Business as an Agent of World Benefit

Dr. David Cooperrider (Case Western Reserve) has found his passion in the initiative to discover businesses who benefit others.  In his teaching at the University of Pennsylvania’s M.A.P.P. program (Master of Applied Positive Psychology) he assigned the students the task to find 10 communities or organizations who were doing good in the world.  In the hopes of inspiring our readers to find (or create) their own businesses, I include this list and corresponding descriptions.


1.         Greensburg, KS

After a monster tornado devastated Greensburg, Kansas in 2008, this became the first city in the nation to pledge that all city-owned buildings larger than 4,000 square will get the highest rating of the U.S. Green Building Council, called Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum. The buildings are expected to use 42% less energy than building code standards allow.

There will be at least three LEED Platinum city buildings: a city-owned mini-mall, City Hall and the museum and visitor center for the meteorite and well. City Hall will have solar panels to produce some of its electricity and will be constructed partly of recycled bricks, some from buildings destroyed in the tornado. Eventually, 100% of Greensburg’s electricity will come from renewable sources such as wind and solar power.  In addition, the 26,000-square-foot John Deere dealership will aim for a LEED Platinum rating. Among other things, it will have a pond to catch rainwater for landscaping and low-water faucets, he says. Two wind turbines will produce electricity for the building.

Colleges are contributing to the town’s green initiative. University of Kansas architecture students are building an arts center they hope will be LEED-certified in part for its use of solar panels and reclaimed wood.  Homeowners are not required to build green, but the city hopes they will.

2.         Loisos + Ubbelohde – Alameda, CA


This architecture and energy company specializes design and research with a focus on energy efficiency and sustainability. Their consulting is specialized in daylighting, lighting design, energy modeling, comfort analysis, evaluation of building performance and LEED certification.  They ask a building to be sustainable:  to create pure air, water and soil, store rainwater and solar energy, produce food, consume its own wastes, maintain itself, provide wildlife habitat, match nature’s cycles, moderate local weather and be beautiful.

The founders also believe in sustainable practice. Their home office employs electric lighting on daylight dimming and occupancy sensors, window shades on automatic controls, and increased insulation and ceiling fans to regulate temperature.  They are a carbon-neutral firm; the majority of the office staff commutes by bicycle and all of the firm’s air and car travel is offset.  They use recycled paper products, recycle and compost their waste, use a green cleaning service for the office, and buy organic produce and sustainable products.  They also teach seminars, publish and present their research at symposia around the world, and the office actively supports continuing education for the staff.

3.         SAS – Cary, NC

SAS, the leader in business analytics software and services, and the largest independent vendor in the business intelligence market wasbagain named to FORTUNE magazine’s annual list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in America in 2008. In addition to rising nine places to No. 20 on the list, SAS was listed as one of the best for healthcare, childcare and work-life balance.  SAS has long been recognized as an innovator in encouraging employee work-life balance. Employees at SAS headquarters in Cary, NC, enjoy onsite amenities including healthcare and daycare, a 66,000-square-foot recreation and fitness center, and incentive programs to reward employee wellness.  As a result, SAS employees are unusually loyal. Annual turnover is about 4 percent in an industry in which 22 percent is the norm. SAS benefits from this low turnover in many ways including long-term relationships with customers, knowledge retention and low recruitment and training costs.  In 2004, SAS’ consistent appearance on the list earned the company a membership in the magazine’s Hall of Fame.

4.         Revolution Foods – Alameda, CA


            Revolution Foods began with a founding team who believed that all students should have access to healthy, fresh food on a daily basis.  Currently they feed 12,000 students a day.  Revolution Foods is a company that creates positive social impact while minimizing environmental impact.  They recycle and compost virtually all of their kitchen waste, use energy efficient insulated food storage units.  Their education materials are produced on recycled paper using soy-based inks. They use recyclable packaging whenever possible and their hot food containers are printed with soy-based inks.

They create a holistic learning environment around their food service offerings that includes nutrition education for kids and families. They are also developing online resources that teachers and families can use to learn more about health-related issues and to educate their communities.  They educate customers about the value of fresh, organic and local food products. Through this practice, they are not only striving to create food system change; they are also contributing to local economic development in industries such as agriculture and food service that require human capital.

5.         Johnson & Johnson /Human Performance Institute – Orlando, FL

Johnson & Johnson announced that it has acquired LGE Performance Systems, Inc., a privately held company located in Orlando, Florida, known as Human Performance Institute, which develops science-based training programs to improve employee engagement and productivity, will operate within the Johnson & Johnson Wellness & Prevention business platform.  Human Performance Institute is both a campus-based institute and client-location provider of training programs designed to manage energy to create and sustain high performance. Human Performance Institute’s technology of managing energy is measurement based and grounded in the sciences of performance psychology, exercise physiology and nutrition.

Johnson & Johnson’s focus on health and wellness has helped to reduce their per capita health-plan costs and significantly improve overall employee health and productivity.  Managing energy, not time, is the key to creating enduring high performance on the job as well as good health and balance in life,” said Jim Loehr, Ed.D., Chief Creative Officer and founder of Human Performance Institute. This will directly affect 119,400 employees at more than 250 Johnson & Johnson companies as well as Johnson and Johnson’s global efforts to stop childhood obesity.

6.         Equity Community Builders – San Francisco, CA

For the last decade, real estate developer Equity Community Builders has demonstrated its commitment to the responsible development and management of property throughout Northern California. ECB is recognized for its expertise in affordable and market rate housing, non-profit co-location centers, historic rehabilitation, and sustainable development practices.  ECB develops urban in-fill projects that exemplify innovative, environmentally responsible design using creative financing solutions.  By specializing in the planning, design, financing and construction of high-density new construction and the adaptive reuse of existing structures, ECB has established strategies and systems for managing unique, one-of-a-kind development challenges.

ECB’s long-term involvement in community-based planning, coupled with their reputation for sensitivity to environmental and neighborhood concerns, further strengthens ECB’s credibility with local public agencies and community groups.

7.         Grameen Bank

Grameen Bank (GB) has reversed conventional banking practice by removing the need for collateral and created a banking system based on mutual trust, accountability, participation and creativity. GB provides credit to the poorest of the poor in rural Bangladesh, without any collateral. At GB, credit is a cost effective weapon to fight poverty and it serves as a catalyst in the over all development of socio-economic conditions of the poor who have been kept outside the banking orbit on the ground that they are poor and hence not bankable. Professor Muhammad Yunus, the founder of “Grameen Bank” and its Managing Director, reasoned that if financial resources can be made available to the poor people on terms and conditions that are appropriate and reasonable, “these millions of small people with their millions of small pursuits can add up to create the biggest development wonder.”

As of December, 2008, it has 7.67 million borrowers, 97 percent of whom are women. With 2,539 branches, GB provides services in 83,566 villages, covering more than 99 percent of the total villages in Bangladesh.  In 2006, GB received the Nobel Peace Prize.

8.         Allstate Foundation    

The Allstate Foundation recently awarded $552,000 in economic empowerment grants to domestic violence coalitions in nine states. The funds will help to ease the financial burden of domestic violence survivors who are often the hardest hit by economic downturns.  The grants will be used to support a variety of local programs focused on developing strategies to move survivors toward financial independence. The grantees’ work will center on Individual Development Accounts (IDA), micro-enterprise, financial literacy, and job readiness activities.
In partnership with the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) Fund, The Allstate Foundation Economic Empowerment for Domestic Violence Survivors Program provides knowledge and skills – particularly those related to financial security and economic empowerment – to support survivors of domestic violence. The grants are just one of the elements of The Allstate Foundation Program, which has provided more than $4,500,000 in funding to national and state domestic violence organizations since its launch in 2005.  Through initiatives like the Education and Job Training Assistance Fund, which provides micro-grants to survivors helping them to achieve their educational and professional goals, and the financial empowerment curriculum that is being implemented in programs across the country, The Allstate Foundation is filling a gap in domestic violence funding and resource provision.
9.         Mr. Ellie Pooh – Brooklyn, NY

The company, Mr. Ellie Pooh, which sells 100 percent handmade journals, stationery, office supplies and various grades of paper made partially from Sri Lankan elephant dung, is the Co-op America’s 2008 Green Business Leader Award winner.  Sri Lanka is home to about one out of 10 of the world’s estimated 40,000 Asian elephants still living in the wild. Elephants are not killed in Sri Lanka for their tusks, their hides or for meat – they are killed because they interfere with agricultural crops. Mr. Ellie Pooh is working towards finding ways to change the perceptions of farmers, who are being encouraged to see the elephants as a sustainable economic resource.

Along with Maximus, their Sri Lankan partner and paper-production company, Mr. Ellie Pooh plans to introduce “Project Peace Paper,” which would open paper re-cycling plants in rural areas, train villagers in paper making techniques and sell finished goods worldwide in order to contribute to the local economy.  Mr. Ellie Pooh paper products are 100 percent recycled, made up of 75 percent elephant dung and 25 percent post consumer paper. There are no toxic chemicals used in the paper-making process, only basic bonding agents such as alum and rosin, along with water soluble salt dyes for coloring. As no bleach or acids are introduced during manufacturing, the handmade papers are pH neutral and can be used in multiple situations.
10.       World Cocoa Foundation

The World Cocoa Foundation today announced sustainability principles and goals to help the world’s cocoa farmers, guide industry efforts and prioritize the Foundation’s development projects in West Africa, Southeast Asia and the Americas.  The World Cocoa Foundation’s sustainability principles and goals commit the Foundation and its members to working toward: Profit: Improved and more equitable economic returns for farmers, built upon expanding entrepreneurial skills, stronger and more effective farmer associations, and more productive, profitable farming practices;  People: Healthy and thriving cocoa-farming households and communities, where children can enjoy childhood and attend school, international labor standards are followed, and farming practices are safe; and Planet: Responsible, sound environmental stewardship in cocoa-farming communities where soil and water are conserved, Integrated Pest Management approaches are followed to limit the use of agricultural chemicals, and the fragile tropical ecosystem is protected.

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About Shannon Polly, MAPP

Shannon M. Polly is a corporate communications trainer, facilitator and speaker and founder of Shannon Polly & Associates, a leadership development company in downtown D.C. Shannon works with executives, managers and employees of Fortune 500 companies in two areas: executive presence/presentation skills (based on over a decade of experience as a professional actor/singer in New York) and positive psychology. Shannon is one the first 100 people in the world who have received her Master in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) degree from the University of Pennsylvania under Dr. Martin Seligman. She also holds a graduate degree from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in classical acting and a B.A. with honors from Yale University. She also holds a coaching certificate from the Georgetown Leadership Coaching Program.

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