Southern Energy Management: A B Corporation Success Story

Southern Energy Management  is an example of a B Corporation Success Story. 120 employees, started in 2001, winning contracts and doing great work. Founders Bob and Maria Kingery talk about the path to becoming a B Corp.

It’s a fairly inspirational story and they, along with thousands of other small companies are at the bleeding edge of a sea change in the way corporations do business.

Learn about B Corps. in this video featuring a talk with Jay Coen Gilbert.

This is a man some of our politicians and the leaders of many of our publicly traded corporations could learn a thing or two from.

Occupy Wall Street, Meet The Tea Party, Meet the Coffee Party

If there is one thing that Occupy Wall Street, The Tea Party, the Coffee Party and your Average US Citizen have in common, it’s the fact that they all think the system is broken. And common to that is the fact that lobbyists have an enormous amount of power and influence well over that of the typical working man or woman. Lobbying is the sport of Kings 2000 style. There is so much wrong with how big money negatively affects the outcomes of legislation and controls the electoral process that it is difficult to know where to start.

You might want to start with this article from Common Dreams. The article focus is on large multinational corporations, but you could plug in any large special interest group including, unions, environmental groups, the NRA, AARP, religious organizations; you name it. There are literally thousands. Just this evening I just saw one of the Presidential hopefuls wearing an NRA hat like a walking billboard saying thanks for “showing me the money”. My jaw dropped.

Personally, I think unions are a good thing. I have a small company and am incorporated, so really don’t have a problem with corporations. I’m a member of a few trade groups, all of which have lobbyists. Sometimes they actually fight for things I want, but if I had my way, I would like to get rid of all of them. Toss them out on their asses and let them get real jobs instead of just being legalized bribers of our elected representatives.

If you want to lobby, lobby to the people, then let the people call and write to their representatives. That’s a nice fantasy.  How many of you have ever tried to get a personal meeting with your congressional representative? I have. So far, unless I walk up to them at a rare open public event, I’ve never been able to get 10 seconds with one. If you have and were successful, I’d love to hear from you and let me know how you did it (without money, an attorney  or a publicist at your side). Seriously, just try getting a meeting without a fist full of campaign contributions or promises to “do” something for the district and see just how far you can get your foot in the door. My bet (and no I don’t have $10,000), is not very far before your big toe is removed.

So how do we make a difference? By putting our differences aside for just a little while. By talking to each other and finding where we agree and making a movement that really does include the 99%. Only by removing special interest money from the process, and that will take a constitutional amendment, will we be able to be heard as individuals and not bankrolls. It’s time to stand down in order to stand up and for once..accomplish something real.

Payroll Tax Cut Dishonesty

We’ve been hearing about the payroll tax cut for years now. There was one in 2001 and another in 2008, both had bi-partisan “support”. Today the Senate, the House and the Administration are all screaming that their opponents are going to ruin life for the average US citizen. In my view, they are all being completely dishonest about this whole “tax cut”.

The payroll tax is what funds social security and medicare. Social Security is something the hard core conservatives and libertarians would like to privatize, moderates just want to ignore and hard core liberals like to believe should exist  forever without modification despite changes in employment, demographics or the big one, a significantly longer life expectancy.

Conservatives want to “pay” for the cut by allowing a giveaway to big oil, attaching approval for the Keystone Pipeline to the extension. Democrats want to “pay” for the cut by raising the taxes on the wealthy. Both of them are full of %$@.

What cutting the payroll tax does is give both sides a Dr. Feelgood talking point in the upcoming election year while not doing a damn thing to address the real problems of sustainability for both social security and medicare. It’s a shell game run by master con artists and covered by the absolute “look the other way” attitude of the mainstream liberal, moderate and conservative press who don’t talk about the realities it at all.

The only thing this payroll tax cut does is supply both sides with talking points, good for use in the 2012 election cycle and a sword to use once the election is over. The conservatives can use it as ammunition to make the point that both social security and medicare are unsustainable burdens on society and therefore should be put in the hands of private business and the liberals, well, they are just plain idiots to fall for this moronic scam in the first place as it will be used against them in the future.

Yes, if the payroll tax cuts do not pass, and I don’t think they should, people like you and I will probably have a few less dollars in our paycheck this year. That will not be an easy thing to stomach for many. But if it does not pass, we will not lose funding for social security and medicare and we will not pass that unbelievable mess on to the next generation.

It is time for our representatives to do the hard work, and time for we the people to take a look at the reality of both social security and medicare. I want both of them to continue to be viable, and I am willing to make the sacrifices needed to to that. If I need to work an extra year or two or 5 in order for that to happen, so be it. If we need to means test both, so be it. Private insurance will always be available for those who can afford it. Obviously, at age 58, I, like most people in my age bracket have not done enough to make sure that it does stay viable. We never addressed the funding flaws designed many many years ago when life expectancy was short, medical costs were significantly lower and the demographics funding it for the future were much different than they are today. We were lazy and apathetic and we should pay some of the price for our failure to act. Instead, many are saying “I paid my share and I want it…change it for everyone else”. Yep..that is the personal responsibility and American exceptional ism that we all love to crow about.

Let’s get real. Call your rep and have them do the right thing.

B Corporation Is Now A Reality in New York

Last week Governor Cuomo signed legislation making the creation of social corporations legal in the state. What does this mean? It means that no longer is the sole mission of a corporation to protect the owners and make a profit for shareholders, but adds some other requirements to the overall mission.

1. Meet comprehensive and transparent social and environmental performance standards; 

2. Meet higher legal accountability standards;

3. Build business constituency for public policies that support sustainable business.

For those who think business is over-regulated, this might just be the solution. It puts the responsibility on the corporate leadership to do the right thing. B corporations have made a choice and are putting their money where their PR departments would normally be. No longer can you just put out some advertising saying you are “green” or that your workers (or as PR likes to call them “team members”) love you. You have to prove it.

One question that’s been asked, and it’s a good one, is what financial benefit does the company get for becoming a B Corp? Is there a tax break? As far as I know, and I may be wrong about this, there is none. It’s purely a social and ethical benefit. It’s earning your good will from the employees, the community and the people the company serves. It’s a strong faith that people are ultimately good and that they will make the right choice if it’s offered to them. If they trust you, trust your products/services and trust your mission, they will support you and you will prosper.

In the non-B-Corp world, the board of directors and corporate executives have a legal fiduciary duty to make the biggest profit they can for the shareholders. This is a recipe for corruption, shortcuts, downsizing, cutting benefits, risky behavior and even reduction of quality to meet those goals. In many ways, the old corporate structure actually encourages it. Make what as much as you can, as fast as you can and get out. Of course that is a bit of an exaggeration, but the foundation is there to take the path of least resistance.

In the B corp, the bar is set significantly higher. You not only have to meet your fiduciary duties to make a profit, but you must remain conscious of the social costs of your decisions. Does my decision put the community at risk? Does it harm the environment? Are my employees going to be unduly hurt by this decision?

This is not an easy goal to meet, but there are many companies already following the standards.  It will take truly exceptional leaders to get there and leaders who are there not only to earn a golden parachute, but to change the way the world works.

Let’s see where this goes and if you think it’s a good idea, or a bad idea, share your thoughts.

Here is a random sampling of some B Corps. As you can see, most of them are small businesses and  they have a wide range of products and services. Find one in your community and go talk with them to find out more about why they made this decision.

Eleek (makers of home decor and finishing products)

Arnold Development Group (real estate)

Southern Energy Management (commercial and residential energy planning and implementation)

Well Care Strategies (healthcare efficiency and quality software)

Questioning The Polls

I heard a news story this weekend about a new Gallup poll in which they asked the question “In your opinion, which will be the biggest threat to the country in the future — Big business, big labor or big government?” 64% said big government, 26% said big business and 8% said big labor.

That got me to thinking. Do the people who come up with the questions for these polls ever question their own thought process? The question is about as simplistic as it comes. It’s like the question, do you trust congress? According to Gallop, 11% of us approve of the job congress does. That’s the lowest since they started asking that question in 1974. Of course if you ask people what they think of their own member of congress over 50% say they approve of the job they are doing.

That should tell us all something. Gallop is asking questions that give us no useful answers. Why can’t they ask a question that helps to find a solution and not just place blame. How about “Who do you think has the most influence over your representative in government: You or lobbyists paid by corporations, unions and other special interests?

I don’t think that anyone would say our congressional leaders, the administration or the Supreme court have been doing even close a good job, but to say government is the biggest threat is pretty stupid, after all, we are the people who elect the government officials. Does anyone really think that the person who inspects the air quality is a threat? How about the doctors at the CDC?

If we really think big government is the biggest threat to the country, then we are actually saying that we the people are the biggest threat to the country. Come to think of it, we might be right.

What do you think the biggest threat to the country is?

 

 

Stay Tuned – Average US Citizen is Coming Soon!

This site is being created for the large but silent center. Those who are willing to take a look at an issue from multiple viewpoints, weigh the pros and cons, compromise, sometimes change their minds, and have to courage to admit mistakes.

Average US Citizen is not a site for trolls or screamers, or absolute partisans (example 1) (example two). It’s a site for thoughtful, informed realists. It’s a site for exploring, offering and maybe even finding solutions. It is not a site for posting rants or venting anger. It is not a site exclusive to the working class or highly educated academics. It’s not exclusive to any economic, social, religious or atheist group. It is a place to encourage organizing and taking action. It’s for those who think a B corp may be a way to encourage both corporate and social responsibility or that we may need to change the way we fund and use social welfare as demographics, life expectancy and medical costs change.

It will be moderated, and though I’m not immune to partisanship myself, I will do my best to be as objective and open as possible and encourage others to do the same. If you’re a conservative or liberal troll, go somewhere else as there are plenty of places you can talk to yourself. We don’t need it or want it.

Post your sources and don’t just parrot the talking points of the day and partisan rhetoric. If you give facts and figures, let us know where you got them and if they have been vetted.

That’s it. Stay tuned!

Rick