Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Corporate Greed Has Got to Go! Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Public Benefit Has Got to Take a Hold!

The need for a new type of corporation, where profits are no longer pursued at the expense of the employees, the environment and the local community is now reaching a fever pitch.  Just last night the Occupy Wall Street protesters were forcibly evicted from Zuccotti Park.  Today, protesters across the country march in solidarity – but for what exactly?   The power elite has not shown any sign of changing their ways, and the rest of us are left in the cold, without any new change.

I would say this about the Occupy Wall Street movement: it has been a critical first step in creating dialogue about the problem of corporate greed. However it is limiting, and has not yet produced a solution that will guide our country in a new direction.  Now that America is listening, it is time for the movement to organize towards solutions that put people back to work, that protect our environment and that require greater corporate transparency and accountability. 

I believe that California just may be on the forefront of this critical next step: one that will fundamentally shift the corporate culture.  Just last month, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law two new laws that create the Benefit Corporation and the Flexible Purpose Corporation.  Starting January 1, 2012, existing and new corporations can elect to govern themselves for a public benefit purpose, with greater transparency and reporting to the public and shareholders.   

Consumers are already choosing to spend their hard earned dollars with companies that actively participate in their community, that take responsibility for their impact on the environment and that are voluntarily transparent.   These companies are part of an exploding new economy, estimated at 300 billion dollars in the U.S. alone.  Corporations which choose to hold themselves to these higher ethical standards will be far more likely to succeed financially over the long term, will enjoy greater consumer confidence and loyalty, and their employees will be more productive because they will know that their work is contributing positively to society.   

It is my belief that the Benefit Corporation and the Flexible Purpose Corporation will be a part of the answer to the current corporate culture of greed, that these two new corporate structures will be a positive rallying point to address the sentiment of the 99%, whether you are out there protesting or inwardly hoping for a real shift.     

I look forward to being a part of this change, and encourage anyone who wants to know more about how to form a Benefit Corporation or a Flexible Purpose Corporation to contact my office for more information.   If you are in the Santa Monica Area, please register for my lunch event tomorrow titled:  Social Enterprise: Innovative New Business Structures for People Planet and Profit where I will be talking in more detail about these new options. To learn more, and to register go to: http://socialenterpriseevent.eventbrite.com/

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Goodbye from Grace!

Dear Readers,

This is my last blog article on LA Green Lawyer! My law school career begins this week and for the next three years you will find me studying and engaging with my peers at the UCLA School of Law.

I want to thank you for your continued support for this blog and for Becki’s law firm: The Law Office of Becki Kammerling. It has been an absolute pleasure learning and discovering new businesses, ideas, and workshops and sharing them here with you. I will be taking all of these experiences with me through law school, and although I may have never spoken with you in person, I do feel a connection with the green online community that I did not have a year ago. This blog has given me the chance to explore my passion and channel it in a fun, creative way.

It has been a wonderful past year and I thank you for being a part of it. I still plan on pursuing a degree in environmental law, so keep an eye out for me!

Wishing you all the best,

Friday, August 5, 2011

Building Good Karma

A wonderful L3C that I have had the privilege to learn about working at the Law Office of Becki Kammerling is Karma Builders L3C. A social enterprise located in The Bronx, New York, Karma Builders trains and employs formerly incarcerated individuals in the service of woodworking for local sustainable companies. Through a six-month program, these individuals are trained in green woodworking and assembly and are also introduced to yoga and mindfulness. It is a very unique idea, I think, and one that will allow these individuals to finish the program with a strong skill set to enter the workforce and an enlightened perspective on life. What better way to help them become positive citizens in society!

Karma Builders- helping to break the vicious cycle of unemployment and re-incarceration

Karma Builders is a great organization and a fantastic example of a true L3C. In fact, they are currently in the running to receive the “Philanthropic Small Business of the Year” award from the Classy Awards, the largest philanthropic award ceremony in the United States. This award would be an amazing acknowledgement for them, so please vote for them here: http://classyawards.stayclassy.org/classy-awards/voting. From that page, scroll down to the bottom to "Philanthropic Small Business of the Year" and click to find Karma Builders. Then head to the top of the page and submit your vote! (You do not need to vote for the other categories if you do not want, just specify you would only like to vote for that one category)

Whether you are an entrepreneur yourself or are simply interested in social change, please take the time to learn more about Karma Builders L3C and cast your vote to help them achieve the Classy Award! Voting ends August 26th!

To find out more about what an L3C is, check out Becki's blog post at: http://lagreenlawyer.blogspot.com/2011/08/what-is-l3c.html

What is an L3C?

Social entrepreneurs and new start-up companies are taking advantage of a new legal entity: the L3C (low-profit limited liability company).   

An L3C functions much like an LLC and any other for-profit company except that earning a profit takes a back seat to providing a social benefit to society.  This legally allows the managers of the L3C to achieve their organization’s social mission without violating duties to the company’s investors in the event that that social mission does not “maximize profits” in a traditional sense.

Another benefit of forming an L3C is that it may attract investment from foundations.  Foundations are non-profit organizations that, under certain circumstances, can  invest in for-profit companies.  However, these investments, called Program Related Investments, require that the investment further the public benefit purpose of the foundation.  For example a foundation which  has a purpose to educate at risk youth could invest in an  L3C whose mission, through its for-profit venture,  is also to provide education to at risk youth.  Not only does the L3C benefit by having a like-minded investor, the foundation has the opportunity to increase their funds through receiving a return on their investment. 

The  L3C, while still new,  has the potential to enhance the business world with a fresh and sustainable approach to doing business as well as the potential to increase the amount of money available to traditional foundations. 

If you would like more information about setting up an L3C or a social benefit company please contact my law office

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Mission Against Emissions

Last week, on June 20th, 2011, the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that state and city governments as well as nonprofits could not sue utility companies for greenhouse gas emissions from their power plants. Instead, because the Court ruled that greenhouse gas emissions fall under the category of “air pollutant” under the Clean Air Act (Massachusetts v. EPA), the EPA alone is responsible for regulating and setting standards for these fossil-fuel fired power plants.

This comes as mixed news.

On the negative side, through this ruling the Court has set the stage preventing other organizations from forcing utility companies to cut greenhouse gas emissions. In this specific Supreme Court case, the defendants were five utility companies which the plaintiffs alleged are the five largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the country, responsible for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions from all domestic human sources in the United States. To prevent any person or organization from forcing limits upon emitters can seem frustrating in light of climate change issues.

However, on the positive side, the EPA has stated that they will set standards limiting emissions from fossil-fuel fired power plants by May 2012. And the Supreme Court did explain that if the EPA does not set emission limits for a particular pollutant at that time, States and private parties could then file suit.

Overall, I agree with the Court’s decision and I think it is a great reminder of how the EPA is finally taking responsibility and moving forward on regulating emissions that are exacerbating climate change. Additionally, I think it prompts business owners to remember that we cannot forget our individual responsibility. Threats of lawsuits will not be looming overhead, but we should still conduct good business practices and do all in our power to set our own standards, reduce our emissions, and become more sustainable.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Seeds of Sustainability

The term “sustainability” encompasses a complex array of ideas and perspectives. On a whole, it involves management and maintenance of the environment, the economy, and society. That can include reducing the amount of fossil fuels and raw materials we use, reducing the amount of food and water we consume, and reducing the amount of waste we produce without jeopardizing the livelihoods and economic stability of our society.

Yet while we think of achieving sustainability on an individual and organizational level, e.g. local towns, individual businesses, and social groups, at least for me, I never thought of how a bank could strive for sustainability (beyond their efforts to switch to e-statements).

And then I learned about the Unified Field Corporation (UFC).

The Unified Field Corporation is a sustainable community partnership bank formation systems and development company with the vision to open Unified Field Banks across the nation. They maintain a quadruple bottom line- Financial Prosperity, Environmental Sustainability, Social Progress, and Preservation of Culture- and are an entirely different body of bank. They are redefining what it means to be a financial institution and are working right now on finding communities interested in becoming a part of the Unified Field Bank system.

On Saturday, May 7, 2011, the UFC will be coming to Venice, CA to begin a three-part event series to present information about Unified Field Banks and show interested community members how to start their very own Unified Field Bank in their local community. They are looking for team members, community engagers, and members interested in investing in their local bank and UFC. Please show your support and attend this wonderful series! This first event will take place from 2pm until 6pm at the Electric Lodge Theater (1416 Electric Avenue, Venice, CA 90291). Click here to view their flyer.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Green Jobs: Get to Work!

In today’s economy I feel that networking and collaboration have become two integral parts of business and key components to success. The Sustainable Business Council (SBC), a non-profit organization in Los Angeles founded by a group of sustainable business executives, and Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management are presenting a wonderful business event next week titled: “Green Jobs, Get to Work!” that works to facilitate those very two things.

The event, taking place at Pepperdine University next Wednesday, March 23rd, is open for any interested! Parking and attendance costs are complimentary, although there is a $25.00 suggested donation. The event will run from 7:00pm until 9:30pm and features a green internship fair and a panel discussion with executives from sustainable businesses such as Phoenix Energy Technologies and Belkin International, Inc.

Please come check it out! Whether you are a student seeking a potential internship with an eco-minded business or a business looking for new partnerships and advice, this event is sure to be a great venue to reach out and network with various minds in the green business community. The full details and Event Registration can be found here: http://www.sustainablebc.org/events.html.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Some eco-friendly resolutions

It may be too late to be writing about New Year’s resolutions, but I’m a firm believer in making commitments to improvements regardless of whether it falls exactly on a holiday or certain date. So, even if you have already made your resolutions (and maybe broken them…) or if you haven't made any, here are some simple lifestyle changes you can try to incorporate in your everyday life.

A few eco-friendly resolution ideas:

  • Only purchase reused or recycled clothing

Benefits: It prevents wonderful clothing items from being tossed in the landfill, conserves energy/material/time/costs to make new products, and saves you money. One of my friends made this exact resolution last year and it was such a success she is repeating it for 2011!

  • Bring reusable bags to ALL shopping trips

Benefits: They prevent plastic (produced from oil and a great input of energy) from being in landfills/streets/trees/oceans, they are more durable (no more double-bagging) than plastic bags so you can feel safer carrying heavy items, and they are often larger than the plastic bags, allowing you to fit more in fewer bags. Plus, as mentioned in my previous blog post, this may be a change you’ll be forced to make in Los Angeles come this July. Might as well get into a good habit!

  • Become a vegetarian

Benefits: Becoming vegetarian is one of the most important and effective actions you can take to reduce the negative impact you have on the environment. Livestock production accounts for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, generates an enormous amount of water pollution in the form of pesticides, antibiotics, and fecal matter, and requires an enormous amount of land, water, grain, and petroleum. In fact, researchers at the University of Chicago concluded that switching from a standard American diet to a vegan diet is more effective in the fight against climate change than switching from a standard American car to a hybrid. To find out more, check out this article: “7 Clear-Cut Reasons Why Meat is Bad for the Environment

  • Designate a box or bag for electronic recycling (batteries, cell phones, printers, computers)

Benefits: Having a box or bag set aside specifically for electronics to be recycled will help encourage and remind you to keep hazardous material out of landfills/groundwater and allow for those items to be reused. I know how hard it can be to hold on to used batteries instead of just tossing them in the trash, but if there is a bag already labeled for e-waste, it can help keep those tiny pieces together. Then, at the end of the year, you can stop by at a HHW/E-Waste Collection Event or one of LA’s S.A.F.E Centers

  • Make all mailings electronic (billing, magazines, newspapers, letters to friends, ask to be placed off of mailing lists)

Benefits: At least for me, electronic mailings are easier for me to track, categorize, and find than regular mail. They also save on paper, reduce postage costs, and prevent clutter. Check out http://www.catalogchoice.org/ to get yourself off of all those unsolicited mailings.

  • Stop drinking bottled water

Benefits: It’s healthier and cheaper for you and helps the environment. Read to find out more: "5 Reasons Not to Drink Bottled Water"