This article was originally featured in ColoradoBiz magazine: Click here to read the full feature.
Companies of Peace (CoPeace) is a holding firm at the vanguard of sustainable impact investing. It has worked to build a profitable, ethical, sustainable portfolio that everyone can invest in. Best for Colorado spoke with Craig Jonas, CEO of CoPeace, to learn more about this B-Corp certified company.
Best for Colorado: How did you decide on the name CoPeace?
Craig Jonas: Companies of Peace evolved from the idea of putting all these companies that are doing good things for the world under one umbrella, and then we shortened it to CoPeace to make it more intriguing. The word peace is especially significant to me because of my background. My parents were both very interested in social justice—my dad marched with Martin Luther King Jr.—so, I always had a sense of wanting to be more involved in this kind of community.
When we discovered the impact investing movements, we decided the timing might be right for our Companies of Peace idea. We argue that the only way we are going to have peace in our world is by changing the current financial system to be more inclusive and caring about our future.
BFCO: How did CoPeace get started? What is most rewarding aspect about your company’s work or what are you most proud of?
CJ: I’m trying to make a difference my kids can believe in (I have 22 and 26-year-olds). I was looking at what was going on in the world, and I started to ask myself, ‘What’s going to be my contribution?’
I wanted to find a path that was more mission-aligned with my worldview. In contrast with past work I’ve done, I now feel a deep alignment with our mission, and we have an incredible team. Having been part of nine startups in the past, I know it is all about the team, and I don’t think there’s anything more rewarding than working toward a common goal with teammates you like and respect.
BFCO: Your company emphasizes the involvement of “non-traditional” investors. How did this emerge as a priority within your company, and how has this evolved or improved over time?
CJ: The current system is not working for more than 90% of our world and it has only worsened inequality. Our idea was to take the Berkshire Hathaway approach and allow everyone to have access to it. We felt we could make a significant improvement if we could create a tool that provides a path to build equity for people from communities that haven’t traditionally had access. As we’ve gone along, more ‘institutional’ investor types have told us how difficult this is. We’ve realized this, but we’ve only become more and more committed as a result. Our goal is to democratize the process so almost everyone can directly invest in companies without being wealthy accredited investors.
BFCO: Can you tell us a little bit about the process by which a company gets added to your portfolio?
CJ: We use the head plus hear plus math approach:
The good news is that we’re finding a lot of promising opportunities in which companies that are more sustainable and more egalitarian are better positioned for long-term success. We use B Corp’s criteria and mission-alignment to figure out who to do business with. Of all the companies we evaluate for possible inclusion in our portfolio, we only invest in about 2% of them.
BFCO: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far, and how did you overcome it?
CJ: The biggest challenge so far has been the somewhat cumbersome bureaucracy. The legal, audit and compliance processes are quite onerous and expensive. We are fortunate to have friends and family who are supportive of what we are trying to do, and who believe in our mission; my brother was our first investor. The diverse capabilities of our staff allow us to get things done together.
BFCO: You’re competing with other investment companies and non-investment organizations. What do you believe sets you apart from the competition?
CJ: We welcome anything that democratizes and gives people access in a different way, and we think that’s a good thing. One of our differentiators is our leaders have deep experience. We have brought in experienced people who bring leadership, finance and marketing skills, which gives us an inclusive set of abilities. Another differentiating factor includes our emphasis on involving non-traditional investors. CoPeace is trying to balance the expertise of older people with the idealism of younger people, and we’re committed to diversity in all aspects of our work.
BFCO: Could you please share how you first heard about the Best for Colorado program?
CJ: Being a certified B Corp, we are constantly looking for ways to be more involved in a community of like-minded and mission-aligned companies both locally and globally. Since we founded CoPeace, we have been following The Alliance Center and had built relationships with a few individuals on their team. One day we received an email about the Best for Colorado program and decided to explore the option.
Joining the program felt so natural and had a very local community feel to it. We enjoy Best for Colorado because it’s brought us into another network of companies who are perhaps not yet certified B Corps, but are mission-aligned and in the state. Best for Colorado allows us good opportunities to join forces with these companies and be part of a growing community.
BFCO: What is your company’s vision of the future?
CJ: We envision becoming a modernized Berkshire Hathaway. Our vision is to become a publicly-traded entity that grows because of our authenticity and ability to make good choices. We want to be extremely genuine about our investments so that young people, women and people from marginalized communities can invest in companies with long-term goals to create social and environmental change.
Montanya Distiller was recently highlighted on a blog post we wrote about Best for Colorado companies leading the way during this pandemic. Here’s what they had to say in response: https://www.montanyarum.com/blog/2020/4/23/in-the-media-leading-the-way-during-coronavirus
This article was originally featured in ColoradoBiz magazine. Click here to read the full feature.
Colorado has been on a mission to reduce the use of plastic as several cities across the state have banned (or are considering banning) the use of plastic bags in retail and grocery stores. Which is why a new startup, Infinity Goods is looking to eliminate waste in how groceries are packaged.
Infinity Goods created a zero-waste grocery delivery service that sources and delivers a wide selection of food and household goods in reusable containers. Then, like the milkman, they retrieve, clean and reuse the containers for future deliveries, taking plastic packaging waste out of the grocery experience.
Best for Colorado: How did sustainability emerge as a priority within your company, and how has this evolved or improved over time?
Ashwin Ramadas: We are first and foremost a mission-driven company. We created Infinity Goods specifically to fight plastic pollution. Our top priority is diverting packaging waste, so it’s at the heart of every decision we make as a company. Whether we’re figuring out what items to add to our online, zero-waste marketplace or which company to partner with next, we base decisions on what prevents the most packaging waste.
BFCO: What is most rewarding and challenging about this aspect of your organization’s work?
AR: The results have been very rewarding so far. In our first three and a half months of operation, we have prevented over 2,000 pieces of packaging waste from being created. Delivering food to the customer knowing that none of it will go to a landfill or become litter is the most fulfilling feeling.
BFCO: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far and how did you overcome it?
AR: We have faced many challenges since starting our zero-waste grocery delivery service. The main hurdle was building a wide selection of products that our customers can get without the plastic waste. We want to be a one stop shop for all of your customer’s grocery needs, so that means offering more than just what you can find in a grocery store’s bulk section. To overcome this challenge, we have partnered with over a dozen Colorado businesses to source specialty foods before they get wrapped in single-use plastic. Because of these partnerships we can offer foods like tofu, cheese, energy bars, ice cream and much more without the packaging waste.
BFCO: Tell us about how you were initially connected with the Best for Colorado program.
AR: We learned about the Best for Colorado program at the Denver Sustainability Summit, and we were eager to join. We want to be part of the coalition working to bring a cleaner, greener future to our state. This program is important for us because it validates our business’s mission and serves as a tool to help customers know we are mission-driven company focused on environmental sustainability.
BFCO: Can you describe any eye-opening experiences that Best for Colorado has presented?
AR: We want to partner with more companies and non-governmental organizations in the Best for Colorado program and also get the word out to more potential customers. The Best for Colorado program presents opportunities in both of these areas.
Best for Colorado is a program of the Alliance Center. It allows Colorado companies to measure and improve their social and environmental impact, regardless of where they are on their corporate social responsibility journey. Best for Colorado offers programming and tools for all Colorado companies, including B Corps, to improve their practices and connect participating companies with local resources, education and support
The Best for Colorado community has demonstrated immense resilience and care during this difficult time and we couldn’t be more appreciative. Here are five Best for Colorado companies that we’d like to highlight:
To help support frontline institutions like, hospital, senior care centers and doctors’ offices, Montanya Distillers, an American rum company, has pivoted their production to make an antiviral surface sanitizer! The distillery is collaborating with the Gunnison County Incident Command Center to distribute the sanitizer to those most in need in their community. In a recent blog post on their webpage they explained, “we believe it’s our duty and responsibility to do what we can to help our community navigate this challenging and uncertain time.”
Every month Ship Sunshine picks a cause to support, and next month’s will be nurses and teachers! Sending these critical workers care packages and giveaways is their way of showing their appreciation and spreading a little sunshine to those who need it most during this difficult time. Ship Sunshine offers a carefully curated collection of gift boxes designed to brighten anyone’s day and you can also build your own gift box on their website. With so many of us needing a little extra care and thought during this turbulent time, Ship Sunshine is definitely helping spread some joy.
During this time the world has scrambled to online shopping platforms.What makes Simple Switch different from other platforms is their commitment to ethics, labor laws and environmental impact. Their collection of ethical products ensures that your purchase directly makes a positive impact, spanning from environmental innovations to supporting development projects. Lately, they’ve been offering discounts to encourage people to shop online rather than leave their homes. If you’re looking for an alternative to Amazon, for an ecologically and socially conscious e-commerce website, consider Switch Switch.
Phunkshun Wear normally manufactures ski masks out of plastic water bottles. Right now, they’re committed to doing their part to slow the spread of coronavirus by donating a mask to the Colorado Mask Project for every mask purchased. Using a mask like theirs can help Colorado communities protect themselves against the spread of the virus, while simultaneously helping ensure that medical workers face no shortage of N95 masks. Governor Jared Polis even appeared on television, wearing a Phunkshun Wear Colorado branded personal hygiene mask, encouraging all Coloradans to wear non-medical protective masks outdoors.
Upslope Brewing Company was started by three friends chasing a passion for outdoor adventure. The company’s craft beers are meant to be enjoyed on the mountain, in a creek or along the trailhead.
The company’s enthusiasm for the outdoors inspires their initiatives to use less, waste less and conserve more. From partnerships with organizations like Trout Unlimited 1% for Rivers, Leave No Trace and Protect our Winters to conscientious production practices and packaging choices, Upslope is leading a movement of breweries committed to brewing better as a certified B Corporation.
Lauren Farkas with Best for Colorado spoke with Elizabeth Waters, Sustainability Coordinator at Upslope, to learn more about the company’s movement.
Best for Colorado: Can you give me a quick elevator pitch for Upslope Brewing? What do you do, how long have you been around and what differentiates you in the marketplace?
Elizabeth Waters: Upslope Brewing Company was founded in 2008 in Boulder. From the beginning, outdoor recreation and conservation has been baked into our culture and brand. For instance, we chose to package our beer in cans [rather than bottles] to align with the outdoor lifestyle, and because aluminum cans are the most recyclable packaging option.
Upslope places great importance on treating employees well, using environmental resources efficiently and giving back to our community. I think those things set us apart. And now, with our B Corp certification, those strengths are more easily communicated to our customers.
BFCO: How did sustainability emerge as a priority within the organization?
EW: Since its founding, Upslope has prioritized supporting environmental conservation through longstanding partnerships with environmental nonprofits whose causes we care deeply about.
Additionally, we’ve always managed our operations with an eye toward economic and environmental efficiency. A few years ago, we decided to start measuring the environmental performance of our production facilities with the understanding there is always room for improvement. Since then, we’ve made sure to carve out the requisite time to stay on top of that continual measurement and improvement.
BFCO: Many impressive metrics are detailed online and in your sustainability report. Can you mention a few of Upslope’s eco-conscious practices?
EW: Compared to other breweries our size, Upslope operates quite efficiently in [regard to] water and energy use. Much of this can be attributed to the purchase and proper maintenance of efficient equipment. For instance, we have a very efficient boiler, which accounts for the majority of the natural gas we use. We’ve installed water sub-meters throughout our process that allow us to isolate specific improvement areas. Also, we’re in the process of installing electrical submeters.
BFCO: Where or how do you think Upslope is having the largest, most positive impact?
EW: I think that Upslope’s biggest potential for impact lies in partnership and education. We alone can’t do all that much to affect change. But when we work with organizations like Trout Unlimited, Leave No Trace, Eco-Cycle and Best for Colorado to increase awareness of and engagement in environmental issues, our impact grows exponentially.
BFCO: Of all the initiatives Upslope is leading, which one makes you the proudest?
EW: I am, personally, most proud of our B Corp certification. It assesses all of our environmental programming and looks at our impact on our community and employees. Upslope is such a wonderful place to work and does so much for its employees. I think that pursuing B Corp reinforces that and draws connections between employee, community and environmental wellbeing in a way that makes sense and is tangible.
BFCO: What is most rewarding and challenging in regard to your B Corp certification? What areas are you most concentrated on right now and why?
EW: Over the last few months we’ve been primarily focused on planning our B Corp recertification strategy. The assessment got a lot more challenging this year, and we have a lot of work to do. It’s very exciting and will definitely take a concerted effort to achieve.
BFCO: What recommendations do you have for microbreweries interested in starting their sustainability journey but don’t know where to start?
EW: I always recommend that breweries begin by benchmarking their performance with the Brewers’ Association’s Sustainability Benchmarking Tool. It’s such a great way to get an initial snapshot of how you are performing against other similarly sized breweries as well as the potential savings associated with improvement.
BFCO: Why is Best for Colorado programming important for your organization’s CSR efforts?
EW: As I mentioned earlier, we believe strongly in the importance of partnerships. We value being a part of the Best for Colorado community, and it’s been such a wonderful resource for us over the past couple of years. We have much to learn from other participating companies and hope to offer help where we can.
Best for Colorado is a program of The Alliance Center. It allows Colorado companies to measure and improve their social and environmental impact, regardless of where they are on their corporate social responsibility journey. Best for Colorado offers programming and tools for all Colorado companies, including B Corps, to improve their practices and connect participating companies with local resources, education and support
Lauren Farkas was the programs assistant at The Alliance Center.
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.
Megan A. James Photography strives to be an example of what a business can do for the community. Megan James has been photographing for seven years and donates 20% of her revenue to charities. Of the donations, half is donated to the client’s charity of choice while the remaining portion is donated to the ALS Association for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis research. Because of this philanthropy and more, the photography company has been a B Corporation for four years now and an honoree on the Best for The World Community List in 2018 and 2019.
Lauren Farkas: Can you expand on your give back contribution commitment? What was the inspiration for this?
Megan James: I was first inspired to donate back to nonprofits in 2013. Moore, Oklahoma was shattered by an F-5 tornado and left the town in shreds. The storm ripped apart the town’s elementary school, which sparked an initiative in me to do more than just take photos. I have kids and the whole situation was heart-wrenching. I held a day of photography where all the revenue went directly to disaster relief in the community. At that point, I realized I wanted to continue this journey.
LF: What inspired you to take the step and go through the B Corp certification?
MJ: I’ll be honest, I really didn’t know about much about B Corp initially. My husband went to one of their meetings, and I think Kim Coupounas was speaking. He came home very inspired and told me how companies in the B Corp community have the same initiatives as I do.
I love my job and being a photographer, but I also feel pulled to do something more. When my husband came home suggesting I get involved, I started doing more research. I realized that I was already aligned with the values of B Corps. It sounded like a community I would love to join and be with other like-minded individuals.
LF: You are a solo entrepreneur, Certified B Corp and a Best for Colorado company and have been honored as Best for the World. What does this mean to you?
MJ: When I was honored as Best for the World, I was shocked. I am a sole proprietor working alongside some of huge corporations that are also B Corps, so it was unexpected. After I had a moment to evaluate and take it all in, I experienced a huge moment of pride and realized I am making a difference and other people recognize it.
Even people outside of the B Corp world were talking about it. They see how others are making a difference beyond their community, and it inspires others. I have spoken to many other potential B Corps and have helped them realize that even through small business, we can achieve so much.
LF: What would you tell those who think they are just one person and they can’t make a difference?
MJ: Within the B Community, I have had a few people question my legitimacy, my B Corp status and almost look down on me. I have utilized my achievements to show other small businesses that even through being a sole proprietor, we can make a huge impact on local and nationwide communities.
I tell them that even though they might only be one person, there is always a ripple effect regardless if it’s one person or 500 people. By being a sole proprietor, you can pave your own path and not have to go through some of the formalities or restrictions you might face within big corporations.
LF: Do you have any remarks you’d like to close with?
MJ: For me, regardless of my photography, the bottom line is I have a heavy emotional connection to people in need. I love what I do, but I love impacting the community even more.
Best for Colorado is a program of The Alliance Center. It allows Colorado companies to measure and improve their social and environmental impact, regardless of where they are on their corporate social responsibility journey. Best for Colorado offers programming and tools for all Colorado companies, including B Corps, to improve their practices and connect participating companies with local resources, education and support.