Whats New Emory Knoll Farms

Whats New Emory Knoll Farms

Emory Knoll Farms: A Featured Business in The Daily Records Green Business Guide

September 27th, 2012

Emory Knoll Farms was recently featured in the Maryland publication The Daily Record. in their Green Business Guide including a great picture of some of our plants on the cover!  The article gives a snapshot of our business, and highlights some of the benefits of green roofs, giving several examples of the types of buildings where green roof technology is most effective.  Photos of a few  of our green roof projects  are shown in the second part of the article.  Read it online here!

Mid-Atlantic Green Roof Science and Technology Symposium

The First Annual Mid-Atlantic Green Roof Science and Technology Symposium

Re-defining Green Roof Science

Standards for green roof performance have not been established. The MGRST symposium is dedicated to disseminating results of scientific research that will lead to the establishment of green roof performance standards for the Mid-Atlantic region.

Speakers include:

• Dr. Manfred Kohler, University of Applid Sciences

• Dr. Rob Berghage, Pennsylvania State University

• Dr. Brad Rowe, Michigan State University

• Ed Snodgrass, Emory Knoll Farms

• Dr. Colleen Butler, University of Toronto

• Dr. Andrew Ristvey, University of Maryland

• Dr. John Lea-Cox, University of Maryland

• Olyssa Starry, University of Maryland

• Dr. Elizabeth Fassman, University of Auckland

• Dr. Stuart Griffin, Columbia University

• Charlie Miller, Roofmeadow

• Michael Furbish, Furbish Company

• Stewart Comstock, MD Department of the Environment

• Michael Clar, New Castle County, DE

• Ray Mims, Architect of the Capitol

• Darren DeStaffano, U.S. General Services Administration

Emory Knoll Farms is a sponsor for the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Green Roof Science and Technology Symposium. Our very own Ed Snodgrass will also be participating in this Symposium as an invited speaker.

We hope you will be able to join us at this inaugural event, to learn about the exciting new research, projects, and technology in the green roof industry! Online registration is available at www.mgrstsymposium.eventbrite.com. Please contact Dr. Steven Cohan at 301-405-6969 or by e-mail at Scohan(at)umd.edu if you have any questions about this event.

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AMERICAN HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY HONORS EDMUND C. SNODGRASS WITH G.B. GUNLOGSON AWARD

March 30th, 2011

Alexandria, VA (March 24, 2011).

The American Horticultural Society (AHS) is pleased to announce that Edmund C. Snodgrass has been named the 2011 recipient of the Society’s G.B. Gunlogson Award.

The award is one of 12 Great American Gardeners Awards that the AHS presents annually to individuals, organizations, and businesses that represent the best in American gardening. Each of the recipients has contributed significantly to fields such as scientific research, garden communication, landscape design, youth gardening, teaching, and conservation. The G.B. Gunlogson Award recognizes

the innovative use of technology to make home gardening more productive and successful.

Edmund C. Snodgrass is president and founder of Emory Knoll Farms, Inc. and Green Roof Plants in Street, Maryland—North America’s first nursery specializing in plants for green roofs and horticultural consulting. The nursery has supplied plants for more than 400 green roof projects throughout the United States and Canada. Snodgrass collaborates on green roof research with academic institutions

including Pennsylvania State University, North Carolina State University, and Michigan State University, and he advises public gardens, including the Singapore Botanic Garden and the U.S. Botanic Garden, on green roof installations. He has also co-authored two books about green roofs.

On Thursday, June 9, 2011, the AHS will honor Snodgrass and the other 2011 award recipients during the Great American Gardeners Awards Ceremony and Banquet, held at the Society’s headquarters at River Farm in Alexandria, Virginia.

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B Corp: Better laws for business

March 9th, 2011

By Tamara Schweitzer

Signing the Maryland Benefit Corporation legislation into law, April 2010.

In the current corporate structure money takes precedence over mission as a matter of law but for many social entrepreneurs, maximizing company profits can often be at odds with their desire to act responsibly. The well-known story of what happened to environmentally and socially-conscious Ben and Jerrys when it was bought out by Dutch conglomerate Unilever in 2000, is one of the most significant examples of this clash. In the case of Ben and Jerrys, the founders didnt want to sell for fear the takeover could compromise their efforts as a socially responsible company. However, when the founders couldnt come up with a counter offer from private investors that topped the price of shares offered by Unilever, its shareholders sued, and Ben and Jerrys was forced to relent to the sale.

But now, new legislation is being enacted to solve this problem and to help social enterprises avoid the dilemma that arose for Ben and Jerrys founders.

A new type of corporate structure called the Benefit Corporation, is taking hold in state legislatures across the country and changing the way social enterprises do business. Current corporate law dictates that companies must act in the interest of increasing shareholder value, and opens them up to lawsuits by shareholders if they make decisions that don’t directly create more profit.

Benefit Corporation legislation is a crucial step in changing this reality by providing social entrepreneurs with the choice to legally prioritize their public benefit over profits. Last year, the legislation was signed into law in Maryland (where it took effect in October) and Vermont (to take effect this July), and as of last month, when Governor Chris Christie signed the bill, New Jersey became the third state to enact the legislation. Virginia isn’t far behind either – the bill also recently passed the state legislature there and will soon become law with Governor Robert McDonnell’s signature.

“For too long, corporations that wanted to make money and make the world a better place didn’t have a place in the legal infrastructure of our corporate system,” says Andrew Greenblatt, policy associate for B Lab, the organization behind the movement to promote and establish B Corporations. Greenblatt and B Lab have been instrumental in getting Benefit Corporation legislation introduced in several other states including New York, Colorado, North Carolina, and Hawaii.

Public policy of this nature can be notoriously hard to get off the ground, often due to bi-partisan conflicts, but Greenblatt says that hasn’t been the case with the Benefit Corporation legislation, and in every state where it has been introduced it has received strong support from the major parties. “States are realizing that they want to be on the front end of this,” says Greenblatt. With the swift progress being made so far this year, he predicts that the Benefit Corporation will ultimately become the dominant structure for social ventures “because it does what the existing law for corporations was never designed to do.”

So what does this new law that allows for the creation of Benefit Corporation status actually do? For starters, it makes it possible for companies to legally consider the interests of other stakeholders when making decisions, and protects the company’s owners from shareholder lawsuits. “When you elect to incorporate as a Benefit Corporation, the fundamental change that occurs is that there is now a responsibility as a corporation to promote the general public benefit,” says Bill Clark, a partner at Drinker Biddle and Reath, who has been the primary legal force behind writing the new legislation and revising it in accordance with different state laws.

Clark drafted the legislation to include a provision that deals with the fiduciary duties of corporate officers, giving them the discretion to act on behalf of other stakeholder interests, namely employees, the environment, and community. The law also holds companies accountable to their social and environmental responsibilities. Without the Benefit Corporation status, any company can act responsibly and advertise that they do so. They can even get certified as a B Corp by a third party assessment firm – a main mission of the B Lab organization to demonstrate to the public that they are committed to running their business in a sustainable way. But, prior to legislation passing, they were not required by law to do it.

The legislation is now a crucial bench-marker in holding companies accountable for their actions. Companies that incorporate as a Benefit Corporation are required by the law to publish an annual report that details how they have fulfilled their public benefit. The report must be filed using third-party assessment standards, like the impact rating tool that B Lab provides on its Website, and distributed to company shareholders as well as published on its own website.

John Shepley, co-owner of Maryland-based Emory Knoll Farms, and one of the first business owners to incorporate his company as a Benefit Corporation in Maryland last October, says this level of accountability is exactly what led him to elect the status.

“We did it to show leadership to the rest of the world,” says Shepley, “and to act as an example for others of what it means to be a Benefit Corporation.” As the ranks of Benefit Corporations grow (there are currently 15 incorporated in Maryland since the law took effect), business owners like Shepley are pioneering a new way of doing business by showing that transparency simply makes good business sense.

When Shepley and his partner Ed Snodgrass formed Emory Knoll Farms, a company specializing in selling green roof plants in 2004, they made a commitment to be a sustainable business in all aspects of their operations, including the way that they manage and compensate employees. The product itself – green roof plants – was also a part of the company’s overall efforts to be environmentally responsible. Because Emory Knoll Farms built these principles into their operations from the beginning, Shepley says electing the Benefit Corporation status was not a major change for them. It did, however, change the way they portrayed themselves to the rest of the business community.

“When we started, we were a small company and we didn’t see a need to document our sustainability efforts because we were the ones running everything and we held each other accountable,” says Shepley. “One thing that the new status has changed is that it gave me a reason to create written pieces of documentation, for example putting into words our policy on sustainability or how much energy we consumed on a yearly basis.” Shepley was already conducting self-audits to keep track of their social and environmental impact, but he never officially had to create a public report. Now that we’re a Benefit Corporation, “the report I put together allows us to summarize all of our environmental and social impact in a more complete and comprehensive way,” says Shepley.

He recently published Emory Knoll Farms’ first public report as a Benefit Corporation on its website, based on the results he received from the B Lab online assessment tool. Shepley says being a Benefit Corporation has also prompted him to want to pursue reporting of more challenging metrics at Emory Knoll Farms. For example, their green roof plants positively impact the environment by significantly decreasing storm water run-off. Shepley is now in the process of trying to measure how many millions of gallons of storm water the plants hold, which he believes will be a meaningful metric to report to the public.

“One of the main benefits is to be transparent,” says Shepley. “You’re actually showing the world the specific things that you are doing that are positive contributions to the environment and the community.”

The hope among B Lab supporters is that 2011 will be a big policy year for social enterprise, with at least four other states poised to pass legislation this year. If the recent success of the Maryland legislation is any indication, then they are well on their way to making that goal a reality.

Photo is courtesy of B Lab.

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Emory Knoll Farms Becomes one of Marylands First Benefit Corporations

November 5th, 2010

baltimoresun.com

Businesses sign up to do good while doing well

Businesses register as benefit corporations under first-of-its-kind law

By Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun

7:04 PM EDT, October 4, 2010

When a law took effect Friday allowing Maryland businesses to organize as benefit corporations, a hybrid of for-profit and nonprofit models that aims for public benefits as well as profits, John Shepley lined up early at the state tax office hoping to be a trailblazer.

For Shepley, who amended the charter of his wholesale nursery business in Street, Harford County, the transformation to a B corporation is largely symbolic.

Were a for-profit business, but our mission is very socially and environmentally oriented, said Shepley, co-owner of Emory Knoll Farms Inc. which grows plants for green roofs. Theres a big environmental benefit to green roofs. Since we started, weve always intended to run it as a socially and environmentally conscious company.

Maryland is the first state in the nation allowing this new class of company. Under legislation signed into law in April, B corporations pay taxes and have shareholders but are shielded from shareholder lawsuits if the company chooses to channel some profits to benefit stakeholders, such as employees, customers, suppliers, the community or the local and global environment. A benefit corporation could share profits or make donations to improve the welfare of employees or suppliers or promote causes such as the environment or the arts.

What were doing here is creating an opportunity for a company to be organized this way, said Del. Brian J. Feldman, a Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the House bill. Its an opportunity for corporations to brand themselves a certain way and a signal to consumers and investors that a corporate entity is prepared or would like to engage in activity to benefit the general welfare of the community.

In some situations, he said, the bottom-line profit is not going to be the single determining factor in dictating what a corporation may or may not do.

Vermont this past spring passed similar legislation, which is not yet in effect. Nearly a dozen other states either have introduced bills or are expected to propose similar measures next year. Maryland B corporations wont get tax breaks or any procurement benefits yet. But supporters are hopeful that the movement will grow and eventually lead to such incentives.

For now, proponents hope businesses will think more about how they can not only make money but serve a public mission. Others say the designation could help attract investors seeking socially responsible businesses, or even bring new business to the state. Owners would have more negotiating room when selling a business because they could consider offers that made sense not only to shareholders but to other stakeholders as well.

The new law provides corporations a Good Housekeeping seal we are socially conscious. and it provides a board of directors a little more latitude in assessing business transactions, said William A. McComas, a corporate lawyer and partner at Shapiro Sher Guinot & Sandler in Baltimore.

Shepley, the co-owner of Emory Knoll, which he and a partner started in 2004, says the new designation validates his business model. The B corporation idea, he says, simply makes good business sense.

In a traditional company, investments in ventures such as habitat restoration or solar energy would be viewed as detracting from the bottom line. But as a B corporation, were not only allowed to do those things, we are encouraged, and our directors are protected from potential lawsuits, though that is less of a concern for small businesses where shares are closely held, Shepley said.

A for-profit company that operates in a socially responsible manner has an advantage over a business that doesnt, he said. The investments weve made in socially responsible and environmentally responsible practices provide a positive effect on our bottom line.

Shepley says his company pays a living wage and offers its employees generous benefits, practices that have resulted in low employee turnover. And he says investments in alternative and renewable energy, including solar-powered irrigation systems and heat generated by used cooking oil from restaurants, have shaved as much as half off the companys fuel costs.

On Friday, the first day for the new certification, 11 people registered their businesses as benefits corporations with the charter division of the state Department of Assessments and Taxation, said Robert E. Young, the departments acting deputy director. B corporations are required to file an annual report outlining public benefits.

Registering Takoma Park-based Blessed Coffee as a benefit corporation on Friday was a dream come true for Tebabu Assesa. The native of Ethiopia is establishing a business in which he will import coffee from a cooperative of small coffee growers in Ethiopia to roast and sell wholesale. He plans to give half his profits to the co-op for programs such as clinics and schools, a business model he believes will help attract investors.

My whole idea to get into business was to promote economic sustainability, he said. Mixing business and social development previously was not compatible. But business can make a difference.

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The Green Roof Manual: A Professional Guide to Design, Installation, and Maintenance

September 29th, 2010

The Green Roof Manual: A Professional Guide to Design, Installation and Maintenance is out!  We launched it earlier this month at the annual meeting of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) in Washington DC, and Ed took it global, signing books at the World Green Roof Congress in London. While it’s still new to the market, we’re happy with the feedback we’re getting so far.

Our goal with The Green Roof Manual was to bring readers lessons from the field, gleaned from visits to many built projects and interviews with designers, installers, scientists, and other experts. The green roof market, at least here in North America, is so new, and green roofs are so different to what people are used to seeing on top of buildings (asphalt shingles, black waterproofing membranes, rumbling HVAC equipment), that sorting through all of the information can be overwhelming, even for designers.

This green roof with grasses is located on a post office facility on 9th Avenue in New York City. (Photo by Linda McIntyre)

But, after about a decade of growing popularity and installations across the US and Canada, we’re starting to see some factors common to successful green roofs: designs keyed to specific objectives, use of tested and proven materials, plants appropriate to a rooftop environment and the roof’s microclimates, and regular maintenance, especially in the weeks and months just after planting.

An aerial shot of a green roof at Columbia University in New York City. (Photo by Linda McIntyre)

While green roof technology is not a magic solution to all of our environmental problems, it can help cities to manage storm water more effectively and mitigate the impact of heat-absorbing pavement and buildings. Green roofs can also make our built environments more beautiful, bringing plants and wildlife to places previously devoid of them. Let’s build more of them, but let’s build them right!

Emory Knoll Farms: A Featured Business in The Daily Records Green Business Guide

September 27th, 2012

Emory Knoll Farms was recently featured in the Maryland publication The Daily Record. in their Green Business Guide including a great picture of some of our plants on the cover!  The article gives a snapshot of our business, and highlights some of the benefits of green roofs, giving several examples of the types of buildings where green roof technology is most effective.  Photos of a few  of our green roof projects  are shown in the second part of the article.  Read it online here!

Mid-Atlantic Green Roof Science and Technology Symposium

The First Annual Mid-Atlantic Green Roof Science and Technology Symposium

Re-defining Green Roof Science

Standards for green roof performance have not been established. The MGRST symposium is dedicated to disseminating results of scientific research that will lead to the establishment of green roof performance standards for the Mid-Atlantic region.

Speakers include:

• Dr. Manfred Kohler, University of Applid Sciences

• Dr. Rob Berghage, Pennsylvania State University

• Dr. Brad Rowe, Michigan State University

• Ed Snodgrass, Emory Knoll Farms

• Dr. Colleen Butler, University of Toronto

• Dr. Andrew Ristvey, University of Maryland

• Dr. John Lea-Cox, University of Maryland

• Olyssa Starry, University of Maryland

• Dr. Elizabeth Fassman, University of Auckland

• Dr. Stuart Griffin, Columbia University

• Charlie Miller, Roofmeadow

• Michael Furbish, Furbish Company

• Stewart Comstock, MD Department of the Environment

• Michael Clar, New Castle County, DE

• Ray Mims, Architect of the Capitol

• Darren DeStaffano, U.S. General Services Administration

Emory Knoll Farms is a sponsor for the 2012 Mid-Atlantic Green Roof Science and Technology Symposium. Our very own Ed Snodgrass will also be participating in this Symposium as an invited speaker.

We hope you will be able to join us at this inaugural event, to learn about the exciting new research, projects, and technology in the green roof industry! Online registration is available at www.mgrstsymposium.eventbrite.com. Please contact Dr. Steven Cohan at 301-405-6969 or by e-mail at Scohan(at)umd.edu if you have any questions about this event.

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AMERICAN HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY HONORS EDMUND C. SNODGRASS WITH G.B. GUNLOGSON AWARD

March 30th, 2011

Alexandria, VA (March 24, 2011).

Whats New Emory Knoll Farms

The American Horticultural Society (AHS) is pleased to announce that Edmund C. Snodgrass has been named the 2011 recipient of the Society’s G.B. Gunlogson Award.

The award is one of 12 Great American Gardeners Awards that the AHS presents annually to individuals, organizations, and businesses that represent the best in American gardening. Each of the recipients has contributed significantly to fields such as scientific research, garden communication, landscape design, youth gardening, teaching, and conservation. The G.B. Gunlogson Award recognizes

the innovative use of technology to make home gardening more productive and successful.

Edmund C. Snodgrass is president and founder of Emory Knoll Farms, Inc. and Green Roof Plants in Street, Maryland—North America’s first nursery specializing in plants for green roofs and horticultural consulting. The nursery has supplied plants for more than 400 green roof projects throughout the United States and Canada. Snodgrass collaborates on green roof research with academic institutions

including Pennsylvania State University, North Carolina State University, and Michigan State University, and he advises public gardens, including the Singapore Botanic Garden and the U.S. Botanic Garden, on green roof installations. He has also co-authored two books about green roofs.

On Thursday, June 9, 2011, the AHS will honor Snodgrass and the other 2011 award recipients during the Great American Gardeners Awards Ceremony and Banquet, held at the Society’s headquarters at River Farm in Alexandria, Virginia.

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B Corp: Better laws for business

March 9th, 2011

By Tamara Schweitzer

Signing the Maryland Benefit Corporation legislation into law, April 2010.

In the current corporate structure money takes precedence over mission as a matter of law but for many social entrepreneurs, maximizing company profits can often be at odds with their desire to act responsibly. The well-known story of what happened to environmentally and socially-conscious Ben and Jerrys when it was bought out by Dutch conglomerate Unilever in 2000, is one of the most significant examples of this clash. In the case of Ben and Jerrys, the founders didnt want to sell for fear the takeover could compromise their efforts as a socially responsible company. However, when the founders couldnt come up with a counter offer from private investors that topped the price of shares offered by Unilever, its shareholders sued, and Ben and Jerrys was forced to relent to the sale.

But now, new legislation is being enacted to solve this problem and to help social enterprises avoid the dilemma that arose for Ben and Jerrys founders.

A new type of corporate structure called the Benefit Corporation, is taking hold in state legislatures across the country and changing the way social enterprises do business. Current corporate law dictates that companies must act in the interest of increasing shareholder value, and opens them up to lawsuits by shareholders if they make decisions that don’t directly create more profit.

Benefit Corporation legislation is a crucial step in changing this reality by providing social entrepreneurs with the choice to legally prioritize their public benefit over profits. Last year, the legislation was signed into law in Maryland (where it took effect in October) and Vermont (to take effect this July), and as of last month, when Governor Chris Christie signed the bill, New Jersey became the third state to enact the legislation. Virginia isn’t far behind either – the bill also recently passed the state legislature there and will soon become law with Governor Robert McDonnell’s signature.

“For too long, corporations that wanted to make money and make the world a better place didn’t have a place in the legal infrastructure of our corporate system,” says Andrew Greenblatt, policy associate for B Lab, the organization behind the movement to promote and establish B Corporations. Greenblatt and B Lab have been instrumental in getting Benefit Corporation legislation introduced in several other states including New York, Colorado, North Carolina, and Hawaii.

Public policy of this nature can be notoriously hard to get off the ground, often due to bi-partisan conflicts, but Greenblatt says that hasn’t been the case with the Benefit Corporation legislation, and in every state where it has been introduced it has received strong support from the major parties. “States are realizing that they want to be on the front end of this,” says Greenblatt. With the swift progress being made so far this year, he predicts that the Benefit Corporation will ultimately become the dominant structure for social ventures “because it does what the existing law for corporations was never designed to do.”

So what does this new law that allows for the creation of Benefit Corporation status actually do? For starters, it makes it possible for companies to legally consider the interests of other stakeholders when making decisions, and protects the company’s owners from shareholder lawsuits. “When you elect to incorporate as a Benefit Corporation, the fundamental change that occurs is that there is now a responsibility as a corporation to promote the general public benefit,” says Bill Clark, a partner at Drinker Biddle and Reath, who has been the primary legal force behind writing the new legislation and revising it in accordance with different state laws.

Clark drafted the legislation to include a provision that deals with the fiduciary duties of corporate officers, giving them the discretion to act on behalf of other stakeholder interests, namely employees, the environment, and community. The law also holds companies accountable to their social and environmental responsibilities. Without the Benefit Corporation status, any company can act responsibly and advertise that they do so. They can even get certified as a B Corp by a third party assessment firm – a main mission of the B Lab organization to demonstrate to the public that they are committed to running their business in a sustainable way. But, prior to legislation passing, they were not required by law to do it.

The legislation is now a crucial bench-marker in holding companies accountable for their actions. Companies that incorporate as a Benefit Corporation are required by the law to publish an annual report that details how they have fulfilled their public benefit. The report must be filed using third-party assessment standards, like the impact rating tool that B Lab provides on its Website, and distributed to company shareholders as well as published on its own website.

John Shepley, co-owner of Maryland-based Emory Knoll Farms, and one of the first business owners to incorporate his company as a Benefit Corporation in Maryland last October, says this level of accountability is exactly what led him to elect the status.

“We did it to show leadership to the rest of the world,” says Shepley, “and to act as an example for others of what it means to be a Benefit Corporation.” As the ranks of Benefit Corporations grow (there are currently 15 incorporated in Maryland since the law took effect), business owners like Shepley are pioneering a new way of doing business by showing that transparency simply makes good business sense.

When Shepley and his partner Ed Snodgrass formed Emory Knoll Farms, a company specializing in selling green roof plants in 2004, they made a commitment to be a sustainable business in all aspects of their operations, including the way that they manage and compensate employees. The product itself – green roof plants – was also a part of the company’s overall efforts to be environmentally responsible. Because Emory Knoll Farms built these principles into their operations from the beginning, Shepley says electing the Benefit Corporation status was not a major change for them. It did, however, change the way they portrayed themselves to the rest of the business community.

“When we started, we were a small company and we didn’t see a need to document our sustainability efforts because we were the ones running everything and we held each other accountable,” says Shepley. “One thing that the new status has changed is that it gave me a reason to create written pieces of documentation, for example putting into words our policy on sustainability or how much energy we consumed on a yearly basis.” Shepley was already conducting self-audits to keep track of their social and environmental impact, but he never officially had to create a public report. Now that we’re a Benefit Corporation, “the report I put together allows us to summarize all of our environmental and social impact in a more complete and comprehensive way,” says Shepley.

He recently published Emory Knoll Farms’ first public report as a Benefit Corporation on its website, based on the results he received from the B Lab online assessment tool. Shepley says being a Benefit Corporation has also prompted him to want to pursue reporting of more challenging metrics at Emory Knoll Farms. For example, their green roof plants positively impact the environment by significantly decreasing storm water run-off. Shepley is now in the process of trying to measure how many millions of gallons of storm water the plants hold, which he believes will be a meaningful metric to report to the public.

“One of the main benefits is to be transparent,” says Shepley. “You’re actually showing the world the specific things that you are doing that are positive contributions to the environment and the community.”

The hope among B Lab supporters is that 2011 will be a big policy year for social enterprise, with at least four other states poised to pass legislation this year. If the recent success of the Maryland legislation is any indication, then they are well on their way to making that goal a reality.

Photo is courtesy of B Lab.

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Emory Knoll Farms Becomes one of Marylands First Benefit Corporations

November 5th, 2010

baltimoresun.com

Businesses sign up to do good while doing well

Businesses register as benefit corporations under first-of-its-kind law

By Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun

7:04 PM EDT, October 4, 2010

When a law took effect Friday allowing Maryland businesses to organize as benefit corporations, a hybrid of for-profit and nonprofit models that aims for public benefits as well as profits, John Shepley lined up early at the state tax office hoping to be a trailblazer.

For Shepley, who amended the charter of his wholesale nursery business in Street, Harford County, the transformation to a B corporation is largely symbolic.

Were a for-profit business, but our mission is very socially and environmentally oriented, said Shepley, co-owner of Emory Knoll Farms Inc. which grows plants for green roofs. Theres a big environmental benefit to green roofs. Since we started, weve always intended to run it as a socially and environmentally conscious company.

Maryland is the first state in the nation allowing this new class of company. Under legislation signed into law in April, B corporations pay taxes and have shareholders but are shielded from shareholder lawsuits if the company chooses to channel some profits to benefit stakeholders, such as employees, customers, suppliers, the community or the local and global environment. A benefit corporation could share profits or make donations to improve the welfare of employees or suppliers or promote causes such as the environment or the arts.

What were doing here is creating an opportunity for a company to be organized this way, said Del. Brian J. Feldman, a Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the House bill. Its an opportunity for corporations to brand themselves a certain way and a signal to consumers and investors that a corporate entity is prepared or would like to engage in activity to benefit the general welfare of the community.

In some situations, he said, the bottom-line profit is not going to be the single determining factor in dictating what a corporation may or may not do.

Vermont this past spring passed similar legislation, which is not yet in effect. Nearly a dozen other states either have introduced bills or are expected to propose similar measures next year. Maryland B corporations wont get tax breaks or any procurement benefits yet. But supporters are hopeful that the movement will grow and eventually lead to such incentives.

For now, proponents hope businesses will think more about how they can not only make money but serve a public mission. Others say the designation could help attract investors seeking socially responsible businesses, or even bring new business to the state. Owners would have more negotiating room when selling a business because they could consider offers that made sense not only to shareholders but to other stakeholders as well.

The new law provides corporations a Good Housekeeping seal we are socially conscious. and it provides a board of directors a little more latitude in assessing business transactions, said William A. McComas, a corporate lawyer and partner at Shapiro Sher Guinot & Sandler in Baltimore.

Shepley, the co-owner of Emory Knoll, which he and a partner started in 2004, says the new designation validates his business model. The B corporation idea, he says, simply makes good business sense.

In a traditional company, investments in ventures such as habitat restoration or solar energy would be viewed as detracting from the bottom line. But as a B corporation, were not only allowed to do those things, we are encouraged, and our directors are protected from potential lawsuits, though that is less of a concern for small businesses where shares are closely held, Shepley said.

A for-profit company that operates in a socially responsible manner has an advantage over a business that doesnt, he said. The investments weve made in socially responsible and environmentally responsible practices provide a positive effect on our bottom line.

Shepley says his company pays a living wage and offers its employees generous benefits, practices that have resulted in low employee turnover. And he says investments in alternative and renewable energy, including solar-powered irrigation systems and heat generated by used cooking oil from restaurants, have shaved as much as half off the companys fuel costs.

On Friday, the first day for the new certification, 11 people registered their businesses as benefits corporations with the charter division of the state Department of Assessments and Taxation, said Robert E. Young, the departments acting deputy director. B corporations are required to file an annual report outlining public benefits.

Registering Takoma Park-based Blessed Coffee as a benefit corporation on Friday was a dream come true for Tebabu Assesa. The native of Ethiopia is establishing a business in which he will import coffee from a cooperative of small coffee growers in Ethiopia to roast and sell wholesale. He plans to give half his profits to the co-op for programs such as clinics and schools, a business model he believes will help attract investors.

My whole idea to get into business was to promote economic sustainability, he said. Mixing business and social development previously was not compatible. But business can make a difference.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

The Green Roof Manual: A Professional Guide to Design, Installation, and Maintenance

September 29th, 2010

The Green Roof Manual: A Professional Guide to Design, Installation and Maintenance is out!  We launched it earlier this month at the annual meeting of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) in Washington DC, and Ed took it global, signing books at the World Green Roof Congress in London. While it’s still new to the market, we’re happy with the feedback we’re getting so far.

Our goal with The Green Roof Manual was to bring readers lessons from the field, gleaned from visits to many built projects and interviews with designers, installers, scientists, and other experts. The green roof market, at least here in North America, is so new, and green roofs are so different to what people are used to seeing on top of buildings (asphalt shingles, black waterproofing membranes, rumbling HVAC equipment), that sorting through all of the information can be overwhelming, even for designers.

This green roof with grasses is located on a post office facility on 9th Avenue in New York City. (Photo by Linda McIntyre)

But, after about a decade of growing popularity and installations across the US and Canada, we’re starting to see some factors common to successful green roofs: designs keyed to specific objectives, use of tested and proven materials, plants appropriate to a rooftop environment and the roof’s microclimates, and regular maintenance, especially in the weeks and months just after planting.

An aerial shot of a green roof at Columbia University in New York City. (Photo by Linda McIntyre)

While green roof technology is not a magic solution to all of our environmental problems, it can help cities to manage storm water more effectively and mitigate the impact of heat-absorbing pavement and buildings. Green roofs can also make our built environments more beautiful, bringing plants and wildlife to places previously devoid of them. Let’s build more of them, but let’s build them right!


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