Organizational Capacity Building

Candace LaRue and Associates

#nei2012 Business Innovation and Power in a New Economy

on June 10, 2012

Business Innovation and Power in a New Economy
David Levine, Nathan Gilbert, and Jeffery Hollender

With a small dedicated group, we started with introductions.


Founded Seventh Generation 25 years ago, then left two years ago. The unfinished journey of 7th Generation – the company lived in a paradigm of “less bad products” not “good products.” At the end of the day, the venture investors controlled the fate of the business, not the employees. The company grew too quickly because of personal obsession, with 70% and 50% growths. That type of growth is not sustainable. One of the negatives of fast growth is that you leave people behind. You cannot train people that quickly, so you import talent at higher and higher levels. 7th Generation focused on helping a segment of society already being helped more than most – healthy, wealthy, and well-educated people. Lastly, it was nice to be an exception to the rules, but that was not enough because the rules stay the same. Actually, the rules got worse and worse for the types of businesses we are trying to create. What is the alternative? CommonWise and MIT have been working to create something similar to the Evergreen project in the Bronx with some significant differences, with the mission to maximize the potential for business to create a just, equitable, and regenerative future. The first principle is participatory planning – the local community creating the design for their future. This requires building trust – that he was not just another suit. The next piece is identifying the existing assets in the community. While communities may be poor in the sense that they have low incomes, that does not mean they have no assets. But they may not be able to identify and use those assets productively. It is a mistake to not build on the Pre-existing assets that are there. The education and learning process is critical – how does the local economy actually work? People generally do not understand the notion of the leaky bucket, and how they can live in a way that keeps assets within their community. One of the most exciting parts of what we are doing is raising the consciousness around this concept. A critical part of this is the anchor strategy combined with other aspects. It is not just about creating new businesses – what about converting existing businesses when the owner wants to struggle. Or working with struggling with businesses. The most well-known part of the strategy is using the purchasing power of the anchor institutions to start new, regeneratively, cooperatively owned businesses. We need to work to have a political process that fights against stripping assets away from these communities, this is struggling to be a systemic or holistic approach to building community wealth – not picking a compartment of the problem and trying to tackle that compartment. If we don’t tackle the systemic problem then fixing one aspect of it may just lead to new problems. This project is in its early stage, and we are lucky to be able to learn from projects like in Cleveland.

David – American Sustainable Business Council

ASBC grew out of a policy document on business principles for a sustainable, just economy. The new economy takes many different forms. The way policies get made in this country, policies creating social or environmental benefits are called “bad for business” – but for who’s business? There is a lot of effort to “green” companies, making them more responsible and sustainable, from small to large corporations. The problem is that at the moment none of that had any political power. ASBC is created to drive policy to support sustainability.


ASBC includes individual businesses and business organizations, building an infrastructure across the country about aggregating the power of chambers of commerce, local organizations, etc – within those places is local power. Branding is used to create identity. Where are the points of intersection? Building the new economy is not just about creating the models, but changing the dialogue and addressing power. Showing up with businesses is “different.” ASBC has advocated for policy, including Crowd Funding.


Consumers want healthy, safer products and transparency. Business voices change conversations. There are businesses in every sector working for a New Economy, which is about a connection from many issues – chemical policy reform, financial reform, campaign finance, tax havens, climate and energy policy, new corporate former access to capital, sustainable agriculture, building local economies. Even the most conservative or unknowing politicians are willing to listen when 150,000 businesses are represented. ASBC is represented in lobbying and media representation of sustainable businesses.

Nathan – B Lab

The mission is to harness the power of businesses to solve environmental and social problems. The B Corporation is like a certification for the entire corporation, rather than just one product. The community of B Corps have grown to more than 500 companies, and you can see their scores and impact on the website. This is about building community, more than using the assessment to build performance over time. Working with ASBC, this is about policy advocacy to create a new form called the Benefit Corporation. It is in the business to create general public benefit, and they are accountable to a third party that will evaluate their adherence to this goal. In the current corporate form, the business owners are accountable for maximizing shareholder profits. Businesses themselves want this corporate form. By tapping into associations like ASBC, we are able to tap into legislature to support legislation for this new form. The third initiative is a rating system that will drive more capital to “good businesses.” This is a global rating system working with investment funds and investor. The goal is to create a global community of social entrepreneurs, while also increasing the ability of business’s to attract investors globally and locally. The B Corp has been passed in 8 state, and the goal is all 50, along with other policies supporting B Corps to accelerate the movement (I.e. procurement rules, tax benefits). Many B Corps also follow other ownership forms, like Co-ops.

B Corps still maintain their corporate structure as an LLC, Sole Proprietorship, etc – it just requires that they add statements to their governing documents about stakeholders. The Benefit Corporation is the proposed new legal form. See: and Benefit Corp

Question: have they collected financial indicators to show B Corps are just as or more successful?

Answer: not yet..right now the focus is on impact and practices, but some of those indicators, me job creation, are built in.

We get asked all the time “how many jobs does ‘this’ represent?”

The ASBC is built with a loose network, resilient structure so it can rebuild if it is destroyed.


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