Category Archives: business

The Small Business Guide to Sustainability Certifications

The Small Business Guide to Sustainability Certifications
By Carlyann Edwards,

Today, companies face pressure to expand their corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices. SolarCity’s sustainability briefing found that 75 percent of consumers are more likely to buy a product or service if the company is making an effort to be sustainable, while 82 percent are more likely to purchase a product that represents CSR over one that does not.

How can businesses effectively market their environmental responsibility while avoiding the pitfalls of greenwashing?

Many companies have turned to accredited CSR certifications and awards. Sustainability certifications are voluntary norms and standards relating to environmental, social, ethical and food safety issues.

“These certifications help consumers and stakeholders understand that the company has gone through a third-party verification process to make sure the company is actually walking the walk regarding sustainability,” Josh Prigge CEO of Sustridge said.

With sustainability reporting on the rise and a lot at stake for companies, there are several certifications businesses can choose from. Choosing the best one can be difficult, but here are some of the more popular ones to make your decision a bit easier.
B Corp

B Lab certification requires companies to pass an online assessment for “social and environmental performance,” integrate B Lab commitments into company governing documents, and pay an annual fee ranging from $50 to $50,000. “B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk,” its website reads. Today, there are more than 2,564 Certified B corporations from 50 countries and more than 130 industries.

“We chose this certification because we feel it is the ‘gold standard’ for sustainable business,” CEO of Vert Asset Management Samuel Adams said. “For small businesses like ours, it is not hard or costly to get.”

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an ecology-oriented building certification program run by the U.S. Green Building Council. It is currently the most widely used green building rating system in the world, available for virtually all buildings. According to the company’s website, LEED buildings attract more tenants, cost less to operate, and boost employee productivity and retention. Projects pursuing LEED certification earn points across several categories, including energy use and air quality. Depending on the number of points achieved, a project will either earn a Silver, Gold or Platinum rating.

The TRUE Zero Waste certification system recognizes those businesses that are working toward achieving zero waste, cutting their carbon footprint and supporting public health. Administered by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), certification is available for any facility and its operations.

To be certified, companies (or projects) must have a zero waste policy in place, and they must have achieved an average of 90 percent or higher in diverting non-hazardous waste from landfills, incineration and the environment for the past year. A detailed list of requirements can be found here. Businesses pay a fee between $1,200 and $1,500 and a certification fee based on the square footage of your facility.

Developed through a collaborative effort of the American Society of Landscape Architects, The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden, SITES (used by architects, landscapers, ecologists, etc.) provides performance measures rather than prescribing practices, supporting the unique environmental conditions of each landscape it certifies.

SITE-certified landscapes consume less water, filter and reduce stormwater runoff, provide wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, and improve air quality. The combined registration and certification introductory fee ranges from $8,000 to $9,500.

“My decision to earn a SITES credential reflects not only my commitment to the highest environmental standards but my commitment to provide consumers and the green building industry with the same shortcut for understanding the impact of landscapes that LEED provides for indoor environments,” said Cassy Aoyagi, president of FormLA Landscaping.

The Green Business Bureau’s (GBB) certification process is entirely initiative-based, so your company will receive points for each activity it completes. GBB’s sustainability assessment identifies and communicates sustainability efforts that your small business has already completed, while also helping to guide and formulate future efforts. GBB certification differentiates itself from other organizations by making it easy for small businesses to customize their sustainability practices.

Member companies choose and prioritize different green initiatives. After completing each initiative, companies are encouraged to promote their accomplishments and continue their progress by focusing on new initiatives. GBB specifically targets small and medium-sized businesses. The cost of the program is dependent on the size of your business, with annual costs ranging from $375 to $875.
Choosing a certification

If these five certifications don’t provide exactly what you’re looking for, don’t fret. There are thousands of sustainability awards available. Victoria Kate Burrows, project manager of Advancing Net Zero for the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) said the organization doesn’t prefer any one certification due to a multitude of varying local conditions.

The WorldGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment challenges businesses around the world to set ambitious targets to eliminate operational carbon emissions from their facilities. Because of the complexity involved with metrics and various certifications, the WorldGBC has developed a few core principles to increase recognition among the various certification organizations.

“Even if you’re developing a very specific tool to your market, you need to ensure that … key principles are met and that helps achieve alignment and commonality across a huge universe of certification schemes that are out there,” Burrows said.

The same approach can be taken when choosing which sustainability certification makes the most sense for your business. Identify what certifications and measurements your competitors are using, find out what your customers prioritize, and look for a suitable certification.

Certification is an investment. David Veca, a family manager at Veckridge Chemical, stated, “The certificates that are worth paying for are ones that align with your business’s values, and, importantly, your target customer’s values,” he said.

Focus on ‘Family’ Is Key to Long-Term Family Business Success

Focus on ‘Family’ Is Key to Long-Term Family Business Success
By Nicole Fallon,

According to Family Enterprise USA, 5.5 million family-owned businesses operate in the United States. What’s the secret to their success? It just might be the “family” aspect that makes these organizations thrive.

“The business world knows that if you take care of the customer, the bottom line will take care of itself,” said Paul Gentilini, owner and dealer principle of third-generation car dealership Gentilini Motors. “Family-run businesses take it a step further — if you take care of your employees and treat them like family, they will take care of your customers and treat them like family. The business will thrive with loyal patrons and employees, and continue to grow and be profitable even during tough times.”

What truly drives many family businesses is the sense of connection and identity the owners and their family members feel with the business, said entrepreneur Allen Fishman, founder and executive chairman of business coaching services provider The Alternative Board (TAB).

“In family businesses, [the founder and employees have] an incredible passion for the business, and a focus and energy that you’ll never find in a non-family employee,” said Fishman, who is also the author of “9 Elements of Family Business Success” (McGraw-Hill, 2009). “They’re so focused on the business’ success that it’s part of their identity. [The business] isn’t the life of non-family employees. In general, they won’t identify themselves with the business being part of who they are the way family members do.”

Gentilini said that non-family businesses can learn a valuable lesson from this “family business” attitude.

“The core values of a family-run business are based on the core values of family life — every member of a family is there for the other members in their time of need, no matter how big or small that need is,” Gentilini told Business News Daily. “A non-family business can benefit from applying family values to their operations by creating a culture that has people wanting to work harder for them because they feel like family, not a number.”

“[A family business attitude] makes all employees feel like part of the business,” added Don Gentilini, Paul’s uncle and previous owner of Gentilini Motors. “We watch out for each other and make sure all customers are treated the same every day, every time, by everyone — like family. My dad expected more from our family than our employees because we had to lead by example and being more than just an employee working a job. Family is expected to do more and be better. That behavior flows into all employees and helps us meet our daily goals.”

Despite the strong company culture typically found in family businesses, not all of them succeed: The Family Business Alliance found that just 30 percent of family-owned businesses are passed down to the next generation, and only 12 percent remain viable into the third generation. A recent TAB survey found that lack of succession planning is one common reason that family businesses fail to stay within the family.

“Twenty-nine percent of business owners do not have a succession plan,” said David Scarola, vice president of TAB. “Without one, it’s easy to understand how owners of family businesses can lose the legacy they’ve worked so hard to build.”

Family business succession also faces the issue of a lack of training. Although 45 percent of owners say their children are involved in their business, 62 percent say it’s unlikely their business will remain family owned when they sell or retire.

A lack of confidence in leadership abilities could account for this gap, said Scarola, who noted that training family members early and thoroughly can go a long way in building that necessary confidence.

The perceived special treatment of related employees and the mixing of family and work issues can also cause points of contention in a family business setting, Fishman said. To ensure the success of any family members hired, he advised family business owners to operate with a certain level of objectivity.

“If you bring a family member into the business, get them to work outside the company first,” Fishman said. “Make him or her learn how to take direction from others, so the family dynamic is neutralized. If spouses work together, make sure your roles are separate. Don’t discuss family matters at work or work matters at home.”

Originally published on Business News Daily.

5 Ways to Improve Your Work-Life Balance Today

5 Ways to Improve Your Work-Life Balance Today
By Sammi Caramela,

Work is an expected societal norm: Go to school, get a job. But your career doesn’t have to be so strict and restraining. Work isn’t just a way to make money; it should serve you both financially and emotionally.

“Success, in my opinion, is about living a life through making choices that guide toward your goals to be your best,” said Dr. Michael Tischler, founder and CEO of Teeth Tomorrow. “The real key is to create goals that you are passionate about with respect to health/appearance, career and relationships.”

While work might be demanding at times, it should never become a priority over your wellbeing. You need time and energy for your hobbies and interests, for your family and loved ones. Don’t spend eight hours a day working just to come home and neglect the things that keep your spirits high and passion fresh. Here are five ways to improve your work-life balance.
1. Know that there is no ‘perfect’ balance.

When you hear “work-life balance,” you probably imagine waking up easily at 5 a.m., hitting the gym, grabbing your meal-prepped lunch and heading off to work, just to come home early, cook dinner, do some chores, and wind down with a nice book in bed by 9 p.m. But that’s often not the case.

Don’t strive for the perfect schedule; strive for a realistic one. Some days, you might focus more on work, while others you might have more time and energy to pursue your hobbies or relax on the couch with your loved ones. Balance is achieved over time, not each day.

“It is important to remain fluid and constantly assess where you are [versus] your goals and priorities,” said Heather Monahan, founder of #BossinHeels, a career mentoring group. “At times your children may need you, and other times you may need to travel for work; but allowing yourself to remain open to redirecting and assessing your needs on any day is key in finding balance.”
2. Prioritize your health.

Your overall health should be your main concern. If you’ve been struggling with anxiety or depression and think therapy would benefit you, fit those sessions into your schedule, even if you have to leave work early or ditch your evening spin class. If you’re battling a chronic illness, don’t be afraid to call in on rough days. You’ll only prevent yourself from getting better, possibly causing you to take more days off in the future.

“Prioritizing your health first and foremost will make you a better employee and person,” said Monahan. “You will miss less work, and when you are there, you will be happier and more productive.”

According to Tischler, this can be as simple as daily meditation and exercise with respect to your occupation.
3. Make sure you like your job.

If you hate what you do, you aren’t going to be happy, plain and simple. You don’t need to love every aspect of your job, but it needs to be exciting enough that you don’t dread getting out of bed every single morning.

Monahan recommended choosing a job that you’re so passionate about you’d do it for free.

“If your job is draining you and you are finding it difficult to do the things you love outside of work, something is wrong,” she said. “You may be working in a toxic environment, for a toxic person, or doing a job that you truly don’t love. If this is the case, it is time to find a new job.”
4. Don’t be afraid to unplug.

We live in a connected world that never sleeps. Cutting ties with the outside world from time to time allows us to recover from weekly stress and gives us space for other thoughts and ideas emerge, said Jackie Stone, CMO of personal cloud storage company MiMedia.

“When you are always on, you don’t allow other things to surface that might be more important,” she added. “I meditate each morning for 10 minutes, which provides me with a great start to my day.”

Sometimes, truly unplugging means taking a vacation and shutting work completely off for a while.

“A vacation could be a 15-minute walk around the block without looking at your phone, or a vacation could be two or three weeks traveling with family/friends,” Stone said. “It’s important to take a step back to physically and mentally recharge. If you are surrounded by good people at work, a vacation should be easy to take.”

Monahan added that, when she used to travel with her boss for work, she’d look over to find him reading a novel while she would be doing something work-related.

“I didn’t understand at the time that he was giving himself a break and decompressing while I was leading myself to a potential burnout,” she said. Now, Monahan practices the same tactics. Taking that time to unwind is critical to success and will help you feel more energized when you’re on the clock.
5. Make time for yourself.

While your job is important, it shouldn’t be your entire life. You were an individual before taking this position, and you should prioritize the activities or hobbies that made you happy.

“Whether you take a walk in the park, get a massage or [take] a hot bath, it’s important to always set aside an hour a week to do something for yourself,” said Mark Feldman, vice president of marketing at Stynt.

Additionally, you should focus on surrounding yourself with loved ones rather than making excuses to be alone all week. Just because work keeps you busy doesn’t mean that you should neglect personal relationships.

“Realize that no one at your company is going to love you or appreciate you the way your loved ones do,” said Monahan. “Also [remember] that everyone is replaceable at work, and no matter how important you think your job is, the company will not miss a beat tomorrow if you are gone.”

Don’t take your loved ones for granted just because you know they’ll always be there for you. If anything, that’s more of a reason to make more time for them.

Additional reporting by Shannon Gausepohl and Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

How to Tactfully Say No When You’re Asked to Work for Free

How to Tactfully Say No When You’re Asked to Work for Free
By Sammi Caramela,

If you’re an expert or have a specific interest in something, you’ve likely been asked to help others in that particular area. For instance, if you’re talented at graphic design, you might help a friend create images for their personal website; or if you’re a hiring manager, you might edit your cousin’s resume.

There’s nothing wrong with lending a hand, especially if you find joy in doing so – but beware of those who take advantage of your expertise. If you find yourself stressed with requests and bending over backward for people with no reward, then you need to learn how to say no. Here’s how to tactfully turn down working for free.
Give discounts

Instead of offering your services for no price, lower your typical rates by a certain percentage (e.g. 50-percent off for family members.) This will show your loved one that they’re special to you, but that work is work – and you can’t afford to do it for free.

“Think about what you can charge them while still feeling like you and your work are being valued,” said Caitlin Drago, ICF-credentialed life coach. “Look at the number and imagine you’re in the middle of working on the project. Are you feeling resentful or happy to be doing the work for them? No one wants to resent their friends and family.”

If you are going to offer discounts, however, make it clear that they aren’t for everyone, and they shouldn’t be openly discussed with others.

“If you aren’t explicit about your family member sharing the ‘deal’ you gave them, word may get out,” said Drago. “The last thing you want is for your work to be devalued.”
Make a deal

Money isn’t everything. There are plenty of other ways that you can be compensated for your work, like free advertisement or tasteful reviews. Maybe the person you’re helping can help you, too. Do they have an area of expertise in which you’re lacking?

Perhaps you’re a writer, and they’re a therapist; you can edit a blog post for their professional website, and they can act as a source for an article you’re writing on mental health. There are many valuable arrangements you can make if you think outside the box and are willing to ask for it.

“There may be times that it is okay to work for ‘free’ where you aren’t getting monetary compensation, but you are receiving something back in return,” said Drago. “Make sure that it is exposure that will actually be helpful for you.”

In article on Inc., Amy Morin writes that there are only four times you should work for free: when you earn exposure, when you expand on your real-life experience, when you gain a valuable addition to your resume, and when it’s for a cause that you believe in. If your deal does not involve any of these reasons, don’t agree to it.
Be honest

If you feel uncomfortable or strained, tell your loved one. Don’t do whatever it takes to please them, especially if it’s at your expense. Be your own mentor, and think about what will best serve you in the end.

For instance, nonpaying clients should provide the tools and resources you need to do your job so you don’t have to waste your own, such as art supplies or specific software. You should never put money into a job if you aren’t earning any back.

“You … want to be sure that the scope is well-defined and you feel good about the exchange,” said Drago. “It may feel formal – especially with a family member – but clear boundaries will ensure that no one is taken advantage of, whether on purpose or not, so that your relationship is not negatively impacted.”

If you can swing “pro bono” work from time to time, that’s great – but don’t make it a habit, and don’t let anyone abuse your kindness.