Ever wonder about how to make your business travel or events and conferences a little more earth friendly? Eric Zimmerman has, and he built TripZero to solve for that very problem in an effort to help support our planet. Tune in to hear about Eric’s journey towards personal sustainability and how it was at odds with his business activities.
Eric came to a huge realization about the impact he was having on the planet when he stopped to calculate his own carbon footprint. You can also calculate your carbon footprint, for free, with B Corp certified Native Energy, the one Eric mentioned in this episode. Knowing is half the battle, from there you can choose to purchase carbon offsets directly from Native Energy as an individual or for your business, or by simply knowing what your biggest contributions are to your carbon footprint you can work to reduce them. Maybe you take a train instead of flying this holiday season, or carpool to an event with colleagues, or you start riding your bike to work a couple days a week.
There are other things you can do as well besides just transportation, try reducing the amount of meat and dairy you consume, you don’t need to cut it out entirely, just try reducing it. Maybe you start with one meat free meal a week and go from there. Explore ways you can make your living space more energy efficient. You can start with something as easy as swapping out your light bulbs for more energy efficient bulbs, or go as far as hiring a contractor to help you evaluate your living space and making necessary upgrades like replacing your windows, investing in renewable energy, or upgrading your insulation and weather seals.
LINKS FROM THIS EPISODE
Eric Zimmerman [0:03]
As you go through certification, it’s not just a gate to get through. But it’s an opportunity to stop and ask yourself questions about the way you’re running your company. And the way you ought to be running your company.
Benn Marine [0:20]
From Dirigo Collective, this is Responsibly Different. sharing stories of Certified B Corporations and our journey of joining them in leveraging business as a force for good.
Welcome back to another episode of responsibly different, if you’re tuning into this podcast, odds are pretty good that you care deeply about our planet, and taking measures to protect it. We talk a lot on this show about supply chains and sourcing. But have you ever thought about the carbon footprint of your favorite conferences, or business travel? Well, our guest today certainly has, and he’s got a pretty epic solution for you. Eric Zimmerman, share with me his journey towards sustainability in his own life, and how it ultimately led to his founding Tripzero. Tripzero works with conference organizers to organize and facilitate conferences, while offsetting all the carbon emissions created by them at no additional cost. Keep listening to hear the full story and to better understand your own carbon footprint. So Eric, to kind of start us off, can you tell us a little bit about trip zero and yourself and how trip zero came to be?
Eric Zimmerman [1:42]
Sure No, happy to do it. And thanks for you know, thanks for having me today. I appreciate it. And looking forward to this. In fact, I was I was listening to your earlier podcast with Vital Farms this morning. And I’m really enjoying it. So I can recommend that to your listeners. So Tripzero is we’re a company in the travel business that primarily focuses on big conferences and events. And our story is we’re the guys that supply big blocks of hotel rooms to event organizers. And then we take the commission’s we learn from that. And we measure the carbon footprint created by everybody’s traveled to the event. And we erase it for free by funding renewable energy and reforestation projects through the purchase of financial vehicles called certified carbon offset. So that’s kind of at the top level what we do, but to answer your question of sort of how we got started and how we got here, that’s a little longer story. I’m on a bit of a sustainability journey. And it started for me, I think back in 2007, I was actually running a big book business at the time, I was a publisher for 20 years. And we had just acquired another publishing company, which was in the home improvement, book publishing business, I got invited by their editor in chief to go to all things a conference. And it was a conference on green building. So we flew down to Atlanta, and we were listening to the keynote speaker, and he was really smart, sharp author net by the name of Eric Corey Freed who had just published a book called Green Building for Dummies. And he gave this impassioned talk about climate change, and how he’s going to impact sort of every living thing on the planet. And of course, he was appealing to builders and architects to change the way they design and build so that they would have less impact. But at the end of this thing, you know, he pauses for many says, Look, my biggest fear is that my daughter’s generation is going to grow up on a destroyed planet. And they’re going to look back on my generation, and this is a guy about my age. And they’re going to say you guys knew, and you didn’t do anything about it, what was wrong with you. And so we can’t say that about my parents generation, we can’t say about my grandparents generation, because they didn’t know but we know, and it’s on us. And we’re probably the last generation that has an opportunity to really, really bend the curve here. And that comment really hit me, I sort of felt like I was in a low alone in a room of 1000 people with a spotlight on me, and it stuck with me. And as I was, as I was flying back. The irony of that strikes me now to Boston, I got to thinking about sort of where I could have an impact. And it you know, immediately became clear that the place where I could probably have the biggest impact was in my business. You know, we were a big publisher, we’re also really big manufacturer of books, you know, those things that are made out of trees, and that that juxtaposition struck me I got back, I pulled the team together an amazing team. And we started to address this question and then make a long story a little less long. We invented a program whereby we began to book print books on post consumer waste, recycled paper, and had never been done before. Which has a whole host of benefits, including saving trees, preventing methane emission in landfills, water savings, electricity savings, all these great things. And then we developed a methodology that we shared with the entire industry about how to do this and an education program that we put in all the books that we publish. So we’re educating consumers and we are educating the industry in the process. And it was in 20 years hands down the most rewarding work in publishing that I’d done. And so on, sort of on the strength of that my, my wife, Abby, and I started talking about what we needed to do ourselves, right, because Okay, we’d sort of done more work at work, but what what to do ourselves. And we embarked on a project to turn our house into a zero energy house. So we did this, what’s called a deep energy retrofit. So the roof came off, the walls came off, all the windows came out, that was all replaced with super air sealing super insulation, new new triple pane windows with all these fancy gases in them. And the upshot is we reduce the energy consumption on the house by 80%. And then we put enough solar panels on the house to run the whole house and run to electric vehicles. So I now drive a solar powered car every day, which is great fun, and my neighbors like to laugh and joke at me and they say, when I drive down the street, butterflies come out my tailpipe. right?
Benn Marine [6:02]
Yeah, that’s amazing.
Eric Zimmerman [6:03]
So, I thought okay, I’m a good guy. Now, you know, I’ve sort of done it right check and check. And then I bumped into, you know, I would like to say I stepped on the rake. So I read this article in The New York Times, about the about the carbon impact of the travel industry and flying, and I went, I did a retroactive calculation of my business travel. And it turns out that my business travel was producing over 50 tons of CO2 a year. Now, to put that in perspective, the average American citizen creates about 18 tons a year, the average citizen of Europe, eight tons a year, the average citizen of India, one and a half tons of year. So here, Eric, you know, Mr. Green Guy was pumping 50 tons a year into the atmosphere based on my flight, I was I wasn’t the solution. I was public enemy number one, right. And it was, it was right on the heels of that, that I bumped into another thing. And this is the good part of the story. I bumped into these projects called called carbon projects, or carbon offset projects, which and we can talk more about it later. But they’re, they’re these amazing projects. They’re all around the globe, there are 1000s of them. And they’re designed to do one of two things either prevent co2 or tikilive, from being emitted into the atmosphere, or to cause it’s reabsorption from the atmosphere. So the simplest example that people think about is like a reforestation program, we plant trees. And we all remember from high school biology, those trees pull co2 out of the atmosphere, they store it in the wood, they store it in soil. And, you know, they create that environmental benefit and you know, sort of a host of others. And I sort of I sort of put that travel problem and that that carbon offset solution together and I thought, well, what if we could start a travel company that would address these two things at the same time. And we launched Tripzero, basically on the strength of that idea was like that old commercial used to see about Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups where these two people are walking down the street, they bump into each other one person’s chocolate falls into the other guy’s peanut butter, and it’s like, Hey, you got peanut butter on my chocolate. Hey, you got chocolate on my peanut butter. Hey, they taste great. Woohoo, you know, now we got a great candy. Well, that’s about as scientific as the process was, and wasn’t long after we launched and we launched a direct to consumer business that we started to get calls from conference organizers. And that’s how we stumbled backwards into the conference and events and festival business. And that’s now where 98% of our revenue comes from. So, apologies for the long winded answer. But there it is.
Benn Marine [8:32]
Now. That’s great, though. I mean, and I think that there’s there’s so much to be learned in that right that like, as humans, we grow, we evolve. And that changes the course of things, right? So I think sometimes we get stuck in this, like, you know, like, there’s no coming back from whatever. And it’s like, no, like, we can always change course, and like that, that should be celebrated. Right? For sure. So I’m so curious. So how does it all actually work? You’re offsetting the carbon footprint of travel and events, which is amazing. But like, how, how does that actually manifest.
Eric Zimmerman [9:03]
So, I guess on a day to day basis, it really starts with our customers who are amazing. And we are I mean, every every business loves its customers. But we are extraordinarily fortunate here because Tripzero sort of self selects for an amazingly cool customer set. And they’re not monolithic. So we serve everything from Super buttoned down conservative finance conferences that you would never expect to have this be issue number one on their plates, too. We do one of the biggest reggae festivals every year out in California, and everything in between. We do green building conferences, renewable energy conferences, we do a conference on the loss surrounding workers compensation benefits. I mean, it’s it’s an incredibly varied group. But the customer base is all really cool. And either the event organizer or the organization or their attendees, or all three of those are dialed in to the fact that when they get on a plane, they’re creating a lot of pollution. And that’s a big problem. And by the way, globally, it’s about a week it travels about 8% of the global co2 emissions. And it’s it’s among, if not the fastest growing source of emissions in the world. So,it’s a big problem that we’re hearing more and more about, it’s getting bigger. So these event organizers, they want to address that problem and to sort of, sort of scale it for you. We serve events that are as big as 20,000 people, but a typical event for us is, let’s say, 500 people, and they’re going to, to, let’s say, Philadelphia, you know, from all across the country for a few days to attend a conference. And an event like that, between everybody’s flights and hotels will produce north of a million pounds of co2. Wow. And sounds like a lot. But what is a million pounds of co2. So imagine it this way, if that conference organizer, you know, the tanker trucks that carry gasoline to your local gas station, alright, if that conference organizer pulled six of those up in front of the conference, and lit them on fire during registration, that would be the carbon equivalent of everybody’s flights and hotels there. So it’s, it’s a pretty ugly image. And it’s, it’s, it’s an enormous impact. So what we do when we’re when we are contracted by an event organizer, is first and foremost, we go out and we source hotels for the attendees. So, you know, anytime you attend a conference, there’s always that link, they send you a book, though, you know, book, the conference hotel, you’re gonna get a great deal where those guys and you know, our attendees wind up paying anywhere from 20 to 30%, less for the hotel than they would if they went and, you know, booked it on an online travel agency or booked a direct. So then we build these beautiful, and I’m not to go build them. So I get to say they’re beautiful, we build these beautiful websites for the event organizers, which become the travel page for that event. But they also contain a lot of content about carbon offsets, and how the projects work. And so we’re educating people, which is a really important part of our mission, about the about making responsible choices in travel, and how this event is doing a great job at being responsible as it relates to everyone’s travel footprint. And then of course, we take the attendee or the traveler list, and we run it through a horribly sophisticated computer system that calculates everyone’s carbon footprint to get there. We add it all up in terms of the number of tons that we need to erase or offset. And then we go out, we purchase certified carbon offsets, which support the types of projects that I was describing, which essentially offset or counterbalance all the pollution created by by that event. And the cool part that I always forget to mention, and my staff are always reminding me is tell people, it’s free. So there’s no cost to the attendee, and there’s no cost to the event organizer, we get paid a commission by hoteliers, and we use a big piece of that commission to buy the carbon offsets.
Benn Marine [12:49]
That’s incredible. That’s incredible. It t’s so funny. I mean, part of how I heard about you was from Britney Angela, and Revision Energy, she was one of our earlier episodes, and she was like, Tripzero, I just need to understand how that works. Because it just seems like pure magic, and even now even understanding and like that still feels like pure magic. It’s so great. So tell us a little bit more about carbon offsets?
Eric Zimmerman [13:11]
Sure. Yeah. I mean, honestly, the carbon projects and the folks that develop carbon effect projects are the real sort of heroes of this story. So the the amount of energy and smart thinking and innovation that goes into these projects, just it delights me every day. So I’ll give you a few examples. One of the first projects that we funded was a reforestation project down in southern Chile and an entrepreneur had bought a huge tract of land had put it into a state of permanent conservation. So essentially, it was like almost like protected as if it were a park and National Park. And then they were painstakingly re growing that land had been I’m sorry, cleared for, for raising cattle and for for agriculture. And they were painstakingly regrowing a native species rain forest on that land, geo locating every tree and doing precise measurements about the amount of co2 that was being reabsorbed from the atmosphere. And every time that project reabsorbed one ton, it can sell what’s called a certified carbon offset to a company like ours that’s looking to erase someone else’s impact, which which sort of gets me to a topic that’s near and dear to my heart, and I think valuable, which is the term certified carbon offset. So you you read a lot about carbon offset projects in the in the media today, and a lot of journalists understand them and a lot of journalists don’t. And so I think it’s important, you know, particularly when we talk to the B Corp community that everyone pay attention to using what are called certified carbon offsets, so their offsets that have gone through the offset projects that have gone through a very rigorous certification process, and they’ve been tested against many elements, but the most important are that they create additionality so that the project couldn’t have existed without carbon finance being introduced. So you can imagine that reforestation project right What’s the economic in that without carbon Finance? Less so right. Or we’ve also funded a renewable energy project a solar project in in India, and India is a country that’s heavily reliant on coal for electricity. And there are something like 300 million people in India that don’t have electricity today. So that’s the population in the United States with no electricity today, and they want it and they have every right to get it. The question is, are they going to get it by burning coal, are they going to get it by, you know, through renewable energy. And that’s a place where carbon finance has been able to step in and essentially provide like a downpayment on a solar farm, almost like the down payment on a mortgage for a house, that your rich uncle gives you, you know, if you’re, if you’re so fortunate, and then the projects get up and running, and they and they maintain themselves, but carbon finance gets that going, and creates that, you know, that enormous benefit. So in addition to additionality, the projects have to be verifiable. So they have to be you have to be able to measure the carbon impact that you’re having. And often those projects have to go back and recertify some years later, to prove the benefit that you know, that they originally certified under which was something like renewable energy is is really easy to do, because you can measure the kilowatt hours you put on the grid and compare that to those kilowatt hours going on the grid. We know from a coal fired power plant, and you know, the math is easy. And then the last thing is that they be permanent, so that, you know, they can’t be lost along the way and so far through projects will always overcompensate, they will protect more land than they need to for the amount of carbon offset projects that they sell in case they lose some to forest fire, which we’re hearing a lot about these days or insect, you know, infiltration and so forth. But you know, on the other side of the ledger, if you take methane out of a landfill, and you burn it and turn it into electricity, there’s no going back, you’ve eliminated that methane, you’ve turned it into electricity. It’s another type of project that we find. And the effect is quite permanent. So certified carbon offsets are what we use, and it’s a really important part of that sort of overall picture.
Benn Marine [17:05]
I’m curious if with that, if there’s any, like, cautionary tale for B Corp, or or folks looking for certification where I know, a big part of the BIA is, you know, do you offset your carbon footprint or whatever, right? And there’s like, I mean, a whole sea of options out there where businesses can select, oh, I want to offset this much by XYZ, whatever. It sounds like there might be some options out there that maybe aren’t as impactful, or optimal. Yeah. Is that like, what should folks? I mean, it mean, it sounds like to those points, what are their, like, red flags that if people see, oh, maybe I should dig deeper on that.
Eric Zimmerman [17:43]
So I would say rather than identify red flags, what I would say is what you want to look for the right standards. So there’s the there’s the verified carbon standard, or what’s called VCs, there’s the gold standard. And then there’s the car standard, or climate action reserve standard, which is a California standard. Now, there are other good standards, but those are considered by those of us in the industry to be the absolute highest bar. And so I would look for projects that are certified to one of those standards in the offsets that you’re buying. And then further I would suggest an odd, you know, just shameless plug for a fellow B Corp, up in Vermont Native Energy, and there are others. So I, my apologies to other B Corp that also retail carbon offsets, but Native Energy up in Vermont, both develops carbon offset projects, and they resell carbon offset projects that others have developed. And so they’re a fantastic additional layer on this whole thing, because they really look under the hood, as they as they look at a project. And you know, I think if you’re, if you’re buying certified projects from an organization like Native Energy, you can check that box and move on to you know, on to the next thing, you’ve done the right thing.
Benn Marine [18:50]
Oh, that’s great. Thank you so much for that. I’m curious to what are some of the impacts of travel and events that folks might not even know about? Or be aware of that they’re, you know, they like to your point, like they’re think they’re doing all the right things, and then they take a trip, and it’s like, oh, shoot, it all goes out the window?
Eric Zimmerman [19:04]
Yeah. So one of the things that, you know, obviously, from a climate perspective, the number one impact is your transportation. And most of the activity there is about flights, right? So if you have the opportunity, you’re going on family vacation, and you have the opportunity to take a train to get there as opposed to flying you should, right? I used to be a guy that would fly from Boston to New York for a day long meeting and fly back. I could have taken the train and had 90% less carbon footprint. And oh, by the way, probably been a heck of a lot more comfortable than I used to be sitting on the tarmac in LaGuardia while the thunderstorms are going on. But that’s another story. So you know, choosing the right mode of transportation is important. But then sort of beyond that, it’s it’s and this is an area that we are increasingly getting drawn into and working with our customers on is okay, we’ve we’ve taken care of the carbon footprint of everybody’s transport and we’ve taken care of the carbon footprint of their hotel stay. In some instances, we’re even taking care of them. modest carbon footprint created by electricity use on the ground, you know, to run the convention center, or the hotel ballroom or whatever. But that’s, that’s kind of a big player in this story, the transit is flights are are really where the action is. However, you know, whenever you travel, you’re having an impact on the local community and the local economic ecosystem. And increasingly, we’re working with event organizers that want to make sure that things that are happening and suppliers to their events are actually also creating benefits to the local community. So in some cases, they’re choosing to put events in cities where the economic activity would really be appreciated. So there are plenty of popular cities that I have friends in, in the travel industry that I won’t name in California that everyone’s been to, and they’re very glamorous to go to, or you can take your business to Detroit, where the economy is still in recovery mode. And you’re going to wind up having a really positive impact on a lot of small local businesses. And a lot of those businesses are minority owned. So you know, you can really amplify the impact of your spending in an environment like that those same organizers are paying attention to the types of food that are being brought into into their events, you know, am I getting a piece of chicken that was shipped from, you know, 1500 miles away? Or did it come from a farm 80 miles away? And was it you know, free range organically raised or, or in some, you know, in some responsible farming fashion? And then, you know, they’re realizing that, that they, they both have their attendees feel better when they serve better, more nutritious food. And they also have a great impact on local businesses, and the environment by extension by, you know, helping to support more responsible farming and the like. So, you know, those are some of the things that we’re running into now. And we’re on a learning journey. I mean, we’re not, we’re by no means done, we got into this around around carbon footprints, but our customers are, are leading us along the way.
Benn Marine [21:55]
That makes sense. Cool. And I’m curious when along this journey, did you hear about B Corp?
Eric Zimmerman [22:02]
Oh, yeah. So I was I was at a conference, this term conference will keep coming up again and again. But I was at a conference out in California, it’s a really neat one called Sustainable Brands. And I was I was sort of new to the space and I was walking around, we were in San Diego on this beautiful campus at this beautiful hotel. And I was describing what we did to to a gentleman who was also a B Corp founder. And he stopped and he looked at me and he said, Have you ever heard of B Corps? And I said, Nope, never had he said, you’re a B Corp, and you don’t even know it. And I wound up bumping into another B Corp CEO while I was at this conference, and she sort of had the same reaction. And then I came back to our business is based in Concord, Massachusetts. And I crossed paths with gentlemen who’s now a good friend named Ben Anderson and Ben worked at a really neat B Corp called Preserve Products, which you’re probably familiar with, if you walk into Whole Foods, and they sell many things. So Ben will shoot me for this. But among their most popular items are toothbrushes. And they’re made from recycled yogurt cups that come from yet another B Corp. So preserved products was a company that he was wearing at the time, but he was in the process of transitioning into work at B Lab. And Ben ultimately went on to become the CEO of B Lab, US and Canada. And Ben and I got to know each other a bit. And, you know, he explained his enthusiasm for the movement and educated me a bit. And and sort of that was what that was the, that was the thing that really finally pulled me into it. He pulled us into this process, but pulled me in with, you know, sort of full fee.
Benn Marine [23:37]
That’s awesome. And what was that journey? Like just deciding to go for it? And then actually certifying?
Eric Zimmerman [23:42]
Yeah, the first time through, it was a bloody mess. You know, we we really hadn’t set ourselves up to be audited, I would say we, you know, this, we were a small company, we still are, but we were a very small company, then an early development stage. And when you go through the certification process, you know, it, it’s quite a process, there’s there and you end up answering a whole lot of questions that you need to have data to support, right? So it forced us to go back and collect all that data and get it into a place where, because we assumed we were going to be audited on every question. And you know, we’re honest guys, and we wanted to make sure we were giving honest answers. So we had to collect all that data and organize it in such a way so we could explain it to someone else, even if it was something that we knew to be true, we realize we had to gather the data and the supporting information to you know, to be able to prove it. So in a more mature business, you might be able to turn to your accounting or your HR department and say, hey, give me copies of XYZ policy. But in our case, you know, we might have we might have been following the right steps in our hiring practices, but we never documented it. So, we had to go document it, right. That kind of thing. So first time through his it was it was really quite time consuming and it was a mess. But it was also an amazing learning process for us. You know, as you know, through the through the certification process, the focus is what’s your impact. On the planet, what’s your impact on your employees? And what’s your impact on the local community? And, you know, we had the planet thing nailed, we thought, and we were pretty good at that. But employees and local community, we hadn’t really gotten to that stage yet. And so in the process, you get to learn what other companies what other B Corps are doing on that front. And I’m, you know, convinced the tips of my toes, and we can talk more about this later. It made us a better company.
Benn Marine [25:25]
Yeah. I’m curious to hear a little bit more about that, like, what do you think was kind of one of the big, big learns or kind of favorite takeaways?
Eric Zimmerman [25:33]
Yeah, so I think, one of my favorites, and it was, it was one of the things that caused when we went through. So we certified for the first time in 2014, we referred it certified I think, in 2017. And our score jumped a bunch in that in that process. And part of the reason it jumped was, as a result of our first certification process, we decided to focus more energy on the impact we’re having our on our employees. And as a result of internal conversations, we came up with a program, which was not unlike what we saw at some other B Corps, where we allow all of our employees full or part time to spend 5% of their time doing pro bono work as long as it relates to our mission, climate and the environment. And that that work can take many, many forms. But 5%, particularly for a company of our scale was a really, really big commitment. And our employees love it. And they, you know, they, they’ll brag to friends about it, because that’s usually the type of thing that you’ll see, you know, maybe in a much larger enterprise than ours. And, you know, it helps us. It helps us in recruiting, it helps us an employee satisfaction. But more importantly, it helps us it obviously helps the communities that we wind up in the in the, in the organizations in the communities that are that are people wind of working with. So that’s a sort of, that’s one of my favorites. And it also in our recertification process happened to be worth a lot of points. So it was a big part of what helped our score go up. And then we tried to get a little better and a lot of areas, but that that type of work really moved the needle for us.
Benn Marine [27:04]
That’s awesome. And speaking of recertification, I think you’re either currently in the throws or recently just recertified How was how, how has recertifying gone in comparison to like the first time you certify like, Is it more challenging? Or was it a walk in the park?
Eric Zimmerman [27:21]
Yeah,the answer is kind of both, it was easier. And it was harder. So in the sense that it was easier that there’s this sort of part of the organization of B lab called the standards team. And it’s run by this great guy, Dennis Osusky. And he and that team have done a fantastic job with the underlying technology and the process that makes up the B impact assessment. So if you’ve only read is reasonably certified, you’ve used, you know, air quotes, the new system, right? And the new process. And when we first certified it was back in 2014. And it’s light years different and light years better than it used to be. And it it’s really important because you wind up spending, as you know, a lot of time in those systems interacting with the systems and questions and with that team. And, and it’s just, it’s they’ve made such improvements. It’s fantastic. So from that perspective, it’s easier. On the other hand, the process and the the, let’s say, the bar for certifying to become a B Corp has gotten harder, higher, since the first time we certified as it should, right. So, you know, in my opinion, one of the things that appealed to me about B Corp certification was unlike some other certifications you can get it’s not fill out this form, write a check and you get this stamp of approval. You know, it’s a very rigorous and verified certification process. And I liked that about it, because it’s real. And it keeps the fakers out, frankly, but they are also sort of continually raising the standard for what it means to become a certified B Corp. I think that’s really important because if our community is going to serve as the role model to the world for regenerative business practices, we can’t stand still, you know, we got to learn, we learn from each other, we got to learn from our experience, we got to react to what’s happening in the world around us. And we got to we’ve got to continue to make better, you know, make ourselves better and raise that bar so that we do continue to get better.
Benn Marine [29:17]
Any advice for others currently trying to certify for the first time or going through recertification?
Eric Zimmerman [29:25]
Yeah, I guess for for first time certifiers, one of the one of the biggest values for us was the process itself. So it wasn’t getting to the end and you know, sort of clicking Submit then going through that review process with the with with the standards team and finally becoming certified. But it was the learning that happened along the way. All the questions as you probably know that you wind up getting asked force you to stop and think or they force your team members to stop and think about the way you’re running your business. And that process in and of itself. I believe with Every cell in my body helps you organize your business in a way that will ultimately cause you to be more successful in today’s environment, even if you never certified to become a B Corp. So for companies that, you know, either don’t want certification or for some reason, couldn’t become certified, I’d still recommend that they go through the impact assessment. Because by virtue of the types of questions that you’re asked, and the learning that you can do from what other B corpse are doing, you’ll you’ll end up with a better business.
Benn Marine [30:28]
Absolutely, absolutely. And speaking of which, as you’ve mentioned, you certified back in 2014, you had a B Corp score of 82.8. And now you have a score of 106.4. And you were a best for the world honoree for the best for the environment in 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019. I’m curious, what did it take to get there?
Eric Zimmerman [30:50]
Well, I think most of the, you know, separating those two things moving from av 2.8, which was boy, we just barely made it over the bar, right? to audit 106.4 was the result of a couple of big moves, like focusing more on benefits to employees and our pro bono program. And then lots of little incremental steps that we took along the way to sort of decarbonize some of our operation and put in place, hiring and formalize hiring practices and the like, that allowed us to score points where, you know, we weren’t in a position to do that back in 2014. Because those those policies and practices didn’t exist. The best for the environment is almost a it’s almost like a completely separate question, right? We’re a mission driven business, you know, sustainability and combating climate change. They’re not add ons for us. They’re not, oh, we make our product. And then we also do this. They’re at the heart of our product, and educating, you know, we have the we’re fortunate enough through those websites I described to get to educate 1000s and 10s of 1000s of event attendees every year, and see that impact grow. And we have people come back to us and say, you know, talk to us about how they brought what they learned through the conference website back into their company and started to push for more sustainable travel or carbon offsetting, or, or less flying or what have you. So,I think that’s what got us to, to best for the environment. But at the end of the day, you’d have to ask the judges.
Benn Marine [32:17]
I know that the pin, I want to say, reason pandemic, but we’re still kind of in it like, I don’t know, wherever we, we are with the pandemic, I think it’s hard for anyone to say, but I know it’s presented some huge challenges for so many businesses with travel and event industries really being hit the hardest. How are you navigating these challenges.
Eric Zimmerman [32:37]
So you’re right, the impact on our industry has been enormous. There are other industries that have been impacted as much as ours, but I don’t know of any that have been impacted more than ours. The travel and events, business and events in particular fell off a cliff at the at the start of the pandemic, and it’s only now just beginning to recover. So near term, the hit to our revenue was catastrophic. I mean, just just terrible. And the way events work is you plan an event two or three years in advance, so you go to all the effort and all the expense. And then that event occurs in 2020. But oops, that event didn’t occur in 2020. And so you don’t have revenue from it. So from that perspective, disaster, sort of on the plus side, I think during this, during this during this process, people got a lot more thoughtful about the impacts that their events were having. And the sort of global and certainly our national political and public conversation around climate change, has dialed up by tenfold in the last year. And some of that’s because, well, we’re seeing the worst forest fires that we’ve ever seen. And we’re seeing the worst floods we’ve ever seen. And we’re seeing them in places we didn’t expect to see them. But a lot of that, honestly, is really just about national dialogue and the appropriate politics surrounding it. And so what that’s meant is that a lot of event organizers have decided Now is the time that they need to address this. And so, you know, the silver lining for us is that in the last 18 months when our current business has been terrible, we’ve signed up more more new customers than we have in the in the prior five years. So we’re very confident we’re going to come out of this strong as the events industry picks up again, and as people feel comfortable traveling to conferences and events again,
Benn Marine [34:30]
That’s awesome. That’s great. Great to hear that it’s especially the people are being more more conscious, I think is is very, very exciting.
Eric Zimmerman [34:38]
Yeah, it excites us every day.
Benn Marine [34:41]
I’m sure what’s on the horizon for Tripzero with the emergence of vaccines and talk with me immune immunization and the coming year and all that sort of stuff. It sounds like folks are planning events now are people still thinking about it or
Eric Zimmerman [34:57]
they’re First of all, there are events that are that are apps at large events, writ large events happening right now today, not every event that was scheduled to happen in the fall is happening, a lot of the men being pushed out to the spring or the next fall. But there are a lot of events going on, and they’re proving to be safe. So what’s what’s, what event organizers are doing is they’re putting a gate in place, and they’re saying, look, you can come to the event, if you’re vaccinated. Or you can come to the event if you’re vaccinated, and maybe we’re going to ask you to wear a mask to when you’re on, let’s say, the tradeshow floor. And so they’re creating, it’s not a perfect bubble. But it’s but it’s a bubble in which you can feel pretty safe. And in fact, there was a study done recently, which showed that you’re actually safer going to a conference than you are going to the grocery store. And I do that every other week. And if you think about it, if I go to a conference, and the conference has required everyone to be vaccinated, right? On average, I’m probably safer there than I am at the grocery store. And so, you know, people, I think they’re their confidence is returning that they can go and meet again. And there’s enormous desire to so when this all started, you know, and suddenly everybody became adept at zoom. There were a lot of journalists, I think a lot of young journalists who said, Hey, this is it for business, travel business travelers over we never need to do this again, and forget conferences and events, why would we? Why would we bother to do that one, we can do this. Fast forward 18 months, and everyone I know is so sick of being on zoom calls, you know, they’re ready to jump out their window, and they’re dying to get back in person with people because it turns out if you want to build rapport, you know, the kind of rapport that helps you build your career or find new customers or, you know, learn new things, that stuff happens in person. So people are dying to be back in person, which is part of the reason that I think, now so many people are actually back at events, you know, even though right, we’re in the middle of another server, maybe we’re on the downside slope of another surge, but we’ve just had another surge of this, because there’s huge value in it. And there’s sort of huge human desire to be face to face and building those relationships. So I think the event industry is going to rebound really strongly, probably beginning in the spring and solidly into the rest of 2022 and 2023.
Benn Marine [37:11]
That’s, that’s great to hear. I know, I was part of the planning for the BLD here in New England last year, and we had this constant like, are we in person, are we going to go virtual or in person are going to go virtual, and it was like the hardest thing to navigate. We’re like, okay, we’re just gonna go online, because we just don’t know and everything was so up in the air last year, it just felt so unsure. But it sounds like it sounds like it’s working well, for folks that it is okay to start planning events. Yeah, just putting those precautions like vaccines and mask wearing can create a very safe and doable environment for folks.
Eric Zimmerman [37:45]
Absolutely. And, you know, I speak to this point as a human being not as somebody in the event business, you know, a year ago, pre vaccines, when event organizers would solicit our opinion on this, you know, our opinion was you should go virtual, it’s not safe yet, right? Post vaccines, it’s a completely different story. And particularly if you put some some gating in place, you know, you can’t go to a concert and Live Nation now, without being vaccinated, they’ve just said, we’re done, we’re not going to expose our fans to the risk, and we’re not going to expose our bands to the risk. So the conference and event industry, I think, should just uniformly follow suit, and we’ll all be safer and happier.
Benn Marine [38:21]
That sounds great. That sounds great, I’m curious would have been some of your most rewarding experiences as a B Corp.
Eric Zimmerman [38:26]
you know, I would say that the most rewarding experience has been learning from other B Corps in the community about the way they run their business, and the things that they highlight in order to become certified B Corps, the the degree of creativity that that B corpse show in the process of building, you know, regenerative businesses and a regenerative economy is it’s just amazing. And the generosity of spirit, you know, if you if you if you meet a fellow beat court manager, and you want to know more about how they did that really cool thing that you’ve read a press release about, they’ll sit down with you and talk with you about it for hours, they’ll, you know, it’s there’s no concern about whether they’re sharing something that’s competitive, even though they probably worked really hard on it, and it probably does give them competitive advantage. They want everyone to do it. Why because it’s the right thing to do so. So that learning process for me has just been, it’s just been absolutely amazing. You know, I I’m old enough that I grew up in my business training during the time of, of shareholder primacy, you know, businesses existed to create value for shareholders period. And I’ve sort of been through a detox program as a result of my involvement with the B Corp community. And so that’s been that’s been hugely rewarding. The other thing that I would say is, is the convenings. So you know, every year, there’s this event called the B Corp champions retreat, which brings together sort of thought leaders from B corpse all around the country all around the globe, and then thought leaders from sort Have related nonprofits and alike. And it’s, it’s it’s unlike any other event I’ve ever been to the people. They’re the stories that they’ll share the knowledge that their share, they’ll share. It’s off the charts. And so I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that. And it’s not just because I’m a conference guy. I came back from the first one in 2014, which was up in Burlington, Vermont. And I was I think I was literally starry eyed. And my wife looked at me a little sideways. And she said, you found your people didn’t Yeah. Yeah, I did. And then I proceeded to talk to her straight for about three hours.
Benn Marine [40:32]
That’s amazing. I’m curious, what advice do you have for other businesses thinking about becoming a B Corp,
Eric Zimmerman [40:39]
you know, if you’re just starting the process, I would, I would encourage people to focus on the process itself. So the process of going through certificate and how it can how it can help you build a better business. So as you go through certification, it’s not just a gate to get through. But it’s an opportunity to stop and ask yourself questions about the way you’re running your company, and the way you ought to be running your company. And, and not just you, the person sitting in front of the screen, completing the assessment. But the most important part is when you turn to your team, and you raise one of these topics, and you say, how are we going to answer this question? How can we enter based on what we do today? And how would we like to be able to answer it a year from now, the value you get out of that is enormous. Even if you never wind up certifying the value is just of that process is enormous. So I would say value the process, and you’ll build a more successful business. And, you know, the thing that may help you keep going is that along the way, you know, if you become part of this community, you’re going to experience some love and some joy that you hadn’t expected. And those aren’t words that I throw around casually.
Benn Marine [42:00]
Time to level up through action and impact. This segment is meant to provide you with ways you can get involved in a local and global level. With one challenge mentioned in the episode, you can do all of what follows or choose your own adventure. If it feels overwhelming. I’m encouraging you to listen for one action in the following listed actions to give a try. If we all make even the smallest of changes, you would be amazed at how it can ripple out. Eric came to a huge realization about the impact that he was having on the planet when he stopped to calculate his own carbon footprint. You can also calculate your carbon footprint for free with B Corp certified Native Energy, the one that Eric mentioned in this episode, knowing is half the battle. From there, you can choose to purchase carbon offsets directly from native energy if you so choose, as an individual or for your business. Or by simply knowing your biggest contributions to your carbon footprint. You can work to reduce them. Maybe you take a train instead of flying this holiday season, or you carpool to an event with a colleague, or you start riding your bike to work a couple days a week. There are other things you can do as well. Besides just transportation of course, try reducing the amount of meat and dairy you consume. You don’t need to cut out entirely just reducing it. Maybe you start with one meat free meal a week and you go from there. We’d love to hear some of your ideas and some of the things that you’re going to be trying to help reduce your carbon footprint, shoot us a no go head on over to the responsibly different.com website scroll the bottom hit contact us. We’d love to hear what you’re implementing. And thanks so much for tuning into this episode, we have yet another big announcement coming for next month. Starting in November, we will be launching our very own Patreon page where you can support the show and get even more value from it. We’ll have four different tiers you can choose from to support the show with benefits from the ability to know what interviews are coming up so you can submit your own questions for guests to engaging with other fans and forums and monthly webinar events and so much more. We’re excited for this because it’s one more way that we can continue to serve the community and it’s a way for us to fund some of the big projects we have in mind for you all and most importantly we want to have you in the work with us to get the latest updates on when the Patreon page will go live and how you can get involved subscribe to our email list at responsibly different comm forward slash support. Next time on responsibly different I sit down with the co founders of essential oils company EO products and Everyone For Everybody. Susan Griffin Black and Brad Black.
Brad Black [44:48]
However, if you just shifted slightly and it’s less about me and it’s more of an external thing that I aspire to for the common good. It’s very it’s it’s difficult in the business space. Because business is really defined for individual good, individual power, individual greed, individual, you name that yet for a force for the common good is really I think, where the B Corp is and really the umbrella that we try to operate from.
Benn Marine [45:19]
Till next time, be Responsibly Different. This is a production of Dirigo Collective Claire Closson is our Project Manager Jeremy Glass is our Writer. The music is an original score by our very own Kevin Oates and, I , Benn Marine am your host and editor. To learn more about Dirigo Collective visit dirigocollective.com