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How companies can integrate a more sustainable materials strategy into their business

In conjunction with the release of the Textile Exchange 2019 Material Change Index, GreenBiz has partnered with Textile Exchange to publish actionable insights for apparel and textile companies looking to source raw materials more sustainably. This article introduces the index. The entire series may be found here.

Almost any textile you can think of — from cotton to leather to nylon — has social and environmental impacts risks at every level of its supply chain: from the growing or extracting of its raw material inputs, to the processing it takes to turn those inputs into the materials we recognize. But when it comes to managing risk and replacing harmful materials with preferable ones, it can be tough for companies to know where to begin.

Through Textile Exchange’s Material Change Index (MCI), we track the apparel, footwear and home textile sector’s progress toward more sustainable materials sourcing as well as alignment with global efforts such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the transition to a circular economy. This week, Textile Exchange proudly launched the fourth edition of the MCI, which featured the voluntary participation of more than 170 companies (some covered subsidiaries) including major brands such as Adidas, C&A, Gucci, IKEA, Inditex, Nike, Patagonia and Tchibo. 

The MCI is a core component of Textile Exchange’s Corporate Fiber & Materials Benchmark (CFMB) program, which supports companies through their transition to preferred materials. In 2019, 85 percent of participating companies had a commitment to converting at least one of their key material categories to “100 percent more sustainable.” Additionally, 38 percent of materials used by participating companies were from more sustainable sources. We are encouraged by the industry’s progress but recognize that there is a long way to go. 

That is why we have created this content series in partnership with GreenBiz. Over the course of 10 articles, we will surface key insights on how leading companies are integrating more sustainable materials into their portfolios. Later articles will focus on circularity, the SDGs and priority materials including cotton, polyester, nylon, man-made cellulosics, down, wool and leather. 

This article shares some high-level learnings from companies that have taken a holistic approach to their sustainable materials sourcing.

How can companies integrate a preferred materials strategy into their business?

Companies with a preferred fiber and materials strategy follow a systematic approach to integrating preferred fibers and materials into their business. At the most basic level, this means moving towards sourcing more sustainable materials, but ideally it also involves alignment with global efforts such as the SDGs as well as efforts around a transition to a circular economy.

The Material Change Index allows companies to better understand how their engagement compares to their peers. Here are a few overarching approaches that have allowed some leading companies to build holistic materials strategies that make a positive impact.

1. Commit to change

Organizations looking to move towards a more sustainable materials portfolio should start by setting measurable targets. These can be for overall materials use or by fiber and could focus on growing absolute volumes of preferred materials or increasing the proportion of preferred materials versus conventional. The most progressive organizations link their targets to global agendas such as the SDGs or the Science Based Targets Initiative. And they make public commitments to keep themselves accountable.

Material change in action: Since 2001, the Inditex Group (which owns eight fashion brands including Zara) has integrated four consecutive multi-year sustainability plans into all phases of the product life cycle: from design and sourcing to manufacturing and quality control to logistics and sales. Its most recent raw material sourcing commitments include that 100 percent of the cotton, linen, viscose and polyester used by all Inditex brands will be organic, more sustainable or recycled by 2025. These fibers constitute 90 percent of the raw materials purchased by the group.

“We have always conceived our sustainability project as a work in progress, a never-ending task,” said Félix Poza, chief sustainability officer for Inditex. “It is necessary to increase the pace of progress — without that it won’t be possible to reduce (or not increase) the impact of the fashion industry. We hope that our commitment and management in this field can be a force for change for the whole sector.”

2. Get everyone on board

Setting targets is a necessary first step, but the real work is in meeting them. To do that, it’s essential to secure alignment and buy-in from key stakeholders across the organization.

The most impactful strategies might require a longer-term pivot from the way business has been conducted thus far, so business leaders need to become change advocates and investors need to be bought into the change in direction.

Finally, the buyers and designers who play an important role in actually choosing more preferred options need to be set up for success. It’s not enough to merely task them with making more sustainable choices. They need to be equipped and incentivized to do so. This means rewarding those that explicitly and consciously factor sustainability value into their decision-making process.

Material change in action: Global retailer C&A began its preferred material sourcing journey in 2005 when it produced and sold 1 million pieces made from organic cotton. Fourteen years later, that number has increased to over 170 million certified organic cotton pieces per year.

The fashion retailer credits this scaling success to sourcing strategy engagement across all levels of the organization — a lesson being applied to increasing usage of more sustainable fibers, such as recycled materials and more sustainable viscose.

For example, C&A’s sustainability team trained merchant teams on how to buy organic cotton (including what certifications to look for) and used internal ambassadors to create excitement about the initiative across the business.

“Organic cotton brought a tremendous amount of pride and engagement amongst our employees and is seen as a lighthouse for our company values,” explained Jeff Hogue, chief sustainability officer of C&A. “Every employee has the opportunity to contribute through their actions, whether it’s placing certified organic cotton into our collections or serving as an ambassador to our customers on the benefits of organic cotton.” 

3. Invest in collective action

When it comes to the raw materials sourcing stage of the supply chain, the issues that need addressing and the levers that can be used to address them are numerous and wide-ranging.

At this stage, it can be helpful to work with others to drive meaningful change. Top performing companies tend to invest in collective action alongside governments, industry bodies and peer companies, and share their learnings widely so that other companies can benefit from them.

Material change in action: In 2017, clothing supplier Mantis World pledged to shift all its production to more sustainable fibers by 2021 — and has achieved this goal two years ahead of schedule.

Early in its sustainability journey, Mantis World saw the value in partnering with industry organizations such as non-profit Solidaridad, which helped its family-owned factory become the first factory in sub-Saharan Africa certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). Now, Mantis World is sharing what it has learned through Textile Exchange’s Pan-Africa Working Group, collaborating on a white paper targeted toward policymakers about the threat of genetically modified (GMO) cotton in Africa.

“This would not have happened unless several organizations — big and small — worked together, shared resources to create a piece of advocacy work aimed at government policy,” said Mantis World CEO Prama Bhardwaj. “When it comes to wider global environmental and social issues, we cannot even define them, let alone solve them, as one business alone. Being part of initiatives where organizations come together, share experience honestly and learn collectively is far more effective.”

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A new decade demands new leadership in climate policy advocacy

As BlackRock Chairman Larry Fink writes in his latest letter to CEOs, “Climate change has become a defining factor in companies’ long-term prospects.” He’s right: the impacts of climate change on businesses are hard to overstate.

According to the federal reserve, climate-related events already have cost the U.S. economy over $500 billion in the last five years, and could shrink GDP by as much as 10.5 percent by the end of the century. More disturbingly, recent studies show we may be significantly underestimating climate risk, which makes managing that risk difficult for businesses indeed.

Climate risk management requires climate policy

A growing number of companies are responding to the climate crisis by setting science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets, committing to use 100 percent renewable energy, changing the way they operate to improve resilience and even developing new products and services to thrive in a carbon-constrained world.

These actions are important, as they give companies a compelling story to tell about why reducing emissions makes business sense. Yet by themselves, they are insufficient to insulate businesses and investors from climate risk. Only public policy can deliver the speed and scale of reductions needed to limit the worst impacts of climate change. That’s why advocacy for climate policy is an essential part of corporate sustainability leadership.

Andrew Winston, author and adviser to some of the world’s largest companies on sustainability, recently wrote, “The climate crisis is upon us, and there’s no time to wait for voluntary corporate action to tackle the challenge. We need the collective will that government provides. Many in business will rebel against this idea, but we are long past the point where free markets alone could solve the challenge in time (if such a possibility ever even existed).”

A new standard for corporate leadership in 2020 and beyond

Until now, sustainability leadership has been measured through various reporting frameworks and sustainability rankings. Most of these approaches fail to address what a company is doing to advance public policies that drive down emissions in a meaningful way. In the face of the climate crisis, they are woefully inadequate.

We need a new benchmark to define leaders and laggards in 2020 and beyond: climate policy advocacy. In this critical decade for climate action, the real measure of business leadership will be willingness to use the most powerful tool companies have to fight climate change: political influence. 

Corporate America has an essential role to play in raising the urgency and ambition for policymakers to act. Well-designed, predictable climate policies at the national, subnational and sectoral level have the dual benefits of reducing climate risk while creating regulatory certainty that encourages investment and innovation. Forward-thinking companies understand this and recognize that the costs of inaction on climate change far exceed the costs of policy solutions.  

Rising stakeholder expectations

In the 2020s, investors, employees and consumers will be watching corporate leaders more keenly than before. These stakeholders expect business leaders to go beyond rhetoric and take meaningful action on climate change — including advocating for climate policy.

Stakeholder pressure will only increase in this hyper-transparent era: a company can no longer publicly be “for” climate action when its lobbying and political spending tell another story. Groups such as InfluenceMap and Open Secrets monitor companies’ climate lobbying, and recent media stories have highlighted the disconnect between some companies’ climate positions and financial contributions.

What leadership looks like

Thankfully, a growing number of companies are stepping up to the plate on climate policy advocacy. These businesses are at the vanguard of a larger movement calling for climate action in Washington, D.C. and around the country. But the fact remains that to enact the policies that will achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 — what the science says is necessary to limit the worst impacts of climate change — corporate advocacy on a much broader scale is needed.

As Fink noted in his letter to CEOs, “While government must lead the way in this transition, companies and investors also have a meaningful role to play.”

And as the heads of 11 environmental and sustainability groups wrote in an open letter to the CEOs of corporate America, leadership means advocating for policies that achieve net-zero emissions, aligning trade associations’ lobbying with the same goal and allocating political spending to advance climate action, not obstruct it. 

This decade is make-or-break for the climate. It’s time for businesses to step up to a new level of leadership, making climate policy a top advocacy priority and driving it from the C-suite.

By embracing this leadership role, businesses can help get us where we need to go: to a new climate policy framework that mitigates climate risk while growing the economy, building resilience and protecting public health, thus creating the low-carbon future we all want to live in.

Editor’s note: Victoria Mills will moderate a session about how companies can use policy advocacy to support their climate strategy during the GreenBiz 20 conference, Feb. 4-6 in Phoenix.

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How To Measure The Performance Of Your Remote Startup Team

It used to be that the main reason for hiring remote workers is access to talent and cost savings. Today, small and large companies hire remote talents for reasons beyond access and savings. In fact, research shows that remote workers accomplish more in less time, experience lower levels of stress, feel more connected with their colleagues and are less likely to quit their job.

Higher productivity means better team performance which leads to faster growth. When you combine lower overhead with higher productivity you get higher margins. Faster growth with higher margins means more revenue with higher profits.

Especially for early-stage startups, the ability to hire remote talents is probably the biggest disruption that happened to entrepreneurship in the past few decades. Today, no matter your location, budget or the skills you need, as long as you have an internet connection, you can build and manage a team.

Despite the advantages, hiring remote team members has also come with challenges. In fact, without proper management, the benefits of remote work can turn into drawbacks such as lack of transparency, low reliability, poor communication, low productivity, and security issues. Here’s how to measure the performance of your remote startup team and avoid the drawbacks of hiring remote team members.

1. Hire To Delegate, Not To Manage

This rule applies to any and every role, even for interns. Just by hiring the right talents, you save a lot of time and headache managing their input so you can focus on the output. It can seem enticing to hire less experienced candidates with the lowest hourly rate. In most cases, you will end up spending more time and money in training and management while getting inferior results.

Especially if you are looking for skills that complement yours, take all the time you need to find the right candidate with experience successfully completing similar projects. Candidates who can plan, lead and execute on their own while keeping everyone on the team informed.

Finding the right candidate is 80% of the work. Setting clear expectations, frequent communication, using productivity and management tools, and everything else is a way to make what’s already great, exceptional. None of those matter without the right person or team who knows their space and are trusted to get things done on time.

2. Qualify And Quantify Expectations

The right candidates will always try to exceed expectations. Nonetheless, as an employer you should have clear expectations about the end result and how they will get there. As such, for every project, start with your goal and then ask your hire to create a plan divided into milestones with a mini-goal for each milestone and the steps needed to achieve these goals.

This roadmap is like an accountability schedule that provides for a transparent and planned path to your goals. Furthermore, taking the time to create a roadmap will allow you to uncover and address unexpected challenges that could waste significant resources later on. A platform like Trello can be used to list the end goal, milestones, the steps required for each milestone and the deadlines for each step.

3. Shorten Evaluation Cycles

Setting smaller goals gives you an opportunity to evaluate progress frequently. Many startup founders fail not because they’re not committed or have a weak value proposition, many fail because they hire the wrong people.

For example, in app development, it can take months before you can see and test a functional product. By then, you would have spent tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours. If the product does not meet the promises, chances are more development time will not make a significant change. In fact, it will probably cost more. Even with the right candidate, shortening evaluation cycles allows you to minimize hiring risks and ensure progress as planned.

Sometimes measuring and evaluating progress in unfamiliar areas is easier said than done. In this case, I suggest hiring an expert in the space who could spend as little as thirty minutes to evaluate progress and perhaps even help your team members solve problems and move quicker.

In sum, before thinking about how you can measure performance, think about who you can hire that you trust will deliver results. Focus on goals not activity, set clear expectations, and treat remote as local through communication tools like instant messaging, Slack or Skype. Finally, remember that more experienced candidates may be costly but their work will most likely save and make you more than what you’d spend on less experienced hires.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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Could zero emission vehicles usher in an era of ‘road calm’?

Driving in central London is hell. Actually, scratch that. Driving in any major city is hell. We hear a lot about how our cities are designed for cars, but if that is the case who is doing the designing? A misanthropic Heath Robinson who hates clean air and is terrified of speeds that are faster than a horse and cart?

To get into a car in the heart of any major metropolis is to condemn oneself to a blizzard of stress stimuli while strapped into a small metal cell. And yet millions of us do it every single day; many of us have no choice but to add to the congestion they curse.

There are, of course, alternatives. Public transport offers massive environmental benefits compared to private vehicles, while home working has the potential to eradicate the daily commute altogether. Car clubs are encouraging ever more city-dwellers to forgo car ownership in favor of only getting behind the wheel when they really need to. Some fascinating projects around the world have shown how simply banning cars from urban centers can deliver cleaner air and safer, more connected communities without necessarily shifting congestion into the suburbs. At the same time congestion charging and ultra-low emission zones are starting to demonstrate how smart technologies and advanced traffic management systems could ease congestion and nudge the most polluting vehicles away from our streets.

But for many individuals and businesses, a car- and traffic-free future remains a very long way off. They are condemned to spend many more days of their lives crawling up to the lights, riding the clutch as they take 20 minutes to travel a mile and a half.

All of which brings us to one of the most significant and yet rarely discussed benefits offered by electric vehicles (EV): They are genuinely relaxing to drive, even in heavy traffic. Speak to anyone who uses an EV regularly and they will tell you about how much simpler, quieter and just plain more enjoyable a zero emission car is to drive. The removal of so many moving parts not only makes EVs easier and cheaper to maintain, it also makes them much more comfortable for those behind the wheel, without any loss in power and torque.

To date this mental health windfall, the replacement of “road rage” with “road calm” has been largely anecdotal. But late last year Hyundai set out to get a more detailed insight into how EVs inform driving style and enlisted your correspondent to help.

The auto giant has developed “The Different Driving Test” with input from expert driving instructor Gary Lamb, kitting out its petrol Hyundai KONA and its newly launched electric KONA with dashboard cameras, pupil tracking and facial recognition software, steering grip sensors, artificial intelligence functionality and pulse monitors. Willing guinea pigs — such as yours truly — then get to drive both models while metrics relating to their awareness, ability, confidence, fuel efficiency and calmness are monitored. The resulting reports then attempts to reveal whether or not EVs really do make for better, calmer drivers.

My test drive on a crisp clear winter’s day in central London is not a precise scientific experiment — for that you would need to ensure the journeys in the electric and the conventional KONA were precisely the same in terms of route and traffic conditions so as to provide comparable data. But as an indicative exercise the journey from Drury Lane to Euston in the petrol car followed by a journey back in the EV model is hard to beat, not least because the central London traffic is even more miserable than usual.

With the pulse monitor strapped to my arm and the steering wheel sensors firmly gripped I endure a mess of diversions, bus lanes, building sites and gridlocked traffic, all the while being filmed from a particularly unflattering angle for a middle-aged man who forgot to shave. I repeatedly fail to correctly answer the driving instructor asking me to identify the make and color of the vehicle two cars ahead, and as an irregular driver am provided with a real time reminder of how physically arduous it can be to crawl along in heavy traffic. I get up to third gear only once. A road closure and short diversion through Soho means it takes 48 minutes to travel a little over two miles.

In fairness to the petrol KONA the journey back in its electric cousin is blessed by slightly more bearable traffic and a more direct route, taking a still ridiculous 29 minutes as the average speed climbs from four to five miles per hour. But that can’t be the only explanation for the resulting report that draws on all that pupil tracking and pulse monitoring data and concludes I was more aware of my surroundings and demonstrated higher levels of driving ability in the EV. Significantly, the data suggests the biggest improvements came in terms of efficiency, which jumped from appalling to moderate (I’m blaming the terrible traffic), and calmness, where my score doubled to approach zen master levels of automotive relaxation. Notably my “confidence” score remains constant, which probably says more about me than the form of propulsion on offer.

The key thing about the results, however, is how utterly unsurprising they are. Like every EV I have ever driven, the KONA is a wonderful piece of engineering. It has taken a functional small family car and blessed it with the souped-up torque and intuitive handling that characterizes electric mobility at its best. Crucially, it is also at the forefront of the new generation of EVs that has dispensed with the standard sub-150 mile range and delivered up to 278 miles between charges. There’s no clutch, no gear stick to wrestle with every few seconds and no noise. Hyundai’s high tech monitors simply confirm what is obvious. Driving an EV is a comparably low stress experience.

And this matters. Helping drivers become calmer also helps make them safer, more efficient and healthier. Insurers will note the emerging evidence with interest and look to calculate how they can manage risks and price premiums accordingly. Moreover, companies and fleet operators have a duty of care for their drivers and will add calmer and safer employees to the long list of financial and environmental benefits already offered by EVs.

Hyundai is one of the growing battalion of auto giants to bet big on the transition to electric vehicles. It has launched the KONA and IONIQ Electric as well as the NEXO fuel cell model and has announced a further $36 billion investment plan over the next five years, which will result in 44 electrified models by 2025. As charging infrastructure and vehicle ranges improve over the next decade, Hyundai and its peers quickly could discover that plenty of drivers will conclude that if they have to be stuck in traffic hell, they might as well make it as relaxing an experience as possible.

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It Takes A Village—Black Parents Protecting Black Genius

Will Jackson started Village of Wisdom to help parents and teachers unlock the gifts, talents, and prior knowledge of Black students. Ashoka’s Simon Stumpf caught up with Will to hear more about his vision for making school a true and supportive home for every student, and why his approach is so important now. 

Will, why is it important to focus on the education system versus individual students?

Because the system is actually what’s causing harm. I use the metaphor of fish and water. Let’s say you arrive at a lake and you see that not one but all the fish are sick or dead. You probably will want to examine the water quality, right? Same with race and education — the problem is not within Black children, it’s within a system that’s disproportionately suspending them, disproportionately not recommending them for gifted or advanced classes, disproportionately not looking out for them when it comes time to prepare for college applications. A child can’t fix this, a child can’t say “put me in an AP course.” The teachers, assistant principals, counselors are making those decisions and they’re often deciding based on the kid’s skin color.

How is race reflected in education today?

Nearly 80 percent of the teachers in America are white. Close to 40 percent of K-12 students are Black and brown kids — about 20 percent are Black kids. This mismatch is important for a few different reasons, but the one we’re focused on has to do with prior knowledge — the set of experiences and knowledge that students and teachers bring into the classroom.

Why is prior knowledge so key? 

Because learning is the act of connecting new information to prior knowledge. So when a teacher says, “well, these kids don’t come to school knowing anything” or “their parents aren’t invested or investing in them,” what is actually true is that the child is coming with prior knowledge that doesn’t match the knowledge relied upon to teach in this country. For example, teachers may use analogies that students miss completely because the teacher is trying to connect to prior knowledge that the student doesn’t have because it’s not a part of their cultural experiences. 

How do we bridge or close this knowledge gap? 

Hiring with a new lens can help with part of this, but that’s longer term. What we are doing at Village of Wisdom is developing new tools, measures, and communication processes that allow kids and families to communicate all the strengths and knowledge that a student is bringing to the classroom to educators. This new information actually helps teachers do what they love — design creative learning challenges that captivate their students, inspiring them to learn and grow.

Your Black Genius planning tool helps with this translation. Tell us about it. 

It’s a strength-based, individualized learning tool that frames Black culture in positive ways and challenges students to think about how to fight against injustice. Any parent can go to our site right now and set up a profile for their child. You start with the Black Genius brainstorm that’s a series of questions you can ask your child. How does he think about his Blackness? What are some of the cultural environments she moves across? What types of injustice is she most moved by? Who does he trust? Older students can do this on their own, of course. So this is a tool for parents and students to use on their own, then take to schools and teachers. 

Interesting. Schools often push information to parents — you’re proposing the opposite. 

Yes, because all strong relationships are two-way, right? So this is a tangible way that parents can add value to the education system by giving teachers more information about their children. We’ve begun to support teachers with what to do with the information: “Okay, you get this Black Genius Profile of one of your students. Now, as you think about what you’re teaching in the next six weeks, can you embed one of this child’s interests into one of the lessons? Can you think about, oh, they’re really interested in Simone Biles and use that.” The new information helps teachers activate the student’s prior knowledge and draws them in a way that engages their curiosity and interests in new and more meaningful ways.

You’re based in Durham, North Carolina — what results are you seeing there?

We want to become a bright spot for the country, to say, “Hey, this is what this looks like. You can do this, too, and here’s how.” We have organically grown an online community of more than 1,000 parents in our Black Parents Connect Facebook group. We have had more than 300 parents and students complete the Black Genius Profiles. And, in classrooms where teachers use the Black Genius Profile to enhance their instruction, early evidence suggests Black students are more engaged, have greater trust in their teachers, and are more likely to persist through difficult learning challenges. 

Looking ahead, what will be different in 10 years? 

We’re talking about giving parents enough information to be a part of essential education decisions. Without this kind of mutual accountability, we’ll end up in some of the places that we don’t love about where our world is going. And this isn’t about one person — me or anyone else — it’s about the village’s wisdom, the wisdom that everybody brings. We all benefit when we see each other and the genius that we bring to the table. Then we get to solutions that hopefully can transform our whole education system into one that liberates Black Genius instead of oppressing it. And then, in the future, transform our world.

This interview was condensed by Ashoka. Will Jackson is a 2019 Ashoka Fellow. You can read more about him and his team’s work here.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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From Arrest To Top Cannabis Biz Exec: Aaron Riley’s Dramatic Journey

When he was 19 years old, Aaron Riley was on the cusp of success until things went drastically awry. It’s the type of story you see frequently portrayed in movies. Except in Riley’s case, it was only too real.

Attending Furman University on a football scholarship, Riley had gotten involved in a drug-dealing operation. It was a rebellious act that Riley chalks up as a reaction to his parents’ divorce. Arrested on several felony drug charges, Riley, luckily, only spent two days in jail. Although his record was eventually expunged, the fallout was immense: he was kicked out of college and a once promising future seemed to be in tatters. Though able to pick up the pieces of his young fractured life and attend a new school, Jacksonville University, on another athletic scholarship, Riley knew he was facing an uphill battle with getting employment due to his record. That’s when he became entrepreneurial, starting a car dealership business, which would prove to be lucrative.

Then in 2014, Riley decided to re-enter the cannabis industry. This time, he would do it legally. After much research, he zeroed in on the testing segment and in November 2016, joined CannaSafe as president. Described as the first ISO accredited cannabis lab in the world as well as the top cannabis testing lab in California, CannaSafe has a stellar clientele that includes some of the state’s top brands and producers, such as Raw Garden, Cresco Labs, Papa & Barkley and Lord Jones. Last year, it generated about $20 million in revenue, said Riley. The 2020 forecast looks even rosier: CannaSafe, which currently has a staff of 150, is opening five new locations in the second quarter and Riley is projecting 50% growth.

It’s been quite a journey for Riley, now 28. Recently, he spoke about his personal and professional trajectory, his social equity efforts and what he considers to be the legal market’s biggest problem right now, aside from federal illegality.

This interview has been edited for conciseness and clarity.

Iris Dorbian: What have been your biggest challenges serving as president at CannaSafe? How have you resolved them?

Aaron Riley: We never took in any outside investment capital. We’re self-financed; we’ve never done any fundraising. We barely broke even in 2018. First year, we lost money. When we started, I put in all the cash I had and maxed out all my credit cards. I slept on an air mattress. It was an all-in endeavor. The regulations weren’t finalized in California. And then we were 10% uncollectable—people weren’t paying. But we were able to crawl out of the hole.

Dorbian: I understand CannaSafe places a heavy focus on social equity. I know Los Angeles has a strong social equity program. Can you talk about your company’s efforts in this area?

Riley: We have a six-figure advocacy and education budget. We do a lot of educational events. We sponsor expungement clinics and do minority hiring. It’s about giving people who have been persecuted an opportunity to participate [in the legal market]. We do on a monthly basis at least one event that revolves around education and social equity, minority promotion and expungement. We also have a discount program that’s for social equity businesses.

Dorbian: What do you think are the biggest problems facing the legal cannabis industry today?

Riley: In California it’s the black market. Obviously, we’ve seen with the news what the unsafe [vaping] products can do to consumers. In California, it’s made it very hard on the legal business. The black market is cheaper, they’re not paying for taxes or compliance fees. There’s no incentive for them to be upstanding citizens; they’re only going after profits.

Dorbian: What are your thoughts on federal legalization? When do you think it will happen?

Riley: I think it’ll happen in the next two or three years. It’ll be something that gets discussed in the next election. I think the Democrats will focus on it being an economic opportunity. It won’t happen overnight.

Dorbian: Where would you like to see CannaSafe in five years? How about ten years?

Riley: I would like to continue to be the leader of hemp and cannabis testing in the world. We plan on going to pretty much all the large states that have cannabis programs. We want to be known for integrity and quality.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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Overcoming Regrets

The end of the year inevitably brings a number of thoughts and feelings: a realization of how quickly the past year has come and gone, an urgency to prepare for the new year to hit the ground running on January 1st —  hopefully — some joy and happiness to spend time with friends and family over the holiday. It’s also a time when we look backward at the previous year to consider what we’ve done, and often what we wish we’d done. 

Part of this retrospection is inspired by what’s around us; website everywhere recap and rank the best and worst of the year, and perhaps it’s only natural for us to consider our own year in kind. And for this we should generally be grateful; memories are what make us who we are, good or bad. We remember, and we hopefully learn from those memories. 

Regrets are perhaps a subset of those memories, albeit ones that don’t feel nearly as edifying or educating. I’d classify them differently from mistakes; mistakes are things to be made and learned from and then moved past. Regrets are those mistakes that haunt you months and years past the point where they’ve served their purpose, to the point that they can start to weigh on your psyche if you don’t put them out of your mind. 

We’re all subject to regrets in business as well as life. There is no shortage of what-ifs or roads almost taken given how many choices and decisions go into every day of running your own company. Occasionally we’re able to see how things would have played out had a decision been made in another direction; there’s an entire list here of people who would be vastly richer had they chosen differently in one crucial moment. In other instances we’re tormented by thoughts of what might have been had we made a different decision, thoughts that are often brought on in the midst of our daily grind and struggle to keep things going and keep our heads above water. ‘Would things be better, my life easier, if I’d gone a different direction with a pivotal decision,’ we inevitably think, even though there’s no way to know.

So how can we make peace with our regrets and learn to live with the decisions we’ve made, particularly in cases when things haven’t worked out as we imagined? Mistakes are human, sure, but so are regrets that linger; there are few more innately human experiences than having a terrible embarrassment from years ago come rushing back to us out of nowhere unless you’re one of the lucky few to have avoided such abject mortification. We can’t escape entirely those haunting memories and regrets that kick around in our brain, so we have to learn how to integrate them into the whole. 

Part of coming to terms with regrets is truly understanding the nature of decisions. We love to say that ‘hindsight is 20/20’ but rarely do we actually heed that wisdom; instead, we let ourselves second-guess every mistake we’ve made. But it really is true that mistakes and missteps can only be seen after the fact, once everything has played out (often not as we imagined it.) Decisions are made at the moment, with the best information available at the time, which is often far from perfect or complete. There’s so much that we can’t predict that it’s often the case that the opposite decision might not have worked out either had circumstances and factors aligned differently at that moment. We have to accept the possibility that no decision may have been the right one, given how much is outside of our control.

How we can gain peace and maintain our sanity is in embracing the process of decision-making as an imperfect science that we must endeavor to do as best we can. There’s no trick to avoid a mistake or a wrong decision, but we can learn to live with the decisions that we make so long as we make them in a considered fashion, with all available knowledge gathered and taken into consideration. The right decision is the one that is most considered and based on the best reasoning available; what we would otherwise term as “right” decisions, those that work out to the greatest benefit, are only known to be so after the fact, at a point that anyone could make a “right” decision. The right decision is the best guess, even if the guess is wrong. 

Even in embracing this approach you’ll still be plagued with thoughts about what you could’ve done differently. It’s simply human nature to consider alternative possibilities and outcomes. The difference will be that you can simply remind yourself that you could have done no better at the moment and that learning to live with those mistakes is part of achieving greater peace of mind as you move into the new year. #onwards.  

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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Four Key Steps To Get Sponsorships For Your Company


In this world of social media influencers and big brands looking for the next creative marketing campaign, there are some people who have sponsorship figured out and many who don’t. This advice applies across motorsports, video game streamers, Instagram influencers, YouTube product reviewers or any other industry where you hope to get product or money in exchange for providing exposure for a company.

Here are four simple steps to help you get sponsorships.

1. Understand The Business

From getting a free cup of coffee from the local coffee shop in exchange for a social media post to getting a seven-figure sponsorship deal from a leading manufacturer to race a car, you need to understand the business. If there is a local coffee shop with only one location, the business only needs exposure in a small area — specifically, to people looking to go to a coffee shop. On the flip side, a vehicle manufacturer is looking for widespread exposure if it is going to support racing efforts.

2. Understand Its Marketing Goals

Once you understand the business, you need to understand its marketing goals. You can gather a lot of data from a company’s past marketing programs. What does it put on its social media? Does it do any print ads? Does it boost a specific Instagram post? Don’t be afraid to try to directly ask the company about its marketing goals. Using LinkedIn is a great tool to find someone you can speak to at that company. If it’s a small, local company, just walk in and ask to speak with the manager. You can say something like, “I’m interested in giving you a marketing proposal, but I’d like to understand your marketing goals first so I don’t waste your time”

3. Develop Your Ask

Now that you understand the business and its marketing goals, it’s time for you to ask for something. Most companies you want to work with probably have hundreds to thousands of requests for sponsorship. You need to work hard to become creative on behalf of the company you are trying to pitch. It all boils down to money. If you can build your ask by giving the company a way to make five times more money than it gives you, your pitch will be better than most, if not all, other requests that come in. Going back to understanding marketing, you need to build a pitch where the company gets way more in return than it is giving you. Otherwise, why would it give you something?

4. Commit To Getting Sponsors

Getting sponsors is hard work, and it takes tons of time and personal investment prior to ever seeing anything. Expect lots of rejection and to get ghosted by your points of contact. Then, if you do get sponsored, it will probably be for less than you were hoping for in exchange for more than you were hoping to give. Once you get a sponsor, you need to justify their investment and prove your value is above what you are receiving. You may get lucky on a one-off deal from time to time that will then disappear. However, if you want to be sponsored, you need to commit time to these steps.

If you get the opportunity to pitch yourself, keep the conversation focused on what you can do for the company and not what the company can do for you.

Source: Forbes – Entrepreneurs
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Autonomous vehicles could help cities address their climate goals, if they start planning now

Cities need to lay the groundwork now for the arrival of autonomous vehicles (AVs) to ensure that AVs contribute to rather than detract from their transportation and climate objectives. An ACEEE toolkit highlights fundamental strategies that cities can pursue and gives them a policy roadmap.

As cities grapple with transportation challenges, many have started looking to AVs to improve safety, expand mobility options and improve travel convenience. However, these vehicles fundamentally can change how people choose to travel. Their energy and environmental impacts will depend on who owns them, how many miles they travel, and the modes of transportation they displace.

Without specific policies to shape deployment and ensure net energy and emissions benefits, AVs could aggravate transportation challenges. They could add to already growing congestion in urban centers by undermining transit, inducing additional single occupancy travel and encouraging sprawl.

On the plus side, AVs also can bring transportation and societal benefits. Shared fleets that are available on a dynamic basis have the potential to reduce personal vehicle ownership in cities, expand transit service coverage and connect under-resourced communities. As fewer urban residents feel the need to own cars, cities can repurpose land historically dedicated to personal vehicles to support more efficient forms of transportation such as walking and bicycling, denser development where desired and more affordable housing around transit nodes.

So how do cities make sure they achieve the “heaven” rather than the “hell” scenario? Policymakers will need to keep three critical outcomes in mind.

Promote shared-use low-emissions vehicles

To achieve deep greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions from the transportation sector, cities will need to direct residents towards the shared use of clean vehicles. This includes increasing the number of vehicle occupants per trip and discouraging widespread personal ownership of AVs.

In October, Chicago proposed a downtown surcharge, in addition to a heftier per-ride tax, for solo Uber and Lyft trips to address the congestion impacts caused by ride-hailing vehicles, promote shared rides and generate revenue for mass transit upgrades. Additionally, if AVs are to become a long-term mobility solution and help cities achieve their energy use and emissions goals, they will need to be electric and equitably accessible to all residents. 

Create a robust system of multiple efficient modes

Personal autonomous vehicles cannot be the primary mode of transportation for urban residents if cities are to address their transportation challenges and simultaneously meet energy and GHG targets. Cities will need policies that support a connected urban transportation system with efficient mobility options for all residents. Efforts must include increased public transit ridership through sustained investment in transit service and infrastructure, AVs to fill service gaps and investment in first- and last-mile mobility solutions such as docked and undocked bike-sharing and scooter sharing.

In Maryland, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation recently introduced limited flexible-route, on-demand bus service in two zones during specified hours, to better connect residents to transit and commercial hubs, as well as prepare for the arrival of automated transit service. The Ride On Flex service has no fixed stops or schedules, instead allowing residents to book a ride to any destination within the outlined zones.

Ensure the smart, optimized use of public space

Autonomous vehicles can change city planning and land use. In the best-case scenario, if shared use of AVs becomes widespread, cities will have opportunities to reclaim spaces now dedicated to the personal automobile. For example, they could reduce or eliminate parking-space requirements imposed on developers and expand bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

Mexico City is the largest city in North America to eliminate traditional minimum parking requirements, going so far as to replace those minimums with off-street parking maximums. Additionally, the city imposes fees on buildings constructed with parking beyond 50 percent of the established maximum, thus incentivizing developers to keep off-street parking capacity low. Developers are required to abide by another minimum parking requirement, however — for bicycles.

The arrival of AVs could greatly expand such opportunities to deemphasize auto infrastructure. Furthermore, as these vehicles become more commonplace, cities will need to start incorporating smart infrastructure into their landscapes so connected and automated vehicles can communicate with other vehicles as well as streets, traffic lights and road signs.  

Policies available to cities today can help guide the integration of AVs in urban transportation systems to ensure net energy and GHG benefits. Because AVs bring enormous opportunities as well as significant challenges, their potential impact on GHG emissions and energy consumption is very uncertain.

ACEEE’s new toolkit outlines five policy categories that local decisionmakers can use to shape AV use: requirements for vehicle purchase and use; modified parking requirements and pricing; collection and sharing of transportation data; transportation pricing mechanisms; and transit policies. Such policies will help cities reorient their transportation systems away from the personal automobile and toward more efficient modes. They also will ensure that AVs do not detract from urban environments where public transit, walking and biking thrive, connect seamlessly and provide convenient and affordable mobility to all residents.

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Poll: Two thirds of UK CEOs see the climate crisis as a threat to their business

Escalating warnings from campaigners, policymakers, and investors are cutting through with a growing number of top corporate bosses

Annual global survey of chief executives reveals climate-related issues have soared up the agenda of corporate bosses

The world’s top CEOs are more concerned than ever about the impact of climate change on their business, according to a global survey of over 1,500 corporate leaders.

Unveiled at the Davos summit this afternoon, the 23rd edition of the annual CEO survey from consultancy giant PwC revealed that concerns about climate change have “soared up the CEO agenda” with top bosses identifying a mix of opportunities and risks that are arising as a result of climate impacts and policies.

The survey secured responses from CEOs at a raft of large companies, with nearly half of respondents leading businesses with over $1bn of revenues and a further 35 per cent at companies with revenues of between $100m and $1bn.

It found that 64 per cent of CEOs in the UK believe climate change is a threat to their organisation, with a quarter stating that they were “extremely concerned” about the issue. The results mark a tripling on concern levels from 2016 levels, when just seven per cent of UK CEOs said they were extremely concerned.

Climate change threats to business polled higher than concerns over populism, terrorism, protectionism, and access to capital.

The results from the UK were largely repeated around the world. CEOs from Sri Lanka and New Zealand were the most concerned about climate change, with 86 per cent and 83 per cent respectively saying they were concerned. Meanwhile, even in regions with relatively low levels of concern amongst CEOs, such as the Middle East and China, 38 per cent and 45 per cent of respondents, respectively, admitted they were concerned.

“The impact of climate change has soared up the CEO agenda,” Kevin Ellis, chairman and senior partner of PwC. “CEOs see the impact across all aspects of business, from assets and investments to products and jobs. They are facing pressure from their consumers to play their part. This means boards need to assess their strategies, risks, and business models. Achieving net zero by 2050 will demand innovation and transformation at an unprecedented scale and speed and will require business to take positive action.”

The results suggest escalating warnings from campaigners, policymakers, and investors are cutting through with a growing number of top corporate bosses. This week’s annual risk report from Davos hosts, the World Economic Forum, notably listed climate and environmental risks as the top five concerns for the global economy for the first time.

However, today’s poll suggests business leaders are identifying a mix of risks and opportunities as the global response to climate change evolves.

Just over half of respondents agreed that climate change initiatives will lead to significant new product and service opportunities, while almost three-quarters of UK CEOs – and a similar proportion of global CEOs – believe their response to climate change initiatives will provide a reputational advantage for their organisation among key stakeholders. 

However, 54 per cent of UK CEOs said they do not believe they are seeing changes in international policies that will mitigate climate change risks. Meanwhile, only 21 per cent of UK CEOs believe they are seeing effective change in this area on the domestic front – well below the global average of 36 per cent.

Regulation stemming from the changing environment is also a concern for UK CEOs, with 36 per cent saying they are more concerned about climate-related regulation than other forms of regulation, such as consumer protection and trade.  

The survey also reveals a growing recognition that business leaders need to do more themselves to tackle climate risks. For example, the survey reveals that despite the UK’s legally binding net zero target only 57 per cent of UK organisations have assessed potential transition risks and only 48 per cent have assessed potential physical risks associated with climate change. 

Emma Cox, UK leader for climate change and sustainability at PwC, said “apprehension about current climate policies underscores the need for greater collaboration between government, businesses, non-profits, and consumers”.

“Stimulating clear market solutions like electric vehicles or decentralised energy grids requires the right investment, infrastructure, incentives and taxes,” she added. “With the UN’s pivotal climate summit taking place in Glasgow this year, the UK can help set the world on a new course of action. It will require significant change and compromise from everyone – 2020 heralds a decade of decarbonisation and transformation like no other.”

Further reading

Source: – Business Green
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