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 

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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 make soap.”  That was the response of Method Home Products co-founder and chief greenskeeper Adam Lowry when asked what his company does.  Of course, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Method is well known as a model “green business.” One of the founding B Corporations, in 2007 Method changed its corporate structure to institutionalize its commitment to people and the environment (as well as profits).  Adam sits down with show host Donald Simon to discuss what it means to be a benefit corporation in Episode 20 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on Green 960 AM radio on June 18, 2011).

Adam Lowry and Donald Simon in Studio

Adam Lowry and Donald Simon in Studio

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 also a certified B Corporation).  The certification program is administered by B Lab, a non-profit organization based out of Pennsylvania.

Currently, Adam and Donald are part of a working group that is promoting the passage of Assembly Bill 361 (Huffman) pending in California legislature.  AB 361 would create a new corporate structure (think C Corporations or S Corporations) available to companies that want to build social and environmental values into their core mission.  The Benefit Corporation form of entity would protect the corporate officers (and hold them accountable) for socially- and environmentally-driven decisionmaking. It requires transparency and verification (trust, but verify) from those companies choosing to take its form.  Donald and Adam discuss specific examples of what this might mean in real world application for companies, including their duties to shareholders. Remember when Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was sold?

We’ve discussed the problem of greenwashing and false environmental marketing claims at The Wendel Forum before.  Adam suggests that there is a natural shakeout happening currently for businesses that are not as green as they say they are.  B Corp Certification and a future benefit corporation form of corporate organization would promote transparency and require third party, independent, recognized standards (that are credible and comprehensive) to battle greenwashing and provide additional certainty for consumers.

Next Steps for AB 361 in California

Donald will be a part of the group going to testify before the California Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee on June 29, 2011, in Sacramento regarding AB 361. 

If you are interested in supporting the legislation, you are encouraged to submit a letter to your elected officials.  Here’s a template to get you going: Template letter of support for AB 361.
Post Links:

Interview with Adam Lowry of Method: Episode 20 of The Wendel Forum(27.48 minutes)

Method Home Products website: http://methodhome.com/

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/

Article mentioning the sale of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream: http://dowser.org/b-corp-better-laws-for-business/

Previous post about Environmental Marketing Claims:  https://thewendelforum.com/2011/03/08/environmental-marketing-claims/

Template letter of support for AB 361: https://thewendelforum.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/template-letter-of-support-for-ab-361.doc