Writer and Editor, Entrepreneurs’ Organization
In entrepreneurial circles worldwide, one hot topic is how to adopt more sustainable, conscious forms of capitalism. The goal is to align with the needs of all stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, society, and the environment.
Entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned to lead conscious, impactful organizations. But when a global pandemic interrupts business as usual, how does that impact a company’s evolution? We asked some of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s 15,000 members to share how their pandemic pivots will help build a more sustainable future.
“Our team had the opportunity to look inward and rewrite what we were doing from a more conscious lens,” said Coolperx founder and Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Seattle member Lou Cysewski. “Once I reassessed, I had the chance to build the business from the inside out again, putting in place metrics that embed the tenets of Conscious Capitalism into all of our actions and interactions.”
Cysewski looked to get tangible, measurable data on its carbon-offsetting program. This is why they are no longer using methods like tree planting that are hard to measure accurately.
“We invested in an array of solar panels in Tennessee that directly offsets the carbon footprint of our orders,” she said. “We partnered with Clearloop, a company co-founded by a former governor of Tennessee, to convert the carbon from Coolperx purchases into clean energy and help bring technical jobs to the rural southeastern United States.”
In the end, Coolperx managed to grow in 2020. They brought in a certified Conscious Capitalism consultant to further integrate these values into everyday actions.
“The challenges we went through in Q2 and Q3, having almost no sales, provided the space and opportunity to make massive changes like these, both for our internal company values and the sustainability initiatives we’ve always worked to uphold,” Cysewski said.
Innovate Marketing Group also responded to the pandemic sustainably by making its live events greener. CEO and EO Los Angeles member Amanda Ma originated sustainable new alternatives that will reduce carbon footprint when live events make their way back.
The smart green swaps they’ve implemented include green garlands for balloons and living plants for cut flowers. They’ve also began using biodegradable dinnerware for plastic utensils, and e-programs for paper.
“In the ever-changing world of events, the environment and how we treat it is an area where a small step can make a huge impact,” Ma said.
EO DC Metro member Steve Seiden, CEO of Acquired Data Solutions (ADS), shared that his company responded to the pandemic with an enhanced commitment to staff and customer well-being. ADS completed its Mental Health Certification from Let’s Empower, Advocate, and Do, Inc. (LEAD).
“We quickly realized that the sudden loss of two long-time ADS stakeholders to COVID-19, combined with shifting to working remotely, would affect employees and customers,” Seiden said. “LEAD empowers employees with no-fluff mental health training, coaching, and consulting services to proactively prevent burnout, maximize productivity, and foster psychological safety ― building a more resilient, equitable, and inclusive workplace for all.”
Service industry companies were hard-hit by the pandemic. Ocaquatics Swim School, which teaches swimming lessons to infants, children, and adults, was one of them.
“We chose to stay positive and use the time to work on projects that could benefit us in the future. Becoming B Corp-certified has been on our radar for several years,” said Miren Oca, CEO of Ocaquatics and EO South Florida member. “To keep full-time team members working, we continued our journey toward B Corp Certification. This focused our team on a positive outcome for the future.”
While working on certification, Oca’s team focused on helping the community. “We focused on educating the community about what B Corp Certification means and how everyone can get involved in making a difference in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
They educated community members on the UN SDGs through videos and social media campaigns. Additionally, they created voter registration initiatives, and hosted beach and neighborhood clean-ups.
Easing the burden
“I couldn’t tolerate the thought of families struggling to pay for healthcare during a health crisis,” said Sheryle Gillihan, founder of CauseLabs and EO Fort Worth member. “My husband and I started our family in poverty and have had to choose between food, rent, and healthcare.”
Their solution? “We both joined the military to meet those basic needs, allowing us to focus on other endeavors and giving us the security to thrive,” Gillihan recalled. “As business owners, we wanted to help create that environment for our team.
“That was one of our most significant and difficult decisions because it strayed from business norms. We don’t always have data to back our decisions, so we must rely on our values to lead the way forward.”
EO New Jersey member and president of Geoscape Solar, Jeff Chavkin, made the environment and non-profit organizations the beneficiaries of his pivot.
“Our solar company created its own financing structure to help all companies — but especially non-profits — create clean energy while saving money,” Chavkin said. “We started our company during the 2008 financial crisis and have now come full circle. Our mission is to help build a more sustainable future.”