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As published on: http://seechangemagazine.com

I’m thrilled to have launched TheChange and to see my vision of advancing the sustainability movement locally coming to life with the help of a great team and community support. One-month post launch, I thought I’d take the time to reflect on my journey to date.

I grew up on the West Coast of BC and was raised to be environmentally conscious and socially active. I’ve always been interested in getting involved with organizations that are built to make the world better. They are why I wake up in the morning, and the inspiration for the kind of company I hope to create.

In late 2007, I came up with the concept for an online platform that connects people with organizations that align with their values. It started as an extension of my personal interests, and then became a business opportunity when I noticed the demand increasing for corporate responsibility, green jobs and eco-friendly products/services.

I didn’t have a technical background, but I saw the web as the perfect medium to get people informed and inspired to participate in the green economy. Ultimately, I saw the web as a tool to power offline action.

With this business concept in mind, I enrolled in the Bachelor of Commerce program with a specialization in Entrepreneurship at Royal Roads University. The program allowed me to work on a business plan and participate in a start-up incubator. I graduated top of class and with $25,000 in awards. I used this money to incorporate Ethico Solutions Inc. in the fall of 2008.

I spent the next year researching, networking and understanding my customer’s needs. I managed the administration and marketing for the Victoria Values-Based Business Network and Organic Islands, Canada’s largest outdoor green expo. I attended the Social Venture Institute and Web of Change Conference. These experiences gave me to the opportunity to build relationships with many small and medium sized businesses (SME’s) in the local sustainability space.

I learned that SME’s primary challenges were in marketing, sales and recruitment. After hearing their stories and learning how they put sustainability into practice, I was always inspired to support them as a customer, employee or volunteer. So their story – what inspired them to go green and their sustainability initiatives, as they related to the environment, community and employees – became the focus of how I would profile these businesses online. I recruited a technical partner in the Fall of 2009 and for the next six months we worked together, along with designers, branding and legal professionals to release the first version of the platform known as TheChange.

TheChange
launched in Vancouver and Victoria May 15th 2010 and aims to connect people with local sustainable businesses in a relevant and engaging way. Now one-month post launch, TheChange has been featured on the front pages of local media, raised money, hired two employees, recruited a CTO, and is even working with marketing interns from my old stomping ground at BCIT! We have over 50 organizations onboard, are growing daily, and are working diligently on version 2.0 of the platform based on our beta testing and customer feedback.

We’re also gearing up to launch a new initiative called ethicalDeal this Summer! Every day, ethicalDeal will offer one exclusive deal on eco-friendly products and services in your city at an unbeatable price. This is another way we are helping people participate in the green economy and are supporting local businesses that offer green products/services.

We’re moving into an office this summer and will be hiring people to help us grow on a city-by-city basis across North America. I’m very excited for what lies ahead and truly believe that together we can advance the sustainability movement. Join us in TheChange!

Yours for a sustainable future,

Annalea Krebs
Founder & CEO, Ethico Solutions Inc.
www.TheChange.com
www.ethicalDeal.com

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As much as the media makes corporate responsibility and sustainability (CSR) out to be mainstream, it isn’t. There are still way more companies that are ‘in transition’ and unfortunately only a handful of leaders. But that is why it is so important to support those companies that are just starting down the sustainability path. So that we can create more leaders and truly make CSR mainstream.

In the Next Sustainability Wave, Bob Willard talks about Sustainability Continuums. He describes 5 stages of companies:

Stage 1: Pre-Compliance The company feels no obligation beyond profits. It cuts corners and tries not to get caught if it breaks the law or uses exploitative practices that cheat the system. It ignores sustainability and actively fights against related regulations.
Stage 2: Compliance The business manages its liabilities by obeying the law and all labor, environment, health, and safety regulations. It reactively does what it legally has to do and does it well. Emerging environmental and philanthropic social actions are treated as costs, projects are end-of-pipe retrofits, and CSR is given lip service.
Stage 3: Beyond Compliance The company moves from defense to offense. It realizes it can save expenses with proactive and incremental operational eco-efficiencies , cleaner processes, and better waste management. It recognizes community investment and social marketing can minimize uncertainty, enhance its reputation, and can help maximize shareholder value. However, sustainability initiatives are still marginalized in specialized departments – they are tacked on as “green housekeeping,” not built in and institutionalized.
Stage 4: Integrated Strategy The firm transforms itself. It re-brands itself as a company committed to sustainability and integrates sustainability with key business strategies. It captures added value from breakthrough sustainability initiatives that benefit all stakeholders. Instead of costs and risks, it sees investments and opportunities. It makes cleaner products, applies eco-effectiveness and life-cycle stewardship, and enjoys competitive advantages from sustainability initiatives.
Stage 5: Purpose & Passion Driven by a passionate, values-based commitment to improving the well-being of the company, society, and the environment, the company helps build a better world because it is the right thing to do. Visit www.vbnetwork.ca for great examples of Stage 5 businesses.

I love supporting and promoting businesses that are at Stage 4/5 – they already get it! But I also enjoy the challenge and reward that comes from working with companies that are at the tipping point (Stage 2/3) – working where social change meets the old paradigm and bringing enlightenment into that zone. Where along the sustainability continuum do you want to affect change?

Welcome to Sustainable Pursuits!

This blog covers my journey into various sustainable pursuits.  I also share my reflections on corporate responsibility, social enterprise and values-based work. I welcome your comments and hope that by reading my blog you’re inspired to purse sustainability in your life and career.

Yours for a sustainable future,

Annalea Krebs