Category Archives: Sustainability

Urban Enterprise Center: advocating for multiculturalism AND sustainability

Guest post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganWhether you belong to the Urban Enterprise Center (UEC) or not, you benefit from its programs and vision. Established in 1993 as the multicultural business arm of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, its focus is to build and nurture cross-cultural economic relationships for the benefit of all.

At the UEC sustainability is considered as an ethical and systemic response to the type of fragmented thought in the “old” culture that traditionally allowed people to marginalize and abuse resources without considering impacts on the whole planet.

The UEC applies this holistic thinking to business and economic development with educational resources, job skills training, business literacy, multicultural marketing, cross-cultural business development, policy advocacy and personal development.  “We can help folks to focus on specific job skills, training and knowledge for a career or to establish a green-oriented business,” says Dr. Skip Rowland, executive director.

Dr. Rowland explains, “The whole civil rights issue is about reducing the marginalization of people, because doing so damages our whole society. We need to also think about how marginalized thinking damages our air, water and land.”

The UEC has formed strategic partnerships with scores of organizations that include Enterprise Seattle, Prosperity Partnership, and scores of multicultural organizations.  UEC makes connections by raising awareness of minority-owned businesses and helping businesses expand their customer bases to multi-cultural markets.  Currently, the UEC has about 12 committees of volunteers who focus on a range of issues relevant to communities and businesses of color.

“The act of being green reminds us of a way of thinking about how life on the planet is meant to be lived,” says Dr. Rowland.  “Green is where the economy must go to sustain our planet.” For more information about the Urban Enterprise Center, call 206.389.7231.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She writes the BEDC Brogan blog series twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.

The ABCs of LEED

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganIt is almost impossible these days for there to be a discussion about building or development that does not include discussion of LEED, an internationally-adopted third party certification of environmental excellence in metrics related to energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, stewardship of resources and sensitivity to impacts.

LEED, which stands for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” was initiated by Robert Watson in 1993 to:

  • Define “green building” by establishing a common standard of measurement
  • Promote integrated, whole-building design practices
  • Recognize environmental leadership in the building industry
  • Stimulate green competition
  • Raise consumer awareness of green building benefits
  • Transform the building market

Although it is not the only certification system for sustainability, it is certainly the best known. With the broad-based efforts of the US Green Building Council, LEED has become the global sustainability certification standard for everything from building design to interiors to whole neighborhoods.  And, oh yes, for people, too! 

Increasingly, public agencies are requiring or incentivizing compliance with LEED standards in new construction. In addition, many believe that LEED accreditation of buildings and neighborhoods offer a real market advantage for people who want to live and work in healthy, environmentally-responsible settings.

Individuals can become accredited as either LEED Green Associates or LEED APs through a program administered by the Green Building Certification Institute. The Institute offers educations and seminars, and certifies environmental expertise through a testing program. 

LEED certification can open doors to the green economy for minority entrepreneurs in architecture, construction, planning, engineering or design. It represents official recognition of expertise in sustainability from the industry, and it is a way for you to become current with state-of-the-art business practices in the new green economy.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She writes the BEDC Brogan blog series twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.

Greenlining: how can we make it work for the Northwest?

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganMost of us know about “redlining,” the historic practice of disinvestment by banks, insurance companies, and other institutions of communities of color and low income people.  In the 60’s and 70’s, there were a flurry of corrective actions at the national level, such as the 1968 Fair Housing Act and the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act.

The concept of “greenlining” was invented to turn redlining on its head by reinvesting in low-income, minority and disabled communities. A multi-ethnic Greenlining Coalition was formed in California in the mid-1970’s. In 1993, they established the Greenlining Institute, a multi-ethnic public policy research and advocacy center. The Institute’s programs range from leadership training to policy advocacy to a Green Assets program supporting sustainable businesses in communities of color.

A recent Green Assets publication, Greening Our Neighborhoods: a Carbon Metric for All, makes a case for block-by-block “whole house” energy retrofits that target low-income neighborhoods that can benefit the most from energy savings. In the process, jobs are created and carbon is reduced. Their case study of 36 homes in Census Tract of Richmond, California documented significant energy and economic benefits from a range of weatherization, conservation and appliance replacement actions.

Funds becoming available through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act for energy retrofits and green programs can benefit the triple bottom line for natural, economic and social environments. Organizations like the Greenlining Institute are working to position businesses and communities of color to access these opportunities. Their experience and business model offers promising lessons for emerging businesses in Washington and the Pacific Northwest.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She writes the BEDC Brogan blog series twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.

Winners of UW Environmental Innovation Challenge

“It’s like a science fair on steroids.” That comment by judge and venture capitalist Loretta Little (of WRF Capital) captured the essence of the University of Washington Environmental Innovation Challenge. 19 student teams from 7 Washington state universities and colleges met in Seattle on April 1 to pitch clean-tech, energy-saving business ideas and prototypes to more than 100 judges, venture capitalists, angel investors, professors and business leaders. Watch video highlights.

EIC_EnvitrumGrand prize = $10,000

A team of University of Washington engineers with a business called EnVitrum won the $10,000 grand prize for their innovative glass recycling and green building technology that converts glass into bricks that are stronger and cheaper than masonry and have a dual purpose of cultivating plants.

Second place + honorable mentions = $12,500

Second place with $5,000 went to Triangle Energy (a University of Washington team consisting of two Foster MBA students, one UW doctoral student in mechanical engineering, one UW doctoral student in biochemistry and one UW chemical engineering undergraduate) who created a mobile bioreactor that converts solid biomass into synthesis gas for energy use. Three honorable mention awards of $2,500 each went to interdisciplinary teams of engineering and business students: NanoWAVE (North Seattle Community College) created an energy-efficient, cost-effective LED lighting alternative for growing plants in nurseries, greenhouses and indoor gardens; iDriveSmart (University of Washington) created software that helps predict and encourage fuel-efficient driving; and Idyll Energy Solutions (Seattle Pacific University) created a solution to the idle, wasted energy of household electronics.

The 2nd annual UW Environmental Innovation Challenge was a collaborative venture between the UW Foster School of Business Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, UW College of Engineering and UW College of the Environment. Learn more or get involved in next year’s Challenge.

Featured minority business: Mundiali

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganFeatured Minority Business: Mundiali
Bellevue, WA

Mundiali means “The World.” for Alex Agudelo it means a business vision that helps traditional business models move to innovative and environmentally-conscious ways of doing business. His business philosophy will inspire minority entrepreneurs who share his passion for the green economy.

He founded Mundiali in 2008 as a “triple bottom line” business that helps other businesses address their impacts on the environment while adding to their return on investment. Agudelo got the idea for his company several years ago when he first became aware of innovations in renewable energy, biofuels and water quality. “I knew instantly that this is the future for the economy—where business needs to go and grow,” said Agudelo.

Today, Mundiali’s  group of ten consultants help clients that include anything from technology companies to farmers—anyone who wants to make the transition to sustainability through energy consumption or other business practices. “Our assessments are refined, scalable and provide a great deal of intellectual property and wealth for clients,” said Agudelo.

The company’s biggest challenges have been developing a market presence and in obtaining financial backing. “It’s a fact that brand and name recognition is critical—people need to recognize the name and understand the value we bring before engaging us. Access to capital support is necessary to take our business to the next level. The Stimulus Package has yet to filter down to businesses like ours!”

Despite these challenges, he believes there is tremendous opportunity for minority-owned businesses to access opportunity in the green economy. “There is an abundance of opportunity for anyone who wants to play in the green economy,” said Alex. He adds, “You cannot waiver from your initial and original goal. Don’t give up. Forge forward. We are diving into a new economy and the field is yet to mature.”

Want to learn more? Visit www.mundiali.com.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She will be writing the BEDC Brogan blog series twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.

Foster students return to Panama for spring break

This spring break roughly 29 University of Washington students, most from the Foster School, will descend on a mountain village in Panama to help the villagers there improve their farming business and hopefully rise a little further above subsistence-level farming.

The trip was set up by the Global Business Brigades, a nationwide student-led organization with a UW chapter. A dozen students are also getting course credits for the trip through the Foster School. The lead UW student organizers—Foster students David Almeida and Blake Strickland—said the team plans also to revisit a coffee plantation where 18 Foster students spent the 2009 spring break. Almeida’s group will evaluate the impact the students had on the coffee plantation and find out if the farmers have put into practice the team’s recommendations.

“All 29 of us are extremely excited for this chance to make a real and positive impact in the lives of people living in Machuca,” Almeida said. “Through working with the farmers, living in the village, embracing their culture, and making a difference, the next week will be sure to change our lives as much as theirs.”

This year, the team will spend most of their spring break on the Machuca Farm located in the Cocle province, roughly three hours from Panama City. The farm is a 25-minute hike from the end of the nearest roadway. The community has about 800 inhabitants, but the farm group that the students are focusing on has 14 members and supports roughly 35 people. The farm grows yucca, plantain, rice, beans, corn and other crops and also raises chickens, goats and fish in a pond.

In the team’s trip preparations, the undergraduates identified four main areas where they hope to have an impact—processing chickens, bread making, goat milk products and organic products.

Almeida and several other team members plan to post updates on this blog. Stay tuned.

3 teams win high honors for global solutions to poverty

gsec-nuruGrand Prize of $10,000

The 2010 Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition winning team was Nuru Light, also winner of the People’s Choice Award and Investor’s Choice Award, for their affordable, clean, safe alternative to kerosene as a light source in Rwanda. Nuru lights can be recharged quickly via the world’s first pedal generator. Team Nuru consists of students from Adventist University of Central Africa and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Photo (L-R): Charles Ishimwe, Bill Gates, Sr., Max Fraden

 

gsec-touchhbGlobal Health Grand Prize of $5,000

UW Global Health’s largest prize went to TouchHb, an affordable, prick-less anemia scanner used by low-skilled village health workers in rural India that measures, helps diagnose, monitors and screens for anemia. Team TouchHb consists of two doctors from the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences.

 

 

 

gsec-maloJudges’ Choice Prize of $3,000

Judges this year created a spontaneous award and personally pitched in a total of $3,000 for an on-the-fly Judges’ Choice Award which went to Malo Traders for their business plan that provides technological consultation that minimizes risks of post-harvest losses for small-scale rice farmers in Mali. Team Malo consists of two brothers who grew up in Africa and are now pursuing degrees—one is a PhD student in political science at Purdue University and the other a business student at Temple University.

The Global Business Center at the UW Foster School of Business puts on the Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition each year – when international student teams are coached, critiqued and judged by Seattle-area business leaders. A record number of applicants (161) from around the world applied for the 6th annual event with innovative ideas to help solve global poverty. Watch the video.

Nuru wins People’s Choice Award at Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition

gsec-3936

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

University of Washington Foster School’s Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition is underway this week and 11 semi-finalist teams are competing for a chance to win over judges and beat out other innovative business ideas to combat global poverty.

At a trade show this week, the People’s Choice Award went to a team with an idea called “Nuru Light: a Solution to Africa’s Lighting Crisis” which provides affordable, renewable, clean lighting to replace kerosene in households. One of the team members traveled outside of Rwanda for the first time in his life to pitch this business idea along with a medical student from Massachusetts Medical School.

Winners will announced at tonight’s GSEC Award’s Ceremony which will also feature keynote speaker Bill Gates, Sr.

Good luck to the 11 teams and 5 finalist teams – part of a record-breaking number of applicants who chose to solve poverty with business innovations.

Many shades of green

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganThe National Smart Growth Conference held in Seattle in early February featured a track on social justice. Various speakers discussed the challenges of integrating people of color into the green movement. One need only go to any gathering of environmental activists to observe the reality of this demographic homogeneity.

Is green the “new white?” Does this “unintentional exclusion” translate into fewer economic opportunities in the emerging green economy?

Communities of color have a strong stake in environmental quality. Our communities are typically more likely to experience disproportionate environmental impacts from urban development. Furthermore, many of our traditional cultures are steeped in sustainable practices such as urban agriculture, conservation, reuse and high transit usage.

Putting aside the fact that these practices are usually driven more by economic need than environmental ideology, one could argue that communities of color are true pioneers of sustainability. Sustainable behaviors are integrated into every aspect of our cultures as a way of life, rather than as a political statement. Sustainability is not simply about the environment, but also embraces the need for economic and social sustainability. Communities of color offer receptive markets and traditions of environmental behavior that are ideal opportunities for the green marketplace.

Our challenge as minority entrepreneurs is to embrace and expand on this integrated view of sustainability. How can we bring green technologies to help our people save money on energy? How can we make it easier to grow healthy crops that nourish our families without the risk of pesticides? How can we educate our young people to choose quality of life over quantity of goods?

Green economy opportunities abound in our own backyards.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She will be writing the BEDC Brogan blog series twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.

Turning green into $green: Market strategies for minority–owned businesses

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganQ:  What is green and white all over?
A:   It’s the green economy!

One of the primary purposes of this blog series is to introduce more color into the green economy. Just as the environmental movement has been comprised primarily of white middle-class people, so has the emergence of green businesses reflected that demographic.  While minority-owned businesses participate at about the same rate as white-owned firms do in the green economy, African American- and Latino-owned firms in the green economy are smaller in terms of revenue and number of employees than are Caucasian- and Asian/Pacific Islander-owned firms according to a 2008 survey by the UW Business and Economic Development Center (BEDC). There are probably a lot of sociological reasons for this disparity, but the fact remains that there is a growing economic sector that is still untapped by many minority-owned businesses.

 There is no magic to becoming a successful green business, but here are four steps that can help minority businesses break into the green economy:

  • Develop your “elevator speech.”  Imagine that you only had time between the 10th floor and 1st floor to convince a venture capitalist to invest in your business. How would you describe your business model, its value and potential in three sentences or less? This is not an easy thing to do, but the discipline and creativity that you need to exercise in developing your elevator speech will help you hone your brand into a strong and memorable message.
  • Network with other green businesses. The enthusiasm and commitment of environmentally-oriented businesses and organizations is staggering. Organizations like Green Drinks have grown from low-key networking events into huge monthly celebrations of like-minded businesses. Over 400 people attended the Green Drinks event that PRR co-sponsored in October. Attendees included wind and solar power businesses, manufacturers of green office products, distributors of green office products—you get my point.  Even better, we were able to raise funds for our co-sponsoring non-profit, People for Puget Sound.
  • Get certified as a small business with the Small Business Administration as a DBE or MWBE with the State Office of Minority and Women-Owned Businesses or with the NW Minority Supplier Development Council. These programs will let you know about upcoming procurement opportunities, and can help provide technical assistance and low-income loans.
  • Join the BEDC’s Green Economy Initiative. We all get by with a little help from our friends. The mission of the Green Economy Initiative is to increase the number of minority-owned businesses that are generating profits from their involvement in the green economy.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She will be writing the BEDC Brogan blog series twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.