By Stephen Lacey on Jun 3, 2011
UpStart [uhp-stahrt] n. 1. A company or organization with innovative approaches to energy use, carbon pollution, resource consumption, and/or social equity, 2. A company or organization overcoming market barriers to build the new clean energy economy.
While playing an important role, governments and non-profits cannot build a “clean economy” on their own; rather, the private sector must lead the way. And thanks to a growing number of forward-thinking companies, the clean economy is already in the works. In this series, Lisbeth Kaufman of the Center for American Progress highlights “UpStarts” – companies that are shaking up the market, breaking down barriers and helping change the economy.
B Lab is creating a new type of company, the B Corporation, which modifies governance so that managers respond to long-term interests of investors, stakeholders, and the environment, rather than just focusing on short-term profits.
In a Harvard Business School case study on B Lab, co-founder Coen Gilbert explained B Lab’s goals and approach to overcoming market barriers for social entrepreneurs:
“There are tons of individual companies that have managed to effectively balance social and business impact. Still, we need to institutionalize the values, standards, and accountability that allow companies to do that. We need systems in place. We need to change the rules of the game instead of continuing to clean up the mess.
We want to look at the root causes. The root causes are not evil people, but rather poor system design. Right now the system is designed to maximize short-term stock value; it does that well, but at the cost of everything else.”
The question is: How do we have a system that facilitates long term value for the good of society?
The Problem: Undefined status and standards for for-profit social entrepreneurs
Over the past decade the social entrepreneurship sector has grown to include an estimated 40 million people employed worldwide, all working to address the most pressing environmental, economic and social challenges of the day. Despite the rising numbers of social entrepreneurs, for-profit businesses in the sector face a number of daunting challenges.
These barriers include:
Legal Status: Current corporate law makes it difficult for companies to prioritize social and environmental impact, requiring companies to maximize shareholder financial return above all else. Until the advent of B-Corporations, there was no legal status for companies that seek to produce social and environmental benefits in addition to profits.
Standards and Transparency: Most corporations have a stated corporate social responsibility (CSR) mission, but without economy-wide standards it’s hard for consumers to tell which companies have real impactful social policies and which simply have impactful marketing campaigns.
Incentives: While the government grants non-profit organizations tax exempt status and allows non-profits to accept tax-deductable contributions, there are no such incentives for for-profit socially beneficial organizations.
The Solution: The B Corporation
Legal Status: B Lab is changing the rules of the game by changing the very structure and legal status of the corporation. Officers and directors of B Corporations have legal permission and protection to consider the interest of all stakeholders, in corporate decision-making: employees, consumers, the community, the environment, not just shareholders. The B Corporation is essentially a new corporate form, a for-profit hybrid of the standard corporation and the socially oriented non-profit. Four states have passed B Corp laws, while six more states consider B Corp legislation.
Standards and Transparency: B Lab has designed a B Impact Rating System (BIRS) to measure a company’s social and environmental performance, setting economy wide standards that apply for all sectors and business sizes. To qualify as B Corporation, a company must complete the B Impact Assessment and receive a composite score of at least 80 out of 200 points. BIRS is updated every 2 years to remain relevant and accurate, and version 3.0 is now up for review. The rating system uses a cold hard numerical score to cut through “green washing” and CSR marketing.
Incentives: B Lab is actively building incentives to encourage businesses to join the B Corporation community, and to reward the organizations that are already making positive impact. With a network of more than 60 service partners, B Corps get discounts on various business services amounting to more than $750,000 in savings, including Salesforce.com, NetSuite software, Inspire Commerce credit card processing, along with increased advertising and marketing benefits. Likewise, the B Corp community includes a growing network of more than 25 investors interested in supporting B Corps. To ensure the best and the brightest work for B Corporations, the Yale School of Management forgives student loans for graduates who work at a B Corporation within ten years of graduation.
So far there are 419 B Corporations of various sizes across 54 industries, with a total of $1.94 billion in revenues. The community includes large well known brands like Method, 7th Generation, and Good Capital as well as numerous smaller startups.
The conventional corporation has little incentive to address the most pressing issues the world faces. B Lab, a prime example of an UpStart, serves as a cutting-edge way to allow entrepreneurs to solve important climate, energy, and social problems — while making a profit.
OneSeventeen Media is Texas’ first certified B Corporation.
Heather Leister, better known as the iPhone Mom, reviews iPhone apps for other moms. She is also an expert contributor on Momtastic.com, a site that provides answers, support, ideas and inspiration for moms. Her 2010 Top 50 iPhone Apps for Mom’s was a hit on Babble.com, a website for the new generation parent.
Needless to say, we were ecstatic when the iPhone Mom chose to review PlumbBrain Guardian last week.
In her review, she stated that she was impressed with PlumbBrain Guardian’s key features of storing information about your child in their profile and simplifying the process of alerting emergency personnel should your child go missing.
But, she went on to say…..”This is all extremely helpful and important but the next feature is what made me think PlumbBrain Guardian is really onto something. If you’re like me you would install this app on your phone, add the photographs and then forget about it. Hoping I’d never need to use it and so never going back to update the information. Should something happen years later the only picture I would have of my fifteen year old daughter would be a photo from when she was eleven.”
“PlumbBrain has thought about people like me and they have built alerts into their app. When you setup your account you may schedule alerts that will remind you to update your children’s photos. Reminders can be set as frequently as weekdays, weekly, monthly or annually. This is a fantastic feature!”
How could we have asked for more than to be in the IPhone Mom’s “Hope I Never Have To Use Them” category??!! “I have several apps on my iPhone that fall into the category of “Hope I NEVER have to use them but I’m VERY glad I have them” and PlumbBrain Guardian is solidly in that category. This is a free and useful app you should definitely get your hands on.”
Learn more about the PlumbBrain Guardian and download a free copy in the iTunes Store.
Ok, I know I’m a little late sharing my excitement but I just had to share anyway how much fun it is to continue to learn new things and explore new frontiers.
On April 29, 2011, we launched a new child safety mobile application for the iPod, iPad and iPhone! PlumbBrain Guardian was created by parents for parents. The app helps you keep a current photo of your child or grandchild (or a child in your care) in case they wander off unexpectedly.
One of our advisors with AMBER Alert™ says one of the key features of the PlumbBrain Guardian app is it’s reminder feature telling you to update your child’s photo. A current photo is critical to finding a lost child quickly. The AMBER Alert™ Program is a voluntary partnership between law-enforcement agencies, broadcasters, transportation agencies, and the wireless industry, to activate an urgent bulletin in the most serious child-abduction cases.
Please check it out for yourself. Maybe you don’t have children in the 2-13 age range but I bet you know someone who does (OK, we’re assuming once our children reach 13 they won’t wander off!). Click here to download the app from the App Store in iTunes to your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad – it’s free!
Please leave us your feedback in the comments section or contact us at mobile [at] oneseventeenmedia.com or twitter @bcarls.
Adults today can remember their first computers with less storage space than today’s flash drives, and (gasp) a floppy disk drive. It was a time when consumers had to adapt to evolutions in technology, and brands had to find ways to use technology to reach consumers.
In 2010, the sides of the scale have shifted. Technology is abundant, the Internet is cluttered, marketing is everywhere and consumers have more options than they’ll ever need. The audiences that technology grew up with (Gen X, Boomers) are all but captive to brands. The audience that grew up with technology (teens, Millennials) are not wooed by glitz and glamour. They’re used to technology, because it’s always been there. How times have changed!
Devices Have Always Been Portable
Teens have grown up in the portable era. Their first computers were laptops. Their first music players were iPods. Their first gaming systems were handheld. Because teens are so adept at using portable devices, they expect experiences to transition across them.
Mobile Phones Have Always Existed
Because teens are a texting generation, many of them prefer BlackBerrys and other phones that provide a different experience than touch-screen phones. Teens grew up with lots of options for mobile phones, so they’re not as quick to buy or try the next hot new thing — especially if it’s not connected with what they’re already using.
Technology Is Always Evolving
To teens, there are always new mobile platforms and devices being created. They’re open to new technology more than any other generation and are savvier with new devices, but they don’t just buy it ’cause it’s new. Teens want their technology to work better than what they have and doesn’t just look better than what they have.
Brands Have Always Been Online
Brands have been online as long as teens have. There’s nothing new about it, and that makes them harder to engage. Teens don’t want to engage with brands in social media just because it’s cool that the brand is in social media. They want to engage with brands if they’re getting something in return.
So though times have changed, I think it is safe to say that today’s technology driven teens are not overwhelmed by their choices, but looking for technology that works for them!
This year Stanford admitted only 7.2 percent of applicants and Harvard accepted only 6.9 percent of them. The process seems daunting. At Harvard, before kids even get to the essay questions, they need to circle whether their career, academic, and athletic plans are “very likely to change” or “absolutely certain.” Then they’ve got the 250-words-or-more Common Application essay. (One suggested topic: “Discuss some issue of personal, local, national, or international concern and its importance to you.” Yikes.) And many schools add on “optional” essays.
Writing a college application essay can be pretty stressful, and it should be time-consuming. After all, you don’t want to give the admissions counselors at your dream school a bad impression based on a poorly written essay that you threw together the night before the due date. Proper planning is essential because you will need to give yourself plenty of time for adjustments, rewrites, and proofreading.
Here’s a guide to some ways you can use to help you through this rite of passage:
Be Yourself. “Applications are best if they reflect the way the student is,” says Light. “It’s very tempting to sit down and try to figure out what admissions officers — we as a species — want to see, and there are perils in that.” Why? “We have pretty good radar to detect the overly varnished,” says Keith Light, who has worked in admissions at Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, and now at Brown. “It’s not that we’re cynical and looking for cheating or too much input. [But] it’s not very hard for us to spot when a parent or someone else [like a teacher] has had too much of a heavy hand in the writing.” It makes admissions officers wonder, “Are we really getting to really know the student, or what others thinks the student is?” he says. It’s best when students pen their own essays, which sound as though they’re written by the person their teachers are describing in their recommendation letters.
Once it’s time to begin writing your essay for real, you’ll have a notebook full of ideas from which to choose. Go through your notes and see if anything seems worthy of using; you can even choose two or three topics as “maybes” and narrow things down as you go.
Decide which essay topic you are going to use, and begin by writing an outline. Even though you may have been told otherwise, your admissions essay doesn’t have to be about something that no one else has ever done. While it’s important that your essay is unique and talks about you, most high school students go through similar experiences … and you don’t want to create an essay full of lies, remember?
Once you begin writing, you’ll probably realize that the experience isn’t as bad as you’d imagined it would be. Just remember that the purpose of writing this essay is to present a personal view of you to the college admissions staff. If the school does not require in-person interviews, your essay may be all they have to go on. Take your time and allow others to read your essay and provide constructive criticism before you turn it in.
Don’t underestimate yourself. Keep your attitude positive. Most kids don’t go to Harvard — but still get into a college and love it. This fall about 7.5 million students are expected to attend public four-year institutions and 4.6
million to attend private four-year institutions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. (There are more than 420 public colleges and universities alone, according to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.)
Don’t feel compelled to add extras, such as resumes. “We neither ask for or expect them, but they pop up,” says Light. (Some even include “mission statements.”) Light once received a 12-page one. The parent told him, “The son of my friend down the street just got admitted to Harvard last year, and his resume was 14 pages.” Light’s take on it: “He was admitted in spite of the essay.” (Resumes aren’t the only add-ons: Once Light received multiple copies of a color-coded family tree, dating back to the 1800s, which showed close relatives’ connections to a university.)
Follow the essay guidelines that were specified on your application. You don’t want it to be too short or too long. Most schools allow typed essays, so they will probably have specifications for font size and spacing; others will request hand-written essays, so be sure to submit your essay in the format that is required. Read your directions carefully.
Remember to proofread your essay. Check your work carefully for grammar, spelling, and structure. Ask others to proofread it, too – your English teacher is a great choice for this job, if they’re willing to help you out, as well as your friends and family. An essay that is full of typos and grammatical errors will look sloppy and rushed and will reflect poorly on you.
Save your essay. It’s fine to use the same essay with minor revisions for more than one college application, so be sure to save your essay. Keep it on the hard drive of your computer, but burn it to CD or place it on an external hard as well. You never know when your computer may crash and cause you to lose everything. You can even email it to yourself as an attachment.