Social Finance

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Mission, Vision, Values: Part 2

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Contributed by Sam Lai

"It was great sitting next to you in English.  Stay cool over the summer and don't ever change!  xoxoxo"  

Every year, there is a common concern that is voiced by our team members when begin our Mission, Vision, Values review process. If we love our company culture...why would we ever consider changing our values. They are, after all, at the core of how we treat each other.  

"I love working at Green Canopy and I hope we never change!"  

However, when I consider what it means to grow-up, I'm reminded of how thankful my wife is that I've changed since she met me. Angie and I were barely past puberty when we met at the University of Washington. At that time, one of my greatest talents was a smile and my signature wink.  Seriously. The wink was the single greatest strength in my arsenal of babe-wooing skills.  For some reason, the wink doesn't do much for Angie now when I come home to our family of 5. Fortunately, I've grown up just a little bit I've added dish washing to my tool belt. We haven't lost that loving feeling, but we've certainly grown up.  

As for Green Canopy, we've grown up as a company too. We will remain focused on our mission to inspire resource efficiency. And many core values remain the same such as "authentic communication" and being "solutions focused." But how have we grown and changed? Below are some of the ways that are values are evolving at Green Canopy. In our MVV: Part 3 we will look at our final list of Values as well as how we have incorporated our shared values into our employee review process.

What's Changing?

1. "If it ain't broken, break it!"  
We started our company with a commitment to Innovation - While most builders exist only to make profit. Green Canopy exists to fulfill our mission...our profit allows us to continue our mission work.  
We started using the EPS score developed in Portland to baseline our projects' annual modeled energy consumption before most people ever heard of an energy audit. Oops.  I forgot, most people still don't know what it is!  Innovation is already at the core of who we are and we won't forget it. Today we have shifted our focus away from innovation toward "Professional Mastery."  The focus on systems and processes we've developed and continue to improve will allow us to build many more inspirational homes efficiently in multiple market areas...sounds innovative right?  

2. "Live-Work-Balance" 
In the past, this mantra was used to describe how we value each other beyond work.  However, the words seemed to set our personal life at odds against our work. Most of us see our personal purpose lived out in the work that we get to do here at Green Canopy. The new verbiage will sound more like "Fostering Community at Work."  

3. "Autonomy" 
This value came from Daniel Pink and his exploration of Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose being a prime motivation for individuals to excel in their work. You can watch the TED talk here.

Autonomy is at the core of the most driven teams, and since this cultural orientation is pretty well set at Green Canopy – we are shifting our attention to the next level, Accountability! This takes into account how our individual work connects to the greater team.

In the grand scheme, an outsider will not notice too much of a change in the way we treat each other here at Green Canopy. Many of the atypical values you'd never expect to see at a construction company will remain intact. We will continue to stay lighthearted and have fun. We will continue to talk about our feelings. And good god yes, we value vulnerability!  At the core of it, these values help us to communicate well, excel and to learn and grow quickly.  We know we have a mission to accomplish and we have to grow past our comfort zone to do it.  

Some days, I still wish that a simple wink is enough to be the hero. But my family is certainly better off with the fact that I've learned how to wash the dishes really, really, really well.

Corporate Values & Corporate Culture: is it Legit, or is it lip Service?

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Contributed by Aaron Fairchild, CEO of Green Canopy Inc.

According to 2013 research published by Luigi Guiso, Paolo Sapienza and Luigi Zingales, The Value of Corporate Culture, 85% of S&P 500 companies have at least one section of their website dedicated to -- what they call -- “corporate culture” i.e. principals and values that should inform the behavior of the firm’s employees. Values are important to promote and advertise on corporate websites and reports, because it is imperative for companies to manage their image. External stakeholders expect companies to have thought about their values and publicly acknowledge them. The act of creating and promoting values can help assure external and internal stakeholders that the company has a higher degree of integrity and is guided to conduct their business in a way that is consistent with and based on their stated values. 

Start with Intention

I recently spoke with the CEO of a publicly traded bank who was extremely proud of his employees for going through the process to create and document their values. They were, “developed by a group of really passionate employees that love this organization and only want the best for the bank, our employees and our customers.” Their guiding philosophy relating to their values are stated as, “Our Core Values encourage us to act in a manner that “wows” others and provide us with the opportunity to guide our actions that allow us to become who we want to be. We take pride in our Core Values and strive to live them each day.” This is an example that provides insight into great intentions and proactive leadership. However, when I asked him, “What does the bank do to ‘strive to live them each day’?” he floundered. Wasn’t it enough to go through the process to create their values and then promote them both externally and internally?

Learn from Employee Perception

This is a great place to start. But organizations that want to leverage the power of corporate culture to increase productivity and returns need to do more. 

The Guiso, et al. study also uncovered some additional, interesting facts regarding advertised values. Notably, the value most commonly exploited by the S&P 500 companies was “Innovation” followed by “Integrity” and “Respect”. When the researchers attempted “…to correlate the frequency and prominence of these values to measures of short and long term performance,” they “...fail[ed] to find any significant correlation.” Basically they found that advertised values are not a great indicator of corporate and employee performance. Perhaps that is because it is easy to state your values, so everyone does. 

Another point to note in the research is the concept of perceived value. The study found that if the employees of the company perceive management to have a high level of integrity, there was a positive correlation, and good outcomes in terms of higher productivity, profitability, and the ability of the company to attract talent. In other words it isn’t enough to create and promote values, they had to be perceived and held within the employee base of the organization.

Living Values

So how do we know if a company’s stated values are not just something that they claim to be true, but are indeed perceived and held by the employees of the company? 

A few clues to consider in your evaluation process: 

  1. If the company has its values listed internally or in an orientation packet, but they do not advertise their stated values on their website, this would suggest a note of caution. Again, according to the research paper, 15% of all S&P 500 companies do not advertise values. If you don’t talk about your values or share them with outside stakeholders then it is hard to be held accountable to them. It may also indicate that their management wants to be authentic and doesn’t feel the need to advertise values, however it certainly begs inspection.

  2. Does the firm, large or small, value their Human Resources Department or efforts. In small, start-up firms many times HR is valued lower than marketing. The commitment of the leadership to focus on their number ONE asset, their human resources, is indicative of their values. In larger companies, is the head of HR part of the Executive Suite? In other words how high up are Human Resources valued? If the head of HR is nowhere near the top of the company, this would indicate a gap and that the leadership of the firm does not have a high attribution to corporate values. 

  3. Inquire how developed their internal recruiting processes are. If employees don’t want to recommend their friends to work at the company… something may be off.

  4. Can an employee who has been at the company around one year tell you the values of the company? If the company is living their values, it should be easy and even exciting to share with others the shared sets of values at the firm.

  5. Can managers and employees give examples of when others made decisions that aligned with the values of the firm? Clearly if no one can, I would question if their values are lip service.

  6. Lastly, ask the vendors and customers of the firm what makes the company different from others in same field. If examples of what makes the firm different line up with their stated values, you can assume that their values are not just lip service and that the employee on the front lines is living the firm’s values. 


I am sure you can think of many more “sniff tests”. The fact that anyone can truth-test stated values should give employees, investors, and customers alike a leg up in identifying if a company is truly anchored by its values (which correlates to performance and profitability) or if their stated values are just the lip service of corporate collateral created in the back halls of the Marketing Department.