This article was originally featured in ColoradoBiz magazine. Click here to read the full feature.

In this ongoing series, ColoradoBiz magazine sits down with a Best for Colorado company to learn all about the impact they have in our state. We sat down with director of people and culture, Michelle Miller of Wordbank for this interview.

This interview is part of an ongoing series with ColoradoBiz Magazine to learn from Best for Colorado companies about the impact they have in our state.

Taking a traditional industry or profession and transforming it for the greater good can be difficult, but that is just what Wordbank did with marketing. While the company helps global brands create and execute localized marketing campaigns and communications programs, it also decided to run its business people first.

“Since 1988, we’ve prided ourselves on being something different in our industry. Committed to human-driven language delivery and a people-first mentality, we do business with integrity,” says Michelle Miller, director of people and culture at Wordbank. “We believe that our people are our greatest asset, our culture sets us apart from our competitors and our commitment to what we can achieve together is unrivalled in our industry.”

In the years since its founding, Wordbank has executed marketing campaigns – for both large and small companies with the focus of growing their international brand and presence – in more than 200 languages across 95 countries. And, it is in the process of becoming a certified B Corp.

ColoradoBiz: How is corporate social responsibility (CSR) a function or priority within your organization? How did it emerge?

Michelle Miller: Our approach to CSR is built into who we are, how we work and who we do business with.

We believe that treating people and the planet well inspires a cycle of positive change and drives sustainable business. That’s why we’re committed to living by three simple words: people, planet, profit. These words drive our purpose and are embedded in our culture and our company strategy.

While we always strive to be the best in the world at what we do, we also want to be the best for the world as we do it. In 2012, we made a strategic commitment to fully develop our CSR practices and to pursue certification and accreditations to prove that we don’t simply talk about our mission; we take action.

We are in the process of becoming a certified B Corp and joining B Lab’s growing movement. We’re all for profits but not at any cost. We believe in the B Economy — an inclusive economy that creates an opportunity for all people to live with dignity, support themselves and their families, and make a contribution to their communities. Our industry has much to improve in this regard and we are proud to stand with other companies who share these values.

CB: What are the specific programs, practices and priorities that fall within your organization’s CSR approach? How has this evolved?

MM: Our CSR consists of several programs and practices, including: a volunteering and charitable giving program; an environmental action program; a health and wellness program; promoting equity, diversity and inclusion; equal pay for equal work pledge; Wordbank votes program; and a happiness team.

Our CSR programs largely evolved through the way we do business. The B Impact Assessment helped us put in structure and drive accountability around our natural operating standards, where previously we didn’t have a formal framework to define and measure our impact. It provided the baseline we should be aiming for, not just for certification, but as a way to benchmark our wider impact on the world.

CB: What is most rewarding/challenging about this aspect of your organization’s work?

MM: The most rewarding aspect of these CSR programs is walking the walk around our commitment to doing business with integrity and putting people first.

On the flip side, that’s also been the most challenging aspect: completing the B Impact Assessment, writing up supporting documentation and formalizing our KPIs and reporting. It’s been a long journey but we approached it as a side-by-side effort — progressing with the assessment as we documented policies and programs, figuring out how to report on our impact and bringing our people with us along the way.

CB: What was the proudest achievement you’ve faced? 

MM: Our proudest achievement so far was being selected and awarded Best for Colorado Honoree. This was an incredibly important milestone for us. Our work with the B Impact Assessment undoubtedly put us into the running for the Best for Colorado program and, conversely, the Best for Colorado program helped us with the final push towards B Corp certification.

CB: How did you become involved with the Best for Colorado program?

MM: We first heard about the Best for Colorado program through a B Lab lunch and learn. Once we understood the assessment would pull questions and answers from the B Impact Assessment, it seemed a natural part of our journey.

As a Best for Colorado Honoree, we were invited to the Champions Retreat in New Orleans last October, which opened the door for us to feel connected with the broader community and learn more about those the members. That opportunity further motivated us to finalize and submit our completed assessment.

CB: Can you describe any eye-opening experiences that Best for Colorado presented?

MM: Going through the verification process really helped us look at our client base in a different way, leading us to put KPIs in place around doing business with people who share our values. We realized that almost 45% of our current client base had an established CSR track record.

CB: What does success look like for you as it relates to the goals and expectations of Best for Colorado and your own corporate responsibility strategies?

MM: For us, success is about continuing the journey we started many years ago and standing with other companies who share our values and commitment to “business as a force for good.” As an organization with global resources in 95 countries, and part of an industry that could do better in its treatment of its people, we are focused on challenging the status quo and spreading the B Corp message across our global network. We hope to empower our people around the cause and connect our clients with a better experience in the process.

This article was originally featured in ColoradoBiz magazine. Click here to read the full feature. 

This interview is part of an ongoing series with ColoradoBiz Magazine to learn from Best for Colorado companies about the impact they have in our state.

ColoradoBiz: Can you define the specific programs, practices and priorities that fall within your organization’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) approach?

Andy Downs: We are a mission-driven company, and that mission is pet health, as well as nutrition and sustainability. We’re really focused on the health of companion animals, and we’re also focused on our social and environmental impact as a company. Transparency fits into both of those fields for us.

One of the biggest things we have done to really back up our CSR is our Vendor Code of Conduct. The Vendor Code of Conduct sets expectations that we have with our suppliers to make sure they are following the ethical business practices that we follow. In the code of conduct we’re also holding out our hand to say, we’re a partner in this and we want to be there to answer sustainability questions and support you. We’re on that path together with our sourcing and vendors.

CB: How did you establish the objectives behind sourcing more responsibly? How do you ensure suppliers comply?

AD: The way we look at it is sustainable sourcing is as healthy sourcing. The main screening process is our unacceptable ingredients list, which includes 40 things we found to be objectionable to the best life and health for your pets. So, if a person is using those in their manufacturing process, we don’t consider them to be a reliable vendor to work with.

Third-party certifications are also helpful for us to make informed decisions on our supply chain. We work with the Global Animal Partnership, we rely on MSC (Certified Sustainable Seafood) and we look for non-GMO certification. We also rely on our Vendor Code of Conduct to make sure they are aware of our expectations and know we’re in this together to find solutions.

It’s a lot of work upfront, but it definitely pays dividends down the road because it’s getting everything in line so that you can make sure that you have a well running supply chain.

CB: What is most rewarding/challenging about the corporate responsibility aspect of your organization’s work? What areas are you most concentrated on right now and why?

AD: Our biggest concentration right now is the employee engagement aspect. We have implemented a sustainability goal into every team member’s annual review. It’s been a big help for us because peoples’ wages are then tied into the sustainability of the company. Our bonus plan is based on each employee’s goals and one of their goals is based on sustainability. We’re growing pretty fast right now, and we want to have a person at each of those locations who is understanding of what the company’s sustainability mission is and who is actively working to implement that with their colleagues.

In the past, everyone was associated sustainability with environmental sustainability, but with the B Corp process it’s given us that great opportunity to say how we do sustainability. It is environmental sustainability absolutely, but it’s also community sustainability; how we operate in the communities where we work; how our company is governed with transparency of financials and ensuring we are legally mission-locked; and how it affects workers and their satisfaction with their job and diversity in our workplace. Once you really broaden it to those four categories and let the team know these are all part of our sustainability mission, a lot more people get on board.

CB: What is your proudest achievement?

AD: Our proudest achievement is our B Corp certification, which just happened in January. That was a company-wide push that took a lot of people’s effort to come to realization. It was a nice way for us to put the stamp on our sustainability efforts.

CB: What is an obstacle you’ve had to overcome and how did you do so?

AD: Culture can be a difficult thing to change sometimes. You can’t just say, we’re a mission-driven sustainability company and expect everybody to know what that means or how to help support that mission.

I would say the biggest help in overcoming that challenge was the company-wide buy in, specifically from Marty, our founder. He was really the one that said, ‘I think B certification is important for Only Natural Pet, and it’s something that I want us to pursue.’ With him buying in from day one, it helped everyone to understand the importance of it to the company and to find their role in the certification process.

CB: What do you recommend for companies who are looking to source goods from local/environmentally conscious suppliers but don’t know where to start?

AD: We talk about the Pet Sustainability Coalition and our history with them. I really try to express to other companies who are looking to source more sustainably to look for collaboration.

Try to find an industry group like that if it exists, and if it isn’t there, I would encourage anyone to open up and work collaboratively with anyone in their industry. If you are expecting yourself to go at it alone, it’s going to seem like a really big uphill process, but if you have friends to rely on or people to reach out to that will share that advice, it can really help out.

CB: Why did you join Best for Colorado? And what are you hoping to gain from the partnership?

AD: The thing that I’ve enjoyed most from Best for Colorado is the relationships and idea sharing. It really takes that nervousness away from seeing if you are interested in sustainability and how you go about some of the challenges that we all have. With Best for Colorado, I go to an event and I’m surrounded by people who are all willing to talk about sustainability, and it makes things a lot easier. It is a hub for sustainability-aware and sustainability-conscious Colorado businesses to get together and really rely on each other to make sure we are all working towards similar goals.

We spoke to Fancy Tiger owners Jamie Jennings and Amber Corcoran.

Tell us a little about Fancy Tiger.

We are Fancy Tiger Crafts, which is a retail craft supply store in Denver, Colorado, that opened in 2006. We’ve been around for 13 years and we’re located just south of downtown in the South Broadway shopping district. We sell supplies for textile related crafts such as sewing, knitting, crochet, embroidery, weaving, macramé, punch needle sewing and spinning and we also teach classes in all of those crafts.

How did corporate social responsibility emerge – what was the inspiration for this action?

I think it emerged in two ways for us. One, the business has been growing since we opened. It used to just be Amber and I, the two owners, but as we grow we have more people working here and we’ve realized that we can have an impact on our employees lives and make this a really great place for people to want to work.

Also, we have been developing relationships with a lot of the companies that we carry here and a lot of them are doing really great things, either for the environment or for the people who work for them, so being able to highlight and seek out those types of companies for the products we carry has become more and more important.

Moving forward I hope we can be an inspiration for companies we work with to be more conscientious of their practices as well. That is one of our goals, to find a way to be able to influence how people are making the products we carry and to look at the way they run their businesses and hopefully inspire them to become a better business both socially and ecologically.

 Can you talk more about all of the social and environmental policies you have listed on your website? For example, eco-conscious shipping materials, cleaning supplies, supporting minority owned businesses, you work with local organizations, and donation Fridays, etc.?

We have been changing a lot of our environmental policies as a result of becoming Certifiably Green Denver. Working with them was a really great experience and it really helped us examine everything about our store and the impact it has on the environment. Some of the things that have happened as a result are; becoming 100% wind powered, enrolling and becoming a partner with 1% for the planet, we have done a lot of research and have switched over our shipping supplies to be mostly post-consumer waste and recyclable and compostable even down to the tape we use on our packaging. Around the store things like toilet paper and paper towels are made from post-consumer waste and so is the paper we use when we print things. They really helped us examine all aspects in regards to our environmental impact and suggest simple fixes we could change quickly. It was a really cool experience.

Some of the other things we are working on is really trying to develop a community and being welcome to all crafters, regardless of their race, religion, gender orientation, or craft ability. We really just want to make this a place that is great for our employees to work and our customers. 

Can you expand on the resources you have used and found helpful throughout this transition?

We look at the B Corp Assessment pretty frequently. A lot of the things we do for the staff we have learned from the B Corp Assessment and really wouldn’t have thought about before. For example things like offering paid volunteer hours and including more staff surveys and feedback questioners. These were really easy things to implement and we just learned about them from looking at the Impact Assessment.

What is the value for your business to start this journey? What areas are your most concentrated on right now and why?

I think the value to our business is feeling good about knowing that we are trying to make positive changes in the world. I also think it’s really valuable to make the staff happy so they stay here longer and they enjoy working here and then it trickles down to the customers. But, I think more importantly the value is knowing that we are trying to do the best that we can. I think a large percent of our customers also really appreciate knowing the types of things we are doing and I hope that makes them want to support us as loyal customers.

We just finished with Certifiable Green Denver and we were very concentrated on the environmental impact aspect of the business. Now we are working on benefits for our employees. We are trying to make our benefits package more enticing and really trying to raise our minimum wage of where we start people so that everyone here is making a living wage for Denver, Colorado, or above.

The other thing I see in the near future for us is focusing on the products that we carry and curating them to be more aligned with what we believe in. I think as we put that together a vendor code of conduct, it going to be a really great way to start the conversation with the current suppliers we have and encourage them to look at their business practices and how they are creating their products if they haven’t already. We want to know if companies are already doing positive things or are looking to improve the way they create their products so we can focus on carrying those lines. And we want our customers to be able to learn about how they can make choices with their craft supplies to have a positive impact on the world. We hope sharing that kind of information will perpetuate better and better practices.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your suppliers?

There are some suppliers we use that are doing some really great and innovative things that we want to support even if we can’t implement those practices into our own business. For instance, several of our yarn companies can trace their wool back to a single farm that they so they know how the sheep were treated, where the sheep came from, and they have been with the wool through every step in the process of it becoming yarn. We really love seeing that kind of traceability. There are also yarn makers that are doing things like reusing dye water and coming up with a variety of practices to be more environmentally friendly that we didn’t even know could be done. Once we hear of one person doing that, we now know we can ask other companies if they too are doing it.

We do try to act locally but it is a lot harder with the production of fabric and yarn because we have outsourced so much of that industry, it’s impossible to make a Colorado fabric that hasn’t left the state. We don’t have that industry.  For us, it’s more about being traceable. It’s nice if products can be all U.S. made but we are really ok with importing products from other countries if we know that it’s a closed production system in the country that is providing good jobs and taking care of the animals. For instance, we carry Shutland wool from the Shutland islands in the UK and Icelandic Yarn. Even though those are coming from far away, those products are doing a really great job in their country.

What is most rewarding/challenging about this aspect of your organization’s work?

The most rewarding thing is sharing with the staff the types of changes that we are making or that we want to make and seeing them be really excited about it and giving us feedback and ideas to help us implement those changes.

The most challenging is definitely that we have a lot of ambitious ideas and not really  the time to get them all done. It’s hard to prioritize what we to do and finding the time to make it happen.

As a company going through this transition to be more socially and environmentally conscious, do you have any recommendations for other companies looking to do the same?

I definitely think taking the B Corp Assessment is very helpful and a really great first step because there are so many things in there that we didn’t think about but were really easy to implement. There are a lot of things that are basically free to do but it’s just a matter of knowing it’s important, and doing it. One thing we did after taking the B Corp Assessment is we put together a spreadsheet with all of the things we wanted to do as a company and thought would be beneficial to do. We marked their priority of importance and how hard it would be and expensive it would be for us do them so that we had a good idea of where we could start and where we could easily begin to make progress. We took it step by step and that made it a lot easier to get going. We started with the really simple and easy things like changing to all eco-friendly cleaning supplies and reusable cleaning supplies rather than disposable or chemical based supplies. We started with the easier things and are working towards the harder ones.

Why did you join Best for Colorado? And what are you hoping to gain from this partnership?

We are excited about being part of a network of other businesses that share similar values. We are excited to get to know them and what they are doing. Best For Colorado also has some really awesome resources we are excited to use, especially when it comes to helping us create a supplier code of conduct. We are excited to work with volunteers and students that are eager to work with us have the time and know-how to help us. It’s all exiting.

This article was originally featured in ColoradoBiz magazine. Click here to read the full feature. 

In this ongoing series, ColoradoBiz magazine sits down with a Best for Colorado company to learn all about the impact they have in our state. We sat down with manager Pat Lynch and owner Emily Baratta for this interview.

Best for Colorado: Present your company; a quick overview of who you are, what the organization does, how long the organization has been around and what differentiates you in the marketplace.

Gleam Car Wash: Gleam Car Wash is reimagining how a car wash can impact an entire ecosystem, from water use to employment opportunities to investor return to community engagement. Our goal is to change the standard for car washes. A genuine impact investment, Gleam is a mini-water-treatment plant, a power generator, a job creator and an extremely smart investment, with cash on cash returns in excess of 20 percent. Gleam has been open for two and a half years and in that time has saved over 20 million gallons of potable water while washing over 230,000 cars. It’s not just about washing cars, it’s not just about providing a quality product, it’s also about changing the way this industry operates.

25 percent of our staff is autistic. 90 percent of autistic people are considered to be unhirable, but in this industry, they are great employees. We want to implement these programs to not only change the way car washes hire people but the way all of Denver hires people. We want to bring attention to these types of special needs employees. In September we’re having a showcase here and various companies are coming out to see how we operate our program. We’re very much proud of our own success, but we are also into the success of our own communities and I don’t think a lot of car washes can say that.

BFC: What is the value for your business to start this journey?  What areas are you concentrating most on right now and why?

GCW: Gleam fills a community need: at some point, everyone washes their car, and there is no tunnel car wash within three miles of Gleam’s 38th Avenue location. The fundamental economics of car washing are sound. If executed properly, they are a highly profitable business.

Everyone should wash their car regularly because doing so is best for the environment. Cars pick up dirt and heavy metals as they drive around Denver to and from the mountains. At a car wash like Gleam, those chemicals are washed into our filtration system. If you wait for a rain or snow event to “rinse” your car, those toxins go straight into our stormwater system.

Building the business was an opportunity for us to make a big difference in terms of job creation, the types of jobs we were creating and the type of work environment we provide. Because car washing as an industry hasn’t seen a tremendous amount of change, ever, it presented a unique opportunity to catalyze an industry-wide change that would have real impact in terms of water use, energy reduction and awareness at the same time. Our corporate responsibility areas of emphasis are on our hiring practices and our environmental stewardship.

BFC: How did corporate responsibility emerge – was there a specific event or individual that inspired this action?

GCW: Gleam’s founders, Emilie Baratta and Rob Madrid, live in the same neighborhood as the Gleam flagship flex serve car wash and both agreed that a car wash lends itself to all sorts of corporate social responsibility initiatives and that those initiatives, if properly designed and implemented, could help improve the bottom line for their investors.

BFC: You reclaim 90 percent of your water and treat it all of it onsite, can you tell me more about this? How were you able to make this possible?

GCW: As a mini-water treatment plant, Gleam captures and treats 90 to 95 percent of the water used in the wash tunnel. We do this through a gravity-driven filtration system (four 1,500-gallon tanks, two micro-filtration tanks and  UV treatment) that filter the water used in the tunnel and recycle it for reuse. The system is so good that we do not have particulates that are greater than 5 microns in our recycled water, because ensuring that we do not scratch cars is paramount to our business model.  .

In two years, Gleam has washed over 230,000 cars and saved over 20 million gallons of potable water. A regular car wash – or you, with your hose, in your driveway -– uses around 100 gallons of potable water per wash. At Gleam we use around 120 gallons per car, but most of those are recycled. This results in very clean cars that use very little drinkable water. We have $200,000 in water and sewer discharge savings to date.

BFC: You’re also very energy efficient in the car wash tunnel. You have LED Lighting and Solar Panels. For a lot of businesses trying to take a step towards becoming more eco-friendly and energy efficient, the cost of such a transition can be intimidating. What would you say to a company or business owner who is interested to take this leap but hesitant about the initial investment?

GCW:There are two key metrics a small business has to take into consideration: 1. The initial up front equipment and installation costs and how to finance/afford those costs, and 2. the payback analysis, or how long it takes you to recoup your investment. Any solar installer will help to optimize the design of your array and the payback analysis, including tax credits if they apply. For other energy-optimization techniques like LEDs and VFDs, it helps to reach out to Xcel directly, as they have an entire design and rebate program to help small businesses decrease their overall energy consumption and, particularly, their peak energy consumption. Also, many local banks will help offset initial first costs by offering loans. Sometimes this makes the difference, economically, for a small business.

BFC: Can you talk about Environmental Leadership Program Silver Certification?

GCW: The State’s Environmental Leadership Program is incredibly well-run and some of the very best Colorado businesses participate, so for Gleam, it’s great company to be in. It helps establish us as a leader, state-wide because we are the only car wash we know of that is participating in the ELP Program. Since it is our stated goal to help Colorado shift its legislation on how car washes deal with water issues, I think it’s nice positioning. But most importantly, from a business perspective, especially as we look to grow, they have a nice amount of peer-to-peer coaching and it’s helping us set up and Environmental Management System which is much easier to set up when you are small and grow as you grow then to retroactively fit. In short and long-term it is strategically a very good fit.

BFC: And can you talk about winning the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce Green Business of the Year 2018?

GCW: We were so honored even to be a finalist – and then shocked and delighted that we were selected as the winner! The Denver Metro Chamber runs an incredible process to select their Business of the Year winners; they really help get businesses out there, they support networking, they offer amazing courses and sponsor impressive events. It’s been very validating to have recognition by such a well-run and influential group. We are small entrepreneurs, so votes of confidence are greatly appreciated personally, and to receive such a high-profile honor was impactful to our business as a whole. For the companies we were up against, we thought, “how are we supposed to compete? These are nationwide companies!” but it felt good, like all of the work we did has paid off. It was incredibly validating for the owners and for the staff.

BFC: Do you try to improve upon your impact year after year? How?

GCW: We had what we thought would be enough to brand us but we are now elaborating and expanding on that and seeking certifications that are going to credit our actions as well as show us where we need to improve. That’s what has us most excited about Best for Colorado, we can present this to our investors and say this is the standard, this is where we are and these are the tools we need to reach our goals. These certifications will guide us to being the best we can be as a company. Year after year, we’re positioning ourselves to set new standards

BFC: Shifting gears, why did you join Best for Colorado? What are you hoping to gain from this partnership?

GCW: Gleam has benefited by being a part of Colorado’s most influential networks, such as the Chamber of Commerce and the ELP program.  We believe that the company you keep, as a business, reflects on how you do business, and we always want to strive to be best in class.  We see the Best for Colorado program as a key partner in this endeavor.  Also, we like to work with other industry-leading businesses, and programs like Best for Colorado tend to attract some of the most strategically forward-thinking business owners. Gleam hopes to inspire long-term change in the car washing business, and it’s likely that a combination of legislation and state-sponsored financing mechanisms will be the vehicle for transforming all car washes from water hogs, using primarily potable water, to water treatment facilities, which preserve one of our greatest natural resources while continuing to do great business.  For this sort of industry-wide change, a program like Best for Colorado could provide resources.