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Gamechanger: How Terra Education is Shaping Global Citizens & Impacting Communities

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Gamechanger: How Terra Education is Shaping Global Citizens & Impacting Communities

The B Corps community is full of individuals and companies who truly believe in using business as a force for good. In connecting and working with this community, we’re continually reminded that aligning our work with our values is what leads to deep and sustainable impact. Lately, when we’ve come across a B Corp with a mission we think is unique or particularly inspiring, we’ve asked them to sit down with us so we can learn more about their models and impact.

One such B Corp is Terra Education, a company that offers international service-learning programs to students of all ages, with a focus on helping them acquire the skills and perspective necessary to become effective global citizens. We love that their programs emphasize long-term, sustainable impact on destination communities, as well as a thought-provoking and enriching experience for program participants. They offer experiences that are impact and community-focused, but that also align with their volunteers’ passions, such as animal and wildlife conservation trips to destinations like Thailand and Galapagos, and sports-oriented service trips to Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

We had the opportunity to connect with Terra Education’s Founder and Director Andrew Motiwalla to learn more about their work and impact – here’s what he had to say:

What sets Terra Education apart from other service-learning programs? 

Terra Education offers two international travel programs: Global Leadership Adventures (service-learning trips for teens) and Discover Corps (volunteer vacations for adults). What sets us apart from other programs is our fanatical emphasis on identifying high-quality non-profit partners around the world. This allows us to connect our travelers to meaningful grassroots projects. Unlike some organizations that invent unneeded projects or simply make participants do any manual task as a quick way to add a volunteer component to their program, we have a team of people around the world dedicated to identifying sustainable projects and responsible NGOs that we can partner with.

 photo via Global Leadership Adventures

photo via Global Leadership Adventures

We love your guiding principles of compassion, cultural sensitivity, innovation and integrity. What was your process for selecting these values? 

Core values have a danger of becoming clichés. Our team was wary of inventing values that might seem like they were intended to make us sound good. So, we met as a staff and discussed what truly sets us apart from our other professions’ experiences. For almost everyone, these were values that we had not seen reflected to such a large extent at any of our other past jobs. Then, we tried to come up with scenarios where we might have to make the choice to compromise on these values – and the ones which we knew would never compromise are the ones we knew would hold true.

Speaking of putting your values to the test, can you explain how you use them in practice? For example, perhaps there's a time that stands out when you referenced your values to make a particular decision or overcome a particular obstacle? 

Compassion is witnessed on a daily basis here. The fact that many staff members feel like Terra is a family is evidenced by the way we treat each other and our clients. For most of our clients, it is nerve-wracking to put your life in the hands of a company and fly to a developing country and hope for a good experience. We realize this. Instead of getting upset by anxious clients who ask tons of questions, we put ourselves in their shoes and consider the emotions they are feeling, and then answer the questions from that mental state. There are inherent risks in traveling abroad, and people have a right to ask tough questions and demand honest and thorough answers.

Cultural sensitivity is also critical in our work. All of our programs occur outside the United States, and therefore require a certain level of sensitivity to understand how things work in other countries. But it’s most important when doing any sort of project with a community. When designing our volunteer projects, the experience cannot be driven by us. Otherwise, it will be inauthentic, or worse, possibly damaging to the community. This requires a heightened sense of cultural sensitivity and cross-cultural competency.

 photo via Global Leadership Adventures

photo via Global Leadership Adventures

As we understand it, program participants volunteer with community-based organizations. How do you select these partners? 

When vetting a partner, we visit them to understand how they engage a community, and how they design their projects to be sustainable. Whether they're adult volunteers on a Discover Corps trip, or high school students with Global Leadership Adventures, our travelers are only in-country for a couple of weeks, and therefore it’s important that they be a link in a chain of volunteers that is working towards a larger vision.  

Sometimes, partners are overly optimistic about how much foreign volunteers can actually contribute, and then we work with them to set expectations properly. Just because someone is an accountant from the United States doesn't mean that they can join a team to implement an accounting system for a NGO in another country in a week.  

Do you regularly report on and/or review your impact? If so, has this had an effect on how your business has developed?

We definitely review our impact when it’s time to renew our certification, but we would like to do it more frequently. We are forming a new internal committee to look at more ways we can increase our impact in a more structured way. In the past, many of our efforts were ad hoc, but as we grow we would like to be more strategic about our impact. We hope to specifically look at areas where we can really boost our scores.  

 

One of our favorite things about Terra Education is how they aim to have a positive impact both on the destination communities in which they work, as well as on the individuals who participate in their programs. These participants are called “gamechangers”, and you can learn more about their experiences here – we highly recommend that you check them out.

To follow along with Terra Education’s work or learn more about their service-learning programs, visit their website for adult programs: Discover Corps  or their website for teen programs: Global Leadership Adventures.

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Empower Mint: Ben & Jerry’s Takes Action for Change

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Empower Mint: Ben & Jerry’s Takes Action for Change

by Kate Vandeveld

Hopefully, it’s finally started to warm up in your neck of the woods. And if so, we’d venture a guess that your ice cream intake is about to increase…ours is!

So it’s probably a good time for us to share a really cool initiative that one of our favorite companies (and a fellow Certified B Corp!), Ben & Jerry’s, recently launched as we lead up to this year’s presidential election. But it isn’t about which political candidate you should support – it’s about the greater issues that our country’s democratic system is facing as a whole.

Ben & Jerry’s Takes Action for Change

What are these issues?

The two overarching issues that the campaign seeks to address are financial corruption in politics, and the challenges that low income and minority voters face as a result of unfair voting laws. 

When the Supreme Court made the decision to give corporations the same rights to freedom of speech as it does American citizens, it made it so that “the richer you are, the louder your voice.” Beyond that, corporate money that goes through Super PACs is largely unregulated and untraceable, so wealthy donors and corporations can give as much money to the candidates they support as they’d like. This means that not only do a small number of Americans have the most power when it comes to getting their candidates elected, but that once those candidates are in office, they’ll owe their supporters and be inclined to pass laws that benefit them.

This problem is exacerbated by the Supreme Court’s recent decision to invalidate a key part of the Voter Rights Act, which was in place to ensure that citizens’ right to vote is upheld across the board. Now, states with a history of discrimination are no longer subject to the same level of federal oversight as they once were when it comes to voting laws. For example, voter identification legislation in some states means that the 21 million Americans who do not have the necessary government-issued ID can’t vote. And some states have limited voting hours to remove those times that have historically been most popular with hourly workers – evenings and Sundays – making it extremely difficult for them to vote.

How is Ben & Jerry’s working to fix them?

Through their ‘Democracy is in Your Hands’ campaign, Ben & Jerry’s is seeking to call attention to and inform a greater number of citizens about these crucial issues, and provide support to the organizations and initiatives that are working to address them.

The company launched their new ice cream flavor, Empower Mint, in conjunction with a campaign that supports recent efforts by the NAACP to increase voter turnout in North Carolina, one of the many states that has passed legislation to make it harder for people to vote in recent years. The Empower Mint flavor will benefit the state’s NAACP chapter, an organization “dedicated to ensuring the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights of all persons and eliminating racial hatred and discrimination.”

Ben & Jerry's Takes Action for Change - WhyWhisper Collective

Why do we love this so much?

As you probably know by now, we’re big advocates of businesses that choose to support a particular cause or set of causes and stay committed to those causes over time. Long-term, sustained support is important for creating real change.

We also love that Ben & Jerry’s regularly uses its products and brand to support a variety of causes. They often choose to partner with social enterprises and organizations that are working for change, like their collaboration with New Belgium for action around climate change.

Plus, their campaigns always include an educational element. This one, for example, provides clear and easy to understand information about issues around voting rights and money in politics. It even provides links to voter registration, and a petition for the Supreme Court to reauthorize the Voting Rights Act.

What other companies do you know of that are openly discussing the need for change in politics? Tell us about them! Here’s how:

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Building Your Social Responsibility Strategy: Where to Start

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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:

 

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CSR Spotlight: Ben & Jerry’s + New Belgium Partner for Climate Change

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CSR Spotlight: Ben & Jerry’s + New Belgium Partner for Climate Change

by Kate Vandeveld

The end of the year can be stressful. Between the holidays, wrapping up work for the year, and making plans for the next, there’s a lot going on. So, when you have a chance to relax and indulge a bit, you should take it.

That’s why we were so excited to learn that two of our personal favorite indulgences, ice cream and beer, came together this year in collaboration for environmental impact. Ben & Jerry’s, a company that is well-known for its social and environmental impact, and New Belgium, a Colorado-based brewery, announced their partnership earlier this year.

Ben & Jerry's + New Belgium - Social Impact - WhyWhisper Collective

Both B Corporations, the companies partnered to release a new product for each brand: Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s, and Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale beer from New Belgium. Each are limited releases – three months only! – and are sold in select locations around the country. While both sound delicious, the unique flavor isn’t even the coolest part: A portion of the proceeds from the sales of these two products will be going to climate advocacy group, Protect Our Winters (POW).  

Started in 2007 by pro-snowboarder Jeremy Jones, POW is working to engage and mobilize the snow sports community to raise awareness of and work against climate change. POW is working to use what they call the outdoor community’s “disproportionate influence” for good, through awareness-raising events, fundraising, and advocating for policy reform around environmental issues.

The aim of this partnership in particular is to build awareness of, and inspire action around, the Clean Power Plan, an effort to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants that was passed by President Obama in August 2015. The plan allows each state’s governor to determine how they’ll reduce carbon pollution in the best way for his or her state. So, on top of sales donations, all three entities are encouraging their audiences to take action by contacting their governors to ask them to make a “speedy transition to clean renewable sources of energy that pollute less, protect the environment, create good jobs, and protect the health of all Americans.” Click through here to select your state, and POW will call you back and connect you with your governor directly. It couldn’t be simpler! If you don’t want to call, you can also email or tweet at your governor – they provide you with copy for both.

Perhaps even more important than this particular initiative in and of itself is the example that Ben & Jerry’s and New Belgium are making in integrating impact into their existing business models. This short but effective marketing campaign and corresponding non-profit partnership is allowing both companies to have a positive impact in an area they care about, without having to turn their operations upside down or greatly expand their capacity. And, while we always hope that impact projects aren’t put into place for PR purposes, it looks pretty good for both companies in that respect, too.

Do you know of a company that is running an interesting social impact campaign? Share with us! We love to learn about and share unique and effective efforts to do good. Leave a comment below, or connect on social – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

Also, if your company or a company you know about is interested in doing something similar, our team can help you develop an effective and strategic campaign. Get in touch!


Learn more about the collaboration between Ben & Jerry's, New Belgium, and Protect Our Winters here:

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What My Travels Taught Me About Social Change

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What My Travels Taught Me About Social Change

by Alexandra Ostrow

Last month, my newlywed husband, Ron, and I set off on a three-week adventure to Thailand. With three days in Bangkok, five days by the Ping River in Chiang Mai, and close to two weeks on the beaches of Khao Lak, Koh Lanta, and Railay, we had a chance to experience different climates, ecosystems, accommodations, food, and nightlife. We visited historical temples, bathed elephants, swam in crystal clear blue seas, and walked the colorful streets of crowded night bazaars. And all the while, I couldn't help but take note of the numerous models for impact. 

Now that we're back in New York, I routinely find myself thinking about the organizations that we encountered, and the many ways that their marketing, operations, and infrastructure applies to my client work.

Here are a few examples:

Bangkok

During our first two nights in Thailand, we stayed at The Metropolitan by Como, a luxury boutique hotel with sleek, contemporary designs, an in-house Michelin-starred restaurant, and a beautiful and serene spa. At first glance, there were no readily apparent ties to any philanthropic initiatives.

Later in the trip, I took a better look at the welcome card that they had left for us. On the back, there was a small, but distinct message about their foundation's work in Peru. It struck me as odd that a Thai hotel - even one that's a member of a global boutique operation - would be messaging their work in Peru. Upon further research, I learned that The Como Foundation supports nonprofit organizations working to improve the lives of women and girls in 19 countries worldwide through education, skill development, and income generation. Now, this made a bit more sense.

What to remember:

  • When running a philanthropic arm of a larger corporate entity, it's critical to craft messaging that resonates with the customer. If someone is traveling to Thailand, odds are they will be more interested in what's going on in Thailand than what's going on in Peru. If unable to resonate on a geographical level, approach it from a different angle. Approximately 51% of the world's population is female. Since their mission is directly tied to empowering girls, why not make this the focus of their materials?
     
  • To ensure the ongoing success of any nonprofit initiative, one must ensure continued visibility and interest. The Metropolitan has numerous opportunities to make customers aware of their philanthropic activities. For example, when someone makes a reservation, they could alert them that a portion of the fees are donated to their foundation. When they check in at the front desk, they could provide a card or brochure with instructions on learning more. When they visit their spa, they could feature items produced by the girls the foundation supports, and information on the training they had received. On-site art auctions, Twitter responses to Foursquare check-ins, even including a direct call-to-action on the welcome card -- any of this would have greatly helped to increase the odds that their customers would support their efforts. The lesson? Look for every point of contact with a prospect, and include relevant stories and information. Did I mention that this benefits the corporation as well? In a recent study, 60% of American consumers said that buying goods from socially responsible companies is important to them.

Chiang Mai
In traveling to the northern Province of Chiang Mai, both Ron and I were beyond excited to feed and bathe the elephants. We had extensively researched our options, as we knew from others that there were numerous companies exploiting animals for purposes of tourism. That being said, we never could have imagined the incredible sanctuary we would step into upon visiting The Elephant Nature Park.

Throughout the day, we received quite an education . We  learned of the abuse and traumas faced by the elephants of Thailand, and the ways in which we could affect change. We saw a baby elephant mischievously trying to allude his mom so as to play with the children in our group. We came to understand the importance of adhering to a strict snacking schedule, so as to ensure the elephants still knew to seek their own food sources throughout the day.

The elephants roamed freely amidst dogs, cats, and visitors (note that safety measures were in place), and volunteers ranged from their late teens to their early eighties. Some were clearing elephant dung. Others were carrying countless baskets of bananas, watermelons, and pumpkins. All had paid a fee to take part in these activities. To date, the organization has rescued over 35 elephants from the trekking, logging, and tourism industries, as well as over 400 dogs and cats, and their success is in large part due to their volunteer populations.

What to remember:

  • By offering an experiential volunteer program where people pay for accommodations and hands-on interaction, organizations can build a sustainable financial model that perpetuates change for their communities, while simultaneously minimizing costs around full-time labor.
     
  • While facts and figures are undeniably important, people are much more likely to buy into the mission of an organization when they have an opportunity to see the impact of its work. A great way for an organization to bring its mission to life is through storytelling. Why did the founder first get involved? What is a typical day-in-the-life of a volunteer? How did one elephant's life change after being placed at the Elephant Nature Park? 

Koh Lanta
Just after arriving in Koh Lanta, a district in Krabi Province, Thailand, Ron and I were looking for a beachside cocktail when we stumbled across Time for Lime, a cooking school, restaurant, and bar, that also offers bungalow accommodations. As I read through their cocktail list and innovative tasting menu, something else caught my eye… all profits from Time for Lime go to Lanta Animal Welfare, a rescue committed to the sterilization and care of the island’s neglected animals.

If you know me (or follow me on Twitter and/or Instagram), you are likely aware of my love of animals. For years, I worked at a local NYC animal rescue, not to mention the Rottweiler, Shepherd-Lab mix, and 2 spunky cats living alongside my husband and me in our little East Village apartment. Needless to say, we spent many nights supporting their business and talking to their founder; and we also arranged a daytime motorcycle ride to visit the animal rescue in person.

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What to remember:

  • There are many ways to affect change in a community. By using a beachside business model that easily attracts tourists, Time for Lime was financially able to start and sustain a nonprofit animal rescue. They also increased the visibility of the animals who were up for adoption, and provided employment to locals from the area. Were this to be located in New York, they would likely be certified as a Benefit Corporation (or BCorp). 
     
  • Time for Lime is able to attract a more steady stream of business through partnerships with larger hotels who want to offer their patrons a unique cooking school experience. When running any social change initiative, it's important to build mutually beneficial relationships that ensure support from the larger community.

The organizations I encountered in my recent travels to Thailand helped to remind me of the endless models and opportunities for creating social change in a community. Are there other impactful initiatives you encountered in your travels? I would love to learn about them!

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