Aaron Fairchild

The Nation's Oldest and Largest Local Homebuilder's Association Honors Green Canopy

MBA_Award

On December 5, 2017, the Master Builders Association (MBA) awarded Green Canopy and CEO, Aaron Fairchild the 2017 Built Green Moving the Market Award at the Master Builders Association Awards & Gala. Aaron and Green Canopy were chosen “for taking the step to build only net zero energy homes.” Founded in 1909, the MBA is the “nation’s oldest and largest local homebuilder’s association” and continues to move the industry towards greater innovation and sustainability.
 
“I’m extremely honored to represent Green Canopy’s team, owners and stakeholders in receiving this award from such an established and reputable organization as the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties.” -Aaron Fairchild, CEO, Green Canopy Homes
 
“Aaron is an inspirational force in the Puget Sound area residential home building industry. He and his team continue to push the limits at the intersection of sustainability and business in new and exciting ways. I commend Aaron and Green Canopy for all they do for our association, our communities, and our region,” states Aaron Adelstein, MBA Director of Programs and Products. 

The MBA featured CEO, Aaron Fairchild, in the Master Builder Winter 2017 issue in the article, “The Man in the Green Hat.” Here is some of what they had to say:
 
“Aaron’s drive to transform the market is indicative of not just his desire to align business, community, and sustainability but of the work and thought that he puts into this effort. He is truly a leader in the regard, constantly innovating and aligning actions with his words. Aaron is a collaborator, mentor and leader all at the same time.” -Leah Missik, Built Green Program Manager
 
“The positive culture Aaron has cultivated resonates throughout his company, the Master Builders Association, and our region.” -Cameron Poague, Master Builders Association
 
“Aaron is the type of person who is actively changing home building for the better” -Cameron Poague
 
Also included in the article is a quote from Green Canopy Co-Founder, Sam Lai, “Aaron can seem enigmatic to some because he’s difficult to pin down. He is a disciplined business mind– as fierce and pragmatic as you would expect from a third-generation banker and Foster School MBA grad. Yet his unwavering passion for social and environmental justice seems counterintuitive… like the trucker cap on his head and Wendell Berry poetry on his lips. One way to understand my friend and CEO is that he is true to his heart and that’s what drives him. He has a vision to make the world a better place and the grit to execute a business plan to make that vision a reality.”
 
Green Canopy continues to be a leader in the housing industry, and in our city.

Goldman Sachs Recognizes Green Canopy CEO, Aaron Fairchild

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BY  AARON FAIRCHILD
I believe in a future where deep green and net-zero energy homes are affordable and the norm. A future where our communities are diverse, inclusive and resilient, and where people who believe and invest in that future earn profits. Being raised by an entrepreneurial single mother imparted on me the importance of caring and nurturing, while also working hard to provide. Since the age of 15, my labor has been built upon this foundation from my mother. I have stumbled and failed and made mistakes along the way. I have succumbed to fear and self-doubt. At times, the immensity of the challenges we face seem daunting and impossible to solve; like I am frantically shooting a toy water-pistol at a raging wildfire. But when I lift my eyes and look around, I see that I am not the only one trying to douse the flames of environmental destruction and social inequity. Intentional and like-minded people all around the world are forming companies to be used as forces for good. And these companies are changing the nature of work by holding each other up to realize the future we believe in.

I am grateful for the recognition by Goldman Sachs and to be associated with an organization whose people are recognizing their own interconnectedness, and working to create positive change from within. Goldman’s people are on the arc of transformation and by recognizing me, a founder of a certified B Corporation, they are linking arms with a global community of over 2,000 companies in 50 countries across 130 industries. Organizations like B Corp help bring companies together in community to advance our collective work of creating a more inclusive economy. Certified B Corp companies believe in creating immense enterprise value in order to make money work for positive change. We work to out-perform the current market, and collectively utilize capitalism to help bend the arc of history toward justice and a regenerated world in which all life thrives.
 
I am hopeful that this award will create greater awareness for companies like Green Canopy and the world we believe in. The founders of Green Canopy started with a shared set of beliefs guiding their entrepreneurial spirit. The shareholders of Green Canopy invested with these beliefs guiding their  decision. Our lenders provide debt to Green Canopy because they want to leverage these beliefs into shifting paradigms. Many of the stakeholders and subcontractors who we work with also share these beliefs. And, of course, our homeowners, after experiencing living in a Green Canopy home, deeply connect with these beliefs as well. It is a broad and diverse ecosystem that Green Canopy works within, and given this interdependence, the award is more about these relationships than any one link. Being a link in this chain requires a commitment to earning profits as a means to creating the future we believe in, not the other way around. 
 
Thank you, Goldman Sachs, for this award. I am honored and would like to use the recognition to acknowledge all of the people at work using business as a force for good. These purposeful people are standing shoulder to shoulder, laboring to ignite a new wildfire; A wildfire of hope and transformation which won’t be stopped until the deep work of creating the better world of our beliefs has been accomplished.

Community Opportunity: How to Impact the Seattle Housing Market

"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 8Impact HUB SeattleSeattle ImpactMission 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.

Moving Past Infill Ill Will

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By Aaron Fairchild, CEO/Chairman of Green Canopy Inc.

The outcry against residential in-fill has reached a fevered pitch in Seattle. Neighbors are yelling at homebuilders, each other, the city, and anyone who will listen. The themes are relatively consistent; opposition to modern homes, bigger homes, added density, or the fact that projects are unaffordable to existing residents. Builders, on the other hand, are simply trying to build what the market demands – and that may well conflict. But, is the fevered pitch, and ill will around new in-fill developments in the Seattle area necessary, or is there a way to work together?

As someone on the front lines of the neighborhood hostilities trying to do business in a new way, I think there is.  By engaging with (and listening to) neighbors and being transparent about planning and decision-making beforehand, infill housing can become a welcome and community-forwarding endeavor. 

Having heard the angry outcry, and with a focus on continuing to build a human values-based business that contributes to communities, here are a few ideas for how this could be done: 

  • Listen, really listen, first. Changes within a neighborhood can be emotional for many. When you recognize that going in, even hearing concerns starts to build a trust pattern. While plans are still conceptual, hold a community meeting to receive input on the direction of your design.

  • Engage along the way. Especially with topics like sidewalk closures, site work, paint colors, etc. (We use Tumblr quite a bit on this front) Updating the community using a community blog demonstrates awareness that the developer is entering into an established norm of how the neighborhood functions. 

  • Acknowledge feedback and make Changes. When neighbors really see a result of their comments, whether as acknowledgement or in changes to the plan, trust is solidified, paving the way for the best possible relationship with the community throughout the construction process, and helping the new homeowner receive a much warmer welcome.


How is this good business? Engaging the community while building in close quarters with neighbors helps minimize angry calls and letters to the city, intense verbal discussions with subcontractors, and creates a much better work environment for everyone. By approaching our own projects in this manner, we’ve had neighbors bring us warm coffee, cookies, and offer to help. Our homebuyers are a welcome addition to the neighborhood versus being seen with skepticism and mistrust by association. All of this work helps create positive association with our company name and ultimately helps sell our homes.

In this day and age of transparency, builders really can’t “bulldoze” their way into a neighborhood.  If neighbors and builders alike can remain open to each other, listen and engage, we should all be able to learn together how to effectively rebuild our aging infrastructure, honor our past and lay the groundwork for a thriving future in Seattle.

This piece was written in response to a thoughtful article from Seattle Weekly entitled "Boomtown Brawls" by Nina Shapiro. 

Changing Times, Changing Minds

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"64% of Millennials would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love than $100,000 a year at a job they think is boring."

Contributed by Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy

A lot of research has been dedicated to learning more about Millennial attitudes as companies struggle to adjust corporate cultures to align with their thinking. This cohort has received a bad rap in most of the research, but at Green Canopy we have found that building a culture that unleashes the “Millennial Mindset” in all of our employees increases our productivity and our ability to execute our mission to inspire resource efficiency. For this reason, I believe that organizations should work to realign their corporate cultures to foster this mindset in their employees. A few fun facts below help illustrate the point that the future of successful businesses will be predicated on creating corporate cultures that are designed to attract and retain millennial minded employees of any age. 


  • Millennials (People born in 1981 or after) comprise more than one in three of adult Americans by 2020.

  • They will make up as much as 75% of the U.S. workforce by 2025.

  • 89% expressed a stronger likelihood that they would buy from companies that supported solutions to specific social issues. 

  • 87.5% disagreed with the statement that "money is the best measure of success," compared to about 78% of the total population. 

  • The top ideal employers of currently employed Millennials are Google, Apple, Facebook, the U.S. State Department, and Disney. Note: Five of the top 15 most ideal employers are government agencies (State Dept., FBI, CIA, NASA, and Peace Corps). 

  • 63% want their employer to contribute to social or ethical causes they felt were important. About half of older Gen Xers and Boomers felt the same.

  • 64% would rather make $40,000/year at a job they love than $100,000/year at a job they think is boring.

Source for the above: http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/brookings-now/posts/2014/06/11-facts-about-the-millennial-generation

  • Not only do half of all Millennials choose not to identify with either political party, just 31% say there is a great deal of difference between the Republican and Democratic parties.[Polarizing politics are a vestige of the silent and boomer generations, and not necessarily part of the future of America.]

  • Despite their financial burdens, Millennials are the nation’s most stubborn economic optimists. More than eight in ten say they either currently have enough money to lead the lives they want (32%) or expect to in the future (53%).

Source for the above: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/03/07/millennials-in-adulthood/

  • Millennials are connected. The idea of being required to sit in a cubicle for eight hours a day strikes the Millennial as bizarre.

  • Millennials don’t want to simply pay their dues as did previous generations. For many companies, the default process is to promote based on tenure rather than talent. [Equal pay and promotion for equal work… Merit rules the day. What a concept!?]

Source for the above: http://www.consultcambiar.com/managing-the-millennial-generation-tapping-into-what-makes-them-tick/

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Image courtesy of Flickr: Valtech Sweden

The below excerpt was taken from an interview with Ron Alsop who did the research and wrote the definitive book on Millennials

“Kuhn: How can employers best capitalize on the millennial generation?

Alsop: I believe employers can best capitalize on millennials by making them feel that their work is important, giving them lots of feedback and positive reinforcement, and telling them that the company will help them develop their skills and career potential. This generation isn't loyal to any one company and is likely to work for many employers. But millennials will be more apt to stay with an employer if they can see why their sometimes seemingly mundane job is important to the company's success. They also want to build their portfolio of skills and experiences through mentoring, training and development programs, and the opportunity to switch jobs within their company…”

Evolve Into the Millennial Mindset

Frankly the work of today and tomorrow is important work. As the world’s population continues to grow and strain our finite planetary resources, all businesses of the future will have to consider and adapt to working more with less resources. Many more businesses will intentionally start and organize themselves to tackle some of the world’s pressing resource scarcity and climate challenges, while also doing well for their shareholders and by their employees.

As I synthesize all of this, the Millennial picture becomes clear. This mindset is a key to our world’s future success because Millennials are a large percentage of working Americans now and will be in the future. They are diplomatic peacemakers for whom success doesn’t necessary equal wealth. They want to work at doing good in the world. They would rather have a job of purpose and challenge than one that is boring and pays more. They are optimistic, believe in merit over tenure, and prefer coaching over being told how to perform. Rather than complain about the Millennial Mindset, we should celebrate it, seek it out and foster it in our work.  

The successful businesses of tomorrow will employ people with the Millennial Mindset that some love to hate. Their cultures will be designed to unlock the inner Millennial in all their employees and earn the right of retention for those they are so fortunate to serve. The stodgy business practices that made corporations great in the past, thrived in what is no longer our world: a very top down, heavily bureaucratic, do-as-you-are-told, perceived limitless resource reality. Thankfully, society has largely evolved beyond those outdated business practices. It is time for employers to do the same.

It's All About the Bag

Post contributed by Aaron Fairchild:

Social Capital Markets 2009 (SOCAP09) - “It’s All About the Bag”

Last week I was at a conference in San Francisco called SOCAP09. The focus was social capital markets and the eco-system of related investors and entrepreneurs. The first two lines of the SOCAP Conference Guide read, “There’s so much happening at this conference, it’s hard to know where to begin. But when you get right down to it, SOCAP09 is about the bag.” The organizers decided to highlight a bag created out of Indonesian garbage heaps as an example and symbol of what SOCAP09 is about. The bag and the business model aren’t scalable and nowhere near having the kind of volume or sales and distribution that allows for a sustainable business. In his opening address, conference organizer Kevin Jones talked at length about the bag that the XSProject created through the guidance and vision of Ann Wizer.

After Kevin finished his opening he handed the microphone to Sonal Shah, Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation. Sonal went on to discuss how the government is looking for great ideas that have the ability for scale, and spoke about the Serve America Act and the need for participation across sectors to address our social issues. Nowhere in her discussion or in the panel she was a part of after did they mention the role of for-profit businesses. They spoke to non-profits, foundations, and government programs. Finally, during the Q and A time of the panel someone asked about the role of for-profits and investment capital in search of returns as well as impacts. I thought to myself, “I flew down to San Francisco because here we are on the cusp of a massive, national and global social transformation, and it is all about the bag?” Capital and financial markets have begun investing in companies, organizations, and strategies that take into consideration social and environmental impacts, traditional economists consider these externalities that should be ignored, and it is all about the bag? Investments that account for these externalities are predicted to grow to 5% to 15% of total invested capital by the year 2015, this represents trillions of dollars, and the organizers of Social Capital Markets 2009 highlight a humble bag and non-scalable business model? I left the first day feeling skeptical if not a bit cynical.

I got to the conference early the next morning for some coffee and I ended up running into Kevin Jones. Kevin is a big, red faced man with stony-tint glasses and a very unassuming style. After the pleasantries and congratulations I learned that last year they had just over 600 participants (good for the first year), and that this year they had around 1,000 participants. I asked him where SOCAP was going, and he said they would like to have more entrepreneur grants next year and that he would like to eventually see somewhere around 1,500 entrepreneurs along with the cadre of fund managers and investors large and small. So then I asked where are social capital markets in general headed? He told me the first panel of the morning would be addressing that question. When I pushed him on my observations from the first day and the slant toward non-profits that I felt, he disagreed wholeheartedly and said that his intention for the conference was to highlight and encourage profitable solutions that considered and accounted for environmental and social impacts in their business models. He insisted that capital was flowing in larger and larger amounts in that direction as investors understood that the externalities of yesterday are not the externalities of today. Okay, okay… I decided to approach the morning’s sessions with an open mind.

I could not have been better rewarded for the renewed outlook and came to understand the symbolism of the bag. I found it astounding that the conversations I had throughout the remainder of the conference with investors, fund managers, and entrepreneurs alike often became philosophical and reflective while at the same time there was a transcendent feeling that those of us in this sector are sitting on a geyser.

Charly Kleissner talked about holistic investing and “going away from black and white." He sees investment capital moving away from “or” and to “and." Dan Crisafulli talked about enhanced transparency and larger partnerships between private and government capital as the need to “move the needle” on our social and environmental issues continued to become more intense. Amit Bouri talked about greater standards that are widely accepted by the social capital and financial community alike, such as Impact Reporting and Investing Standards (IRIS). I talked to a Canadian investment adviser about meekness and power appropriately placed.

I also had conversations with 3 other fund managers that in many ways were like listening to recorded conversations we have had within G2B Ventures and our sincere belief that we are pointing the market toward profitable investment in existing residential energy efficiency, and doing our small part to help transform the market and the world. Yet we remain humble and open to advice and dedicated to transparency, we remain optimistic, and we remain convinced that the investments made in triple bottom line ventures like ours will help change a world where economies dictate the way we all live.

On the last day of the conference they convened an open discussion designed to give participants the opportunity to suggest ways that the XSProject could be turned into a viable and sustainable business. Businesses start with a seed idea, the idea takes root and begins to sprout through the thoughtful fertilization of outside ideas and inputs, the germinated seed then grows into a business through careful cultivation, hard work and applied capital. We all understand the cycle; the difference is our determination to make a difference in a world in need of change and that we know we don’t have all the answers and are willing to ask for help. The key to SOCAP was the humility interwoven throughout the conference and the determination to learn from the mistakes of the past while focusing on profitable solutions for our environmental and social problems. I returned to Seattle with my unbridled optimism intact – the bag had done its work.

Too Early, Too Late or Just Right?

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Post contributed by Aaron Fairchild:

The same day that I received an email from a friend saying that he thought G2B Ventures just might be too early in the space and ahead of the market, I read an article in the Harvard Business Review about how, “smart companies now treat sustainability as innovation’s new frontier." There were a few articles in the September 2009 issue relating to green and sustainability. The lead article says that companies won’t grow unless they throw themselves entirely at green initiatives. I am in the thick of establishing the Efficient Real Estate Investment Fund, so naturally I tend to side with HBR over my thoughtful friend. Frankly, it is just amazing to observe how far we have come in the green and sustainability business world. We couldn’t have done what we are attempting to do in green real estate 5 years ago, but today it just makes sense.

When Harvard is saying the business world MUST go green to grow, you've got to think G2B is in the right space and at the right time, not just because we are doing good for the environment and society, but because we can make money at the same time.