social interest with the interest of the business so that as they grow, they multiply their positive impacts and displace

businesses that aren’t doing those things as well. There comes a time when, even after you’ve had success with the business and you’ve done it for 16 years, it’s time to go and create another thing like that to try to create even greater impact. When you measure things through impact, you’re constantly looking for, “How do I create more and more impact?” The Method business is doing amazing things now and will continue to do amazing things. My skill is building new businesses that align environmental and social interests with the interests of business from the ground up — and so that’s what I’m doing now. What were the biggest lessons you learned during your time with Method that you’ve now brought to Ripple? AL: One of the biggest things with a startup is, how do you balance aggressive growth with prudent growth? I’ve made that mistake on both ends, and it’s something I feel like I’ve got a better handle on with Ripple Foods. You never really know until you can see it in the rearview mirror. Knowing how to grow the business as effectively and aggressively as you can while still

being smart so you don’t overextend yourself from any aspect — whether that’s capital or people or markets — is one of the biggest things I’m carrying forward from my Method experience. Since Ecover acquired Method, do you feel the company has been able to scale and keep its values in the way you envisioned? AL: I think Method is continuing to do amazing things post-acquisition, and in fact, some of the most incredible things from a sustainability standpoint happened after the business changed ownership. The shining example of that is that we started to insource manufacturing in 2013. We built a LEED Platinum-certified sustainable manufacturing facility, South Side Soapbox. It’s renewably powered, with a 750-kilowatt wind turbine on site. It’s water neutral. It’s almost landfillfree, and will be soon. And it’s got the largest rooftop greenhouse in the world, growing fresh, leafy greens in a food desert on its roof in the middle of the South Side of Chicago, where people desperately need green jobs. That all happened after the business changed ownership, because we reached a certain scale where self-manufacturing made sense and

WHY RIPPLE IS A MORE SUSTAINABLE CHOICE RIPPLE MILK

1/2

It takes 93 percent less water to make Ripple than dairy milk. And while it’s tricky to find a clear comparison, nondairy milk tends to have a much lower climate change footprint than cow’s milk.

GALLON OF WATER TO MAKE 1 GLASS OF MILK

20

ALMOND MILK

GALLONS OF WATER TO MAKE 1 GLASS OF MILK

60

DAIRY MILK

20

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we finally had a balance sheet with which we could make larger, longer-term investments. I should say that I never build businesses to sell them. That is a terrible way to do things. You’ve got to build a great business, and if shareholders are looking for liquidity and you have a great business, there are lots of different options for that. The lens that I’ve always looked at business through is, “How do we continue to get better every day in the sustainability aspects of our business and in the products or services we’re providing?” If that’s the lens you use, then if a change of ownership presents itself, you look through that lens. First and foremost, will this help the business be better in terms of how it can grow and how it can deepen its sustainability mission? What is the impact on the individuals in the company and the stakeholders — our customers and our vendors? That sort of thing. The last thing is, does it make sense for the shareholders? What’s your involvement with Method right now? What was the most challenging part of leaving your role there and moving on to Ripple? AL: I have no formal involvement with Method. I still spend some time over there working with the CEO, a little bit with the board and a little bit with management, just on an informal basis. I was very careful about the transition there because I care very deeply about that company and what we did and I want to continue to see Method do amazing things. When I decided to start Ripple Foods, I took a good couple of months to do the transition right from a full-time Method employee to not. I took time to make sure that the people, the processes — everything — was set up so that the value I added was institutionalized enough and passed on to other individuals so that Method could con-

tinue to do those things well. And it has, which is fantastic to see. Talk to me about the workplace culture at Ripple. What are some of the best practices that you’re using to foster a healthy culture? How much emphasis do you put on the workplace culture piece? AL: We put a lot of emphasis on culture. I co-authored a book about culture in 2011. It’s called “The Method Method,” and it was about our challenges, and ultimately triumphs, in creating a corporate culture that really fosters innovation. I’m a big believer that when you’re a little guy in an industry of giants, which Method is and which Ripple Foods very much is, you have to win on innovation. And we live in a world where things can be copied so quickly that innovation is about speed and it’s about the quality of interactions you can create on an everyday basis within a business. “The Method Method” is about the process we went through after the culture wasn’t functioning well and creating one that started to thrive. Ripple is less than a year old, at least in terms of how long our products have been on the market, but we have a very well-developed set of values, behaviors that support those values, and rituals to support

and foster those behaviors and live those values. It’s not exactly the same as Method. Method has a quirky type of culture. At Ripple Foods, over half of our staff — our scientists and engineers — are doing original research on food. So the environment is a little bit different. One thing I use as a measuring stick for how culture is doing: is there a difference between how people are at work and how they are at home? If they’re the same person at work they are at home, then I think your culture is going in the right direction. We’re still forming it. You’re always forming it, but I think we’re off to a really good start there. What are your values at Ripple Foods? AL: Ours are all defined in terms of plant-growth metaphors. They’re things like “branch out” and “nourish” and “bloom.” A lot of those things have to do with how we treat each other and how we collaborate and innovate together, as well as how we work. We’re big believers in working the way you work best. A lot of this stems from me and my co-founder Neil Renninger in terms of the ways we’ve found we work best. For example, I’ve never been able to get a work–life balance right, and I’ve given up. I’m more about work–life integration, and what that means is that a lot of times, I do my best work after 8:00 pm. After I’ve put my kids to bed, I get back into my office

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ENTREPRENEURSHIP

ADAM LOWRY’S TOP 3

LESSONS FOR SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS

1 SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE BETTER THAN YOU, PARTICULARLY IN YOUR AREAS OF WEAKNESS. That’s something that a lot of people talk about; it’s almost cliché. But I don’t think a business can succeed without that.

2 DEFINE EARLY ON WHAT YOUR BUSINESS IS REALLY ABOUT. I’m not talking about a mission statement, necessarily. What is the business you’re really in and what is your unique proposition that is the reason your customers choose you? Have a crisp idea of that, because as a business grows and goes through challenges, you’re going to find yourself in positions where you need to go back to those first principles to remind yourself about what your core is so you can double down on those things.

3 YOU’VE GOT TO BE BOLD. Social entrepreneurs are trying to reinvent the purpose of business. In order to do that, we’ve got to take over business. Make no small plans. You’ve got to go for it, because at the end of the day, a tiny, socially focused business is great, but your impact is proportional to your scale. Go for it.

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and do my best thinking — or early in the morning. Sometimes your kids have a soccer game or something you want to go to. We are very much results-oriented, and as long as you are driving results, work how you work best. If that means you have to take off in the middle of the day to go do something, knock yourself out, but it doesn’t abdicate the responsibility for driving great results. That ends up being something I think people really appreciate in a culture. We’re trying to help you do your best work rather than be prescriptive about how you do it. What does “conscious leadership” mean to you? Do you have any best practices to help yourself become and embody conscious leadership? AL: I don’t know about best practices, but I can opine. The first and most important thing is self-awareness. One of the most important things about being a social entrepreneur is being able to fully participate in the day-to-day of a business, but also have the skill to be observing it at the same time and course-correct and make sure you’re guiding people toward the mission. That’s a really hard thing to do for some people, to be able to play those dual roles of coach and player simultaneously. Consistency is super important. Entrepreneurs are known for their passion, and that is a necessary ingredient, but it isn’t sufficient for running a social-minded organization effectively. You’ve got to have perspective as well as passion, and that means being consistent with the way you’re leading folks and how you’re guiding them toward your social mission. I could go on for hours on this topic but I’ll leave it at those two things. What is the most important thing in your life right now? AL: Family.

Full stop? AL: Nothing will ever change that. What is the largest challenge that you’re facing right now? AL: We’re going big with Ripple Foods, and that means building process and innovation at big scale. That is a multiyear focus for our business. We’ve got a clear path to get there, but we haven’t done it yet. If, in two years, we are at scale with the types of innovations we’ve already brought to market, we’re going to have done something profound in the market, which is change the whole economics of providing high-quality, delicious plant-based foods. That will allow us to create a much, much larger audience for nutritious, healthy plant-based foods than there even is today, which is pretty big. That’s a long-arc challenge inherent in the business we’ve created, but there are a lot of steps to it. That’s the biggest thing I wake up every day thinking about. Did you have that same vision of a big, bold, scaled enterprise when you started Method, or is that idea a luxury after you’ve been able to scale your first business? AL: No. I very much had that vision with Method. I think it’s pointless to make green products for green people. I’ll use a Method example. Four percent of cleaning products sold in the US are “green” cleaning products. That’s Method and all other green cleaning brands. So we’ve got work to do. If all we’re going to do is make the green cleaning product that the 4 percent buys, can you honestly look at yourself in the mirror and say that you’re creating change at scale? I don’t think so. That’s why Method is beautiful, bright colors and sinuous shapes that look good on your countertop. That creates mainstream appeal


for a product that happens to be more sustainable. In other words, it brings green to the mainstream, instead of trying to pull the mainstream towards green. We’re doing the same thing at Ripple Foods. There is a huge movement of people moving off of dairy and onto plant-based or nondairy, not because they have dietary restrictions but because they want to live a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle. That’s a huge opportunity. But right now, if you drink cow’s milk and then you try almond milk, which is thin and chalky and watery and has one-eighth of the protein of milk, and you don’t have to drink that stuff, you’ll just switch back.

What role do you believe that businesses and business leaders have in terms of advocacy right now? Do they have a responsibility to get up and advocate for the causes that they care about in the current political climate, or would you say that they should remain plugging along, doing what they’re doing? AL: I think that’s up to the individual business. My personal point of view is that to enter political arguments is a no-win situation right now because the political discourse is just so toxic. But I do think that there is such a thing as a civic identity, which is to say, “Listen, we believe in inclusion and that a more a diverse workforce

in turn affect us, and that we should do business and we should conduct politics and we should just live our lives in ways that are consistent with those realities. These are not people who believe lies and propaganda. It’s horrible what’s happening in the public sphere right now, but it’s not long for this world. The generations that will replace the political discourse in the next ten years — I don’t think there will be room for the propaganda and lies the way there is right now in political discourse. That gives me great hope. Technology also gives me great hope. Today in America, there are more people working in the solar

“We need to create massive change at scale, and that is only going to come through people really, really loving the products they’re using.” We’re making a product that a mainstream consumer can say, “Wow, I really love this plant-based alternative.” We’re starting with milk products; we’re going to move into lots of other products. And that’s important because you’re mainstreaming healthier and more sustainable eating. Our mission is to make plant-based foods delicious, because they aren’t right now. If they’re not delicious, they’re not going to scale. And if they’re not going to scale, then you don’t create the change you want. That point of view it is at odds with a lot of people who are environmental or social entrepreneurs who really just want to do one thing with the audience that already exists, and I respect that. That’s not my perspective. We need to create massive change at scale, and that is only going to come through people really, really loving the products they’re using, whether those are household cleaning products or the milk they put on their breakfast cereal.

is a more innovative workforce” — things like that. And standing up for those ideas is something I like to do. But the political environment is so toxic that if you get into any specific policy prescription, it gets ascribed to one side or the other, and then the other boycotts it and it’s just ridiculous. My broader feedback on that is: go beat the businesses that are lining the pockets of the politicians who are doing nothing for us. When we beat them, then that entrenched special interest goes away. I believe that business leads and politicians follow, not the other way around. What is giving you hope for the future? AL: Demographics. This is a gross generalization, but I’m 42, and people who are younger than I am are growing up digitally native. They understand inherently that people have impacts on our Earth system, and that those impacts are things that

industry than there are in natural gas, coal, and oil combined. That’s already reality. If you want to install the cheapest kilowatt of generating capacity, you’re going to go solar or wind these days, and that’s with a policy environment that makes it harder, not easier, for those things. We’ve passed a tipping point on some things in the consumer psyche, in the energy sector and so on, that mean we’re never going back. I think some of what we’re experiencing in public discourse right now is the death throes of old ways of thinking.

Join Adam and top conscious leaders June 7–9 at the Conscious Company Leaders Forum, where the conscious business, sustainability, and corporate advocacy movements unite. Details at consciouscompanymedia.com/ forum.

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ENTREPRENEURSHIP

We Used To Love Each Other:

The majority of startups fail because of founder conflicts. Follow this advice to help safeguard the most important business relationship. BY MOE CARRICK

Two best friends decide to start a business together — their big dream. They pool resources and secure funding. Their idea is a good one, and investors are in! Things move along at a fast pace as the two friends work the crazy hours required by the start-up phase. They truly believe that their innovation can change the world and also be a viable business. After two years, though, the relationship is flailing. The two former friends avoid each other and the tension between them is palpable to their employees. Their families have largely stopped getting together, and one of their investors predicts they may need to break

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up. The other key employees they hired spend a great deal of energy mediating and running interference between the two founders, who seem unable to agree or align. Both are disappointed that their idea may not in fact change anything; they become disillusioned and unhappy. Sound familiar? THE HARD TRUTH ABOUT STARTUP FOUNDER RELATIONSHIPS Despite awesome technology, great ideas, initial excitement and energy, commitment, and


hope, most startups fail, and many do so because of the deterioration of the partnership between co-founders, which causes loss on many levels, both personal and financial. According to research by Harvard professor Noam Wasserman, 65 percent of all startups fail due to founder conflicts. It’s a common issue, yet one that can be hard to talk about as it carries a heavy load of shame. When two people decide to colaunch a business, they almost always have a healthy personal connection at the beginning. Like two people in love, co-founders can’t imagine a time when they won’t see

things similarly and share the wonder of creating a company together — and yet such developments are all too common. However, while strife may eventually unravel the bond between even the friendliest initial founders, there are things founders can do from the beginning to reduce the risk that their heartache will bring the company — and the mission — to ruins. It’s in this early phase of partnership that co-founders should get real.

HERE ARE 5 SPECIFIC WAYS SOCIAL ENTERPRISE CO-FOUNDERS CAN HELP PAVE THE WAY TO A BETTER OUTCOME. 1.Start With The End In Mind The idea or technology you plan to base your business on might be phenomenal, but what are your shared dreams? This is particularly important for social enterprises, in which profit is often not the primary motivator. Some college friends who formed a high-tech re-seller that created affordable access to productivity software realized a few years in that one of them sought to leave a legacy company behind that changed how low-income individuals could access technology, and the other two wanted

a large cash return in 10 years. Only several hard conversations and a refocused dream that met everyone’s needs helped avert a dangerous tipping point. Taking time at the beginning to discuss where you want to end up prevents misalignment at the many crucial forks you will face together. Better to disagree early and negotiate an aligned future than to discover midstream that you want a different long-term outcome. Knowing what you prefer can be nearly impossible to identify in the early and scrappy days of a partnership, but self-awareness from the beginning is key. Founders can look to their past, their personality, their

dreams, and their hopes in order to predict what they will really want when they finally make it big. Is it full control you seek? An accomplished mission? Growth and profit? Securing a specific social vision? Hash it out, be honest, and bring your partner into the inner circle of your deepest motivation. 2. Don’t Be Wed To Anything … Of course, in the beginning, the founders’ conviction is key to a successful launch — after all, if you don’t believe in your idea, why should funders or customers? But as the company moves to scale, it’s very likely you’ll change strategy, approach, design, or even product. Founders must guard against falling on the sword of their original vision as the entity and they themselves evolve. Many a partnership has gone down the tubes because one

partner was unwilling to shift and flex. As Don, co-founder of a now-defunct consumer product company said when he called for coaching, “I realized we were in trouble when my partner got too dug into his merchandising vision. The channel was not there with the original idea, and he could simply not let go of the way we had originally imagined it.” It’s essential that co-founders start talking about what could go wrong from the beginning, even though they may not be able to imagine things turning south. Preparing for the worst invites exploration of unconscious or hidden roadblocks and concerns. As a result, the partners can create

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ENTREPRENEURSHIP

strategies and solutions early which facilitate their ability to flex and move quickly when they need to rethink any aspects of the business. 3. … But Nurture Your Relationship Like A Marriage Co-founders enter a partnership with each other’s story — and with each other’s assets, both financial and otherwise. The personal-level comfort that often brings co-founders together feels ironclad in the beginning, but can get very brittle when times get tough. Writing down the assets you want to protect and what you each are contributing, just like with a marital pre-nuptial agreement, can

4.Learn Together from Every Small Failure You can recover from failure — especially when it happens in small increments. The reality is that most startups fail, so it’s critical for co-founders to look at each small misstep as a chance to learn, to pivot, and to grow. Don’t be afraid to tell one another the truth about where you see problems or failures — egos aside. Discuss them sincerely, and proceed. Take to heart the advice of Shikhar Ghosh, a Harvard professor of management practice: “In any natural system, failure is the engine that causes growth, that causes new birth, that causes anything to happen.” In consciously

Many a partnership has deteriorated because one person got in over their head and failed to expose the situation and ask humbly for help to navigate rough waters. Helping each other goes a long way toward maintaining your healthy partnership. For conscious businesses, which are often formed from deeply personal motivations, this whole-self wellness component becomes particularly critical. THE CO-FOUNDER BOTTOM LINE The ability to nurture the partnership that united you in founding your business and at every step of your scaling journey is a crucial part of keeping

“THERE IS MUCH THAT NEITHER YOU NOR YOUR CO-FOUNDER CAN CONTROL ABOUT WHETHER OR HOW YOUR BUSINESS SUCCEEDS, BUT TAKING CARE OF YOURSELVES AND EACH OTHER IS FULLY WITHIN YOUR CONTROL.” help avoid irreparable conflicts later. For consciously formed entities, this includes what you believe and what you treasure. Making sure you see the future similarly early will save time and heartache later. Additionally, as co-founders get busy with the business, it’s difficult not to neglect your relationship. Make sure that you take time to get together often, specifically and intentionally to nurture the two of you. In these meetings — whether a weekly walk around the park, a monthly retreat, or dinner on Saturdays — use this time to inquire about how you each are doing and what you need from one another, and explore truths that must be said. Jane described it this way as she worked on a granola business with Martha: “When we are connected personally, things simply flow better. When we neglect ‘us,’ small things become big.” You and your co-founder are at the hub of the potential success for your company, your customers, your shareholders, and your employees, and the extent to which you nurture that relationship really matters. Be courageous, be honest, and be connected. 70

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founded businesses, the heart and soul are often powerfully engaged, which can make failures even more painful. Talk often about why you got into this effort in the first place so that you can reassure and remind one another to stay the course. 5. Stay Healthy Each partner must maintain their physical and emotional health — for themselves, and for the sake of the partnership. Depression, suicide, addiction, eating disorders, and stress-related illness are chronic side effects of the work of entrepreneurs, even mission-driven ones. Do not neglect the key elements of physical health, emotional health, and spiritual health with the basics like ample rest, healthy nutrition, and exercise. There is much that neither you nor your co-founder can control about whether or how your business succeeds, but taking care of yourselves and each other is fully within your control. An often-overlooked aspect of staying healthy is admitting that you need each other, which demands that you do not hesitate to ask for help.

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the entity — and the relationship — warm, healthy, flexible, and rewarding. You got into this together for a reason. Remember the problem in the world you are trying to solve and why this person was the key one you chose to work with. Stay focused on keeping connected, and you’ll reap the rewards of sharing the amazing journey of entrepreneurship with another human being.

Moe Carrick is the founder of Moementum Inc., a leadership consulting business and certified B Corp.  She grounds her approach in a unifying and undeniable truth: successful work is dependent upon human relationships. Moe feels privileged to work with clients such as Prudential Financial, REI, Nike, Tech Soft 3D, and many others. Find her at  moementum.com or on Twitter @moecarrick.


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THE NEW ECONOMY

“DOING GOOD” ISN’T

GOOD ENOUGH

The language of “business as a force for good” leaves all kinds of room for misunderstanding and purpose-washing. Conscious businesses must find a better way to speak to our specific missions, purposes, and impacts. BY NATHAN HAVEY

Perhaps the single most popular platitude in the conscious business movement (and in the pages of this magazine) is “using business as a force for good.” But when we use this phrase, we invoke a good/bad duality that is mostly useless when you take into account how subjective it is. For example: is Ben & Jerry’s “using business as a force for good” because the company uses Fair Trade ingredients, pays nearly twice the minimum wage as a starting salary, and speaks up for racial justice? Or not, because its products involve animal agriculture and extract profits from the obesity epidemic? If I told you that a bank was “using business as a force for good” by investing $70 billion in sustainable energy since 2012, you might applaud its efforts until I revealed that the bank is Wells Fargo, which is also funding the Dakota Access Pipeline and was recently involved in a major fraud scandal. Or what about the fact that in the 200 years since the Industrial Revolution began, humanity has achieved a far better average quality of life than has ever been possible, largely through innovations and positive social changes brought by good ol’ profitmaximizing business? Isn’t that systemic improvement an example of “business as a force

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for good” on a grand scale? You could see it that way; and if you also choose to notice the life-threatening environmental degradation “business as usual” has created, and recognize that a huge portion of humanity is not enjoying that same opportunity for a high standard of living, you’ll also see there is great room for improvement. But we communicate none of this complexity when we use the phrase “business as a force for good.”


THE 5 LEVELS

OF BUSINESS CONSCIOUSNESS As we move beyond the simplistic and over-general language of “doing good” in business, I propose introducing a five-stage continuum to help categorize where on the spectrum of consciousness any given business operates. This continuum does not intend to belittle the achievements of companies in any stage; instead, it’s a guide to clarify what the next step might be. A company at Stage 1 can make a concerted effort to obey the law and get to Stage 2. A Stage 4 company’s volunteer hours and charitable contributions are wonderful and important in and of themselves, but in sharply focusing those efforts that same company can have a greater impact as it moves toward Stage 5. Companies should aim for whatever stage is next for them.

5

STAGE

4

GOOD CITIZEN

Take measures to have a net-positive impact. STAGE

3

FAIR PLAYER

Do no intentional harm, but “business is business.”

At this stage, a business has an ethical core of “do no harm.” Its leaders will not STAGE consciously act in a way that takes unfair advantage of or inflicts pain and suffering on RULE people, and they may seek to FOLLOWER offset externalities through Obey the letter of the limited corporate social responsibility efforts and other law. At this stage, a business will damage-mitigation strategies. ostensibly obey the rules of They will simultaneously compete fiercely to maximize the game, and also take full STAGE advantage of others however shareholder return, which they see as the purpose of it legally can. These comtheir company. panies won’t do something proactive for non-fiduciary BAD ACTOR stakeholders unless it is legalLie, cheat, and steal ly required, and they will take to make a profit. advantage of every loophole At this stage, a business has to save and make money. This an almost total absence of is the dominant narrative on purpose beyond making Wall Street. money, and has a similar lack of ethics and care for others. Of course, no company admits this. Some who are here may not even know it, but the company’s culture will always reveal the truth eventually. Think Enron and Tyco.

2

STAGE

At this stage, a company would like to produce a net-positive return for society through its operations. These companies encourage employee volunteerism, contribute toward a wide range of charitable concerns, and usually strive to create an enjoyable workplace culture. These businesses recognize that investing in social capital and goodwill creates important returns.

CONSCIOUS COMPANY

Embody a specific, measurable purpose beyond profit.

At this stage, a company is aware of its power to achieve a specific, important purpose beyond profit, and designs its culture and operations to leverage everything at its disposal to fulfill that mission. Growth and profit remain important, but no longer for their own sake. Now they are a necessary factor of achieving the purpose.

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THE NEW ECONOMY

“We should be talking not merely about ‘business as a force for good,’ but about ‘business for a purpose beyond profit.’” “GOOD” ISN’T A GOOD ENOUGH STANDARD

Like greenwashing, goodwashing is all too easy if we don’t have a more rigorous standard to hold each other to than simply the word “good.” The idea that a business seeks to “do good” can be applied so broadly that it’s virtually meaningless. It’s like an entrepreneur pitching investors by saying that their business idea is to sell stuff to people; um … can you be more specific? If you want to build any kind of business, you need to know how you will solve a specific problem for a specific group of people with a specific product or service. The same is true for “doing good.” A conscious company — one at the most advanced end of the business–purpose spectrum (see previous page) — has identified a purpose beyond profit that solves a specific problem for a specific group of people. The profit that comes from the sale of products and services becomes the fuel for this larger mission. It becomes the reason the company exists, the reason to make a profit. If “using business as a force for good” is at all meaningful, it can’t just mean “doing some good to promote a business.”

BEYOND “HELPING”

Please note that I use the word “solves,” and not “helps.” The power of any business lies in its sophistication in solving a specific problem for a specific customer; so, too, a conscious business must do more than “give back,” “have a positive impact,” and “do good” in a general way. It must have a specific, focused, and sophisticated strategy to affect the outcome of a complex system in the real world and solve a root problem, not just alleviate a symptom. Many genuine and noble efforts to “do good” try to alleviate symptoms via interventions that have side effects that frustrate those working to deal with the root issue. The 2014 documentary “Poverty, Inc.” shows, for example, how many celebrityfaced and business-funded efforts to “do good” by providing aid for people in the developing world — while critically important in times of acute need — have had the unfortunate side effect of stunting economies that, if only they could take hold, would render the aid unnecessary. My point is that solving important social, environmental, and technological problems is incredibly complex and difficult work. So complex, in

fact, that leveraging the creative power of business may be the only way to make real progress. Businesses organize effort and coordinate action systems of dizzying complexity. Lasting solutions and further breakthroughs in broad-based prosperity and ever-greater human thriving will be the product of companies that are not content to “give something back” but of those that make such advances their mission. These conscious companies are doing far more than “good,” and if our language lumps them together with traditional businesses, we muddy the waters, which makes it easier for each of us to rest on our laurels rather than acknowledge how high the bar is and strive to reach it. We should be talking not merely about “business as a force for good,” but about “business for a purpose beyond profit.” Where the former phrase suffers from the limitations that I outlined above, the latter invites the question “what purpose?” The answer to that is the key to getting to the most advanced stages of business consciousness. Let’s make sure that question comes up a lot. The future of business as usual depends on it.

Nathan Havey is the founder of Thrive Consulting Group and the instructor for our new on-demand course on the Fundamentals of Conscious Business. Learn more at consciouscompanymedia.com.

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POWER TO THE PEOPLE

Arcadia Power is bringing renewable energy innovation to households. ARCADIA POWER AT A GLANCE Location: Washington, DC Founded: 2014 Number of Employees: 24 Impact: Serves more customers than over 200 US utilities; has purchased over 150 MWh of wind energy Structure: For-profit B Corp Mission: “To make our world better by changing the way we power our homes and businesses from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.”


THE NEW ECONOMY

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very day, consumers make choices about dozens, if not hundreds, of products and services. In addition to traditional decision-making criteria like price and convenience, consumers are increasingly valuing factors like environmental sustainability and social responsibility. But there’s one huge service that almost everyone buys, yet almost no one makes conscious purchasing decisions about: residential energy. “The utility industry is one of the last monopolistic consumer industries left,” says Kiran Bhatraju, CEO and co-founder of Washington, DC-based energy technology startup Arcadia Power. “People often don’t have choices. They pay this bill every month, probably for their entire lives, and they really have no idea what they’re paying for other than having the lights on.” According to a 2016 Pew Research report, more than 80 percent of Americans favor increasing production of renewable energy like wind and solar power. Yet when it comes to residential renewable energy, there just haven’t been that many options for consumers — only 4 percent of Americans report having home solar panels, for example, and that is probably the most common option consumers know about. “Arcadia Power is trying to reinvent the customer utility experience and give everyone in the country options to choose cleaner energy,” Bhatraju says. “Our mission is to use consumer demand to push renewables to become the primary generation source on the grid.” To do that, Arcadia Power isn’t sending employees out in hard hats to build new infrastructure, however. Instead, the business’s core innovation is software to manage energy billing, which the company has deployed in partnership with hundreds of utilities in all 50 US states. Much like Mint.com offers a new customer experience layered on top of legacy financial services products, Arcadia leverages its access to the billing flow between customer and utility to become a kind of “energy concierge” for consumers. “We’re a software technology company first and foremost,” Bhatraju explains. “That works because at the end of the day, almost all energy is a commodity sale or a financial product. Once

the customer signs up with us, we want to make it easy for them to choose cleaner energy and save money.” Right now, Arcadia customers can choose to offset their current energy use with wind power or purchase a panel in a community solar garden and get bill credits as the panel produces power — even without being physically near the project. Soon, the company will launch an energy savings program for customers in open energy markets, where Arcadia will act like a broker and source the cheapest energy for each customer. And the company is working on a program to add on-bill financing for energy-saving products like smart thermostats or LED lights, so that customers can get the technology at no cost up front and pay for it over time through the savings it generates. “All these different products and services around energy have, frankly, existed for a long time,” Bhatraju says, just not for the average residential customer — until now. If Arcadia’s vision pans out, consumers everywhere — even renters — will be able to vote with their dollars for increased renewables. “We’re building a nationwide energy company that reinvents what it means to buy energy,” Bhatraju says. “We’ll have a lot more partners in the future to help us do that, but the vision is fairly big.” We spoke with Bhatraju about how he came to start his business and what he’s learned along the way. Why is this your passion? How did you end up here? Kiran Bhatraju: I grew up in Kentucky coal country, so I’ve always been interested in energy and how central it is to our way of life. I came to DC, worked on Capitol Hill, learned a ton about energy policy and what was happening, as a country, and how we were moving. I was fascinated by this shift that was happening quickly and was going to snowball, moving from fossil fuels to more renewable resources and more efficient grids. Then I joined an energy company and saw that there was this huge gap between what consumers were being offered and what was happening on the [commercial] energy markets. My co-founder and I decided to jump in and create a way to bring these new innovative products to the average user.

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KIRAN BHATRAJU’S TOP 3 PIECES OF ADVICE FOR MISSION-DRIVEN ENTREPRENEURS 1. BUILD A BUSINESS FIRST I see a lot of companies start with a social mission, which is great, but without really thinking through the business fundamentals.

2. STAY TRUE TO THE MISSION We’re all looking for growth, we’re all looking for profits, but staying true to our mission is the reason we’ve gotten to where we are and have a great community of customers.

3. HELP FOSTER COMMUNITY AND WORK WITH OTHERS We have amazing, close partners that share the same beliefs and ideals, like Sierra Club and other nonprofits across the country, and even corporations that are working with us and buying wind power from us. That community has been important for us in our growth.

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THE NEW ECONOMY

Did you ever imagine you’d become an entrepreneur?

tend to never think about it again.

people know, “You don’t need a roof

KB: Absolutely not. I would never have thought I would start a company. I’m not one of these kids who had a lemonade stand growing up. I was playing basketball or reading books. I’ve always been interested in big ideas, though. That’s part of what attracted me to work in politics before this, and I think that’s generally why a lot of people get attracted to startups. You can effect a lot of change quickly. I felt like a company doing this was such a big opportunity to effect the most change in the energy sector. It’s been an awesome journey. But no, I never expected to be running my own company.

to a customer and let them know that they can save money and they can choose cleaner sources of energy that Consumer buys have all these amazing benefi ts panel — it’s in local solar garden a huge market for us, but getting to the mass market and letting them know, “You have options, you can $ choose these interesting products and services,” is what we’re focusing on over the next year.

to support cleaner energy and save money.” Our retention is incredibly high: our customers sign up and they don’t leave unless they move to a home that doesn’t have a power bill, an apartment or something. We’re growing through referrals pretty rapidly right now. Over this next year, we’ll be putting more effort into making that slide rule move faster.

to putGARDEN solar panels on. There are other a thing that just happens inSOLAR the TRADITIONAL It’s COMMUNITY really interesting, easy ways for you background. But once we get through

Consumer gets credit bill for biggest chalWhat is youron business’s generated lenge power right now?

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KB: We’re growing rapidly, but I would still say it’s just the inertia. People set up their power account and they

So it’s almost a marketing issue? KB: If you think about it, if I’m choosing a bank, I know I have a few different options. Most people move to a new home or an apartment and set up their one utility account and just never understand that they have an option. We’re operating as one of the first companies to ever offer that choice. It’s not something people shop for. It’s a marketing and awareness challenge that we have to overcome. Just letting

What do you see as the role of business in terms of activism or advocacy in the current political climate? KB: I’m a big believer that businesses can bothPower move culture goes toand also just do local utility grid the things that policy has left behind. We’re in this era of gridlock, and we’re facing a pretty daunting administration in terms of clean-energy promotion, but that’s where consumer demand matters. People think the

ARCADIA’S REMOTE COMMUNITY SOLAR GARDEN 1. Customer buys into community solar through Arcadia Power

3. Solar power goes to local grid

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2. Arcadia pay to install solar gardens elsewhere

6. Utility 2 gives bill credit to original customer

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$ 5. Arcadia passes credit to Utility 2

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4. Utility 1 gives credit for power generated to Arcadia


only way they could effect a move to renewable energy is through voting, and what we want to do is give someone that option in the marketplace, use their power as a consumer to help move this market. If we can quickly move from fossil fuels to renewable energy, it’s a massive job creator and wealth creator for the country. I’m a huge believer in companies promoting social change, promoting impact — but also driving returns to communities and shareholders where we operate. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t really believe in that double impact, especially in the sector we’re in. And I do think in a lot of ways, a lot of companies are filling gaps that the gridlock in our government is just not answering. Beyond the actual service you offer, how else do you embody that desire to make a difference in the company? KB: We have an incredibly diverse staff. We try to practice what we preach in terms of corporate governance. We are a B Corporation, which we’re really proud of. That institutionalizes a double- or triple-bottom-line approach to business. Beyond that, we tell our shareholders we’re making a big impact with every new customer. We’re driving renewable energy generation, we’re building new solar projects, all through new consumer demand, making homes more efficient and saving people money. All of those combined are part of what I consider our P&L [profit and loss statement].

They’re all part of our bottom lines. We’re really proud of that. We wear it on our sleeve. We’re really proud to be part of the B Corp world as well. You work with a lot of partners, I presume. You’re probably not building those community solar gardens yourselves? KB: No, we’re not screwing them in. We work with a lot of different partners to help us out. What advice can you share on cultivating partnerships? KB: A basic human trait that easily translates to our business is that we always look to give as well as take. Our relationship with our partners is as much about us helping them as it is about them helping us. That’s important. With the Sierra Club, for example, we help drive new memberships for them as well as them driving new customers for us. Our solar installer partners, we’re bringing them projects and they’re obviously doing the work that we don’t want to be doing by installing these projects and helping us connect to them. It’s important not to make everything in business so transactional, but to think of your partners more as an extension of the business themselves rather than just a vendor. What’s the best piece of leadership advice you’ve given or received?

KB: I’m still learning a lot, if I’m being honest. This is all still very new to me, but I will say that being in service to others is something I’ve always been interested in, and it’s part of the reason I went to work on Capitol Hill and public service. That translates extremely well to running a company. Knowing that [it involves] being in service to everyone, from our management team all the way down, is probably the best thing I can focus on and do to make the company successful. What’s giving you hope right now? KB: I’ve been thinking about that a lot these last few months. One fact that does not get reposted nearly enough is that there are, right now in America, three times as many renewable energy jobs as fossil fuel-related jobs. Solar and wind are being built at a faster pace than any other generation source. And that makes me hopeful. We’ve got a long way to go — those generation sources are still only about 5 percent of our energy mix. But also seeing people stand up for climate, the environment, and other issues, even post-election, has been really heartening. For what we do, it’s the intersection of those two things, jobs and protecting the environment, that I think can be really powerful — because we are driving new jobs, if that was the crux of the campaign we just came out of. Our industry is doing that, it’s been proven, and that gives the whole team here hope that we’re working on something important. Photos: Arcadia Power

Arcadia’s app shows consumers’ energy use

A solar garden

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parting thought...

“We have to bring this world back to sanity and put the greater good ahead of self-interest.� - Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever


Profile for Conscious Company

Conscious Company Magazine | Issue 13 | May/June 2017  

Conscious Company Magazine | Issue 13 | May/June 2017