By Kyle Mylius | Director of Investor Relations and Strategy | Green Canopy
Part one of this two-part series highlighted the residential real estate market opportunity in Seattle and Portland.
Why is now the time to use business as a force for good? The region’s economic growth and prosperity have fueled urgent social and environmental challenges. If we fail to mitigate these unintended consequences, the costs to do so in the future might very well swamp the near-term benefits and wealth our robust local economy generates today. Instead, we can respond now to the observed market signals and feedback loops by investing some of the capital generated into thoughtful, holistic and practical solutions to those social and environmental issues.
At Green Canopy, we embrace the Chinese dictum, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” As a for-profit company backed by shareholders, we seek to make money and create long-term company value through various verticals in real estate. But we are also driven to create real estate projects and financing models that allow us to live into the world we envision as manifested within our Theory of Change. This compels us to use a portion of the company’s resources to create vitally important social and environmental value for our shareholders, homeowners and neighbors who collectively make up the fabric of the communities in which we live, work and play.
We do this by running toward these challenges and recognizing them as opportunities. For example, we help mitigate global warming by building net zero energy homes. In so doing, we create value in new homes — value that home buyers, renters, banks and appraisers will increasingly recognize. In time, more and more home builders and will want to capture that value and build to a net zero energy standard, making meaningful progress toward slowing our local impact on global climate change.
Beyond this very practical business imperative, lies an awareness within Green Canopy that our built environment has tremendous impact on the natural environment. We recognize that we have an ethical responsibility as a real estate developer to change the ways homes are built and perform. Therefore, we endeavor to design homes to have increasingly less impact on the Earth compared to typical “code built” homes. And aspire to ultimately design and build homes as carbon sinks and regenerative structures that help reverse global warming.
We need to find ways to alter humanity’s relationship with the environment, and have the courage to execute those new ideas. I’ve come to believe that each person should shoulder some of the responsibility for not only adhering to environmental best practices but for creating new, practical models for protecting our world. We owe the world our physical labour and our earnest brain power.
-Dan O’Brien, Food for Thought: How a buffalo herd taught me to be a responsible capitalist, Beside magazine Vol 2
We cannot succeed in our goals if we serve only the wealthy. Net zero energy homes should be accessible to all homeowners and renters, including the 35 million Americans who spend an inordinate amount of their income on energy bills. Accordingly, Green Canopy is expanding inclusivity in the urban neighborhoods we serve. We are doing this by creating investment structures that attract like-minded investors, enabling us to scale our work and build more affordable homes within desirable urban neighborhoods.
We are often asked, “Why?” Or even, “We get that environmental sustainability, and features like net zero energy can also be financially profitable. But can’t you just let non-profits and public agencies tackle housing affordability?” Our answer is a resounding, “No.” As systems thinking has taught us, social and environmental problem sets are inextricably linked. Solving for one without considering the other would be an inefficient and potentially even counterproductive use of capital.
Traditional urban residential development approaches and financing tools perpetuate multi-generational and systemic exclusion and inequality. The magnitude of the challenge demands a multi-pronged solution, as expanded on in the Seattle Times and and the New York Times. We are driven by more than a sense of moral obligation, more than an opportunity to both make money and do good. We do this work because we and our stakeholders enjoy power and privilege that — absent of taking a different approach — will only perpetuate and expand social injustice and environmental degradation in the place we all call home.
As long as we participate in social systems, we don’t get to choose whether to be involved in the consequences they produce. As such, we can only choose how to be involved, whether to just be part of the problem, or also to be part of the solution. That’s where our power lies, and also our responsibility.
-Allan G. Johnson, Privilege, Power and Difference
Another question we get is, “So what is the cost for doing this work?” We have calculated the costs and it’s not as much as most assume, whether measured in profit margin to the developer or financial returns to investors. And what is often underappreciated, in part because it is harder to measure and quantify, are the benefits of reduced risks to the developer’s brand, the costs of obtaining permits and entitlements, and the ability to sell homes and differentiate value in a competitive market, to name just a few. Similarly, investors who back our work are taking a long-term perspective in seeking sustainable value creation and financial returns that do not extract value at the expense of others and the environment.
The stakeholders of Green Canopy work in earnest to use our time, talent and capital to harness the economic growth and prosperity of our region for the benefit of all. We acknowledge now is the time to engage and use business as a force for good, with more inclusive and less extractive approaches and business models than before — recognizing our power and privilege must be used responsibly and ethically. The time to plant the proverbial tree is now.
By Susan Fairchild | Director, Investor Relations and Impact | Green Canopy Homes
The Rockefeller Foundation strives to “promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world” by scaling transformative innovations, creating unlikely partnerships spanning sectors, and taking risks others cannot. To catalyze cross-sector pollinization from the social sector to impact investing, the Rockefeller Foundation recently released a case study on Green Canopy’s theory of change - “Putting Impact at the Center of Impact Investing: A Case Study of how Green Canopy Designed its Impact Thesis.”
"The case study provides an illuminating example of how investors can adapt theory of change to serve their impact management needs. By demonstrating the relevance and transferability of this tool for articulating, measuring, and managing impact, the hope is that this case study can contribute to strengthening other investors’ approaches, in turn contributing to building the evidence base for the “impact” of impact investments."
We encourage impact investors and impact enterprises to similarly consider integrating this tool into their organizations. You can read more about Green Canopy’s theory of change and send any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Kyle Mylius | Director of Investor Relations and Strategy | Green Canopy
Part one of this two-part series highlighted why now is the time to use business as a force for good?
In the last several months, investors have asked about the prudence of investing in a “hot” Pacific Northwest real estate market — a market that has experienced significant home price appreciation since 2013, with Seattle seeing an average 20% increase in the last year alone.
Green Canopy's response is emphatic. A multi-faceted housing crisis has created a compelling financial, environmental and social investment opportunity. Not just now, but for several years to follow. Understanding the market fundamentals and deciding how best to manage the inevitable risks is essential to any sound investment strategy — as a developer, as an investor, and as community leaders.
"It’s essential for investment success that we recognize the condition of the market and decide on our actions accordingly." — Howard Marks, The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor
Howard Marks is one of the most successful investors of our generation, known for being an astute observer and risk assessor. Marks strategizes with the understanding that regardless of the economic cycle, there will always be risks with investing — and pockets of opportunity are also ever present. Those who take a contrarian view, seeking out less-obvious and more-manageable risk exposures, with smart and flexible investment structures, are rewarded by opportunities unforeseen and even derided by most.
“The trend is your friend” is a common investor phrase and useful tool for evaluating where to invest, or not. A visible trend in the Pacific Northwest is that the inventory of homes for sale remains at an all-time low while demand continues to be high. This is evidenced in several ways including the number of days homes are on the market before being sold and the persistent growth in home prices throughout our region.
At the same time, the Pacific Northwest continues to attract more highly-paid workers looking to relocate. This isn’t just the Amazonians, but many of the major Silicon Valley companies whose employees can sell their homes for a high price in California and buy at a lower price in the PNW. While Seattle’s median home price exceeded $750,000 recently, the market is a relative bargain compared to median home prices in neighboring West Coast cities: San Francisco ($1,200,000) and Vancouver B.C. (US $2,400,000). Portland has also experienced significant appreciation over the last five years, though the median home price is substantially lower, $440,000 according to Redfin.
If demand growth begins to slow, there are a number of factors that will cause gross demand for homes to continue outpacing gross supply. For example, home supply tends to lag behind demand as it typically takes 12–15 months to acquire, build, and sell residential development projects. And in Seattle, the number of new construction home sales has not come close to the number in demand, even with the amount of population growth multi-family apartments and condos are absorbing.
Data Source: NWMLS and U.S.Census Data
Public agencies are working to adjust policies and support the high volume of new construction permitting requests, but bottlenecks still remain. Lenders continue to be conservative in extending credit against real estate. The construction industry across the U.S. has only recovered half of the skilled labor lost during the great recession — and many homeowners in the PNW are unwilling to sell. Despite having substantial home equity, PNW homeowners are not motivated enough to sell when they will be faced with the high costs to switch and the lack of options to upgrade.
The regional housing market imbalance of supply and demand may not be able to achieve equilibrium in the next year, or two or three. But it will eventually. Investment and development strategies focused on the single-family residential market must be structured to nimbly capitalize on the near term upward pricing trend and well-positioned to respond to inevitable cyclical shifts further down the road.
Email email@example.com to learn more about how net zero energy, single-family residential real estate investment and development funds can be designed to be flexible in response to market cycles.
By Susan Fairchild | Director of Investor Relations & Impact | Green Canopy
Those who visit the Green Canopy Headquarters will find, in our entryway, a reminder handed down by our CEO’s father. It’s a framed quote by the baseball legend Yogi Berra, reading— “If you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it.”
At Green Canopy, we’re always looking to identify and clearly articulate the direction we’re headed. By doing this, our team and stakeholders come to a shared understanding of goals. We can all take ownership of these goals, and then create a plan of action to make them happen. One way we’ve done this in the past year, is by mapping out our specific “Theory of Change”. A Theory of Change provides a visual roadmap to creating the change we want to see in the world, and provides a target through which we align our strategies, outcomes, and goals.
Green Canopy began this process with the guidance from Jane Reisman, a Social Impact Advisor with over 29 years of experience in strategy and evaluation. Jane has dedicated her life to empowering non-profits, foundations, and systems thinkers with the tools to significantly increase the probability of achieving their desired impact.
As we embraced doing the deep work* with Jane, the benefits to engaging in the process of developing Green Canopy’s Theory of Change became quite clear:
We are pleased to share Green Canopy’s Theory of Change publicly for the first time. We believe in a better future. We invite you to be a part of it.
Aaron Fairchild, Green Canopy’s CEO recently detailed the Theory of Change at an Empower Happy Hour. Watch Aaron’s presentation here.
*“Deep Work” is a concept written about by Cal Newport that he describes as the ability to focus without distraction, master complicated information and produce better results in less time— providing the sense of true fulfillment that comes from craftmanship.
Green Canopy will be hosting an Empower Happy Hour following a presentation by activist, Bea Johnson. We are so excited to host such an important figure in the sustainability movement and offer Green Canopy guests 25% off tickets with code: GreenCanopy25. As a net zero energy homebuilder, we believe Net Zero Energy Homes are an ideal contributor to living a zero waste lifestyle.
Bea Johnson, the author of Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying your Life by Reducing your Waste, will be joining us in Seattle. Bea has been named “The Priestess of Waste-Free Living” by The New York Times, has given 200+ speeches in 30+ countries and has been producing only one, pint-sized jar of waste each year with her family since 2008.
“There was a time when nobody knew what “zero waste” meant, but ever since Bea Johnson published her seminal book, Zero Waste Home, in 2013, the phrase has become mainstream.” — TreeHugger
“The mother of the zero waste lifestyle movement” — CNN
2:00 – 2:30 | Registration
2:30 – 3:30 | Bea Johnson on "Zero Waste Home"
3:30 – 4:30 | Empower Happy Hour hosted by Green Canopy
Sun, April 15, 2018
2:00 PM – 4:30 PM
1517 12th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122
Imagine gathering over 200 business leaders in the middle of a massive continent, where humans have lived for tens of thousands of years. The purpose? To advance a nascent movement, using business as a force for good to positively change the world. The location of this gathering? The very birthplace of our oldest instruments. There — in the deep, red earth — in the heart of an arid land, water reaches to the surface forming natural springs. The combination of water and music has charged the region with deep communal and rhythmic energy. It is hard to imagine a better place to come together. That place is Alice Springs, Australia — the location of the first ever, 2017 Australian B Corps Champions Retreat.
B Corporations are for-profit companies, certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Behind the Australian B Corps Champions Retreat was a team with a leader — a visionary, validator, an organizer. A master engineer, who understands the elements needed to launch a movement from the ground and elevate it in the uplifting thermals.
I had the chance to find this person and talk with her a number of weeks ago and have been dying to write about her ever since. Alicia Darvall was the first Executive Director of B Lab Australia & New Zealand. When she was hired by the Small Giants team in 2014 to head up B Lab Australia, there were 13 certified B Corps in the country. After three short years, the Australian & New Zealand B Corps community has grown to over 230 certified companies. Alicia came to B Lab from, not surprisingly, a background in working with entrepreneurs and organizing festivals. She has over 15-years’ experience in senior roles at fast-growing, high-profile businesses and organizations, such as Moonlight Cinema, Melbourne Fringe Festival and Melbourne Fashion Festival. As ED for Australia & New Zealand B Lab, Alicia provided strategic support to entrepreneurs; coached them to build on their values, engage within their community and stakeholders, and measure their impact.
When I asked Alicia how she was able to grow the Australian B Corps Community so rapidly, her response was simply, “I followed flow without inserting my personal agenda.” Every movement needs its first follower, and Alicia is the ideal first follower. She is creatively inspired and wise enough to remove her ego in the effort to help others thrive. It is no wonder why B Lab elevated her. At the top of 2018, Alicia handed off the Australia & New Zealand B Lab reins to the talented Andrea De Almeida, and accepted the role of Executive Director of Global Partners. Her stated mission at B Lab Global is, “to nurture a creative manner required to build a movement that lasts.” Wow… To do this, she identifies and works with emerging B Lab regions to help them channel their unique cultural flow of energy to create movement and community.
In addition to helping new regions progress, Alicia works with B Lab’s network of networks, the B Lab Global Governance Council. In this effort, she helps the Council follow energy flows required to grow and develop, and then sustain their efforts through implementing earned income strategies.
After meeting with Alicia, I walked along the sidewalk in a shower of rain. I didn’t try and dodge the raindrops — it had been hot and humid for days and the rain refreshed my skin and soul. I couldn’t help but make the connection between the refreshing rain and our conversation. Alicia is a rare and rejuvenating leader who is tuned into the energy of others and understands that by following flow and not adding ego, amazing things happen. As a member of the B Corps community, Green Canopy is grateful that she is a leader in our network, helping to make our work lasting and transformative. Thanks Alicia!
“As impact investing grows exponentially, the IA 50 has remained a leading and trusted resource for impact investors of all experience levels,” said Jed Emerson, ImpactAssets Senior Fellow, and IA 50 Review Committee Chair. “Our consistent and objective evaluation of impact fund managers is providing financial advisors and their clients with a starting place to make informed investment decisions. And we are helping to catalyze the growth of impact investing by creating a centralized information source in a fragmented field.”
Green Canopy is honored to be featured on the 2018 IA 50 List as one of nine managers in the Real Assets category, one of 13 in Housing, and one of the 12 Certified B Corporations. See the press release here.
Green Canopy Cofounder, Sam Lai, was featured by Presidio Graduate School (PGS) in the article, "Net Zero Hero". Sam is an alumnus of the Sustainable MBA program at PGS — the graduate school that "educates and inspires a new generation of skilled, visionary and enterprising leaders to transform business and public policy and create a more just, prosperous and sustainable world." Presidio Graduate School has earned accreditation in the sustainability-sphere and acquired Pinchot University (formerly Bainbridge Graduate Institute).
Sam tells Shawna Cain, "I selected PGS after a process of visiting classes and interviewing students and asking what their experiences were like. I realized that what I wanted was:
Finally, the biggest impact that I think graduate school has had for me, beyond some of the hard skills, is that when you go to Presidio Graduate School you're able to look deep within yourself, and understand how to optimize our own personal growth, and I don't think any graduate school is able to do that the way PGS does."
Green Canopy's Alexa Ashley further interviewed Sam on his time at Presidio Graduate School and the value he took away from the Sustainable MBA Program:
AA: How did PGS teach you to think in systems?
SL: One of the things we did in first quarter was systems mapping, which is its own discipline, where you look at different components of how the world is structured, how businesses are structured, environmental systems are structured. You deconstruct them, allowing you to understand the components and then you can see how they’re integrated. So often in business you might be a specialist and you might have mastery in one thing — but you may be working 100% in the wrong direction because you haven’t taken that high-level, systems-level view.
AA: What is the most value that you took away from the Presidio Graduate School MBA Program?
SL: The opportunity to practice and take big risks, and explore ideas, that typically — in the business setting — there just isn’t enough bandwidth or space or willingness from everyone, to just take a wild idea, to play with it, to deconstruct it, and to go all the way with it in a risk-free environment.
I saw lots of people grow from not having much experience in public speaking to feeling comfortable with it at the end of the program. For me, I was able to take storytelling and public presentation and be able to have a very formal structure to bounce off of and play with to where now I feel very confident. I now have a process to be able to get from point A to point B in a very short amount of time because that’s what the process forces you to do. It says, “Okay you have an idea? Okay, test it. Prototype it. Get up and talk about it." That’s a lot of what we do in business. We iterate through ideas very rapidly — and that’s what’s required for progress.
It’s really encouraging and energizing to see other people that are just as passionate about sustainability and improving our world and that they are professionals engaged in business, and the curation of those two characteristics are unique to the PGS tribe.
Watch Shawna Cain's interview with Sam Lai below and read her article, "Net Zero Hero".
by Dyesha Belhumeur | Green Canopy Finance Administrative Assistant
It's time to clothe my dreams in reality, to create a home for wanderers who cannot bow before the traditions of a single dwelling and a fenced yard. Who look beyond marriage and blood to gather brothers and sisters bound by more than custom and umbilical cords. Generous minds and loving hearts, laughing eyes and simple tastes who know that serenity at sunrise and peace at sunset are worth more than the treasuries of kings and IRA security. It's time to clothe my dreams in reality, to gather together kindred spirits. Who look beyond what is and was to understand what can be, who know that love and compassion, joy and peace are our birthright stolen by a culture's madness and to band together the manipulations of frightened lives, wise minds, and bruised hearts, daring souls and brave spirits who know that love is worth the stars and friendship does not hide it's private anxieties behind sophistication and steel symbols. It's time to clothe my dreams in reality, to move beyond jealousy and possession, isolation and imprisonment. To confront boredom and loneliness, sadness and lovelessness, to make known my secret needs and reveal my hidden yearnings, to risk self exposure as the only path to final freedom, to surround myself with the energy flowing from the earth's core, the passion of rivers and resilience of trees, and thus to clothe my dreams in reality! —James Kavanaugh | It's Time
The Green Canopy blog is written by our CEO and Culture Curator, Aaron Fairchild, as well as our staff and a few very special guests.