Lift Economy

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.

redlining_708623179.jpeg

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.

trees_Canopy_kazuend-30877-unsplash_orig.jpg

Happy & Empowered

dsc03550_orig.jpg

It's time to clothe my dreams in reality, to create a home for wanderers who cannot bow before the traditions of a single dwelling and a fenced yard. Who look beyond marriage and blood to gather brothers and sisters bound by more than custom and umbilical cords. Generous minds and loving hearts, laughing eyes and simple tastes who know that serenity at sunrise and peace at sunset are worth more than the treasuries of kings and IRA security. It's time to clothe my dreams in reality, to gather together kindred spirits. Who look beyond what is and was to understand what can be, who know that love and compassion, joy and peace are our birthright stolen by a culture's madness and to band together the manipulations of frightened lives, wise minds, and bruised hearts, daring souls and brave spirits who know that love is worth the stars and friendship does not hide it's private anxieties behind sophistication and steel symbols. It's time to clothe my dreams in reality, to move beyond jealousy and possession, isolation and imprisonment. To confront boredom and loneliness, sadness and lovelessness, to make known my secret needs and reveal my hidden yearnings, to risk self exposure as the only path to final freedom, to surround myself with the energy flowing from the earth's core, the passion of rivers and resilience of trees, and thus to clothe my dreams in reality! —James Kavanaugh | It's Time

Green Canopy is feeling happy and empowered from Empower Happy Hour this month— thankful for all presenters, sponsors and stakeholders who came together with us to celebrate Sightline Institute: a local, independent think-tank, who envisions an economy and a way of life that is environmentally sound, economically vibrant and socially just. Here are some highlights from the presenting impact organizations:

Ryan_Lift

Keynote | Ryan Honeyman | Lift Economy
Ryan gave a synopsis of his background including his start in psychology and criminal justice and a passion for "reforming the criminal justice system and prison reform." While reading some of his brother's Environmental Studies books, Ryan grew excited by the idea of using business as a force for positive change.

Lift Economy began by "wanting to help existing companies scale their impact." Ryan explains... "We started to realize that while it's great to do consulting work with companies, many companies are categorically excluded from access to capital— and especially women and people of color."

The Force for Good Fund created by Lift Economy, is a fund that is investing in women and people of color-owned enterprises. "How can we create an economy that works for the benefit of all life if we don't put more women and people of color in charge?"

dsc03613_orig.jpg

Petra Franklin | Dwehl
"The Dwehl founders came together to solve a problem that has a massive impact upon America's future, home ownership... and in the process we realized this was a prosperous business opportunity, that was better for all stakeholders...

In America, there are more people renting today than anytime in the history of the US census. And, as it turns out, renting is not working in their favor. The average net worth of a renter is $5,000 whereas the average net worth of a homeowner is $225,000. In addition, renters can expect to spend 30–50% of their income on rent, whereas homeowners can expect to spend 15–25% of their income on their monthly payment. The GenX and Millennial generation have come of home-buying age. They have jobs and they pay rent. In fact, they pay $535 Billion dollars in rent annually and Pew Research says that 72% would prefer to buy a house than continue renting, but they do not qualify for traditional home financing...

We see this as an opportune time to reinvent residential home ownership and we want to ensure this solution is better for all the stakeholders. By verifying three years of rental history and using that number as the basis for a home ownership payment, we are able to offer ownership of highly desirable homes with no downpayment and 5% financing.  Equity starts accruing immediately!

The mission of Dwehl is to grow the net worth of our customers but what we realized was Dwehl also presented us with an extraordinary opportunity to upgrade America’s housing stock to net zero efficiency!”  

dsc03645_orig.jpg

Kevin Bayuk | Force for Good Fund
"Lift Economy has been working with 100s of different social enterprises, mostly small-scale enterprises, trying to reinvent the economy— organizations that are trying to provide needed goods and services, but do it in a way that are non-compromising in terms of their potential social and environmental impact. These types of enterprises are chronically underfunded, under-resourced." 

Kevin went on to explain how Lift Economy saw a gap that needed to be filled, and thus created the Force for Good Fund as a way to fund B Corps who are seeking to model a more diverse and  inclusive ecomomy. 

"It's not traditional to be able to invest in the type of enterprises that we're prioritizing, wth the type of fund that we have."

dsc03657_orig.jpg

Bec Chapin | NODE
"We're building radically-sustainable homes and we're delivering them through an effortless customer service process. And we're doing it because of climate change."

"75% of the buildings that we're going to be using in 2050 don't exist today. So right now, we're building the stock of that... and we have the chance to shape the future."

"We think this is the answer... It's buildings that give back more to the environment than they take. Buildings that become ecosystem services, not just extractions. They're regenerative."

"A company that benefits everyone is the only company we can see ourselves being a part of."

dsc03725_orig.jpg

Aaron Fairchild | Green Canopy & Cedar Fund
"Imagine with me, if you will, a future where all of the energy needs in all of our homes, come from the sun...  where net zero energy homes are the norm. Imagine a future where issues of sustainability and poverty are inextricably linked."

"We have this impression that deep green, net zero energy homes are available only to the upper middle class and to those that can afford them. And these same homes (that are actually more affordable to own and operate through the energy savings) are not available to those that have the greatest need in our society...

Imagine a world where these good homes are affordable. Imagine a future with me where our wild lands are not fragmented by development... but rather our cities, through thoughtful design and density are the key to preserving our wild lands for all of life to thrive...

A future where we're not building regulatory walls that separate us— zoning and regulatory land use walls that create neighborhoods that are exclusive to only those that can afford to move in and have access to those amenities... 

A future of love and empathy for one another because we can see ourselves in the other. Because we live together. We're co-mingled and intermingled in diversity and by the way, we need that diversity of thought, history, perspective to be applied to finding solutions for that future that we envision... a future where our communities are resilient and vibrant because they're inclusive.

Imagine with me.. if you will.. where the hard-earned income that you generate through your labor, that you invest in your children and their future,  does not work at crosspurposes to that future that you envision. Imagine a future in which your hard-earned capital could accelerate and activate the future we envision and earn profits...

The Cedar Fund was designed to address these four issues: resource scarcity and global warming, the housing crisis of access and affordability, urban sprawl, and quality impact investment opportunities not reliant on direct government subsidies."

dsc03701_orig.jpg

Bettina von Hagen | EFM
"Everything we need to do to combat climate change... is right in front of us...

It's not just about the climate. It's about social equity, it's about distribution of wealth, it's about how we relate to each other...

The good news is that climate change could be the stimulus, not just for addressing the climate, but for addressing the fundamental ills of society that we know and that we recognize...

Strategies that we employ in forests, changing the way that we manage them, can double the carbon storers while at the same time yielding this broad range of benefits...

We have the most amazing solar factory in the world, right here in our forests. The needles and leaves are solar receptors. The trunks and the branches are the batteries. These batteries last forever... for hundreds of years."

dsc03767_orig.jpg

Alan Durning | Sightline Institute
Alan, the executive director at Sightline, touched on how the housing crisis today is a housing crisis of "cruel musical chairs... The only way to stop the rise of prices and of rents, displacing those with the fewest resources, is to provide enough chairs. We need more houses of all shapes and sizes...

The question is not, 'can we end cruel musical chairs?' The question is can we do it without sprawling... well, you can." Alan goes on to show how Tokyo, the biggest city in the world and more than 10 times the size of Seattle, has accomplished this by building more dwellings in the city. Vienna was another example cited by Alan.

"In every city where housing is affordable, the lesson is exactly the same for us in Seattle— you have to build enough housing for everyone who wants to be here."

All photos by Reagan Ashley and videos by Kyle Porter of Porterworks