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.

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. In this Q&A, we spoke to Stu Swineford, partner and founder of Relish StudioRelish Studio is a Boulder-based digital marketing agency. They are in the verification process of the B certification and were one of the 2018 honorees of the Best for Colorado campaign. Click here to view the original article. 

Best for Colorado: Tell us about Relish Studio.

Relish Studio: We typically serve leaders of purpose-driven businesses and organizations. Most of our clients have had previous success doing digital marketing themselves but recognize that it’s become far too complex to continue to go at alone. They’re looking for a trusted advisor to help fuel their growth through digital marketing so they can stay focused on the things they do best.

We are in our eleventh year now. What differentiates us from other firms is that we’re focused on creating successful campaigns for leaders of purpose-driven companies so they can provide the utmost value and contribute as effectively as possible to their mission. We also focus on data and help our clients make results-driven decisions. One of the things we pride ourselves on is we don’t do work just for work’s sake. We’re really trying to help our clients get a return not only on that investment, but on the relationship they’re building with their own clients. We try to build conversion-focused websites and digital properties that match our clients’ own specific sales processes.

BC: Talk about how corporate social responsibility is a function or priority within your organization. How did that emerge – was there a specific event or individual that inspired this action? Is it a separate function from the core business or is it built into the fabric of the operations, product, service, team, etc.?

RS: One of the things we’ve done over the last couple of years is to weave our corporate social responsibility into everything we do at Relish Studio.

This came about primarily in 2016. Personally, I was starting to have some challenges with what we were doing. I was getting a little frustrated with what digital marketing was becoming.

Being a business owner is hard. You’re always juggling too many things and one of the things I started to notice is that we hadn’t been taking the opportunity to weave our own personal belief structure into our business. My business partner and I sat down and started talking seriously about how we can structure our business in a way to try to do our best work for our clients in a more socially responsible way.

At that time, we started to look for entrepreneurial opportunities within the environmental space. We had done quite a bit of work in specifically the water space with a variety of nonprofits and water-focused companies. We also had a very strong opinion about environmental policy and environmental protection and how we, as business owners, could actually help foster that and help drive those types of activities.

BC: Can you define the specific programs, practices, priorities that fall within your organization’s CSR? How has this evolved or improved over time?

RS: The first thing we did in was join 1% for the Planet: at least 1 percent of our revenue goes toward environmental sustainability projects and nonprofits. We have always done pro-bono work here and there, donated to causes we were particularly passionate about, but this allowed us to formalize that giving. This was beneficial to me personally and I think to our business as well. It rejuvenated things to know that at least 1 percent of all the work we do, of all our earnings, goes towards environmental sustainability and stewardship projects.

We also set aside a portion of our activities to go towards doing a couple of pro-bono sites every year. Trying to focus on nonprofits in the environmental space, we joined the Colorado Outdoor Business Alliance. I’m on the steering committee for that organization which aligns Colorado businesses who are interested in helping promote environmental policy. We help both elevate and amplify that collective voice.

BC: What is most rewarding and challenging about this aspect of your organization’s work? What areas are your most concentrated on right now and why?

RS: It’s rewarding to know that we’re making some sort of positive effect on the environment. Like the saying goes, “what gets measured gets managed.” Just by formalizing this and having key performance indicators (KPIs) around it makes me more conscious about what I’m doing and allows us to align our personal and business values. One of the most challenging parts is the frustration that comes with not being able to focus one hundred percent of my efforts on that.

This business approach has affected what we can consider as our ideal client. We still do a lot of great work for companies that don’t have a similar giving-back policy, but we are encouraging all our partners to start to look into how they can transform their businesses and include a giving-back component. We are trying to do more and more work with companies who have a similar ethos, like B corps.

BC: What was the proudest achievement or specific challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?

RS: We had a big outdoor industry client wins in 2018 that were aligned with our philosophy. One was Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado. I believe our involvement in the 1% for the Planet program was a significant contributor to us being able to win that project because we were able to speak the same language. We helped them set up a new site ( which allowed the organization to expand their message to a wider audience and mobilize volunteer opportunities nationwide. We were really proud to have been part of that project!

BC: How you were connected to the Best for Colorado program?

RS: We were going through the B Corp certification process in early 2017 and went to an event where we had heard about Best for Colorado. It was there where I signed up and filled out a questionnaire expressing interest in the program. We started getting notices in February 2018 that we were going to be recognized as an honoree and I thought it was just spam. Finally, I got a message and I realized it was for real! It was such an honor and a surprise. That was a huge moment for us last year: it was just so aligned with everything we have been trying to do. It was the confirmation that we were moving things in the right direction.

I actually encourage a lot of people, anybody who asks about it, to just take the challenge, to see what they can do, and to perhaps be recognized as well. It was a huge deal last year for us and we were really proud to be recognized.

 BC: Why is this umbrella organization/recognition program important for your organization’s corporate social responsibility efforts?

RS: The Best for Colorado recognition, I think, has done several things. First of all, it was just really neat to be recognized. Secondly, it gives us a great story to tell in terms of validation of what we’re doing. It’s not just a goofy thing that we happen to be doing, but there are actual tangible results that come out of it.

It enables us to really tap in to a bunch of new people who all have this similar focus and meet other business leaders who have a similar approach to doing business and giving back.

Today we are a small company, so we don’t currently have any full-time employees. However, when we do start to bring on new team members, it’s certainly a part of our story that is going to help with recruitment and retention. Most people love to make more money but they also want to be part of something that’s bigger than just doing work.

 BC: Can you describe any eye-opening experienced that Best for Colorado presented?

RS: You never know what might come of participating in these types of activities. If I had not taken the time to do the Best for Colorado challenge, we wouldn’t have been recognized and we wouldn’t be talking today.

But for small businesses, it can be really kind of scary to put yourself out there. You just don’t know who you are potentially going to offend. Ultimately if we can be authentic and try to do the right thing, we will attract similar people with similar mindsets who do think it’s important. If there’s somebody that doesn’t appreciate our particular stance on environmental policy or our approach on business, that person will probably not be a fantastic match for us anyway and so, it’s really OK.

BC: Is there any advice that you might give a company who’s nervous to take that step?

RS: It’s easy to be an armchair quarterback. I just met with a client of ours and we talked about differentiation for his company and how difficult and challenging that can be when you’re a small business and you want to take every piece of work that comes your way, but how effective those big decisions can be in the long term.

It’s challenging and I can completely understand why businesses in certain areas may be more reluctant than others to take this particular effort, this “conscious capitalism” kind of approach just because their business may not be located in an area where that’s going to resonate with everybody. But personally, I think any or all potential short-term losses are far outweighed by what we see on a medium or long-term range achieved just by bringing authenticity to the table.

BC: 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?

RS: We’re mostly concerned with providing fantastic return on our client’s investment. In terms of the B Lab and Best for Colorado movement, we would like to help inspire other to take that plunge in that direction. I see a huge opportunity for things to just “snowball.” This is a viable movement and it’s so exciting to see how many companies out there are really going for it!

Rule4 is a young Boulder start-up that balances growth and purpose in its journey. They just applied for the B certification, using the same assessment that the Best for Colorado program uses. They are willing to be part of this new movement to have a positive impact through economy. We spoke with Vice President of Client Services Haley Berry.

Tell us about Rule 4.

We’re a boutique professional services firm based in Boulder. We launched in September 2018 to provide cybersecurity and emerging technology expertise to organizations of every shape and size, across all sectors. Our main goal is to make sure technology is applied in a positive way that boosts mission-driven organizations and benefits humanity and our planet.

We’re unique in that we’re out on the edge of this new technology frontier, and not many companies out there are offering the services we do or have the expertise and experience to be able to do so. There’s a ton of exciting new technology out there — AI, machine learning, automation, Industrial Internet of Things, biotech, and so much more — but not many folks are focused on making sure this technology is used correctly and that the data is secure.

How would you describe corporate social responsibility in your company?

As a startup, we’ve had a chance to start fresh and build a company that is true to who we are, and corporate social responsibility is a big piece of that. It’s evident on every level. Some examples:

  • We’re committed to transparency and operate as an open-book company, meaning all financial and operational information is shared with every employee.
  • One of our core values is “Give Back.” We offer charitable donation matching up to $1,000, and paid time off for volunteer work.
  • We donate at least 1 percent of our profits to local nonprofits.
  • We prioritize working with mission-driven organizations.
  • We give preference to local businesses and B Corps whenever possible for purchasing.
  • We used recycled materials when renovating our office, and we have a purchasing policy that prioritizes recycled and eco-friendly office supplies.
  • We host local meetups — BLUG, DevOps Boulder, JAVA Users Group — and other community groups so they can come together and share ideas without the financial burden of renting a regular space.
  • We are working toward zero-waste events.
  • And we have B Corp Pending status and are working toward full certification.

How did that emerge — was there a specific event/individual that inspired this action?

Our Co-CEOs, Trent R. Hein and Dan Mackin, serve on the boards of local nonprofits and have a deep history of community involvement, both inside the IT community and the Boulder community at large. So they really set the tone from the very beginning. And we’ve all had enough experience to know that in order to be excited to come to the office every day, the work has to be fulfilling, and the way to do that is to base the company on more than just profit. We want to know our work matters, that we’re actively doing some good out there in the world. And we want to be engaged in the community. So we’ve built that in as bedrock of our culture.

Is it a separate function from the core business or is it built into the fabric of the operations, product, service, team, etc.?

It’s woven through pretty much every layer. We make our decisions based on what’s best for our clients and our employees and the community and the world, not what’s going to make us the most money. It’s embedded in our core values, built into our mission statement, and present in our policies and the way we do business.

What is the value for a business to start this journey?

There are so many benefits. It gives your organization a deeper sense of purpose beyond the pressure to make money. That translates into an advantage in recruiting, marketing, and sales. People want to work for, and with, companies that show consideration for the world, not just themselves. And the B Corp community and related efforts like Best for Colorado offer so many resources to help you connect in the community and build your business.

What was your overall experience with the BIA? What is the value of this type of program for your company?

The BIA is a great framework for anyone who wants to start a business that prioritizes social responsibility or who wants to change their existing company to do so. It was cool to fill it out and feel like the way we do things and our planned path were validated, to go through it and often say, “Yep, we do that” or “Yes, we have plans to make that happen soon” or “We do more than that.” But then it’s overwhelming to emerge from the BIA with a long to-do list and so many ways to improve. It’s a tricky situation for a perfectionist! But taking the BIA and truly seeing the details of the standards we will be expected to meet forced us to make a plan, and it gave a shape to all the areas we needed to keep in focus. But I think if I didn’t have a project management background and wasn’t a big fan of lists and spreadsheets, I would have emerged very overwhelmed.

Did you think of a specific challenge that you overcame working with the assessment? Explain.

Since we’re a startup, we completed the assessment and applied for Pending status, which means we have a year to keep working on the assessment and get to the 80-point mark. So we’re really just getting started in terms of actually working through it. We have a task plan and are confident we’ll get there. So the main challenge with the assessment so far has just been the amount of time it took to complete a first pass and distill that into a project plan. It’s not insignificant, but it’s worth it.

Can you describe any eye-opening experiences working with a framework such as the QIA/BIA?

Not so much eye-opening as it was heartening to discover this network of like-minded organizations who have been paving the way. It’s invigorating to be part of a movement like this, and to see what others have been doing.

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

It’s rewarding to know we’re doing things right, and to feel connected to other businesses and the community. The main challenge for us right now is making time to prioritize these efforts.

We’re a new business, so we have to be smart and strike a balance to make sure we’re successful enough to support our mission. But we’re choosing to take that statement of “There’s always so much to be done” and view it with an attitude of excitement rather than being overwhelmed. There’s so much opportunity for change, so much opportunity to contribute. We’re happy that’s part of our mission. It gives us purpose.

Right now, we’re focused mostly on policies and documentation. Once those are established, we feel we’ll have a really solid base to attack other areas of the task plan we generated after taking the BIA. We’ve also been waiting for version 6 to release, and get acquainted with any changes there.

Why is this umbrella organization/recognition program important for your organization’s CSR efforts?

We wanted another way to prove to our clients that we’re not just full of talk, that we’re good people trying to do good things, and that we have our priorities straight. It also seemed like another way to be involved in the Colorado community and contribute to a movement that we believe is key for a bright future and aligns with our mission.

This story was originally featured in ColoradoBiz. Click 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. In this Q&A, they spoke to Megan Jorgensen, Sustainability Director at Snooze an A.M. Eatery.

Best for Colorado: Tell about your company. Who are you and what does your organization do? How long has Snooze an A.M. Eatery been around and what differentiates you in the marketplace?

Snooze an A.M. Eatery: We opened our doors in the Ballpark neighborhood of Denver in 2006, and now have over 30 restaurants in four states. Snooze is a breakfast and lunch restaurant focused on serving delicious food with a fun twist. We work hard to serve responsibly-sourced ingredients from purveyors we believe in. We contribute to the communities in which we live and minimize our impact on the environment through waste reduction and resource conservation – thinking about the effects on our global community. We believe in the power of each individual to make a difference every day.

We call it “breakfast, but different.” Every time a guest dines with us, their dollars go directly back to their communities and the waste produced for their experience is diverted from landfills. The food on their plate is responsibly sourced and the people who deliver their meal are happily taken care of. That’s a vast difference than how many restaurants do business.

BC: Talk about how corporate social responsibility is a function or priority within your organization. How did that emerge – was there a specific event or individual that inspired this action? Is it a separate function from the core business or is it built into the fabric of the operations, product, service and team?

SE: Snooze’s motto is “it only takes a moment to make a difference”. This is true with hospitality to our guests, the fact that we treat our employees like people, charitable interactions with our communities and our impact on the environment.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) functions have always been at the heart of our business. Our founders, Jon and Adam Schlegel, believed that business should focus on business to be successful – but that it also must focus on being a force for good along the way. There hasn’t been much of a separation since they started the company. Snooze first opened its doors with a community giving partnership and single-stream recycling services and has added programs and practices along the way to continue to create more positive impacts throughout its operations.

We have a people, planet, profit and pancakes mentality with our decision-making processes – ensuring that Snooze considers its impact on each area when deciding which retail shirt to purchase, which eggs and bacon to serve, what kind of disposable products to use and even which community partners we should support. This quadruple bottom line mindset is instilled throughout the entire organization and is woven through the fabric of this company.

BC: Can you define the specific programs, practices, priorities that fall within your organization’s CSR? How has this evolved or improved over time?

SE: Our Community and Sustainability programs are always evolving. We’re very proud of our accomplishments to this date but we still have a lot more work to do in our efforts to make this world a better place to live for future generations.

In terms of sustainability, our main focuses are: The responsible sourcing and use of food and materials; an interactive, intensive waste management program; energy, water, resource and carbon conservation; and employee and community engagement and education programs.

With our community program, we give 1 percent of our sales back to our communities through in-kind donations and services. We provide paid volunteer days for managers and employees. Whenever we open a new restaurant, we partner with three different community organizations to ensure we open our doors by first giving back, and we foster a culture of volunteering, giving back and sharing with those around us within each restaurant.

We’ve come a long way since we first opened our doors in 2006 and continue to strive to be better. We’ve been working toward 2020 goals since 2013 and are currently establishing our 2025 goals.

BC: What is most rewarding and challenging about this aspect of your organization’s work? What areas are your most concentrated on right now and why?

SE: It is always challenging to be on the leading edge of certain aspects of your industry. We are often the first company of our size or operational style to try new energy management programs, new waste or energy saving equipment, or even certain responsibly sourced ingredients or material goods. This can be challenging because we may find ourselves helping others work out the kinks that come naturally to trying something new. It can also be challenging to teach our managers that in addition to running their busy restaurants and ensuring guest satisfaction – they must also focus on sustainability and community efforts. Many managers aren’t used to this if they’ve come with experience from other restaurants.

The rewards that come from this work far outweigh the challenges. We get to be on the leading edge of something great – business working as a force for good. We get to experience the delight in a new Snoozer’s (employee’s) face when they learn about all the extra things we do as a business and the positive impacts they get to be a part of. We get to hear the excitement from our partner purveyors when we ask them about the social and environmental programs they’ve instilled in their company, and that we consider their practices in our purchasing decisions.

BC: Talk about how you were connected to the Best for Colorado program? Why is this umbrella organization and recognition program important for your organization’s CSR efforts?

SE: Snooze was approached by the Best for Colorado program when it was in its early stages to be involved with the launch of the program. As the B Lab team explained the idea, we knew it was a no brainer to be involved in this crucial campaign dedicated to helping businesses build a more responsible economy for Colorado and the world.

Snooze actively supports this program because it is easier for us, and all other companies, to make more positive impacts with our business when there are other like-minded organizations in our communities trying to do the same. Think availability and feasibility of waste hauling services, responsible food and materials and even access to reliable public transportation.

This framework encourages us to continue to work toward a better future, not only with the actions within our own organization but the ripple effect that can be created from our work. We all still have a lot of work to do – continuously measuring how we are doing and comparing to others in our communities helps with prioritizing, collaborating, and accomplishing goals to make a difference!

Being recognized as an Honoree for the Best for Colorado program is an incredible accomplishment for Snooze. We share this honor with other Colorado companies leading the way with positive impacts they can make on their surrounding communities. I truly believe the world will be a better place when all companies use this framework to measure and improve their impacts. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all companies were striving to be the best for their people, the best for our communities, the best for the environment AND the best for the economy? It is certainly the world I would like to pass on to my son and future generations to enjoy.