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The way businesses engage in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is changing.  carterfoster.png

Take Timberland as an example. In 2015 the outdoor lifestyle brand created 84 percent of its footwear products with at least one material containing recycled, organic, or renewable content. It has planted more than 8 million trees since 2001. To date, Timberland employees have served over one million volunteer-hours in communities around the world.

The bar is being raised for small businesses, too.

In part, this is because the Millennial workforce is demanding it. A study by Intelligence Group found that 64 percent of Millennials say they want to work for a company that’s striving to make the world a better place. As consumers, people are becoming more aware of the practices company’s take – or fail to take.

Further, more businesses are finding that CSR programs help grow their business.

Recently, the Calypso team attended the annual New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility (NHBSR) Spring Conference. Each year, speakers and attendees show how driven they are to better the environment, society, and the workplace.

The presentations this year left the audience with a cohesive message: People are at the center of everything you do. People are your business, your customers, and the driving force behind change.

As keynote speaker and author Andrew Winston said, “Business cannot thrive unless the planet and its people are thriving.”

With all this in mind, it’s startling that more businesses are not adopting CSR programs into their business.

In our experience, while most clients are open to developing a CSR program, others meet it with heavy resistance. Often, this comes from a misunderstanding about how a CSR program can work for their business. But as successes have shown, it’s not as dramatic a risk some may believe. Or they see it as incongruous with their business goals. But this is only true if you fail to account for the wide array of CSR options.

Whatever your specific case is, here’s what must be account for to make your CSR a success:

ALIGN IT WITH YOUR BUSINESS

Not every program will work for you. And you shouldn’t try to affix something to your business that doesn’t feel right. But that’s not an excuse for doing nothing—in fact, inaction could be seen as equal to bad action.

Whatever shape your CSR takes, it needs to be authentic to your business model, its leadership, and its employees.

Consider the now-pulled Pepsi commercial featuring Kendall Jenner. This is a great example of what could result from inauthentic social activism. Before the ad aired, neither Pepsi nor Kendall Jenner was associated with the cultural movements portrayed. What resulted was a tone-deaf flop, not a groundbreaking social statement by Pepsi.

Compare Pepsi’s flop to the Ben and Jerry’s Democracy campaign. Chris Miller discussed the planning and execution of this campaign during his NHBSR keynote. The numbers he shared were quite impressive. Not least among them were the thousands of people they helped register to vote, and a 7:1 ROI they saw as a result of their activism.

“Combine issue advocacy with marketing. And build a better business.
And build a better world.” – Chris Miller

You might be saying that Ben and Jerry’s has a history of doing that sort of thing, so of course it went well. And that’s exactly the point. The more dedicated—either through a track record or noticeable support—the less it will seem off-brand, exploitative, and phony.

Timberland, unlike Ben and Jerry’s, does not immediately bring to mind bearded liberals in Vermont. Yet they too have robust CSR and sustainability initiatives.

At this year’s NHBSR, Margaret Morey-Reuner, director of strategic partnerships for Timberland, and Bill Besselman, executive vice president of Thread, spoke about their partnership, which helps Timberland bridge CSR and sustainability initiatives. During their session, Morey-Reuner explained how their partnership with Thread is one of many ways the brand strives to be a responsible community partner. Often, Timberland can help achieve business goals with their CSR and sustainability initiatives.

For instance, say Timberland has a CSR initiative to help farmers in developing countries. They could place more of their efforts on cotton farmers and help the farmers reach a certain yield. Then, Timberland can shift that relationship from philanthropist to business partner, thus achieving one goal of helping farmers, while achieving a second of using only organic cotton.

There are many ways to tie business goals to a CSR initiative. If a company wanted to cut operational costs, it could lower its carbon footprint and in return, save money. If you’re having trouble creating the right teams, invest in your employees’ well-being. Just look at what W. S. Badger Co does. Talk with one of their employees. You’ll quickly learn how dedicated they are to the brand and how proud they are to work there.

PUT IT INTO ACTION

Having a plan to better society is not the same as being better for society. That much should be obvious. You may have felt it in meetings before. Your team shares awesome ideas to help cut trash consumption or wants to plant a company garden in the open field next to your building. Then come researching solutions, contacting partners, organizing employees, getting board members to fund the project. The stack of action items can demoralize even the most hardened advocate.

To paraphrase Bill Besselman of Thread, there’s no shortage of great ideas. The problem is actually turning an idea into action. Plus, it’s difficult. That’s why you should align your CSR with the values of your business or its employees. It’s much less difficult to do things when they are a business priority.

Whatever you do, don’t be like Volkswagen and other companies that have set lofty and have failed, sometimes disastrously, to follow through. Here are three things to help you implement your successful CSR program:

  • Create your CSR program with a long-term goal in mind. Whatever issue your CSR program hopes to tackle, it likely cannot achieve it in a day. Cut yourself some slack by taking small actions that can build up to a larger, more impactful result.
     
  • Next, engage your employee base. Poll them to see what issues they care about or how they want to help. As mentioned above, people are motivated and inspired by a company they feel is making the world a better place. Listen to that motivation and put it to good use.
     
  • Finally, don’t forget to track your progress. A CSR program, like any feature of your business, should measure and report its progress. A successful CSR program sets realistic and measurable goals and prioritizes action items. Whether it’s for internal or external use, you should be tracking all the actions of your CSR programs.

SHARING IS CARING

Once you’ve created a successful CSR initiative, don’t forget to share it with the public. Unfortunately, this is one of the most overlooked aspects of a CSR program. But it could be your business’ biggest success at gaining positive media attention.

Sharing the great things your business does can create lifelong advocates for your brand. It can boost employee morale—who doesn’t want to brag about their great employer that’s making news?

Plus, your influence can lead to more businesses doing right by their employees, their community, and the world.

Carter Foster is a Digital Marketing Coordinator for Calypso Communications, 603-431-0816 or carter@calypsocom.com
You can read this blog and more from Calypso Communications here

 

Member Feature: a conversation with Eric Cimon, Jewett Construction Company

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We all have an appreciation for a solid roof over our heads, whether at home or at work. Speaking for myself there has  been a time or two when I’ve hadto learn more about my roof than I would have liked – New England weather will do that! Having a sound structure overhead and foundation underfoot is something that most of us probably do not think about every day.   I recently had the opportunity to speak with a company and new NHBSR member who makes high quality building construction the top priority for their customers.

We sat down with Eric Cimon, Director of Marketing for Jewett Construction Company, to learn about the company —where it started and how the industry, and the organization, has changed over time, as well as Jewett’s commitment to giving back to the community.

Jewett Construction Company is a family-owned business started by Ed and Arlene Jewett in Raymond, NH in 1972. 2017 marks their 45th year in business, and this longevity speaks not only to the quality of their work, but their commitment to the communities in which they have served. Jewett started as a small commercial company with just a handful of projects each year.  In 2000, Craig Jewett and his wife Alison, purchased the company from his parents. Craig and Alison had a vision to grow the company geographically beyond southern New Hampshire and today they serve clients throughout New England.  For the past several years, Craig and Alison have focused on accelerating the growth of the company and the experienced talent at Jewett Construction has allowed them to expand the size and scope of their projects significantly.

Jewett’s work focuses entirely on commercial projects—with auto dealerships, manufacturing, retail and recreational buildings being their core areas of focus. For these buildings, structural integrity is essential—and one way that Jewett is able to ensure that integrity is through a partnership with Butler building systems.  Butler incorporates up to 75% of recycled steel in their systems and the pre-engineered steel frames result in considerably less waste.  Also, today’s metal panels are not only much more attractive than ever before, they also offer a much higher insulation value, resulting in more energy efficient structures.

Jewett’s commitment to quality lies not only with their clients, but also with their community. Eric shares that Jewett has always been deeply committed to participating in and giving back to community projects. “We have intentionally sought out non-profit project opportunities and we continue to look for more. Giving back to the community and helping non-profits through a major capital investment is incredibly rewarding and it has been wonderful to see the community rally around these organizations.” Recent or ongoing Jewett non-profit projects included the Exeter YMCA and the Monarch School of New England in Rochester.

jewett_const-35-edithighres.jpgJewett is a small-town company with old fashioned roots. They are grateful to their clients, with more than 80% of their business coming from repeat or referrals. Craig is involved with and the company stands behind every project that they complete.  Eric shares that he and the Jewett team are looking forward to working with NHBSR to learn about what others are doing in terms of sustainability at their businesses. They have taken small steps, but acknowledge that there is more to do. Workplace culture in the construction business can be a challenge to bring about change, but Eric says a more progressive workplace is a goal of theirs and they are working toward it with much success thus far.

We are delighted to have both Eric and Jewett Construction join our membership. We know Eric from his previous work and are grateful that he sees the value of being a member of NHBSR with his new role at Jewett. We are also thrilled to have him bring his ideas and energy to NHBSR’s membership committee. “NHBSR is a wonderful organization of like-minded individuals who are committed to progressing social responsibility in the State of NH.  I have been fortunate enough to attend and participate in several NHBSR events over the past few years.  Each has led to valuable new business opportunities and the knowledge and inspiration to improve our workplace practices in sustainability, community outreach and more.” 

Eric welcomes the opportunity to speak with anyone about his work at Jewett Construction Company or about membership with NHBSR. He can be found at 603.895.2412 x23 or via email ecimon@jewettconstruction.com

Please help us welcome Eric and the team at Jewett!

 

MEMBER FEATURE: A conversation with Ashley Larochelle, Vision Activation Manager, FoodState, Inc.
We all are familiar with this quote --- “Music makes the world go ‘round”-- but what about food? I believe that food definitely makes the world go ‘round too. We recently spoke with Ashley Larochelle, Vision Activation Manager, at FoodState to learn more about their business. Doesn’t she have one of the neatest titles you’ve heard?  Envision what visions she gets to make a reality? Before we get sidetracked we’ll start with a little background on FoodState, one of our newest NHBSR members. Those of you who attended the Spring Conference had the chance to hear from Robert Craven, CEO of FoodState.

FoodState is a NH company that has been family owned since its founding in 1973 in Derry and is comprised of two brands Megafood® and INNATE Response Formulas®. Both lines were started by BioSan in 1983 and 2003 respectively, with the name being changes from BioSan to FoodState in April 2012 at the same time Robert Craven came on as the new CEO following Founder Carl Jackson’s retirement.

They are the manufacturer of whole food supplements- which as we learned- makes things easier on the stomach given that the supplements are delivered in food. As their mission states: “FoodState® is in the business of improving lives by staying true to the intention of food.” Their ultimate goal is to improve lives through nutrition and the delivery of the nutrition.

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Their belief in community is as strong as their belief in good nutrition. Community and culture go hand in hand. Ashley shares that they are incredibly proud of the culture they’ve created at the company. During the 2012 transition employees defined what they wanted this to look like and since then they have gone after building it. This means supporting the whole person – inside and outside of the office. Every employee receives 24 hours of volunteertime a year to support organizations that are important to them. FoodState is involved with one major event--the annual Granite State Day of Caring. Employees are offered Leadership training (called Flight School), which involves 3 semesters of programming around how to become a FoodState leader. Outside thought leaders are brought in to share their experiences and expertise.

foodstate_2.jpgSustainability is built into the company’s DNA and there is a committee dedicated to overseeing their efforts and looking forward to the next step. FoodState is keen to reduce waste and there are a number of ways they are already having an impact. They package their nutrients in glass, not plastic and divert over a million gallons of wastewater each year.

Zing Mojo is the phrase that they use to define their culture. It means “state of controlled craziness.” We can all appreciate that. It’s clear from our conversation with Ashley that the FoodState team is dedicated to community in the broadest sense—from those who use their products, to the people they serve through their volunteer work and perhaps most importantly their employees. A little Zing Mojo and an injection of fun and it sounds like you have a pretty terrific place to be!

Please help us welcome Ashley and the FoodState team!

Ashley welcomes the chance to speak with anyone who is interested in learning more. She can be reached via email at alarochelle@foodstate.com or by phone (603) 216-0910. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Beth Tener, New Directions Collaborative

b_tener_photo.jpgBrainstorming is a classic method for getting a group to generate ideas. A topic is suggested, people speak up with their ideas and suggestions, and someone writes them down. The technique is so commonly used and assumed to work, I was surprised to learn that research shows this technique is actually not effective. Keith Sawyer, author of Group Genius says, “Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas.”

So, how can we upgrade brainstorming to better access the wisdom of a group? And, for those interested in how to create effective networks and collaborations, how can we design this part of meetings to generate the most benefits to a network?

One simple technique, from Liberating Structures, is called 1-2-4-All.

 

Here’s an overview of how it works:

The group defines, or facilitator offers, an open question  to explore.
Each person takes five minutes to write their ideas down.
People pair up and share their ideas. At this point, they may find some common themes, a new idea may emerge from the conversation, or their ideas may fit together in a complementary way.
Each pair joins another pair to discuss the ideas and learning in a group of four.
Everyone returns to a discussion in the large group.

This simple technique overcomes the shortcomings of traditional brainstorming and generates the kind of benefits desired from networked collaboration. For example:

1-2-4-All is a way to access the inherent power and potential of a diverse group.When I conducted it with a group recently, a participant said she was struck by how the other pair of people took the question in a totally different direction than she had. The process helps surface the range of divergent thinking in a group. With access to multiple points of view, we gain more perspectives and can see where our own thinking is limited.
A traditional brainstorm process gives preference to the voices of those who are extroverted, comfortable speaking up in a group, have positional power, think quickly, and process their ideas by speaking them out loud. We get less access to the ideas and thinking of introverts, those less comfortable speaking in a group, or those who need silence to think. Power dynamics or low levels of trust will limit some from speaking up in a brainstorm.
This process greatly amplifies the potential for emergence. Any time you bring two people together or four people together, you have the opportunity for some new or better ideas to emerge from the combination. Consider the math on the potential for emergence for a group of 20 people. Brainstorming in the traditional way, the group has one conversation as a whole. With one conversation, most of the time 19 people are listening to one person talk. Using 1-2-4-All, here’s what you get:

20 individual ‘conversations’ where people can think and reflect on the topic before they are influenced by others in the room.
10 paired conversations
5 groups of four conversations
1 full group conversation

With the grand total adding up to 36 conversations. Consider the potential for richer learning and combinations of ideas in 36 conversations versus 1 conversation with the full group. And this can all be done in 15 to 20 minutes!

People using this technique often note how the quality of the conversation has a greater depth because at each stage people have really thought about and considered the issues. With that foundation of having time to personally reflect, each conversation can be more informed and considered.
In every meeting we want to build the relationships, trust, and exchange among people, which the smaller conversations enable in a way one large group conversation does not.

In building networks and collaborations, the aim is to design activities that generate multiple benefits, as my colleague and network weaver Janne Flisrand illustrates well in this blog, Optimizing Network Design. Upgrading how we brainstorm provides a simple way to generate many more benefits in the same time. Another great method is World Café, as I discuss in this blog on The Multi-Dimensional Benefits of World Café.

In one of those welcome serendipities, as I was finalizing this post, via Facebook, I discovered this article about how the Innovative Coworking Spaces of 15th-Century Italy provided the rich environment for the Renaissance’s entrepreneurship and creativity. Those working in these spaces “conceived revolutionary ways of working, of designing and delivering products and services, and even of seeing the world.” This quote makes the point well:

“The coexistence of and collision among these diverse talents helped make the workshops lively places where dialogue allowed conflicts to flourish in a constructive way. The clash and confrontation of opposing views removed cognitive boundaries, mitigated errors, and helped artists question truths taken for granted. Today, we often recognize the need for these kinds of illuminating conversations without really making space for them in our organizations, either because organizations are too afraid of conflict or because people are simply too busy to try to expand their understanding of each other."

Beth Tener, Principal of New Directions Collaborative,located in Exeter, NH. Beth is a facilitator and strategy coach who works with collaborative initiatives that bring together business, government, and the social sector to address complex challenges, such as transitioning to a clean energy economy and revitalizing communities. Beth can be reached at (617) 939-3601 or btener@ndcollaborative.com.

by Dr. Russ Ouellette, Managing Partner, Sojourn Partners

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Our way of relating to each other seems to have slipped backwards a little. To know this, all I have to do is look at my Facebook feed.

Several years ago, my partners and I wrote a book (The Future of Everything: Strategies for Successful Business Behavior, 2015) that considered what organizations would look like and how they would work in the future. Based on research of past organizational theory, current social and business trends, and some formal research we did regarding relationships in the workplace, we discovered that our collective future really depends on how we all behave and relate. We also held several focus groups with different leaders asking them to articulate the best practices that worked well for them in their companies and forecast what they think their companies needed. The result was a very optimistic design of what work could be like in the future if we continued on our current organizational evolutionary track.

The outcome of all this playing and thinking was a vision for leaders, employees, partners, suppliers, etc. to behave better together with respect, trust and authenticity.  Seems obvious. We have great concepts being practiced like emotional intelligence, appreciative inquiry and mindfulness. And, it seems that the world was moving in that same direction. People were talking about big things like sustainability, inclusivity, education, change, creating great cultures at work that support the whole person - not just the one that shows up for a job. 

We were further encouraged by the millennial generation and how they approached their personal and work life as part of a greater community. The social tools they were creating and how they were incorporating these tools at work. The world was shifting too, paying attention to climate change, new methods of energy production, shared international trade and big solutions to sustain our cultures and our planet. All indications were that the future of everything depended on all of these things coming together through people working well together. We seemed to be evolving in a positive way.

For every positive opportunity, there is also a risk. During and after the recent events, like Brexit and our presidential election, it seemed as though all of these variables mentioned above were now working against us. Have we really created a sustainable environment for progress, inclusivity and great organizational cultures? Or has identity politics and the us-versus-them mentality so ingrained in the human condition that we can't find our way out of it?

Being an optimist I believe that we have positively evolved in our society and will continue to do so. All of these new realities of generation, demographics and social methods are working themselves out. To grow requires failure and setback, eventually leading reasonable people to adopt better methods and practices. As we learn to consume news, relate better, and share information, we will be compelled again to work together. For this to happen, we must demonstrate the thinking and behavior that we want to see in our society. We need to listen to each other, learn how to disagree, get more involved, be as engaged as we can, and always act with respect. So while we push back, lets do it respectfully, authentically and trust that those who we don’t agree with will eventually meet us somewhere in the future.

We must continue to move towards sustainability at work and in the world, creating positive relationships with those people we engage with inside and outside our companies. We will collaborate, innovate, and eventually find we can move forward using positive attributes to build, sustain and maintain great relationships at work. The future we want is still at hand, we just need to stay engaged in making it happen.

Dr. Russ Ouellette is the managing partner of Sojourn Partners, a Bedford-based executive leadership coaching firm.
He can be reached at (603) 661-4178 or
russ@sojournpartners.com. He can also be twittered @RussOuellette or Facebooked –Sojourn Partners.

 

by Mike Bellamente

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Back in the early aughts, circa 2004, the term social media was born thanks in part to a revolutionary new platform called MySpace.

Since then a lot has happened.  

If you’re in your 40’s (like me), today’s social media landscape often provides more questions than answers, and regularly leaves you scratching your head in curious wonderment (or wonderful bewilderment).  How can a person remain relevant, let alone a business, with so many social media outlets to choose from?  Which ones do I need to keep updated and current in order to effectively engage my audience?  At what point does managing social media begin to offer diminishing returns? 

For the business community, many of these questions can be answered by what message you’re trying to convey and to whom.   Moreover, a company’s social media strategy should be in lock-step with your overall marketing and sales strategy, and therefore, should be beholden to the same level of metrics and data analysis to determine whether the resources devoted to managing social media (both human resources and financial) are providing an adequate return on investment. 

While it used to be enough for a company to take a scattershot approach to social media, rapid changes in the algorithms and revenue generation models of platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn have turned the once soft approach to social media into a cold, hard science.  No longer is it simply the sheer amount of posts that will keep your company in the public eye; on the contrary, blindly posting irrelevant material is more likely cause your profile rankings to tank.  

To that end, I have put together the following bullets that will hopefully offer some insight to this ever-evolving space that can be the source of ongoing frustration to the uninitiated:

  • Begin with Benchmarking:  if this your first crack at developing a social media strategy that suits your business, start by assessing what competitors in your industry are doing and replicate their success and avoid their failures.  
     
  • Identify your Target and Aim for the Middle:  if your target demographic is business professionals aged 35-50, developing a Snapchat channel for 15-year-old high-schoolers will get you nowhere.  Getting that micro-second of attention span from people who will actually buy your product or service is difficult enough, so it is more than worth your while to research which platforms your potential customers are actually using from the outset.
     
  • Budget Matters:  whether you’re a mom and pop restaurant or a $10 million-dollar company, have an idea of what you’re willing to spend on the front end and stick to it until you have enough data to make an informed decision on how to proceed, which brings me to my next point…
     
  • Data Drives Decision-Making!  While you may have a grandiose plan in place on January 1 that you think will serve the company well for the entire year, you’re probably wrong.  Don’t be afraid to assess the fruits of your labor on a monthly or quarter-by-quarter basis and be willing to pivot quickly if the data tells a different story than your expectations.  Be nimble.  If something appears to be working, double down.  If something’s not, scrap it and dedicate resources elsewhere.
     
  • Be Genuine in your Approach:  regardless of what kind of business you’re in, your BRAND is meant to tell a story that elicits a reaction.  Don’t be afraid to push the envelope of creativity and thought leadership.  It is more admired to stand for something, than nothing at all. If you step back and find that the language and tone of your social media messaging is banal and “salesy”, your intended audience will probably become loathe to hear what else you have to say. 
  • Developing a Following Takes Time:  don’t be discouraged if you’ve decided to launch a new company profile on Twitter and you only garner 30 followers in the first month.  If you’re not tweeting as much as POTUS: A) that’s probably a good thing and B) it’s going to take a while to develop a dedicated following.  Keep in mind though, once you convince a person to follow you or like your stuff, they will likely remain a follower for life. 
     
  • Interconnectedness and the Beauty of Recycling:  content is king, as any social media guru will tell you.  The key, though, is to make sure any original content is adding value and that your optimizing that value by sharing it in multiple locations.  If you feel you have knowledge to give to the world or simply a fresh perspective on a timely subject, turn it into a blog on your website, then add it to your newsletter and share it across your social media platforms.  Because people digest information in different ways, this gives one piece of subject matter multiple lives, each time driving traffic back to your website or specified landing page.  If you feel you don’t have time to share your own perspective, there’s nothing wrong with inviting thought leaders to write guest blogs or even sharing content that already exists, so long as you credit the author and maybe even give them a shout out.  People like praise, especially when it’s directed at them.   

So, there you have it in a nutshell.  The unsolicited ravings of a forty-something on a subject that could probably be better interpreted by his 5-year-old daughter.  Hey, you asked for it. 

Oh wait. No you didn’t.

Mike is the owner of the Green Alliance, founder of PeakAdvisory.Co, and idea guy behind the forthcoming Naked Bullfrog.

 

Member Feature:  a conversation with Eli Emerson, Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer PC

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For those of us who grew up in the 1980’s there is a deep affinity for the music and movies of that decade—Flashdance, Footloose and Purple Rain toname a few. Beyond these cultural references there were other things underway, including small businesses that were started to help the communities in which they were based.  We spoke with Elijah Emerson, Shareholder of Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer PC, recently to learn about the firm’s history and where they are heading looking forward. Eli is an attorney in the firm’s Littleton office and whose focus is energy, an area that is growing as things evolve in that field.  He focuses on helping clients develop locally-sited renewable energy projects that also help reduce client and New Hampshire’s energy footprint.

Primmer itself has roots that go back to 1982, when it began as a boutique corporate/regulatory law firm by John Primmer, Bill Piper and Denise Deschenes in St. Johnsbury, VT. They primarily provided corporate, securities and regulatory legal services to insurance companies, financial institutions and public utilities.

In response to client’s increased legal needs the firm continued to grow in both their team and expertise, merging with Eggleston & Cramer in 2006 which expanded their presence into NH with an office in Littleton. This merger brought a whole new complement of expertise to the firm including state-wide corporate, tax, estate planning, bankruptcy, commercial, regulatory and health care practice. Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer PC continued its growth through the addition of notable lawyers from the Wiggin & Nourie law firm, creating a Manchester and Portsmouth presence, and most recently expanding their geographic presence with offices in Camden, Maine and Washington, DC.

They now find themselves in 7 geographic areas in New England with over 24 practice areas, which gives them the ability to draw on diverse experience and expertise depending on a client’s needs. Eli shares that  the firm is in a unique position to address clients’ needs from a holistic perspective, drawing on the knowledge and resources within their diverse firm versus the need to outsource. There are practice areas that will always be important to their clients—corporate, wills and estate planning for example. What has been interesting to the team are the new areas that are evolving around energy, new technologies and cyber security.  

When we asked Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer why they joined our organization, Eli shared that given the firm’s growing work in the environmental and energy arenas they are looking forward to connecting with other  like-minded businesses who are working with some of the same issues.  They hope to learn about the challenges that fellow members are facing and how they may help with finding a solution. While we try and keep politics out of the conversation, the upcoming change of administration is having an impact on the number and types of filings they saw at the end of 2016 and will certainly influence their work moving forward.  Eli’s representation of the New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association in front of the Public Utilities Commission in the net metering restructuring docket is a great example of this.  Given the change in administration, there is heightened attention to revisions to the program that will emerge in this docket.  Renewable energy and net metering are strong but young industries in New Hampshire. The outcome of this docket will determine if they continue to grow at the same pace.

Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer’s work in the community goes beyond their legal expertise. They have deep roots in the communities they work and live and feel a deep sense of commitment to giving back, which they do through sponsorships and financial donations to organizations.

Please help us welcome Eli and the rest of the Primmer team. We hope that you’ll have a chance to meet him and others at Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer in the coming year.

Eli welcomes the chance to meet and get to know fellow members and answer any questions you may have about their work.

You may reach him at---

Eli Emerson, eemerson@primmer.com, (802) 223-2102 x1109

Please help us welcome Eli and his team at Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer PC.

 

andrew_winston_head_shot_2x2.jpgby Andrew Winston

Every manager (or consultant) who has pitched an initiative under the banner of “sustainability” has faced the same question nearly every time: what’sthe business case?

On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with the question. Business is all about allocating some form of capital, be it financial, human, or organizational. So it’s not unfair to wonder what the return on the investment might be. But usually, when executives pose the question about sustainability initiatives, they’re asking about the business case in the narrowest sense: Does this thing pay back, in cash, within some short payback period (1 or 2 years)?

In response, we’ve all put a lot of effort into making the case in financial terms. And given the common assumption that sustainability somehow equates with philanthropy and saving the polar bears, it’s generally smart to make it all about money. Certainly, that’s a big part of the case I’ve made for a long time. But maybe I’ve been missing something.

Maybe, in trying to answer the business case question narrowly, we’re overlook something critical about what motivates the decision maker. Or we miss how much the world is changing. Perhaps it’s time to inject the moral case into the discussion and say, boldly, “This is the right thing to do.”

andrewwinston_blogphoto.pngLet’s face it: given the constant attack on our rights and democratic ideals happening right now, companies – some of society’s largest institutions – are finding themselves in uncomfortable territory. The moral position of a company and its leaders individually are facing more scrutiny. The conversation in executive meeting rooms is not just about shareholder value anymore. Will we defend LGBT rights or protect immigrant employees? Will we continue to tackle climate change, the human and planetary crisis of our time? These are not idle questions anymore.

I will write much more about the macro-level question of the role of business in society over the coming months and years. But for this discussion I want to rethink the specific question about how sustainability professionals and managers make the case for social and environmental action.

So, back to the nitty gritty. Do we have the right arguments for why we should invest in sustainability projects? Let’s consider four broad buckets of initiatives – three that create value for the business and one that’s more about value for society – and explore how (and when) they create value:

(1) short-term financial wins that meet all hurdle rates;

(2) clear financial wins, but with longer paybacks;

(3) investments that have less certain paybacks in cash, but create indirect (yet real) and internalized value, such as improved employee engagement, increased customer loyalty, greater license to operate, brand building, or risk reduction;

(4) projects that create externalized value for stakeholders and improve the shared commons

Of course these categories are not mutually exclusive – any of the first three will create externalized value as well. But for most projects there’s a core bucket of value. A simple lighting retrofit would fall mainly in group 1, for example, while employee volunteering, or providing water infrastructure for the community around a factory, would be mainly group 4 activities. Something like auditing and raising environmental or social standards in the supply chain, or investing in circular models, could hit all four areas, but would hit bucket 3 hard.

For each bucket, the business case we make should vary.

Category 1 is trivial, and the cash benefits of, say, eco-efficiency projects are now broadly accepted. Of course there’s always competition for capital, even between projects with quick paybacks, but it’s not hard to make the case that these things save money.

Category 2 requires more finesse. You can make the case for bending the rules on the hurdle rate for strategic reasons at times. Or, more frequently with sustainability projects, we get these through the system by shifting the conversation to category 3 value and point out that, by the way, it will also save cash, but later.

So category 3 is where so much of the effort lies. I’ve sacrificed many trees (and digital bits) writing about the importance of recognizing internalized value, even if comes in ways we can’t measure it perfectly. We all make the case that environmental and social initiatives can reduce risk, drive innovation, create employee engagement and loyalty, build the brand, and much more. That case is strong. Most large companies have realized that just considering the attraction, retention, and engagement of talent (especially socially-minded Millennials) can justify many investments in social and environmental progress.

But let’s look at category 4, the “save the world” value bucket that I’ve mostly avoided during my career. A new, challenging political environment is making me even more philosophical about why business should act, or even why a business exists.

Here’s the nub of it. Consider the following benefits a company might create: employee happiness, being a good member of the community, solving a customer need (the original, and some would say only, reason a company exists), and, yes, making sure the polar bears survive. Aren’t these things good in their own right, regardless of how or when they create business value? Maybe this kind of query falls in value bucket three-and-a-half, between the cracks because it begs the question of what value is.

My mini existential question was partly spurred by an interesting article I read recently in the Guardian. Focused on “why time management is ruining our lives,” the essay laments our obsession with personal productivity and talks about creating life balance and having more free time. In the article, John de Graaf, a founder of a group called “Take Back Your Time” challenges what I would describe as the business case for life balance: “People argue that more time off might be good for the economy, but why should we have to justify life in terms of the economy?”

It’s a great point. And it’s a good question to ask about all our efforts to improve employee engagement, connect to purpose and meaning at work, or drive sustainability in business. Why should everything that supports general well-being for people touched by a company – its employees, customers, supply chain workers, community members, future generations, and so on – have to be put only in economic terms?

The time may be ripe to broaden how we talk about sustainability and bring in a moral dimension. Consider one of my favorite sustainable business stories from 2016. After North Carolina passed the absurd “bathroom bill,” some big company CEOs sent an open letter to the Governor saying the law didn’t reflect their values. Companies are increasingly standing up for LGBT rights, and in the last week, for immigrants (bravo Starbucks for pledging to hire 10,000 refugees). A somewhat cynical interpretation would say that companies just want to stay in the good graces of a segment of their customer base. True, so there is some business logic. But it’s also clear that many of these companies and their executives just felt it was the moral thing to do.

I’ve talked to senior executives for many years about why they care about sustainability. And very often it stems from a personal journey. They went to the rain forest, or their children asked them about their work and their legacy.

So am I saying we should abandon the normal business case and stop focusing on how much value sustainability creates for business? Of course not. We should absolutely talk about the cash payback and all the indirect and hard-to-measure internalized value. But perhaps we (or at least I) have gone too far to counteract the “green equals polar bears” view of the world. Depending on the audience or particular executive, it may be time to throw in an element of “hey, this really is the right thing to do and your kids will be proud.”

Yes, the traditional business case will still be critical, particularly in public companies. But it might play the role of justifying something a leader wants to do in her heart anyway. Given what behavioral psychology tells us about the “confirmation bias,” this is how many decisions are made anyway.

My bottom line is this: how we make the case for sustainability needs to vary depending on the category of initiative (from slam dunk in cash terms to indirect value to “other” and societal value), the situation (a CFO presentation meeting vs. drinks with your boss), and a reading of the people involved.

But more and more, I’m wondering if a combined logic of “good for business” and “good for the soul” will work best. I welcome your thoughts.

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(Photo credit: Flickr, Joel Duggan)

 

Member Feature: a conversation with Erin Allgood, Allgood Eats Local

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food" 
~ George Bernard Shaw

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This is a quote you can find on Erin Allgood’s website and, as a fellow lover of food, the sentiment certainly resonates. We recently sat down with Erinto talk about her love of food and how she became a food system consultant. Erin’s energy is infectious and we are certain that you, like us, will enjoy speaking with her when you do. We thank Susan O’Neil of @Website Publicity for introducing Erin to NHBSR and are grateful to have them both as members of NHBSR. 

It is fascinating to talk with Erin about her path to food and the start of Allgood Eats Local- a path she herself calls circuitous, when in fact it all makes sense. Erin started studied biochemistry in college and it wasn’t until her junior year that she realized how much biochemistry focuses on food and how the body breaks down and uses food. As we’ve mentioned in previous stories, timing plays such an integral role in decisions many people make. For Erin, the gift of Michael Pollan’s book An Ominvore’s Dilemma served as inspiration for her to dive deeper into nutrition, leading to a Master’s degree in nutrition, with an emphasis on nutritional biochemistry. Her thesis focused on the interaction of environmental pollutants and diet, examining the effects on metabolism. Early on, Erin developed an interest in the connection between food and the environment.

At the time she graduated in 2009 there were limited job possibilities, so she did what so many New Englanders do in such times—she got creative, taking a job outside of her field of study for several years, while maintaining her pursuit of food and nutrition through volunteer efforts as well as coaching and cooking. She regularly volunteers at farmers markets and serves on Seacoast Eat Local’s SNAP committee, advising on ways to connect low-income residents to local food.

Since then Erin has completed two certificate programs at the University of Vermont- Leadership in Sustainable Food Systems and Sustainable Business, which provided the impetus to launch Allgood Eats Local, a food systems consulting business, in 2014. The mission of Allgood Eats Local is to empower change by promoting equity, collaboration, and deeper understanding throughout the food system through facilitating meetings in multi stakeholder collaborations, network and organizational development, and process and strategy design. She works with both non-profit organizations and businesses.

allgoodeatslocal_flowers.jpgMore recently, she has taken on projects related to some of the most complicated issues in the food system, such as childhood hunger, local food distribution, public health nutrition. Erin explains that there is much work to do in these areas as it relates to policy and social change.

Erin is based in Dover, where she lives and has an office in downtown. You may just as easily find her at Flight, the local coffee shop, which is sometimes her office away from the office.  And if not in one of the offices you will probably find her working with her husband Kevin Johnson. Erin and Kevin co-own Embers Bakery, a mobile, wood-fired, sourdough bread and pizza business. On weekends, Erin and Kevin serve up gourmet pizza featuring local ingredients at public and private events like festivals and weddings. The bakery is quiet for the winter, but I for one am excited to try their sourdough bread when they start up again in the Spring.

 

Erin is excited to join NHBSR and this network of like-minded businesses across the state and she hopes to connect, and potentially collaborate, on food systems projects!

We hope that you have a chance to meet her at an upcoming event. Erin welcomes the chance to meet and speak with fellow members. She can be reached at erin@allgoodeatslocal.com  or by phone (603) 953 5765.

Please help us welcome Erin to the NHBSR community!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEMBER FEATURE:A conversation with Michael L’Ecuyer, Bellwether Community Credit Union (pronounced phonetically Lek-wee-air)

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With the arrival of mobile phones it’s sometimes difficult to imagine that we were ever beholden to a telephone that was plugged into the wall at home.Most things change and evolve over time, but it’s fun to learn about ways in which they stay the same too. We were happy to talk with Michael L’Ecuyer, President and CEO of Bellwether Community Credit Union, a company whose history goes back to 1921, when the company was originally founded as the Telephone Workers Credit Union of NH (TCU).

Employees of Bell Telephone Systems, independent of their employer, created TCU solely for the “promotion of thrift” among its members which was limited to NH phone company employees, their families, and retirees. We learned that credit unions have a philosophy of “people helping people”, and that TCU is the second oldest credit union in the State. In fact, the very first credit union ever established in the United States was started in Manchester in 1908, and is still thriving under its original name of St. Mary’s Bank Credit Union. St. Mary’s was created in an effort to give the thousands of immigrants who were coming to work in the textile manufacturing mills in Manchester the ability to save and get credit. As a side note, today you can visit America’s Credit Union Museum on Notre Dame Ave. in Manchester, which is located in the original building which housed this first American-based credit union.

TCU was run by volunteers in the early years, but in 1965 it hired its first employee--Richard Mahoney-- who was promoted to President of the credit union in 1976, a position he held for 25 years. The credit union continued to operate under its’ original membership charter (telephone workers) until the AT&T monopoly on telephone service was split up in 1982, which drastically changed the structure of the telephone industry and subsequently the Credit Union’s ability to grow. At this time, TCU’s charter was updated to include the communications industry as a whole, providing some relief to a declining base of potential members. Michael came to work at the credit union in 1998, and was elected to follow Richard Mahoney’s legacy as President/CEO in 2001. (You may find it interesting that, although Michael’s career has been focused in the banking arena, he was first attracted to the FBI. It just goes to show we all have a diversity of interests.)

In 2002 the charter was changed again to what’s referred to as an “open membership”— allowing membership to anyone who lives or works in the State of NH. For the first time, TCU was able to offer its’ products and services to anyone in the entire State, thereby providing a necessary economy of scale to allow for the increased technology expectations of 21st Century consumers. To more accurately reflect the community they were serving the company was renamed Bellwether Community Credit Union in 2005. Today they have 3 branches, 90 full time employees, 34,000 members and over $455M in assets. Bellwether Community Credit Union (BCCU) is a cooperative, non-profit organization whose goal is to provide real benefits to its members. Michael spoke of two things that have remained consistent throughout the years— their focus on providing value to their membership and their goal of maintaining high service levels. Their desire to deliver what their members want when they want it drives them to excel in remote delivery channels such as mobile, online, billpay, etc. As cases in point, they were early adopters of electronic statements and had an e-statement program well before it became mainstream and were one of the first to offer remote deposit capture.

bccu_groupservicephoto.pngService to their members is top priority, but service to others has also been an integral part of the organization. Bellwether is a huge community advocate, encouraging their employees to volunteer for organizations that have meaning to them individually and following that up with monetary support. At last count, Bellwether has a variety of active roles in over 60 community-based organizations such as Make a Wish NH, Home Health & Hospice Care, and Chambers of Commerce to name just a few. Michael says that giving back to the communities is a fundamental part of who they are. He encourages everyone at the executive level to participate in community service and further supports it throughout the organization. The benefits are many—Michael believes he has better executives because there is great personal reward in serving others, as it broadens their horizons, experiences, and perspectives. It’s a true win/win for both the employee and the organization which provides further positive impact on the community. Employees are proud to work for a company that is focused on community. In order to demonstrate their support of community involvement, Bellwether implemented a program which allows each employee one paid day per year to volunteer for an organization of their choosing.

When asked why he joined as a member of NHBSR, Michael’s answer was “MV”. Those would be the initials of Michelle Veasey, who serves as inspiration for many to join. Michael looks forward to getting to know more NHBSR members and to have the opportunity to partner with like-minded organizations in an effort to benefit the communities we live in.

Michael welcomes the chance to speak with anyone about Bellwether Community Credit Union or any other topic. He can be reached by email at: Michael.lecuyer@bccu.org or by phone at 603-645-8181.

Please help us welcome Michael and his team at Bellwether Community Credit Union! 

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