In Episode 70 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on July 21, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Mark Dwight, founder of San Francisco-based Rickshaw Bagworks.

Mark Dwight of Rickshaw Bagworks visits The Wendel Forum Studio

Mark Dwight of Rickshaw Bagworks visits The Wendel Forum Studio

After leaving his Silicon Valley tech roots, Dwight joined Timbuck2, where he fell in love with the bag business.  When he moved to Rickshaw, he committed to making bags in a sustainable way, including minimizing waste and overstock. 

Rickshaw bags are made with polyester recycled from beverage bottles and industrial plastic, and the company avoids materials that are noxious in their manufacture, use and disposal.  Every Rickshaw bag features a gem tag with the letters PCQ, which stands for “passion, craft and quality,” and a five-pointed star, which represents Rickshaw’s five constituencies: employees, customers, business partners, shareholders and the community.

Bill and Dwight discuss how no business can be 100 percent impact-free and that sustainability starts at the bottom line.  That is, businesses must be sustainable financially in addition to committing to environmental and social justice goals.

Dwight is also the founder of SF Made, a nonprofit organization that promotes local manufacturing. Since its founding two years ago, 350 San Francisco manufacturers, including Anchor Brewing, have become members of SF Made. Dwight established the organization as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization (as opposed to a 501(c)(6) trade organization for for-profit companies) so it can receive tax-deductible donations. The City of San Francisco even awarded a grant to SF Made to promote local economic development. SF Made has served as a model for other communities launching similar geographic branding programs.

Does it matter to you to buy local?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Mark Dwight of Rickshaw Bags: Episode 70 of The Wendel Forum (27:34 mins; mp3)

Rickshaw Bags Website: http://www.rickshawbags.com/

SF Made Website: http://www.sfmade.org/

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

Bill Acevedo’s Online Profile: http://www.wendel.com/wacevedo

Advertisement

In Episode 69 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on July 7, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Dick Lyons, co-founder of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Gary Price, a tax partner at Sensiba San Filippo, one of the Bay Area’s largest accounting firms and a green business certified under the Bay Area Green Business Program

Gary Price

Dick and Price discuss how in the last few years, it’s become economical for businesses to use renewable energy sources, particularly solar and wind, which provide energy without using oil or gas. Because buildings and their occupants produce a significant amount of pollution, even  businesses like accounting, law and other service firms can help the environment by buying clean energy from roof-mounted solar power systems that replace or supplement power from the grid. Even if those businesses occupy just one floor of a big building, they can contribute to lower energy consumption.

Renewable energy used to cost more than electricity purchased from utility companies.  But the 2008 renewable energy credit program helped bring prices down.  Within just four or five years, companies using renewable energy will see the payback, resulting in real cash savings. Using solar and wind energy also has related insurance and bank loan benefits.

A new clean tech trend is that larger renewable energy companies – perhaps a solar company or even a company that produces a part of a solar energy system – have accelerated the use of solar power by become financing companies.  As a result, customers may not need cash at all to buy electricity from roof-mounted solar systems. Solar and wind energy options will continue to grow and experience increased demand, which will further drop the price point.

If a business is interested in switching to renewable energy, Price recommends finding an expert to “put the whole thing together.” Construction and engineering companies, for example, have savvy energy departments. Law and accounting firms also have specialists that put green projects together.

What would it take for your business to buy clean energy?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Gary Price: Episode 69 of The Wendel Forum(27:53 mins; mp3)

Sensiba San Filippo website: http://www.ssfllp.com/

Price’s article on Sensible Savings: http://www.ssfllp.com/sustainable-savings-how-businesses-can-profit-big-from-clean-technology/

Bay Area Green Business Program website: http://www.greenbiz.ca.gov/

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

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

In Episode 67 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on June 23, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Bill Acevedo, chair of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Lars Jacobsen, co-founder of Stalk Bicycles, which produces handmade bamboo bicycles.

Lars Jacobsen of Stalk Bicycles shows off bamboo framing

Lars Jacobsen of Stalk Bicycles shows off bamboo framing in The Wendel Forum studio.

The fastest growing plant on earth, bamboo is considered by many in the U.S. as a pesky weed, but it is also a surprisingly versatile sustainable material.  It has a finished exterior and the grain allows it to bend, but it is still remarkably strong.  In some countries, for instance, it’s used as a substitute for rebar! 

As for its use in bicycles, bamboo boasts a “supreme vibration dampening quality,” making it comfortable to ride.  Stalk Bicycle’s bamboo bikes ride beautifully, explains Jacobsen, who spent two years empirically testing the bikes, riding down stairs and along the pock-marked roads of Oakland to assess product quality.  The base model, which takes more than 40 hours to custom construct and weighs about the same as an aluminum bike, costs $2,500 and comes with a three-year warranty on the frame.  

To increase its commitment to sustainability, Stalk uses other natural fibers, such as hemp, for its products and sources as many materials locally as possible.  In fact, another Wendel Forum guest, Entropy Resins (Episode 47, Shaping a Superior Surfboard), is a supplier of the resin that Stalk uses on the joints of its bike frames.

According to Jacobsen, market acceptance in bamboo bikes is increasing.  “When people ride them, the bikes sell themselves.”  In addition to direct customer feedback, Stalk has earned support from Northern California’s local artisan movement as well as the cycling community.

Would you consider purchasing a bamboo bike?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Jacobsen: Episode 67 of The Wendel Forum(27:31 mins; mp3)

Stalk Bicycles: http://www.stalkbicycles.com/

Entropy Resins: http://www.entropyresins.com/

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

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

In Episode 64 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on May 26, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Dick Lyons, co-founder of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Steve Roth, CEO of Roth Consulting, which helps companies devise and execute a “winning strategy,” whether related to capital, expansion, product development or management.

Steve Roth, CEO of Roth Consulting

Steve Roth, CEO of Roth Consulting

Roth brings his experience as a senior executive and investor in companies in a wide range of industries to green businesses and double-bottom-line companies, those companies for which a social goal — like benefiting the community or the environment — co-exist alongside profit goals.  For those companies, the biggest issue is balance, Roth explains.  Companies can’t forget that profitability is what allows a company to be generous and, therefore, profitability must remain the core operational focus.  Companies shouldn’t become so enamored with a social mission that they lose the ability to fund it.

The average double-bottom-line company devotes about 5 percent of sales to a social mission.  The more profits earned, the more impact the company can have. Ben & Jerry’s was one of the first and most successful double-bottom-line companies.  “On a public relations basis, charitable endeavors are a big part of their raison d’être.”

Companies can also donate employee time – within limits.  In the 1970’s, Xerox was one of first companies to devote its human resources to help the community, and some employees were even promoted on that basis.  But Xerox diverted too much attention from its core business and now no longer exists.  “It’s an educational tale.”

Another business challenge for these companies is making the charitable work relevant to customers.  Many businesses in the coffee industry, for example, donate money back to the cooperatives that grow their beans.  It may be more expensive to source products from those areas.  As a result, customers may need to pay higher prices or the company may have to accept lower profits.  “Corporate communication is critical to justifying the premium” customers may have to pay, especially in a competitive marketplace where consumers have many choices. The customer must be educated about the social benefit of buying that product.

Roth and Dick also discuss socially responsible investing.

What social causes would inspire you to purchase products from double-bottom-line companies, even if the prices were higher?

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Steve Roth: Episode 64 of The Wendel Forum(27:45 mins; mp3)

Roth Consulting:  http://www.consultroth.com

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

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

In Episode 61 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on May 5, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show moderator Dick Lyons, co-founder of Wendel Rosen’s sustainable business practice group, welcomes Rachel Barge, a partner at Greenstart, which is a San Francisco start-up accelerator.  Greenstart helps new companies that use software to solve clean tech problems. 

Rachel Barge of Greenstart

Rachel Barge of Greenstart

Twice a year, Greenstart, which launched last year, sifts through hundreds of applications and offers a handful of clean-tech start ups seed-stage venture capital as well as training in the company’s 12-week boot camp. Specifically, Greenstart invests $15,000 in exchange for a 15% equity stake, it makes a $100,000 convertible loan and it provides concentrated training.  The three-month academy “crams two years of development into three months,” according to Barge. Entrepreneurs learn to validate their technology (proving customers exist for the product), develop a 12-month execution plan (including building the team and honing the financial model), and communicate (to investors, team members, channel partners and customers).  Entrepreneurs are paired with mentors, including executives from cutting-edge companies like Tesla and Pandora. The program’s culmination is “Demo Day,” during which the start ups pitch hundreds of potential investors.

Software, Barge explains, is key to what she calls “clean tech 2.0.” For example, the collaborative consumption trend, which replaces ownership with use and access, requires new software platforms.  That’s why Greenstart selected for its program Scoot Networks, which provides shared electric scooters that customers can unlock with an iPhone. 

Barge explains Greenstart’s unique application for companies that want to apply to the Greenstart program.  The entrepreneurs must state the dirty energy problem they’re solving and explain their technology in just 250 written characters and a two-minute video.  The accelerator is particularly interested in working with fast-to-market products.  The company’s first class included SmarterShade, a self-tinting windows company; Sylvatex, which cheaply mixes biofuels with diesel; Wa.tt, a consumer web app company that “gamifies” energy use on Facebook; and Tenrehte, a wireless system for managing energy flowing through electrical plugs.

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Rachel Barge:  Episode 61 of The Wendel Forum (27:36 mins; mp3)

Greenstart website: http://www.greenstart.com

SmarterShade website: http://smartershade.com/

Tenrehte website: http://tenrehte.com/

Sylvatex website: http://sylvatex.com/

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

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

I scream, you scream, we all scream for (organic, fair trade, unique, delicious) ice cream!

In Episode 58 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on April 14, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Bill Acevedo welcomes Neal Gottlieb of Three Twins Ice Cream.

Neal discusses the life path that led him from corporate finance to ice cream, with a stint in the Peace Corps along the way.  When he founded Three Twins, he was determined to build a company that honored his values, as well as offering him a reasonable living.

Neal Gottlieb of Three Twins Ice Cream visits The Wendel Forum

Neal Gottlieb of Three Twins Ice Cream visits The Wendel Forum

According to Neal, organic ice cream has been done before, but not well.  The early attempts from some of the bigger names on the ice cream scene typically made organic varieties in boring flavors (vanilla, chocolate or strawberry) and saw it as an opportunity to sell smaller containers while charging more money than for their conventional flavors.   

By contrast, the Three Twins model puts organic at the core of the product, rather than as an afterthought.  In addition to using basic organic ingredients, Three Twins concentrates on building up multiple flavor layers in its ice creams for surprising twists on classics.  An increasing number of Three Twins’ flavors are using certified Fair Trade products as well.

Bill and Neal discuss what it means for a business like Three Twins to obtain USDA Certified Organic and Fair Trade certified designations. They also discuss the company’s corporate giving initiatives, which include membership in 1% for the Planet and their new giving initiative “Ice Cream for Acres.” Through the Ice Cream for Acres program, Three Twins makes a donation to Global Wildlife Conservation, an environmental nonprofit that buys large tracks of land to protect habitat for endangered species.  For each one pint purchase, Three Twins donates enough money to buy at least six square feet of land.  To date, the company has underwritten the purchase of 100 square acres and they expect they’ll be able to facilitate the purchase of thousands of acres in the next few years with their anticipated growth.

Where can you find these delicious sweet treats?  On the East Coast you can find them in Whole Foods (except in New York and New Jersey) and Fresh markets. On the West Coast, they currently have a larger footprint in Whole Foods, neighborhood corner bodegas, and some conventional grocery stores.  But perhaps the most fun you’ll have is if you’re lucky enough to encounter the “pimped out” ice cream truck (which is really a refurbished school bus) known affectionately as “Carl.”

Carl the Three Twins Ice Cream Bus

Carl the Three Twins Ice Cream Bus

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Neal Gottlieb: Episode 58 of The Wendel Forum (27:20 mins; mp3)

Three Twins Ice Cream website : www.threetwinsiceream.com

Global Wildlife Conservation website: http://globalwildlife.org/

1% for the Planet website: http://onepercentfortheplanet.org/en/

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

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

In (originally aired on April 7, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio) show host Bill Acevedo talks to Christopher Angell, co-founder and president of Jungell, makers of Angell organic candy bars and GlucoLift all natural glucose tablets.

Co-founded with his wife, Suzanne, Jungell Inc. makes better versions of products the couple

Christopher Angell, Founder of Jungell

Christopher Angell, Founder of Jungell

feels passionate about.  The two grew up loving candy bars, but realized as adults that they would have to stop eating them after reading the labels.  You’ve probably seen organic or fair trade chocolate bars in your favorite health food stores, but Angell’s line of products are the first true organic and fair trade candy bars on the market.  They make a point to bring their own flavors to products and not just make an organic copy of what’s already on the market. 

Why make candy that’s both organic and fair trade?  Christopher believes if your interest in organic goes beyond your own health benefits to include the health of the environment (for example, the overall environmental and human health impacts of pesticides in farming), you’ll realize that the two go hand in hand.

Christopher and Bill discuss the organic and fair trade certifications and what goes into receiving those designations, including buying component ingredients from certified farms, inspections from certifying agencies and restrictions on genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) in food products, as well as the fertilizers and pesticides used in many farming operations that typically supply the candy industry.

A relatively new company (launched in 2010), Angell generated significant interest in the marketplace and recently announced the sale of the candy bar operations to Betty Lou’s, another organic snack manufacturer that was a contract manufacturer of the bars. 

With the transfer of the candy bar business, Jungell is now focusing on its other major product, GlucoLift, which is an all natural glucose tablet designed to help raise blood sugar in a safe and quick way.  Christopher, who has diabetes, saw a need in the glucose tablet market and put his product creator hat on to come up with a better solution.

As he had discovered in the candy bar industry, most of the glucose products available to those managing diabetes and hypoglycemia were filled with additives, artificial ingredients and questionable GMO components. Christopher thought he could do better. The result of his work was GlucoLift, the first all-natural glucose tablet on the market.  And while he was at it, he made them palatable, in a series of fruit flavors and in packaging that made it easy for someone experiencing the symptoms of low-blood sugar to manipulate. 

What’s next for Jungell?  As the company wraps up the sale and transition of Angell Bars to the new owners, Jungell will continue to focus on GlucoLift.  And Christopher and Suzanne will look for the next need in the marketplace where they can make a difference.
 

Post Links:

Interview with Christopher Angell: Episode 57 of The Wendel Forum(27:53 mins; mp3)

Jungell website: www.jungell.com

Betty Lou’s website press release: http://bettylousinc.com/news_detail.php?id=38

960 KNEW AM radio website: www.960knew.com

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

In Episode 56 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on March 31, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Dick Lyons speaks with Paul Baier, Vice President of Sustainability Consulting at Groom Energy.  Paul assists the company’s customers with their sustainability and energy reduction strategies, carbon footprint and responses to supply chain surveys.

Paul Baier of Groom Energy

In addition, Paul authors a sustainability blog called Practical Sustainability and moderates EnterpriseSmartGrid.org.  He is a senior contributor and VERGE Global Advisory Board member for Greenbiz.com and is the primary author of a report on large enterprise smart grid and energy management software called “The 2011 Enterprise Carbon Accounting (ECA) Software Market: A Buyer’s Guide.”  Paul sits at the forefront of issues related to large scale energy use by major organizations.

Dick and Paul discuss how large companies grapple with energy management and reduction – not an easy task.  These companies face many challenging when it comes to energy and carbon measuring, management and reporting.  First, they have to figure out what to track, then how.  Most are responding to regulatory demands, need for better cost savings and what Paul refers to as “consumer compliance.”

Often the first step is trying to put their arms around what energy use really means in their business.  Some companies are surprised that, in addition to improving their sustainability footprint, they can save significant amounts of money by implementing energy management initiatives.  Once they realize that, most are prepared to put significant resources to the task.   For many manufacturers and distributors, powerful companies like Walmart put pressure on them to complete rigorous supplier surveys to explain their strategies and results. 

For single-facility operations it’s hard enough, but many of these suppliers have facilities around the globe, each with different standards, measurement systems, accounting systems and processes for collecting and tracking the information ultimately needed to institute a company-wide program.   Paul helps these companies manage this complex process.  

Helping companies to identify direct effect, indirect effect, and the overall impact in supply chain (Scope 1, scope 2 and scope 3), Paul observes that companies are becoming more sophisticated in identifying the hidden impacts of the entire supply chain. 

Management people have been trying to anticipate cap and trade, carbon tracking, and what will happen as AB32 (in California) and other legislation dictates change for their industries.

As Paul says,

“Energy management is the flip side of carbon management.”

Paul and Dick discuss the types of providers who are stepping into the marketplace and the kinds of risks that various vertical markets must address in their forecasting models. The technologies being developed today will allow greater and greater precision and flexibility in tracking both the carbon footprint and the energy management of our major industries.  And with the rise of cloud computing, the storage and processing options continue to become more affordable for even smaller companies.  Paul suggests that because of the software, data storage and other advancements in recent years, precision energy management is no longer a technical problem, it’s a “willingness problem.”

Certainly the regulatory environmental, as well as consumer demand will continue to influence the willingness of companies to address these issues in significant ways.

  

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Paul Baier:  Episode 56 of The Wendel Forum(27:44 mins; mp3)

Groom Energy website: www.groomenergy.com

Paul Baier’s blog: http://practicalsustainability.blogspot.com/

GreenBiz.com website: http://www.greenbiz.com

Report link: http://www.groomenergy.com/eca_report_summary.html

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

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

In Episode 55 of The Wendel Forum (originally aired on March 24, 2012, on 960 KNEW AM radio), show host Dick Lyons welcomes Gil Friend to the show.  Gil is Founder, President and CEO of Natural Logic, a company that provides strategic advice to support the sustainable economy.  He’s been consulting in this area for more than 40 years and has some great perspectives on the past, present and future of sustainability in business.  His company serves a wide variety of organizations ranging from municipalities to some of the best known consumer brands in the world (Levi Strauss and CocaCola, to name two).  He was recently inducted as a founding member of the Sustainability Hall of Fame by the International Society of Sustainability Professionals.  This is a guy with, as they say, gravitas in the industry.

Gil Friend of Natural Logic

Gil Friend of Natural Logic visits The Wendel Forum studio

Gil points out that, classically, people have defined sustainability as development that meets the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs – or to put it more succinctly, by doing less bad.  

He prefers to take a more positive approach.  In his view, a sustainable business is a business that operates in harmony with the laws of nature – a little more inspiring.

When asked what major trends he’s seen, Gil shares that he believes there has been a major sea change in the last five years, with a large number of mainstream businesses considering the environment as a part of their core business operations.   Most of us are familiar with at least some of the ways in which Walmart has led the pack in this area.  When they started, a few years ago, they set goals without knowing exactly what the metrics would be or how they would meet them.  But they didn’t let that stop them, and as a result they have had a big impact on a large sector of the economy.

Gil believes that sustainability has moved from the periphery of business operations to become a central driver of business value for many companies.  Early efforts tended to focus on energy, waste stream, water usage and similar factors.  What’s the latest?  Carbon emissions.  Companies are developing metrics for things like carbon emissions per dollar of revenue as a way to think about investment strategies.  One resource in this area is the Carbon Disclosure Project

Common sustainable business themes include companies looking more closely at the full length of the supply chain and adding transparency.  Consumers want to know the materials that make up the products they buy, as well as the labor practices employed and environmental impact of their production. 

What’s in Gil’s crystal ball for green business?  He sees more companies taking sustainability further and more deeply into their operations.  Companies are asking more systemic questions – embedding sustainability deeper into their DNA and developing better processes along the way.

For more of Gil’s insights, you might want to check out his book, The Truth About Green Business.  It gives business leaders a framework, as well as practical nuts-and-bolts ideas, in easily digestible pieces. 

Post Links:

Listen to the interview with Gil Friend:  Episode 55 of The Wendel Forum (27:38 mins; mp3)

Natural Logic website: www.natlogic.com 

The Truth About Green Business webpage: http://www.natlogic.com/resources/publications/the-truth-about-green-business/

Carbon Disclosure Project: https://www.cdproject.net/en-US/Pages/HomePage.aspx

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

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

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