Impact Investing

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!

3 Ways to Make Investment Decisions Without Compromising Values

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By Aaron Fairchild

I recently spent a couple of days at SOCAP18. After the conference, I had the opportunity to screen a soon-to-be-released Australian documentary called, 2040. 2040 is a beautiful “future-fit”, utopian depiction of a potential future made possible by incorporating carbon drawdown methods and technologies. 
 
The week before the screening a new environmental philosopher friend shared a concept she has written about extensively — the Precautionary PrincipleShe explained this by saying, “One can’t use uncertainty as a justification for inaction. One must use precaution to mitigate harmful outcomes even in the face of uncertainty.
 
Appling this to positive impact investors could translate to: “Investors and their financial fiduciaries can’t use financial uncertainty as a justification for inaction. Given the urgency of our social and environmental challenges, investors must use precaution to mitigate harmful financial outcomes — And still identify ways to invest in positive social and environmental opportunities even in the face of financial uncertainty.”
 
Unfortunately, in the face of our pressing social and environmental problems, the Precautionary Principle is often used as a reason not to invest in opportunities that generate positive impact outcomes. Even given our good intentions, the traditional structures of finance don’t legally allow moral social and environmental convictions to negatively influence financial outcomes. If the financial outcome is uncertain, but the social and environmental outcomes are clear and measurable — the existing legal frameworks and institutional structures justify inaction in the face of uncertainty.
 
As my mental turntable plays the paradoxical precautionary blues, I see images of the amazing people in the theater moving to a rhythm of positive change, but are we a little off the beat? 
 
How many times have you heard, “In order to attract more capital, the social and environmental enterprise must prove its ability to create market-rate returns. We need proven strategies.”? This thinking may lead to a slip-and-slide of marginalized outcomes in the pursuit of “market-rate” returns. Furthermore, the Precautionary Principle can create a disincentive to invest in positive social and environmental outcomes in uncertain market cycles or in investments labeled “concessionary.” In uncertain markets or uncertain categories, investors may justify putting the pursuit of positive outcomes on the shelf in favor of “proven” and more certain downside protection investment strategies.
 
According to Paul Hawken in the film 2040, 80% of the world’s agriculture is grown by small farm holders. However, in 2018 small farm holder investments are flat to down. Unfortunately, this is not an anomaly. Small to medium enterprise investments are flat to down, and renewable energy investments globally are flat to down as well. I recently learned of these alarming statistics on the Impact Alpha podcast, Getting to Yes. The decline observed in this podcast may be a result of investor’s growing uncertainty in the financial markets. Are we employing the Precautionary Principle? This may forecast a potential disturbing trend for urgently-needed investments in social and environmental solutions as the US economy advances into a market cycle already long in the tooth.
 
Understanding how we may be employing the Precautionary Principle helps clarify that even as we face urgent need to invest in social and environmental solutions, our desire for positive social and environmental outcomes often are left waiting on the side in the face of financial uncertainty. It is a difficult paradoxical dance to pull off. If true, I have three recommendations:

  1. Engage and collaborate with the impact entrepreneurs.When the social and environmental outcomes are clear, measurable and convincing, but the financial outcomes are uncertain — engage! Offer to work directly with the social entrepreneur or fund manager to help craft precautionary strategies within the investment opportunity that mitigate potentially harmful financial outcomes. Assess the investment opportunity thoroughly, do your due diligence and collaborate to mitigate harmful financial performance while maintaining the positive social and environmental outcomes. 

  2. Change the legal framework of professional financial organizations to align to the Benefit Corporation structure. Benefit Corporations structurally embed expanded fiduciary obligations to include social and environmental considerations.

  3. Work with a separate advisory committee or due diligence team. As an individual investor that is not constrained by the fiduciary obligations of professional wealth management, consider working with a separate advisory committee or due diligence team or conduct personal due diligence on impact investments.

 
After the 2040 film screening, I left the theater in a crowd full of optimism and inspiration. Even with the Precautionary Principle burrowed deep within the financial structures and investment psyche of America, I am optimistic that by becoming more aware of how and why we make decisions— and the structures within which we make them— we will continue to learn how to better align capital to the future we envision. 

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.

Fast Company Names Green Canopy CEO, Aaron Fairchild, One of the Most Creative People in Business

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In the 2018 summer issue, Green Canopy CEO, Aaron Fairchild, was named to "Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business." 

"Your inclusion on the list is an acknowledgment of your innovative and impactful work. You join 99 other remarkable leaders striving to solve global and societal problems in novel ways," states Fast Company Editor-in-chief, Stephanie Mehta.

Fairchild responds, "I am grateful to be recognized by such an esteemed publication as Fast Company, focused on revolutionizing the current business paradigm and to be listed among leaders and businesses using innovation to catalyze the next economy — one that is more regenerative and inclusive."

The Green Canopy Team is honored to have a leader who inspires us to continue doing the deep work necessary to realize the future we believe in.

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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Rockefeller Foundation Publishes Case Study on Green Canopy and the Company's Theory of Change

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 susan@greencanopy.com.

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.”

Impact Assets IA 50 Impact Investment Fund Showcase

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“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.

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.

GREEN CANOPY CREATES A COMPANY TO HELP BUILD RESILIENT AND INCLUSIVE COMMUNITIES

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SEATTLE, Washington & PORTLAND, Oregon (October 4, 2017) – Green Canopy, Inc., a proven urban infill deep green homebuilder, announced the launch of its newest affiliate company, Cedar.

“Meeting the challenges of global warming and the housing crisis in our high growth cities requires us to develop disruptive, integrated, and inclusive solutions. We are proud to offer a for-profit model for building resilient, inclusive and sustainable net-zero energy micro-communities without reliance on direct government subsidies” says Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy.

The Company will acquire, develop, manage and market third-party certified green built, net-zero energy residential homes over the course of a 7-to-10-year period in Seattle, WA and Portland, OR. A minimum of 25% of the homes in every project site will be reserved as affordable rentals to households earning 80% of area median income (AMI) over the life of the Company. A final disposition process will result in selling a minimum of 25% of the remaining portfolio into community land trusts, or similar model, to be held permanently affordable to households earning 80% of area median income.

“Ecotrust is delighted to be a shareholder in Green Canopy, Inc. The Team has been terrific and we look forward to seeing where they take walkable residential infill development in the years to come. Green building, along with regenerative farming and forestry, are promising potential ‘drawdown’ technologies that pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and help reverse the devastating trends of the Anthropocene,” says Spencer Beebe, Founder & Executive Chair of Ecotrust.

Green Canopy's Cedar is poised to act on this opportunity. The urban infill home-building market is a highly fragmented marketplace with hundreds of small, independent homebuilders in both the Seattle and Portland markets. The February 2017 McKinsey Global Institute report, Reinventing Construction: A Route to Higher Productivity, found that “$10 trillion (is) spent on construction-related goods and services every year. But the industry has an intractable productivity problem and ... an opportunity to boost value added by $1.6 trillion.” “Fragmented markets and inefficiency go hand in hand. Our team at Green Canopy has long been aware of these inefficiencies and has spent considerable amount of time developing the processes and systems to contain costs and scale,” says Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy. He further adds, “This ability allows us to lean in further to our mission and bring to the market net-zero energy homes alongside affordable home ownership. As a for-profit company, this puts us in a unique position to not only drawdown carbon, but to also lift up our communities.”

Samantha Lamb, of Lake and Company Real Estate sees the company as an innovative leader.  “Green Canopy is indisputably one of the leaders in the Green Home movement in Seattle and beyond. It is founded by passionate people who truly want to make a difference in the world. They don't just go for minimal standards in Green Construction; they are actively educating the market and realtors about the benefits of building and buying Green,” says Lamb. As evidence of this, Green Canopy will amplify Cedar’s impact through an 18-member stakeholder group, calling it the Impact Collaborative. The Collaborative will bring greater transparency to Cedar – its processes, best practices and outcomes – then conduct research and broadly promote their findings and advocate for new and better approaches.  


About Green Canopy
Green Canopy, Inc. runs a homebuilder, Green Canopy Homes, in Seattle and Portland whose mission is to inspire resource efficiency in residential markets. Green Canopy Homes began building in 2009 and has successfully sold over 125 third-party certified, green homes with over $80 million in gross revenues. Green Canopy Homes has highly developed home designs, project management processes, checklists, and systems of cost containment specific to the challenges and needs of building attractive, resource-efficient, micro-communities in walkable, urban places.
 
Contact: 
Aaron Fairchild, CEO
206.792.7281
aaron@greencanopy.com
 
Andy Wolverton, CFO
206.792.7287
andy@greencanopy.com