Viewing entries tagged
eco-friendly

Building Your Social Responsibility Strategy: Where to Start

Comment

Building Your Social Responsibility Strategy: Where to Start

by Kate Vandeveld

These days, it’s becoming increasingly common for companies to partner with nonprofits, audit their supply chains, or amend their business models to address social or environmental problems.

Why? With the rise of Internet and mobile technology, information is more readily available. This means we all have access to information about climate change, poor working conditions, health risks, and more; and with this information comes a greater understanding that we’re in serious need for change.

Plus, these days, consumers are looking for socially responsible companies in increasing numbers, and employees are actively seeking purpose at work. In a nutshell, being a better business also benefits the bottom line. It’s an exciting time.

That said, new clients often come to us feeling a little overwhelmed, and unsure of where they should start when it comes to social and environmental responsibility.

To address this need, we designed a workshop that helps companies identify their values and use them to inform their unique opportunities for impact.

Here are the key areas of focus:

1.     What is your corporate identity?

In this exercise, outline the defining features of your company. Be sure to look beyond your marketing materials to evaluate all aspects of your company. A few examples: What industry are you in? How is your company structured? Where are you located? Who is your customer?

2.     What does your company value?

Corporate values, by definition, are the operating philosophies or principles that guide your internal conduct, as well as your relationship with your customers, partners, and shareholders. Here, think about what makes your company unique, and what behaviors your company encourages, both internally and externally. Some values might be obvious to you, whereas others might take some reflection to uncover.

3.     What are the issues at hand?

Now, take some time to evaluate the challenges specific to your corporate identity, which you defined in question 1. After all, you want your strategy to provide solutions to issues that are relevant to your industry, your employees and/or your customers. 

4.     What can your company offer to address the issues in a manner that aligns with your values?

Here’s where your team needs to get creative. Brainstorm anything and everything you can do to address the problems that you listed (question 3) in a manner that aligns with your values (question 2). Ideas may include partnerships, policies, campaigns, donation opportunities, and more.

Why this structure? We’ve found that by focusing in on a company’s identity, values, and issues, we are able to build strategies that make a meaningful impact in a way that is authentic and sustainable to the brand.

Using WhyWhisper as an example, here’s how the process looks in practice:

1.     Our identity:

- Impact sector

- Consulting firm comprised of independent consultants

- Serving nonprofits and businesses

- New York-based, but working all over the world

- Providing research, marketing and strategy services

- Offering bold approaches to better our world

- Woman-owned

2.     Our values:

Accountability

We hold ourselves accountable to our clients, our fellow freelancers, the environment, and the world at large. We apply critical thought to every aspect of our operations, making changes as we learn and evolve.

Positivity

We see opportunities for creating social impact everywhere we look. We understand that this begins by being kind, supportive, and encouraging of one another, so we work with good people on good projects.

Purpose

We built WhyWhisper because we wanted to use our skills to make the world a better place. We are intentional about who we work with, what we work on, where and how we work. We know that large-scale positive change starts with the actions of individuals.

Learning

We think it's important to try new things, and encourage everyone to take chances. We are thinkers, researchers, and askers of (many) questions.

Empowerment

We designed our company to bring opportunity to communities, clients, and consultants alike. We work with our clients to create positive social, economic, and environmental impact; we empower them to continue this work on their own long after our contract is over, and we pride ourselves on being a source of meaningful projects for our talented network of consultants.

3.     Issues at hand:

- Nonprofits and social enterprises often lack resources (funds and talent)

- Nonprofits’ emphasis on the external impact may be to the detriment of its internal impact (i.e. employee well-being, sustainability, etc.)

- Independent consultants often encounter unreliable work schedules and/or issues with work/life balance.

- Workplace stress is increasingly resulting in physical and mental health issues  

- Companies are struggling with:

- Building an inclusive workplace

- Removing unconscious biases around hiring

- Building and maintaining an ethical supply chain

- And more… 

4.     Our impact:

Knowing the challenges relevant to WhyWhisper, we were then able to connect our company assets and values to ways we could work to solve them.

We donate. 

Each year, we give 5% of profits to causes that roar against injustice when others have whispered.

We volunteer.

As a team, we take on one pro bono project each year, and as individuals, we commit to one volunteer activity per quarter. 

We work with our clients to better the world.

The end outcome of every client engagement is measurable impact.

We're committed to diversity.

As a proud woman-owned company, we actively work to foster diversity in the workplace. 

We actively promote kindness.

Our team members report weekly on their acts of kindness. 

We practice mindfulness.

The first minute of our meetings is set aside to clear our minds and center ourselves. 

We're environmentally-friendly.

We avoid printing, but if printed materials are requested, we print double-sided documents on recycled paper with vegetable-based inks.  We work remotely, cutting down on unnecessary emissions. We use reusables during meetings. We responsibly recycle paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, metal, and electronics. When buying products and choosing suppliers, we select them based on their commitment to diversity and sustainability, striving to stay local and support underrepresented populations whenever possible.  We surround ourselves with plants and greenery.

We're a Certified B Corporation.

Certified B Corporations meet higher standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. And unlike traditional corporations, as a Certified B Corporation, we are legally required to consider the impact of our decisions not only on our shareholders, but also on our stakeholders, including our workers, suppliers, community, consumers, and the environment. To learn more about our certification, check out our B Corp profile and blog post. 

 

While the workshop goes more in-depth on each of the above sections, we wanted to share the general process, so you don’t struggle with getting stuck before you start.

If your company is interested in evaluating and defining its values and using them to inform its socially responsibility strategy, we’re here to help. You can get in touch with us by:

 

Comment

Your Eco-Friendly & Cruelty-Free Guide to Winter Gear

Comment

Your Eco-Friendly & Cruelty-Free Guide to Winter Gear

by Kate Vandeveld

If you live in a place where it’s about to get chilly or plan on taking any winter getaways this year, you may be getting ready to buy some new cold weather gear.

As always, the change in seasons provides an opportunity to purchase products that have been sourced ethically, and that have caused as little damage to our environment as possible. Isn’t it cool that all you have to do to be better in this situation is choose the right places to shop? We think so!

To get your started, here are some of our favorite options for eco-friendly and cruelty-free winter gear:

Outerwear: Patagonia

As you may know by now, Patagonia has made environmental and social responsibility part of its mission. The high-end outdoor apparel company has worked to increase transparency around its supply chain, showing their environmental and social impact through The Footprint Chronicles.  The company ensures that all of its products are traceable and responsibly sourced, as well as fair trade certified. Patagonia also gives 1% of sales to environmental organizations all over the world. Plus, the company offers repair on their apparel through their Worn Wear program, which also recycles garments once they’re beyond repair. And their gear isn’t just limited to classic jackets and fleeces – they sell everything from denim to ski apparel.

Boots: Planet Shoes

Thinking about investing in a new pair of winter boots? If you know that you want them to be eco-friendly and ethically sourced, but you don’t know exactly what brand or look you’re going for, Planet Shoes has you covered. Their shop features shoes and boots that have been made with eco-friendly materials and are shipped in recycled packaging. Planet Shoes offers options from a variety of different brands, for different types of weather, so you’re covered no matter what you’re looking for. They also have an Eco Blog, focused on providing you with tips and ideas around living more sustainably. 

Skin Care Products: Organic Bath Co.

Let’s be real: You have to put some extra effort in to take care of your skin during the winter. If you’re going to invest in moisturizer, lip balm, and other skin care products, opt for a vendor that gives back. Organic Bath Co. was founded on the idea that taking care of yourself and caring for the planet are of equal importance. To give back, Organic Bath Co. donates a portion of proceeds from every purchase to 1% Percent for the Planet, which finances sustainability-oriented non-profits, and the Global Soap Project, which provides hygiene products to those who need them all over the world.

Coats & Accessories: VAUTE Couture

If you’re looking for outerwear and winter accessories that are a little more “fashionable” than what Patagonia has to offer, check out VAUTE Couture, the world’s first all-vegan fashion brand. The brand’s founder, Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, believes that animals shouldn’t be part of the “fashion equation,” and hopes to prove that high fashion can be accomplished without the use of animal by-products. Check out their elegant collection of coats, hats and other accessories.

Do you know of other ethically sourced, environmentally friendly winter gear companies? Tell us about it and we’ll spread the word:

Comment

4 Unique Ways to Get More Sustainable This Earth Day

Comment

4 Unique Ways to Get More Sustainable This Earth Day

by Kate Vandeveld

Earth Day is right around the corner! Next Wednesday, April 22nd to be exact. If you haven’t been as environmentally aware as you’d like to have been this year, now is the perfect moment to turn over a new leaf (get it?).

If you don’t feel like you need to make any changes, try out the Earth Day Network Carbon Footprint Calculator to get a sense as to how much your actions are impacting our planet. It might change your mind!

4 Unique Ways to Get More Sustainable This Earth Day - via WhyWhisper

Whether you want to get your hands dirty or make a different kind of impact, there are so many ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint. You probably know many of the usual suspects by now (which are all great options!), but we want to take it a step further with some unique ways that you can make an impact when it comes to sustainability.

Here are a few of them to get you started:

Buy from Eco-Friendly Social Enterprises

You don’t have to make huge changes to reduce your carbon footprint – all you have to do is make a conscious decision to make purchases from eco-friendly social enterprises.  Here are some of our favorite options:

  • method: With its unique line of beautifully designed and eco-friendly cleaning products, method has developed a brand that is appealing and impactful. Not only are their ingredients environmentally safe, but their packaging is made out of 100% recycled plastic. Their newest line is even made with recovered ocean plastic!
  • LEAP Organics: If you’re looking for environmentally friendly skincare products, LEAP Organics has you covered. They produce organic, sustainable, all natural soap and skincare products that are both cruelty-free and vegan. Like method, all of LEAP’s packaging is made from 100% recycled plastic, and their boxes are Forest Stewardship Council certified, which means that packaging paper comes from sustainable, well-managed forests. Plus, LEAP donates 1% of sales to environmental non-profits.
  • United by Blue: The clothing that you purchase has a huge impact on the environment – and you decide whether that impact is positive or negative. When you buy clothes from United by Blue, you’re choosing the former. For every item sold, the company removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways through clean-ups that they organize in different U.S. cities.

These are just a few of the many amazing eco-friendly social enterprises out there. If you’re interested in learning about more, start with this list of B Corporations that are focused on the environment.

4 Unique Ways to Get More Sustainable This Earth Day - via WhyWhisper

Make Small Changes in Your Routine

You probably already know about some of the ways you can reduce your carbon footprint – switching to compact fluorescent bulbs, buying local food, and cutting back on printing, for example. But there are so many other ways that you can cut back on waste that you probably don’t even think about.

Reduce Grocery Store Packaging

When you’re grocery shopping, almost every single item that you look at is packaged, and often excessively so. And while reusable bags have been on the rise in recent years, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are still consumed each year.

Grocery store waste seems inescapable – but it doesn’t have to be. Over the past few years, zero-waste grocery stores have started to crop up in the United States. One of the first zero-waste grocery stores to open in the U.S. is In.gredients in Austin, TX. Here’s how it works: In.gredients, and other stores like it, sell all of their food in bulk. Then, you either bring your own containers with you to fill up, or the store provides containers that are 100% compostable for you to use. Stores like this are cutting down on the estimated 570 million pounds of food packaging that Americans add to landfills each year.

If you don’t have a zero-waste grocery store near you (yet), you can still majorly cut back on your grocery store waste by buying bulk whenever possible, bringing your own containers to carry home deli items, and opting for reusable bags. If you’re interested in additional tips, you can learn a lot from Bea Johnson’s blog Zero Waste Home – she and her family have been living an entirely zero-waste lifestyle since 2008!

Reusable Takeout Options

Or what about when you order takeout? Do you really have a say as to whether or not you use plastic containers when you order out? You do, actually – at least in some places.

In recent years, companies that produce reusable takeout containers have emerged to solve this problem. They operate on different models: Some sell their containers to restaurants and let them handle the rest, others implement programs at colleges and universities and in food courts. But one of our favorite of these companies, GO Box, puts the power to make sustainable takeout choices in your hands. If you want to order takeout in Portland or San Francisco, you can sign up for this subscription-based service. When you order food, you just provide your subscription information to a participating restaurant or vendor, and they will use a GO Box container for your order. Then, when you’re finished with it, all you have to do is drop the container at one of many drop sites in your city. GO Box takes care of the rest, picking up containers (by bike!), washing them, and redistributing them to vendors.

Though there aren’t an abundance of these options at this point, do a little research to see if you can find anything in your area if you want your next takeout order to be a little greener. 

4 Unique Ways to Get More Sustainable This Earth Day - via WhyWhisper

Download an Environmentally-Friendly App

If you want to take a digital approach to environmentalism, all you have to do is download an app (or a few, if you’re feeling crazy). In recent years, numbers of apps that help you reduce your carbon footprint and make environmentally friendly decisions have been developed. Here are a couple that we’re really into:

  • Oroeco: This app tracks your carbon footprint by putting a value on all of your actions – from what you eat, to how you get around, to what you buy – and adding it up to show the environmental impact of your decisions using data from UC Berkeley. It then compares this data to your neighbors and friends, so you see just how your environmental impact lines up against those around you.
  • GoodGuide: If you’re ready to start shopping for more eco-friendly products, but don’t have the time to research every single product you’re considering, you need GoodGuide. This app allows you to input information about a general product that you’re looking for, and provides you with safe, healthy, green, and ethical options for you to choose from.
  • Carma: This carpooling app makes it easy for you to find others in your area who are headed in the same direction as you with whom you can share your commute. It also allows you to split costs with other riders, so you save money while reducing traffic and emissions.
  • Images of Change: Sometimes, it takes a little bit of perspective (and, perhaps, ensuing shock) to spur action – and that’s what this app offers.  NASA provides the app with images from its Global Climate Change, comparing side-by-side views of the same shot on the planet many years apart. If climate change seems like an ambiguous concept to you, this app may give you a much-needed reality check.

No matter how big or small your carbon footprint, each one of us needs to be doing more to protect the environment. How do you plan to make a positive environmental impact this spring and beyond? Share with us by:

Comment

Why Shopping Small Business Matters

Comment

Why Shopping Small Business Matters

by Kate Vandeveld

Lately, we’ve been talking a lot about how you can make a difference during the holiday season – from making more sustainable choices, to purchasing gifts that give back, to shopping small business. And while most of us know that shopping at small businesses is a good thing, we may not entirely know why.

shopsmall

Here are a few of the key reasons why shopping small business is so important:

 

Boosts Your Local Economy

Buying from small, local businesses boosts the economy in smaller towns, and creates job opportunities in places that need it. In fact, small business job growth is huge: Over the past decade, small businesses have generated over 63 percent of the net new jobs available in the United States, and currently employ almost half of the nation’s workforce. Because small businesses are more likely to purchase their products from domestic manufacturers, by shopping local, you are supporting jobs not just in your own community, but in small towns across the country.

Economy

In addition, when you shop at small businesses, you are investing in your local community. When you shop at small businesses, around 68 percent of what you spend will stay in your local economy, versus the 43 percent that stays local when you shop elsewhere. If residents of an “average” American city shifted 10 percent of their spending to local businesses, it would mean an influx of over $235 million into that community’s local economy. Imagine what a difference that would make!

 

Takes a Stand for Human Rights

When you buy locally, you can take steps to make sure that the products you are buying are not being made by exploited or abused workers. You can ask questions about whether or not small business products were made locally, and where exactly they were made. In addition, 85 percent of small business owners pay all of their employees more than the minimum wage, so it is more likely that you will be supporting fair wages when you shop local. In a recent poll, two out of three small business owners supported increasing the federal minimum wage, as well as readjusting it yearly to keep up with increased cost of living.

humanrights

On the flipside, shopping small means you won’t be supporting large corporations like Walmart. When you shop at these large corporations, it’s very possible that you will be purchasing products that were made in inhumane conditions, where workers are overworked and underpaid, and sometimes forced to work in unsafe conditions. Walmart employees themselves are overworked and underpaid, so much so that this year, workers protested against the corporation on Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. The union-backed labor campaign OUR Walmart launched a nationwide strike against the corporation, asserting that they aren’t paid enough to make ends meet. Their demands are simple and fair: they want the option of consistent, full-time work and a wage of $15/hour. These negative working conditions aren’t exclusive to Walmart; large corporations are more likely to pay their workers less than small businesses. 

 

Has a Positive Environmental Impact

Environment

Small businesses have “a deep connection to their communities’ and environments’ needs, and therefore often have an incentive to be good stewards of their surrounding environment.” Because locally-owned businesses generally make their own purchases locally (or at least domestically) as well, they have less of a negative environmental impact when transporting their goods. On the other hand, large corporations almost always get their goods from further away. This means that they frequently rely on aircraft transport, which has greater fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions per mile than any other mode of transport.

Large food corporations also commonly use a great deal more (non-recyclable!) packaging than small farms and grocery stores. Every single day, the average American produces over four pounds of waste, much of which comes from food packaging. By buying food from your local grocery store, you can opt for foods with less packaging and therefore, create less waste. 

 

Builds Your Local Community

Local business owners are often more invested in your community’s future. So when you support them, you’re investing in the prosperity of your city.  Throughout the United States, only about 34 percent of the revenue from national chains is reinvested into the community, versus 65 percent from local businesses. This means that almost double the amount of the money that you spend at small, local businesses goes directly back into your community. Small businesses are also much more likely to give back, donating 250 percent more to local non-profit organizations and community causes than large corporations.

community

Beyond their economic contributions, small businesses also support and foster a sense of community that large corporations simply cannot. Small business owners connect and work with one another, and are much more likely to actually care about their customers and the products that they are selling them. Because of this, customer service is often stronger at small businesses. For us, and many others, shopping small business tends to be a much friendlier and higher quality experience. 

 

If you want to take a step further, you can shop at small businesses that are focused on social impact – we provide some great examples in our holiday gift guide.

So when you’re finishing up your gift shopping this holiday season, keep this in mind: shopping small business is worth it, for the environment, the economy, and your local community.

What are some of your favorite small businesses? We want to make sure the world knows about them! Share with us in the comments below, or get in touch on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram

Comment

Our Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts That Do Good

2 Comments

Our Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts That Do Good

by Kate Vandeveld

Holiday shopping is a notoriously dread-inducing task for some, but it really doesn’t have to be. In fact, it’s an excellent opportunity for you to make an impact – and you can do a lot of it online (phew).

As you may know by now, we believe in doing well by doing good, and we try to take every opportunity to support businesses that are promoting economic empowerment, equality, health, and sustainability. No matter what the people on your gift list are into, you can find the perfect gift for them and make an impact at the same time.

Here are our ideas for awesome and impactful gifts during this year’s holiday season:

 

The Gift of Empowerment

“How it's made matters. Empower people to rise above poverty through the gifts you give.”                                                                                                                                                                      – 31 Bits

31 bits.png

31 Bits is a social enterprise that uses fashion and design to empower Ugandan women to rise above poverty through a variety of community-based initiatives focusing on financial sustainability, physical and mental wellness, social support, and community impact. One part of their model is that they provide women with the materials that they need to make beautiful pieces of jewelry that 31 Bits then sells internationally on their behalf. Proceeds from sales go back to the women and into their empowerment program.

Not only is 31 Bits making a huge impact in the communities they’re working with, but the pieces that they sell are absolutely beautiful. See for yourself here – you’ll be glad you did.

If you’re looking for other fashionable gifts that empower communities and individuals, check out these other beautiful shops:

  • Sseko Designs: An ethical fashion brand that hires high potential women in Uganda to make sandals to enable them to earn money through dignified employment.
  • Rose & Fitzgerald: Social enterprise that sources handmade products from Ugandan artisans, empowering them by providing consistent business and opportunities for training and growth.

 

The Gift That Gives Back

“[Make] a conscious choice to do good by making not one, but two kids happy.”                                                                                                                                                  – Everything Happy

EverythingHappy

Another way that you can give back with your holiday purchases is by supporting businesses that subscribe to the “buy one, give one” philosophy. For every item that these companies sell, they give a similar item to communities in need. One such company is Everything Happy, a social enterprise that sells blankets, stuffed animals, and other items for babies and children. For each purchase, a similar item is distributed to children in hospitals and orphanages all over the world.

So instead of going to Toys ‘R’ Us to shop for the little ones in your life, you can make two kids happy by shopping at Everything Happy – check them out.

If you’re looking to purchase gifts for a different age bracket, here are some other companies who use the “buy one, give one” model:

  • Sackcloth & Ashes: For each high-quality blanket purchased, they deliver a fleece blanket to your local homeless shelter.
  • LSTN Headphones: Every pair of headphones that they sell helps provide hearing aids to a person in need.

 

The Gift of Health

“Investing in health is one of the smartest placed bets you can make.”                                                                                                                                       – Jenna Tanenbaum, Green Blender Co-Founder

GreenBlender

Making healthy choices is so important, and it can be especially hard to do during the holiday season, when food and fun are at the forefront of our minds. That’s why social enterprises like Green Blender that empower people to take control of their health are so important. If you purchase a weekly Green Blender subscription for someone on your list who lives in the Northeast, they’ll receive five smoothie recipes and the pre-portioned ingredients that they’ll need to make  each week for as long as you’d like. And if that someone lives elsewhere, you can opt for the Green Blender holiday pack, which includes ten holiday smoothie recipes plus a superfood sampler pack.

If you’re interested in giving someone a different kind of healthy gift, try these options:

  • Local CSAs: Deliver local, seasonal, and fresh raw foods to a person’s home or workplace.
  • graze: Delivers healthy snacks delivered to someone’s home or workplace. 

 

The Gift of Sustainability

BikeShare

When you think of eco-friendly gifts, recycled and upcycled goods might come to mind – but those aren’t your only options. One awesome (and different!) sustainable gift option is a local bike share membership. These days, many cities have affordable bike sharing systems for local residents to use to get around. You can purchase an annual subscription for the active city dweller on your list. This way, instead of driving to work or the grocery store, they’ll have the eco-friendly (and healthy!) option of biking, without having to purchase a bike and all of the things that come with it.

Here are just a few of the bike share options available in U.S. cities:

If you’d rather opt for more traditional and tangible eco-friendly gifts, start here:

  • Hipcycle: Upcycled goods that are durable, stylish and priced fairly.
  • eartheasy: Carefully selected gifts with lower environmental impact. 

 

And if you have someone on your list who seems to have everything already, but you still want to get them a meaningful gift, check out DonorsChoose.org gift cards. Here’s how it works: You purchase the gift card (which is 100% tax deductible), and the person you give it to gets to choose a classroom project to support using the funds on the card. In return, that person will receive photos and thank-you notes from the classroom he or she chose to help.

No matter what kind of gifts you’re giving this year, we encourage you to shop small business and look for eco-friendly options whenever possible. Choosing to make a positive impact through our purchases has never been easier, and we promise it will be a huge hit (while also making you feel good).

If you’re looking for even more ways to make an impact this holiday season, we have you covered – check out our suggestions here.

Have other ideas for fun and impactful holiday gifts? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. We want to hear from you! 

2 Comments