In part I of this interview, we introduced to Daniel Almagor and Amanda Bybee, two leaders from very disparate parts of the world with very similar missions. In part II, Daniel and Amanda share more of how they accomplish their social/business mission and provide steps for putting social impact at the core of your company.
Small Giants Community: What do you see as the biggest barrier to wider spread adoption of more socially/environmental practices in business?
Amanda Bybee, Namaste Solar: Most companies operate from the conventional perspective that business exists solely to create wealth for its shareholders. This gives them a very narrow view of the world, and does not provide adequate motivation to think about social and environmental practices. Namaste Solar is proud to be a certified Benefit Corporation (or B-Corp), which is a movement to encourage companies to use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Out of over 550 B-corps, Namaste Solar has one of the top 20 “B-Score” or “impact” ratings, which reflects how seriously we take these issues. If more businesses expanded the charge to their Boards of Directors to take into account social and environmental stakeholders as it made decisions, we believe they would think more creatively about how to solve problems.
Daniel Almagor, Small Giants (Australia): The biggest barrier to wider adoption of these values is the lack of financially successful role models. Currently, social and environmental issues are largely the responsibility of philanthropy and volunteering, with many companies still seeing corporate social responsibility, however well intentioned, as an add-on or marketing opportunity. When we can start to show commercial opportunities for creating this type of impact, we will be able to shift significant capital towards this area and we will see a plethora of businesses that share similar values being created. Sadly, the answer is ‘show me the money’. Happily, there are some great examples of success, but still relatively few and far between.
Small Giants Community: The Small Giants Community is a big advocate of increasing knowledge to enable action. Who would you recommend following to learn more about the multiple impacts of being more socially/environmentally conscious?
Amanda Bybee, Namaste Solar: Learn about the Benefit Corp movement: www.bcorporation.net
Daniel Almagor, Small Giants (Australia): The best place to begin is by connecting to or even becoming a B Corporation, which is a certification for businesses that are committed to these values. The social enterprise and impact investment communities are leading the conversation around the next wave of responsible business. Globally there are some great universities doing work in this area too. The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at Oxford University is a good pace to start and they have a great conference each year. Another great conference to get a pulse on this stuff is SOCAP (social capital), but there are heaps of conferences coming up all the time now. Researching triple bottom line will help and a good book that explores the nexus between business and philanthropy is ‘Philanthrocapitalism’ by Matthew Bishop and Michael Green. A great e-newsletter/publication is the Stanford Social Innovation Review.
Small Giants Community: You’ve been running your business with this mindset for years. What are three things someone who reads this interview can go out and do within the next 48 hours to jump start this kind of awareness and action in their business?
Amanda Bybee, Namaste Solar: In the next meeting where you would otherwise announce a new policy, try presenting it as a proposal. See what folks think about it by opening the floor for discussion. Make it ok for them to be critical and offer constructive feedback. Ask if they would make any changes. Be careful not to squash criticism in the moment – keep your mind open. And then take a vote (incorporating changes if needed, or even wait an extra meeting to take the vote after folks have had time to think about it). Even if you’re not ready to take a vote and still want to proceed with implementing the policy, you may find that by inviting people into the decision-making on the front end, there is less grumbling about it on the back end. We have found that just the ability to participate goes a long way with people, even if they end up in the dissenting minority.
Daniel Almagor, Small Giants (Australia):
• Visit www.bcorporation.net.
• Register for www.globalshifts2012.org and come and visit me in Australia in December.
• Articulate the difference you want to make in the world and start getting your business in on the act.
• Or Email me and we can set up a time to chat – (You can contact the SGC directly and we’ll get you in touch with Dan. We removed his email to avoid him getting spammed from bots. You’re welcome, Dan. -SGC)
Small Giants Community: Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us and the Community, Danny and Amanda. We’re looking forward to helping more companies discover the importance of a social mission and seeing how you continue to challenge your business and communities with your passion and practices.