The physical beauty of our Pacific Northwest region combined with a booming tech industry continues to draw people to our high-growth cities of Seattle and Portland. Daily, we feel and see this change with more traffic on the roads, more cranes on the skyline, homeless encampments in what seems like every nook and cranny, and an overflow of cars at our favorite trailheads.
Green Canopy launched in 2009 to combat and lessen the negative impacts of climate change and resource scarcity through in-city homebuilding. Nearly 10 years later, we find ourselves in the epicenter of rapid change. As a mission-driven Certified B Corp Company, Green Canopy inherently feels a responsibility to lean in further to the challenges we are experiencing in our high-growth cities: resource scarcity and global warming, urban sprawl, and housing crisis of affordability and access.
The Company recently paused to examine the broader purpose of our work as an urban infill residential developer and fund manager — going through a process to define our Theory of Change. A Theory of Change is a visual road map to creating the change we want to see in the world and provides a target to which we align our strategies, outcomes, and goals. We began this process with guidance from Jane Reisman, a Social Impact Advisor with over 29 years of experience in strategy and evaluation. The benefits to developing Green Canopy’s Theory of Change became clear early on and continue to bring stakeholder alignment, shared language, and metric alignment.
Green Canopy’s Theory of Change was recognized as a model for transformation in the impact investing community through a case study funded by the Rockefeller Foundation: “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.”
The 2017 Green Canopy Impact Report takes the first step towards aligning our current metrics to our Theory of Change. Our intent for the coming year is to reassess and refresh the metrics to ensure we continue to make progress towards achieving our Theory of Change as well as to further align with common industry standards.
We believe in a better future and the Green Canopy Team — with our partners and communities — is doing the deep work to help us achieve this vision.
Thank you for being an integral part of our
Director of Investor Relations & Impact
The book Drawdown maps, measures and models the 100 most substantive, existing solutions to reverse global warming. The analysis identifies clear opportunities for the building sector to help play a role in drawing down carbon from the atmosphere (Rooftop Solar #10, Electric Vehicle #26, LED Lighting #33, Heat Pumps #42, Walkable Cities #54, Net Zero Energy #79). The Seattle Master Builders Association’s Built Green Program demonstrated this potential in the 2017 report, which found Built Green 4-Star and 5-Star homes were 33% and 40% more efficient respectively than comparable code-built homes.
2017 marks an important pivot point for Green Canopy as the company completed our first Net Zero Energy Home. Net zero energy homes produce enough energy to offset their energy consumption needs over the course of a year through solar energy and ultra-efficient systems. This represents the future of the Company as we rotate our entire pipeline to build only Net Zero Energy Homes in the coming months and years ahead.
“Our Net Zero Energy program is the result of a culmination of 10 years of system, process and team development... This is not the end of our sustainability journey, but it is a very important next step.” — Sam Lai, Cofounder
FIRST NET ZERO ENERGY HOME COMPLETED | 100+ IN PRODUCTION | 728,112 POUNDS OF CARBON MITIGATED IN 2017
Green Canopy builds good homes that are affordable by utilizing best-in-class materials and construction methods. Our homes use non-toxic materials and finishes, fresh air ventilation systems, and Blueskin technology to provide a weatherproof structure with high air quality. In 2017, all Green Canopy’s homes were certified to Built Green or Earth Advantage standards.
In addition, the Company reviewed and assessed the “Red List” of commonly used harmful building materials. Of the 65 materials listed by Miller Hull and the Living Future Institute, Green Canopy identified 30 materials the Company was already compliant with, and immediately removed 12 additional materials in our supply chain. We are working to find alternatives for the final 27 materials.
Green Canopy’s program with the Washington State Housing Finance Commission (WSHFC) has allowed the Company to sell 11% of its total sales at more affordable and accessible prices compared to standard market rate homes. In 2017, Green Canopy built an average of 5 homes for each project site, where there typically was one — offering more homes at a lower price-point in urban communities and adding walkability to schools, parks, transportation and amenities.
In 2017 Green Canopy developed its fourth fund offering, Cedar Fund, which provides greater access and affordability to families earning 80% of area median income.
“The Cedar Fund puts us in a unique position to not only draw down carbon, but to also lift up our communities.” Aaron Fairchild, Chief Executive Officer
100% CERTIFIED BUILT GREEN OR EARTH ADVANTAGE | 6 AFFORDABLE HOMES IN PRODUCTION WITH WSHFC
Our Pacific Northwest identity is interwoven with our farms, forests, wild lands, and salmon streams. Green Canopy believes honing the ability to develop density in our urban infill walkable communities is essential to reduce sprawl and preserve our wild lands. Green Canopy has created the skill to selectively develop unique lots in our high-growth cities while consistently containing costs, providing a model for residential developers nationwide. For each project site, Green Canopy responsibly deconstructs and recycles the majority of the existing structure and replaces one home with an average of 5.
Green Canopy continuously strives to keep as much of the deconstructed home out of the landfill as possible. In addition to recycling and reusing, Green Canopy developed a partnership with 118 Design, a program that offers job skills to former gang members and recently incarcerated men from the 98118 zip-code. The 118 Design team salvages lumber from the deconstructed homes and repurposes the wood into urban-inspired furniture and wood-clad walls inside Green Canopy’s homes.
“My environmental ethic formed through hours and hours of playtime as a child in our Pacific Northwest mountains and forests. I am motivated to preserve these spaces so my daughters acquire the same sense of connection to our planet.” — Andy Wolverton | Chief Financial Officer
90% OF ONSITE CONSTRUCTION WASTE RECYCLED | 95% OF DECONSTRUCTION WASTE RECYCLED
In addition to reducing operating costs and providing a healthier, livable space, a net zero energy home is generally more resilient. The shift to develop all Net Zero Energy Homes combined with efforts to transform the real estate market towards more sustainable and resilient housing will provide critical built environment infrastructure improvements.
Cities with strong social networks and social inclusion have also been shown to bolster resilience. Green Canopy is working to increase access and inclusivity to highly desirable neighborhoods through efforts including increasing density, partnering with the Washington State Housing Finance Commission to increase affordability, by launching the Cedar Fund and authentically engaging neighbors in Community Meetings. Before acquiring a property, Green Canopy invites surrounding neighbors to a Community Meeting to engage in an authentic dialogue around Green Canopy’s mission and the project design.
The Company also bolsters the resilience of high-growth cities through job creation. In addition to the 27 high quality jobs provided within the company, on average 95 jobs across the trades are utilized for every project site.
“I appreciate that you offer community meetings and a seemingly genuine interest in what matters to the neighborhood.” — Green Canopy Property
95 JOBS CREATED FOR EACH HOME BUILT | OVER 10 MEETINGS WITH POLICYMAKERS AND EDUCATIONAL TALKS GIVEN IN 2017
Impact investing is a rapidly growing industry powered by investors who are determined to generate social and environmental impact as well as financial returns. Green Canopy is an experienced fund manager and has earned a strong reputation for being engaged and transparent. The Company has successfully managed three real estate funds totaling around $45M AUM with over 100 investor accounts. Green Canopy routinely achieves financial and impact returns aligned with investor expectations. The third fund, the Birch Fund, has returned a total of $2.8 million to Green Canopy investors, with a realized annual return of 11.19% through Quarter 4 of 2017.
Green Canopy’s sophisticated approach to creating new financial vehicles for the impact investor is highlighted in its fourth fund offering — the Cedar Fund. The Cedar Fund was developed in response to the current challenges in our high-growth communities, bringing net zero energy homes to market alongside greater affordability and inclusivity for families earning 80% area median income.
“I’ve been happy with the reliable returns I’ve received with Green Canopy’s fund offerings. They’ve been a win-win: solid returns paired with environmental outcomes I value.” — Kathy Washienko | Investor
$2.8 MILLION RETURNED TO BIRCH INVESTORS IN 2017 | RAISING CAPITAL FOR 4TH FUND OFFERING — CEDAR
Deep work refers to the ability to focus, quickly master complicated information, and produce better results in less time. While Green Canopy hones this skill across all channels there are four areas of practice where the Company shines:
“Green Canopy’s monthly Leadership Training has been instrumental in fostering a culture of engaged employees who are actively working toward maximizing their potential." — Ami Nieto
8 PROFESSIONAL LEADERSHIP TRAINING SESSIONS GIVEN TO ALL EMPLOYEES | 63 BROKERS GIVEN GREEN BUILDING TRAINING
By Alexa Ashley | Marketing Manager | Green Canopy
At Green Canopy, we believe living in a net zero energy home goes hand in hand with a zero waste lifestyle. Partnering with Seattle Zero Waste, Zero Waste Washington, Eco Collective Seattle and Seattle EcoWomen in welcoming zero waste activist, Bea Johnson, to Seattle was an honor.
According to research outlined in Drawdown: 100 Solutions to Reverse Global Warming, “Over the course of a century, methane has 34 times the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide. Landfills are a top source of methane emissions, releasing 12 percent of the world’s total.”
The Zero Waste Movement has been an important piece in the pursuit of greater sustainability and reducing our landfills. In 2002, The Zero Waste International Alliance was formed to tackle waste management issues globally from the front end and defines zero waste as, “designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.” They believe that by “implementing Zero Waste we will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.”
Bea Johnson — a French native living in California as a mother of two, — took this concept, and applied it to her everyday life and decisions. Johnson’s blog, Zero Waste Home, that she started in 2008, shows how to create less waste in a practical and cost-saving way.
Since 2008, her family of four has only been producing enough trash to fill one small jar every year. In the process, she’s found that a zero waste home has simplified her lifestyle and afforded her family more time together, with a priority on creating experiences and memories together. Bea has inspired a global community of Zero Waste bloggers and lifestyle adopters. Her bestselling book, Zero Waste Home named after the blog, has been translated in 20 languages, she’s given 200+ speeches in 30+ countries and been featured in publications and TV Shows around the world. The New York Times, the Today Show, BBC Breakfast.
Johnson spoke to a sold-out crowd of about 200, centered around her 5 Rs:
Refuse what you absolutely do not need — and especially disposables or plastics.
Reduce what you do have. Look at what you have and ask yourself, “Can I do with less?” Can I donate this or give it to someone else that needs it more?”
Whatever you cannot refuse or reduce then you reuse. Make the things that you do purchase, long-lasting re-usables and not single-use items. This can also look like reusing the compostables you’ve bought as many times as possible as Johnson will freeze the discarded pieces of vegetables from cooking to make vegetable stock.
Whatever you cannot refuse, whatever you cannot reduce, whatever you cannot reuse — then you recycle. Sending back the products and materials that wear out to the initial supplier or a local recycler to be turned into something else. If you absolutely cannot refuse using a laptop and it breaks, recycle it at a local business or mail it in if needed.
Whatever you cannot refuse, reduce, reuse or recycle, then you allow to rot in the compost. This is the last of her R’s because it is the last resort and typically a very small amount leftover after going through the first four Rs.
The most impactful part of Bea Johnson’s talk for me, was hearing how implementing a zero waste lifestyle has shifted her family’s focus towards giving gifts of experience instead of things, allowing for more memories and bonds to be made. Instead of new toys for Christmas, her son got to go skydiving for the first time and still talks about it.
After the presentation, Green Canopy’s Director of Investor Relations and Impact, Susan Fairchild and Zero Waste Washington’s Heather Trim, kicked off happy hour by asking, “what is the next step you want to take in living zero waste and how can you make it happen?”
All photos by Karya Schanilec
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 a 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.
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.
BY AARON FAIRCHILD, CEO
The last two weeks has been a whirlwind of intentional conversations with like-minded, social purpose organizations. The B-Corps Champions Retreat and the following week of SOCAP17 were both intense conferences of shared themes and desired outcomes. A couple things linger in my mind from these social impact conferences:
Pioneers like Thomas Edison have been excited for decades about the use of solar power. “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that,” Edison anticipated. Starting this Fall, the first of many Green Canopy's Net Zero Energy homes will be available on the market in Seattle - with a commitment to offering these high-performance homes at a price that is on par with code-built new construction homes.
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.