"The current fight over how we should pay for affordable housing, and who will fund it, is beating on the wrong drum."
Social and environmental impact investing and businesses continue to capture the interest and imagination of the Pacific Northwest, part of a broader global trend. Local early adopters affiliated with Element 8, Impact HUB Seattle, Seattle Impact, Mission Investors Exchange and other institutions and individuals have forged impact investment paths that many others now find themselves traveling. It’s exciting to see the local impact investing ecosystem and communities flourish. However, a market imbalance persists with more impact investor dollars available than the limited number of qualified investment opportunities can absorb. Fortunately we’re seeing signs that the supply of impact investment opportunities is starting to catch up with demand from impact investors.
Green Canopy is an example of an impact-investor funded company that has been fueled by local early adopters. The company operates in a commodity industry: designing and building single family homes. However, we have been fortunate to attract thoughtful, impact-motivated equity and debt investors, due in large part to our mission, vision and values focused on achieving long term positive environmental and social change while simultaneously pursuing solid financial results.
Since 2011 Green Canopy has acquired nearly 90 projects; steadily building a community of homeowners, real estate agents, employees, shareholders and fund members that share our passion to inspire resource efficiency in residential markets. Importantly, we pursue our mission while being uncompromising in achieving key sustainability metrics, paying our employees a fair wage, selling our homes at fair market prices and generating long term shareholder value. Green Canopy has an opportunity to demonstrate it is not only possible, but highly rewarding for all involved to create and operate under a business model predicated on shared, blended value creation.
Similar opportunities are emerging across a wide spectrum of investment strategies that seek to satisfy growing consumer and investment demand for highly impactful market-driven solutions. As Seattle continues to attract tens of thousands of employees each year to fill quality jobs at companies like Amazon, Nordstom and Microsoft, our entire region feels the benefits. And yet, we are all faced with the unintended consequences of the additional infrastructure needed to support increased demand for critical services, including affordable workforce housing. The current fight between the City and the Coalition for Sustainable Jobs and Housing over how we should pay for affordable housing, and who will fund it, is beating on the wrong drum. Neither side seems to be asking the right questions or putting forth a broadly acceptable or effective solution for quickly increasing the supply of affordable workforce housing.
One example of an alternative solution is Bellwether Housing’s recently launched Seattle Futures Fund. Bellwether has successfully developed and managed affordable workforce housing in Central Seattle for 35 years. However, as affordable housing has become an increasingly rare commodity in the communities Bellwether serves, the organization has had to innovate how its projects are financed; necessity = the mother of innovation. Through the Seattle Futures Fund, Bellwether believes it will more rapidly scale the number of units available to house social workers, teachers, baristas, police officers, firefighters, government workers, data center workers and others that serve our communities. A potentially wonderful, local example that attracts private capital as part of the solution to develop housing that is affordable and accessible to our urban working families.
As a community, we must collaboratively develop innovative, smart, market-driven solutions to problems that impact a wide range of constituents. Hopefully, a greater supply of viable impact investment opportunities for investors to assess, like Bellwether’s Seattle Futures Fund, will be forthcoming in the near-term. In the meantime, we would encourage investors and entrepreneurs alike to continue viewing our social and environmental problems through the lens of impact opportunity.
Contributed by Kyle Mylius, Board of Directors for Green Canopy, Inc. & Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy, Inc.
"How have we grown and changed?"
Contributed by Sam Lai, Chief Marketing Officer
"It was great sitting next to you in English. Stay cool over the summer and don't ever change! xoxoxo"
Every year, there is a common concern that is voiced by our team members when begin our Mission, Vision, Values review process. If we love our company culture...why would we ever consider changing our values. They are, after all, at the core of how we treat each other.
"I love working at Green Canopy and I hope we never change!"
However, when I consider what it means to grow-up, I'm reminded of how thankful my wife is that I've changed since she met me. Angie and I were barely past puberty when we met at the University of Washington. At that time, one of my greatest talents was a smile and my signature wink. Seriously. The wink was the single greatest strength in my arsenal of babe-wooing skills. For some reason, the wink doesn't do much for Angie now when I come home to our family of 5. Fortunately, I've grown up just a little bit I've added dish washing to my tool belt. We haven't lost that loving feeling, but we've certainly grown up.
As for Green Canopy, we've grown up as a company too. We will remain focused on our mission to inspire resource efficiency. And many core values remain the same such as "authentic communication" and being "solutions focused." But how have we grown and changed? Below are some of the ways that are values are evolving at Green Canopy. In our MVV: Part 3 we will look at our final list of Values as well as how we have incorporated our shared values into our employee review process.
1. "If it ain't broken, break it!"
We started our company with a commitment to Innovation - While most builders exist only to make profit. Green Canopy exists to fulfill our mission...our profit allows us to continue our mission work.
We started using the EPS score developed in Portland to baseline our projects' annual modeled energy consumption before most people ever heard of an energy audit. Oops. I forgot, most people still don't know what it is! Innovation is already at the core of who we are and we won't forget it. Today we have shifted our focus away from innovation toward "Professional Mastery." The focus on systems and processes we've developed and continue to improve will allow us to build many more inspirational homes efficiently in multiple market areas...sounds innovative right?
In the past, this mantra was used to describe how we value each other beyond work. However, the words seemed to set our personal life at odds against our work. Most of us see our personal purpose lived out in the work that we get to do here at Green Canopy. The new verbiage will sound more like "Fostering Community at Work."
This value came from Daniel Pink and his exploration of Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose being a prime motivation for individuals to excel in their work. You can watch the TED talk here.
Autonomy is at the core of the most driven teams, and since this cultural orientation is pretty well set at Green Canopy – we are shifting our attention to the next level, Accountability! This takes into account how our individual work connects to the greater team.
In the grand scheme, an outsider will not notice too much of a change in the way we treat each other here at Green Canopy. Many of the atypical values you'd never expect to see at a construction company will remain intact. We will continue to stay lighthearted and have fun. We will continue to talk about our feelings. And good god yes, we value vulnerability! At the core of it, these values help us to communicate well, excel and to learn and grow quickly. We know we have a mission to accomplish and we have to grow past our comfort zone to do it.
Some days, I still wish that a simple wink is enough to be the hero. But my family is certainly better off with the fact that I've learned how to wash the dishes really, really, really well.
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.