Corporate Social Responsibility

Green Canopy’s 2018 Impact Report | Regenerating Communities & Environments

“It’s sometimes easy to forget that all the small and seemingly insignificant tasks that we perform daily adds up to big change. Reading the Impact Report reminds me that we’re doing good work and adhering to our mission.”  - Green Canopy Employee

We know you believe transforming the built environment toward more sustainable and healthy housing can help ensure a better future. Thank you for being our partner!

Thriving Communities & Healthy Environments | Green Canopy’s 2017 Impact Report

Thriving Communities & Healthy Environments | Green Canopy’s 2017 Impact Report

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.

Next Economy Now

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Green Canopy CEO, Aaron Fairchild, was recently featured on the Next Economy Now podcast by Lift Economy in the episode "Aaron Fairchild: Rooting Into Perennial Impact Under One Green Canopy." 

The podcast "highlights the leaders who are taking a regenerative, bio-regional, democratic, transparent, and whole-systems approach to using business as a force for good." Green Canopy is continually inspired by Lift Economy's work to benefit all life.

Listen to this episode to hear more from Aaron about how Green Canopy is influencing the existing construction paradigm while deliberately, methodically and incrementally addressing some of society’s most difficult challenges as we collectively work to create a more resilient and regenerative future.

Aaron offers Green Canopy’s past, present and future outlook, thoughts on culture and management, the phases of the company's growth and the importance of inclusive building for a more enriching world.

For more information on Green Canopy's approach to the current construction industry, listen to "Money is a Means to an End: Scaling Your Business with Aaron Fairchild" by The Construction Leading Edge.

Now is the Time to Live into the World We Envision

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.

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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.

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Green Canopy's Theory of Change

Green Canopy's Theory of Change

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.”

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

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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.

Patience and Urgency Combined | SOCAP17 and the BCorp Champions Retreat

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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:


  • The short distance the social impact investment community has traveled to date and where it is on the arc of its lifecycle trajectory.

  • The emphasis on personal improvement.


So how far have we come? My first year at SOCAP was 2009. That was the same year when I first learned about B-Corps companies at the Sustainable Industries Journal forum from Stephanie Ryan of B-Lab. It was directly after SOCAP09, in November of 2009, that Green Canopy bought its first project and our work to build the company began full-tilt and relentless. The first years of Green Canopy were about survival and getting the organization right. Today we have the capacity to expand the scope of our community beyond the Pacific Northwest region. In 2013, we certified as a B-Corps, but my first B-Corps retreat was two weeks ago. This was followed up by SOCAP17, my first year back since 2009. In the eight-year span between first learning about B-Corps companies and SOCAP, and today, this community has grown significantly and become a legitimate investing force and philosophical approach.
 
When looking at the lifespan of contemporary impact investing in the SOCAP17 booklet, the movement is younger than many of us, just turning 40 years old. If we are investing for this generation but also for generations to come, then we are in the infancy of a multigenerational movement determined to continue to grow, learn and transform global society and economy. We are on the early side of the impact investment lifespan for sure. We have a long way to go and the urgency of the issues we are addressing with our labor and capital create impatience on behalf of just about everyone in this community. Throughout both conferences it felt like most people were understandably feeling the impatience of our youthful movement. Like we just want to be older and more mature than our short 40-years will allow.
 
And then when we couple our youthful impatience with the urgency our work demands, impatience compounds. Which, perhaps, is the reason so many conversations at both conferences discussed the importance of personal, emotional, and spiritual growth in the practice of social entrepreneurship and impact investing. If the antidote to anger is patience, then the lack of patience leads to anger. The importance of love in our work requires patience, yet patience decidedly lacks urgency. Perhaps in order to productively hold this dichotomy through the transition to a new paradigm, a focused determination that allows for grace and patience when organizing with a sense of urgency requires each of us to develop increased mindfulness within swirling storms.

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Celebrating our collective “wins” and taking stock of our successes happened throughout both conferences as well, and from my perspective there is a lot to celebrate in the progress we have collectively made in just the last eight years. When I first learned about B-Corps companies in 2009, there were 205 certified B-Corps, in 28 states and in 54 industries. Today there are 2,310 certified B-Corps, in 50 countries and in 130 industries. SOCAP has tripled in size and become an international affair. It is drawing investment firms representing more capital than most people seemed to think possible just a few years ago. Bringing values into our investment analysis continues to seem obvious once seen; like suddenly being able to see a number hidden within the page of little colored dots. The more people’s eyes identify that opportunities to make money work for positive change are hidden in plain sight, the more obvious it becomes that when we direct our resource toward changing the world for better, the world indeed gets incrementally better.

I am entirely grateful to be part of this community and movement, and I look forward to continuing with the dual edge of graceful patience and urgency, toward building and investing in the future we believe in.

"Transparency, accountability are no longer fringe ... We are seeing a surge of leaders who want to have a platform to influence the greater good." -Bart Houlahan, B Corporation | SOCAP17

Ends or Means?

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Contributed by Andy Wolverton, CFO

Green Canopy gladly spends significant time and resources to nurture our corporate culture; a culture centered on our Values. These shared values reveal themselves in the norms, mantras, behaviors, and language of the company; they are the bedrock of culture. Rather than let our values develop organically by default or be established top-down, every member of the Green Canopy Team participates in the process of establishing our shared Values from the ground up.

At the beginning of every year the Company holds what is called our Mission, Vision, Values Retreat. The Team at Green Canopy has created an innovative approach to building and managing Culture that creates alignment throughout the Company. At this Retreat the Team re-calibrates to our purpose, Mission, and the direction that the Team is driving the Company, Vision. The remaining and majority of the Retreat is spent focusing on our foundation; qualifying our shared set of Values. The sum total of the Values equates to a culture of integrity and constant improvement.

Once the Team has reviewed, revised and renewed our Values for another year, we roll into the first of two annual Cultural Reviews. These Cultural Reviews allow the Team to review each other and reflect on how each member has upheld - or better yet, how they can improve - their practice of and commitment to the shared Values collectively defined at the Retreat. The Company’s approach to managing and measuring culture ensures Team buy-in.

After all, it has been said many times before, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

But do the Values really matter in the day-to-day minutia of completing tasks and improving the bottom line? 

Productivity is more valuable than fit and the ends justify the means, right? In fact, Green Canopy may have agreed with these statements years ago. We, for many years, proudly labeled ourselves as a Results Oriented Work Environment, or ROWE, a methodology popularized by Daniel Pink, among others.  

While the benefits of being a ROWE are many and well-documented (and we agree!), we have come to understand being a ROWE is only half the equation. How those results are achieved is more important than the outcome. Why? We believe it is because of our focus on the prioritization of long-term goalsover short-term gains.

Since our Values define Green Canopy’s collective how, we prioritize Values Alignment during our hiring process and developed the basic quadrant diagram (below) for grouping our Team and new applicants.

The diagram includes two axes, Values Alignment and Abilities, each with positive and negative option, making four unique quadrants. The green-shaded row at the top shows the two quadrants Green Canopy prioritizes in our Team and new hires; with both including positive Values Alignment. We would rather work to improve the skills of a well-intentioned coworker with a shared set of values than a highly productive employee who is ambivalent to Green Canopy’s shared Values. More time, energy and resources are spent working with a highly skilled yet misaligned employee than developing an under-performing Teammate who strives toward self-improvement along the Values.

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When looking at the Values vs. Abilities diagram, the obvious priority would be to only hire those who fit within the top right box. They are the ideal and perfect Teammates, right?

However, in practice we recognize that the top right box is the area to strive toward and is generally an impossible space to permanently occupy. All of our Teammates have areas of their work in which they are masters of their craft 

Our aim is to live within the top row, and the goal is to continuously move toward mastery in all aspects of our jobs. That has us all in practice (1)  bouncing back and forth between Lacking Ability and Mastery within the row of Values Aligned as we learn new lessons in our life and in our work. Personal and professional growth and development require the understanding that we are all imperfect. However, the Green Canopy Team understands there is great potential for those who enjoy shared values.
 
(1) As a quick side note on work as Practice rather than a Performance, we highly recommend this HBR Ideacast (Ideacast #523) released May 5, 2016, with Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey.

The Transformative Power of Frameworks

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What impact could we have if we were all just a bunch of tree huggers united under a green canopy? Our logo is definitely symbolic of the work that we are doing to change the course of climate change - and certainly everyone knows that we have sang our share of kumbaya - but it's the fast, hard data that delivers our projects and helps us work toward improvement at Green Canopy.

Decision making and benchmarking frameworks are integral to Green Canopy’s operations. Our acquisitions team uses a data driven framework and metrics to identify and purchase attractive development properties. Our project managers use a framework for guiding construction related decisions from start to finish. The reporting outputs are used to inform and manage future acquisitions and projects.

These carefully crafted systems support us in driving toward consistent execution and continuous improvements. We learn from the successes and failures of our decisions by establishing baseline metrics and measuring and reporting against them. This ultimately makes Green Canopy a better homebuilder. And importantly, creates a stronger and more resilient company, reduces risk for our debt fund members and builds a more valuable brand for shareholders.

Investors face similar challenges, especially those pursuing positive social and environmental impacts alongside financial performance. Without a guiding framework, impact investors are left to untangle a confusing mix of information and options. An impact framework can be a transformative tool enabling investors to move beyond intuitive guesswork toward more systematic and objective decision making.  

We hope you will join us in attending an event, Impact Investing with Purpose, being hosted by The CAPROCK Group and SNW Asset Management on Tuesday, October 20th, 6 to 8 PM at Seattle Impact HUB. Green Canopy board member Kyle Mylius will moderate a panel exploring the evolution and use of impact investing frameworks and metrics. Panelist Luni Libes, a familiar face to many of you from Fledge and Pinchot University, will offer insights into The Pinchot Impact Index, the subject of Luni’s recently published book. The event will close with a preview of CAPROCK’s iPAR impact investment framework and evaluation platform.

Impact Alignment: Where Impact Product Meets Impact Buyers

Contributed by: Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy, Inc.

I have often cited Daniel Goleman to explain a consumer’s desire to make an impact with his or her invested dollar. In Ecological Intelligence, Goleman explains that consumers will always buy what they perceive to be a less toxic or more environmentally friendly product given price parity with a competing product. While the consumer may not be buying the perceived “better” product to make a positive impact in the world, they are likely buying it because they view the product healthier or better for their family. 

This consumer behavior pattern offers a direct analogy for financial investors. It goes without saying that investors invest capital to generate a return. If an investor can invest in an opportunity that generates a similar risk-adjusted rate of return to competing investment opportunities yet the investment will also deliver outcomes that better align with their values, then the investor will likely choose to invest their capital in such a value-aligned opportunity. 

Enter Green Canopy. Our mission is transformational; our company was deliberately created with the mission to inspire resource efficiency in residential markets. We have two impact product offerings for consumers to buy.

Our primary impact product is our homes. We build homes that are more environmentally sustainable than what is required by city code and  have third party  audits  verifying our homes meet or exceed a local or national green building standard. In other words, a Green Canopy home is healthier for the planet, consumes less energy to operate (we guarantee that), and is simply a better home than the comparable code-built home. The kicker: we price our homes for sale on par with other homes on the market. We have to price our homes competitively with other homes because if we don’t, buyers would choose to acquire the less expensive yet comparably located and sized home. So buyers of our homes acquire a Green Canopy home at a competitive price that delivers outcomes that align with their needs and values. 

Our second impact product is our real estate fund offerings. We currently manage two debt funds that generate competitive returns for investors. If it were not for these funds, we would not have enough debt financing to build more environmentally sustainable homes at our current scale. Investors in these funds buy membership units that are designed to generate competitive rates of return and deliver outcomes that align with their values. 

I believe the United States has entered a relatively new era where the general market is looking for values-aligned solutions. I witness this daily in both of our product offerings. However, most consumers and investors remain price sensitive and will continue to be so. This is where many people believe the government and foundations can play a role. However, I don’t believe it is incumbent on the government or others to subsidize product offerings, or for that matter the market to simply accept the market-price mismatch. 

Entrepreneurs innovate. The role of being an entrepreneur is to figure out how to bring new product to market in such a way that the market is willing to pay for it. Government incentives and infrastructure are helpful catalysts and support structures for market change. But the role of efficiently bringing new product to market is ultimately the role of entre- and intra-preneurs. 

Additionally, foundations, the government and other mission-driven sources of capital can aid in providing lower cost of capital to kick-start product offerings and help stimulate demand (think of the Bullitt Center or the ZHome development). However, values alignment should not be seen as an impediment to bringing socially and environmentally impactful product offerings to market—it should be used as a competitive advantage. Sound business people focused on values-based product offerings will continue to innovate within the cost/price constraints of the market and ultimately bring more and more highly sought after product to meet consumer demand. Impact alignment and the balance between supply and demand are really just a matter of time and innovation.