In Episode 86 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on December 8, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Neil Grimmer, CEO and founder of Plum Organics, a line of healthy, organic foods for babies, toddlers and children.

Neil Grimmer, Founder of Plum Organics

Neil Grimmer, Founder of Plum Organics

Plum Organics was founded six years ago by a small group of parents who sought to raise healthy-well rounded eaters. The company has grown rapidly – it started with six products and now has 130, including cereals, snacks and training meals.

The baby food market is a competitive space, with heavy weights like Gerber, Beach Nut and Earth’s Best, which have been in business for decades.  Plum Organics differentiated itself by focusing on high design and great packaging, and targeting modern parents who share the values of sustainability and health.  Plum pioneered the spouted pouch, and the company’s R&D group is continually looking for new materials for sustainable packaging.  Progressive pediatrician Alan Green is the company’s health advisor and a contributor to its website.

A certified B Corp, Plum Organics sought investors that not only had cash, but also understood  the culture of Plum Organics and were similarly passionate about the mission of improving the health of kids and the planet.

Have you tried Plum Organics products?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Grimmer:  Episode 86 of The Wendel Forum (27:47 mins; mp3)

Plum Organics Website: http://www.plumorganics.com

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In Episode 49 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on February 2, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Dick Lyons welcomes Stuart Rudick of Mindful Investors, LLC, a San Francisco Bay Area-based private equity fund focused on investments in natural food and product companies and technology that supports healthy lifestyles.

Stuart Rudick of Mindful Investors

Stuart Rudick of Mindful Investors

Stuart has been committed to investing in these types of companies for more than 30 years. His interest in companies with a focus on sustainability and healthy lifestyles emerged from his personal development as a yoga practitioner and vegetarian.  As healthy living became more important to him, he also moved toward investing in sustainably-minded companies.

In the early days, he found himself involved in companies in areas ranging from wind power to rice growers who had developed a closed-loop system that used the stalks for rice paper, rather than burning them.

Dick and Stuart discuss the investing trends they have observed during the past couple of decades and the rise of the natural food and organic products marketplace.  Stuart had a front row seat to the evolution of some of today’s well-known companies, such as Whole Foods Market, Seventh Generation and Odwalla.

Mindful Investors’ current interests focus on consumer facing companies in areas such as food and beverage, healthcare and technology platforms that support healthy lifestyles. Not surprising, there is a lot of activity in web and mobile development that supports functionality for applications such as bar codes to track the carbon footprint of a product, rich media like video to promote products, and platforms for distributing coupons and discounts.

Stuart shares the Mindful Investors approach to investing, including insights into time horizons and exit expectations related to investments in their portfolio.  He also acknowledges some of the challenges and strategies related to ensuring that when a company is sold, the parent company keeps the integrity of the product post-sale. 

As one of the early B Corps, he’s also a fan of the recently enacted legislation in California for Benefit Corporations (AB 361 – Huffman), which Wendel Rosen attorney Donald Simon had a hand in drafting.

So what is Stuart’s advice for young businesses? 

  • Realize from the start that you will need to raise capital, and a lot more than you think you’ll need. 
  • Bring in like-minded investors who are connected to your values in order to build trust. 
  • Bring in experienced senior level people to advise and guide you through your growth to better avoid errors and accelerate the growth of your company.

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Stuart Rudick:  Episode 49 of The Wendel Forum(27:37 mins; mp3)

Mindful Investors website:  www.mindfulinvestors.com

960 KNEW AM Radio website: http://www.960KNEW.com

Dick Lyons’ online profile: http://www.wendel.com/rlyons

We hope that 2012 is off to a great start for you.  The Wendel Forum took a bit of a break over the holidays, but we’re ready to jump into 2012 with both feet.  It’s going to be a great year!  There are a few changes we want to make sure you catch.

Green 960 Becomes 960 KNEW
Our radio station, Green 960 AM, is changing its call letters.  You’ll still find us on the air at 960 on the AM dial; however, the station now goes by 960 KNEW “Opinions, Finance, Advice.”  Also, the new website is www.960knew.com.  Don’t worry, you’ll still find us as a part of the Green Morning line up every Saturday morning (along with Sea Change Radio and An Organic Conversation).

Another program change is that we have a new time slot.  Our new time is 9:30 – 10:00 a.m. on Saturdays.  As always, if you’re out of signal range, you can listen to the show via the station’s website and www.iHeartRadio.com (as they say, “there’s an app for that!”).

Saturday Welcomes Zem Joaquin of Ecofabulous
We are kicking off the first new episode of the year in our new 9:30 time slot this Saturday, January 14.  Please tune in for a discussion with Zem Joaquin of Ecofabulous.  She’ll share how Ecofabulous brings together style and sustainability without sacrifice.

California’s Landmark Benefit Corporation Legislation
So besides our radio show changes, what else has been happening the last few weeks, you ask?  Quite a lot.  With the enactment of AB 361, California’s new landmark Benefit Corporation legislation, Wendel Rosen attorney Donald Simon has been spreading the word about how companies can adopt this new corporate structure.  You can listen to Episode 36 of The Wendel Forum for a previous discussion about this legislation, which allows companies to incorporate their values into their governance. 

Photo of Simon, Gilbert, Huffman and Chouinard

Donald Simon, Jay Coen Gilbert, Assemblyman Jared Huffman and Yvon Chouinard arrive in Sacramento

Donald also participated in the media event at the California Secretary of State’s office on January 3rd (the first day companies could submit paperwork to become Benefit Corporations).  Here’s a press release describing the event and some photos of the day.  We were thrilled to be able to assist about a dozen companies with filings on this first day of eligibility, including Patagonia.  It was great to see Yvon Chouinard there to help champion the cause.  A true leader in sustainability!  See below for links to some of the coverage this event garnered.

Photo of Interview with Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia

Interview with Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia

Photo of Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia addressing crowd to celebrate Benefit Corporation legislation passage.

Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia addresses crowd to celebrate Benefit Corporation legislation passage.

Recent Coverage of AB 361 – California’s Benefit Corporation Legislation 

In Episode 45 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on December 17, 2011, on Green 960 AM radio), show host Bill Acevedo chats with Matt Bauer, President and co-founder of BetterWorld Telecom.  BetterWorld provides voice and data services to small- and medium-sized businesses and focuses on relationships with companies and nonprofits that support social justice and sustainability.

Matt Bauer - President and Co-Founder of BetterWorld Telecom

Matt Bauer, President and Co-Founder of BetterWorld Telecom

The interview touches on a number of subjects. Matt describes BetterWorld’s approach to business, the importance of running a “mission-driven” company, and legislative and economic trends he sees as opportunities for small businesses to succeed, particularly in this sickly economy.

A part of the $2 trillion global telecommunications industry, BetterWorld’s competitors are companies like AT&T, Version and Quest – companies not generally recognized as leaders in sustainable social circles.  BetterWorld has been mission-driven from the beginning, balancing people, planet and prosperity and focusing on serving organizations with similar goals.

They have also created a number of alliances with organizations such as 1% For the Planet (they’ve been a member since 2006) and are a certified B Corporation (in fact, they are a founding member of B Lab).  The company considers these types of organizations so important that it has committed to giving 3% of gross revenues (not just profits) to support social justice and sustainable causes.

BetterWorld’s mission goes beyond simply donating money to organizations; the company is attempting to change the fundamental paradigm related to how people work as a way of enabling companies to reduce their carbon footprint.  The company invested in research and analysis resulting in a program they call BetterWork.  On their website you can download a white paper that describes how to lower costs and carbon emissions, while increasing profits and employee morale through telecommuting, video, web conferencing and other communication tools.

A busy man, Matt is also involved in a number of activities to influence his industry and support small business.  In a recent editorial that ran on http://www.thehill.com(The Hill’s Congress Blog) and http://www.triplepundit.com/, Matt addressed the issue of Net neutrality and the regulatory structure necessary to create a relatively even playing field for carriers like BetterWorld against the giants of telecom.

And because most of BetterWorld’s customers are small business (with under 100 people), they see first hand the economic challenges facing this market segment.  Realizing that capital to fund business growth is harder for small companies to get in this economic environment, Matt has been tracking some emerging non-traditional capital-raising solutions.  He and Bill explore some of the pros and cons of two newly popularized funding solutions for small businesses – crowd funding and Direct Public Offerings (DPOs), including some of the trends and legal issues associated with these two evolving areas of small business finance.

Show Notes:
For the next couple of weeks The Wendel Forum, like many of your favorite television and radio programs, will be running “Best Of” episodes.  On Saturday, December 24, tune in for a rebroadcast of Episode 36, in which Bill Acevedo and Donald Simon discuss the recent passage of Benefit Corporation legislation in California (AB 361).  Companies will be able to take this new form of corporate entity beginning January 1, 2012.  They are joined by Erik Trojian, Director of Policy for B Lab.

On December 31, we will rerun Episode 21, Part I of the compilation interviews conducted at last June’s San Francisco Business Times Cleantech & Sustainability Awards.  Companies featured in the program include:

  • InterContinental San Francisco
  • Propel Fuels
  • Primus Power Corp.
  • Numi Organic Tea

Post Links:
Listen to the interview with Matt Bauer: Episode 45 of The Wendel Forum(27:34 mins; mp3)

BetterWorld Telecom website: http://www.betterworldtelecom.com

BetterWork web page: http://info.betterworldtelecom.com/how-to-lower-costs-and-carbon-emissions-while-increasing-profits-and-employee-morale?hsCtaTracking=4fd1a1ce-e997-4c9f-ba6d-70c0cd896e52%7C43b6cc83-e720-4716-b881-1fb93cb5fd74

Green 960 AM Radio website: http://www.green960.com

Bill Acevedo’s online profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

We are happy to report that the State of New York has become the seventh state to pass benefit corporation legislation, joining Maryland, Vermont, New Jersey, Hawaii, and California.  At midnight last night, the New York Legislature unanimously passed bills S79-A and A4692-A, bringing New York within the fold of those states that are empowering companies with the business model of doing well while doing good.  

Want to learn more about this groundbreaking legislation?  Information about benefit corporation legislation can be found at www.bcorporation.net or you can speak to Donald Simon, the Wendel Rosen lawyer who helped draft similar legislation that was recently enacted in California.

In Episode 36 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on Green 960 AM radio on October 15, 2011), Wendel Rosen green business partners Bill Acevedo and Donald Simon sit down together to discuss the recent passage of AB 361, the new Benefit Corporation legislation signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown on October 9, 2011.   The legislation becomes effective January 1, 2012. 

Green Business attorney Donald Simon

Wendel Rosen's Donald Simon helped draft and promote new Benefit Corporation legislation (AB 361)

The legislation was originally advanced by B Lab, a non-profit based out of Pennsylvania and New York that has been promoting a private certification label for companies called “B Corp.”  So, what are B Corporations?  They are companies that choose to publicly measure themselves against metrics that include social and environmental missions.  (By the way, Wendel Rosen is a certified B Corporation).  Last November, B Lab tapped an elite team of lawyers in California, Donald along with Jonathan Storper and John Montgomery, to form the working legal group to craft and promote the legislation, which became known as AB 361.   Assembly Bill 361 (Huffman)  creates a new corporate structure available to companies that want to build social and environmental values into their core mission.  

Adopting the Benefit Corporation form of entity will protect corporate officers (and hold them accountable) for socially- and environmentally-driven decision making.   It requires transparency and verification from those companies choosing to take its form.  Donald and Bill explain how this legislation will help to differentiate genuine core corporate values from great marketing hype in the sustainable business marketplace and the steps companies can take to switch to this new corporate form.

Erik Trojian, Director of Policy for B Lab, joins the conversation to help explain what’s happening nationally to introduce Benefit Corporation.  For example, in New York, similar legislation is currently awaiting the governor’s signature.  There are several other states that have already enacted these types of laws.  With the passage of these bills across the country, it increases the opportunities for new purpose-driven investment dollars to support innovative businesses.  

States that have passed B Corp legislation: 

  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Virginia
  • Maryland
  • Vermont
  • New Jersey

Forthcoming legislation: 

  • Colorado
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Michigan 

We invite you to learn more about this new form of corporate entity and what it might mean for your green business by listening to the interview.  Then tell us what you think.
Will your company consider this form of entity? 

Post Links:

Interview discussion regarding AB 361 Benefit Corporation legislation: Episode 36 of The Wendel Forum (27.35 minutes, mp3)

B Corporations / B Lab website: http://bcorporation.net/

Green 960 AM radio website: http://www.green960.com/main.html

Wendel Rosen’s B Corp Listing: http://www.bcorporation.net/wendelrosen

Around the Capital legislation tracking website: http://www.aroundthecapitol.com/Bills/AB_361/20112012/

Tracking B Corp Legislation Around the Country: http://www.bcorporation.net/publicpolicy

Benefit Corporation Legal Provisions and FAQ from B Lab: http://www.bcorporation.net/resources/bcorp/documents/Benefit%20Corporation%20-%20Legal%20Provisions%20and%20FAQ.pdf

Donald Simon website bio: www.wendel.com/dsimon

Bill Acevedo website bio: www.wendel.com/wacevedo

In Episode 34 of The Wendel Forum(originally aired on October 1, 2011 on Green 960 AM radio), show host Dick Lyons speaks with Flory Wilson, Director of International Standards at B Lab.  Flory has been instrumental in helping to develop a new rating system for impact investing in North America and around the world – GIIRS.

In their discussion, Flory and Dick discuss the origin of “impact investing,” a term that really only came into popularity about three years ago. Impact investing refers to investors placing capital in companies and funds that deliver positive financial returns while delivering positive social and environmental impacts on their communities.  The concept is relatively simple, but achieving a reliable way to measure, verify and report on a company or fund’s impact has been a challenge, leaving investors with no real way to gauge their impact investments.

Investors knew how to judge returns on their money – profits (just look at the bottom line).  But what has been lacking is a way to analyze and report the other two contributors to the triple bottom line (referring to people, planet and profits). 

The GIIRS crew has spent the last couple of years setting up a framework for reporting and verifying the results of entities that might be desirable vehicles for impact investors.  The audit process takes into account such aspects of a company as governance structure, entity ownership structure, workforce engagement, community support, and environmental footprint.  They look at how the company manages the supply chain and distribution structure and the actual environmental impact of the company’s products and services. 

When assessing a fund, the rating system takes into account the fund manager’s track record, how they screen investors and portfolio companies, how rigorous their standards are, how they manage the investment over time, and their investment exit strategies.

Flory explains some of the reporting features and the review process, as well as the types of businesses and funds that are currently participating in the program.

GIIRS recently had a “coming out” party of sorts at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York.  During this event held September 20-22, 2011, fifteen pioneer investors with $1.50 billion in impact assets, declared their preference for GIIRS-rated funds and companies. They included JP Morgan, Prudential, the Rockefeller Foundation, private equity funds, family foundations and philanthropic organizations, as well as international public sector financial institutions.

Listen in to the episode and let us know your thoughts.  Will these types of metrics have a significant impact on the future of investing?  What might be the next steps in this evolution?

SHOW NOTE:
Tune in on Saturday, October 8, 2011, to get a sneak peak preview of Sustainable Industries Economic Forum featured speakers Bonnie Nixon, executive director of  The Sustainability Consortium, and Alex Bogusky, founder of the FearLess Revolution.  The Forum will be held on October 20 in San Francisco and there is still time to get your ticket by visiting the Sustainable Industries website.

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Flory Wilson: Episode 34 of The Wendel Forum(27:45 min, mp3)

GIIRS website:  www.giirs.org

Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting website info: http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org/ourmeetings/2011/default.asp?Section=OurMeetings&PageTitle=CGI

Sustainable Industries Economic Forum website: http://sustainableindustries.com/events/economic-forums/sustainable-industries-economic-forum

Dick Lyons website bio: www.wendel.com/rlyons

Green 960 AM radio website: www.green960.com

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