The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.  Thanks so much for checking in and being part of our success this year.  We like helping home and building owners live more comfortably and cost-effectively in their properties.

Stay tuned in 2013 for more goodness from us.  We love what we do!

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


Sandy Adomatis, appraiser and Vice Chair of the National Education Committee, Appraisal Institute (From Adomatis Appraisal Service).

MLSs (Multiple Listing Services) across the country are unveiling “green-field addenda” (GFAs) and searchable fields to highlight green features.   Twenty-five percent of new-home sales are ENERGY STAR-certified, and utility programs across the country provide rebates to overhaul the rest of the country’s housing stock.   Early data from places like the Pacific Northwest and North Carolina are showing that yes, in fact, there is a “green premium” – a price bump for homes with green features.

Green-building advocates feel like a green renaissance within home construction and renovation — an Emerald City – is on the horizon.   But appraisers have been the big buzz kill at the party.  As an industry, they’ve refused to assign higher valuation to energy-efficient features that save homeowners money on utility bills or create healthful environments.

What’s been missing, appraisers say, are data points to support higher valuations of those features, and lending underwriters able to reconcile higher appraisal values with federal lending guidelines.


The Appraisal Institute is hot on the trail, and last fall, it launched its “Residential Green and Energy Efficient Addendum,” a form for appraisers to identify any green and energy-efficient features of a house.  Sandy Adomatis, an appraiser and Vice Chair of the National Education Committee for the institute, says that adoption among AI members has been slow.  Of 80,000 licensed appraisers in the United States, only 23,000 are Appraisal Institute members, and of those, only 2.9 percent (667) have sought green certification.  Yet the appraisers who are trained to get green features, love the addendum.

Elizabeth Million, appraiser and banker at Elevations Credit Union, Boulder, Colo. (From

Adomatis identifies two critical pieces that need to fall into place for green appraisal data to matter – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must get on board by distinguishing green properties as specialized, and homeowners must assert their rights when they want green features considered.

“What hasn’t changed is Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac coming into 2012 and recognizing that these energy-efficiency features have value,” says Boulder banker and appraiser Elizabeth Million.  “There’s no specific area for underwriters to go to a site and find out what ‘PV’ is – what’s solar.  So the underwriter can choose not to accept the appraised value.  That, in my opinion, is why we need these data points.”


Laura Stukel, a National Association of REALTORS “Green” REALTOR in Chicago with L.W. Reedy Real Estate, says that when homeowners are working with their lenders, that’s the time to request a green appraiser.  “If you had a horse property, you’d want an appraiser who knew how to value a horse property.  You need someone who can value green properties,” she says.

Adomatis says that the AI has green appraisal classes, tests and subsequent certifications – two for residential appraisers and four for commercial appraisers.  Homeowners can request a “green-certified” appraiser from their lender.  Sometimes, that request isn’t honored, though, because lenders don’t have the knowledge to fulfill it, or the people, she says.

Laura Stukel, NAR Green REALTOR with L.W. Reedy Real Estate, Chicago. (From Efficiency Vermont)

“Unfortunately they’re using either their own ordering department within the bank or they use an appraisal management company.  Neither category is looking at green construction as anything other than conventional,” she says.

Adomatis notes that green appraisals are considered “complex” and that “general” or “trainee” appraisers shouldn’t be doing them.  And yet banks and appraisal companies sometimes dispatch those less-qualified anyway.


Adomatis says it’s completely legit for property owners to ask, “Are you a trainee, or are you certified?  Have you had any classes in green construction?”  And when the appraisal’s done, check it then – don’t wait until closing.

“The homeowner should ask for a copy of the appraisal as soon as they can get it,” says Adomatis.  “Did they describe the property appropriately?  If it’s green, do they describe the green features?  If they didn’t describe it right, they probably didn’t appraise it correctly.  Then go back to the lender.”

REALTORS and appraisers are working shoulder to shoulder to get green features valued, but there’s not a big push from lenders, says Adomatis.  “I’d like to see the lenders do what we’ve encouraged the builders to do – network with all of us, networking and brainstorming together.  The AI always invites lenders,” she says.

Ultimately, Stukel says the responsibility for getting green features valued falls squarely on the home or building owner.  “You still have to manage the process,” she says.  Working with green REALTORS and appraisers can flatten the learning curve.

-Melissa Baldridge, eGreenContractors

For more information …

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Big Blue, now lovlier shades of brown, in the Corey-Merrill neighborhood of Denver

When Sarah Coleman and Carl Sack first saw “Big Blue,” they knew they were home.  The massive house, so named because all the rooms were painted shades of the color, was built in the 1920s on two and a half lots in the Corey-Merrill neighborhood of inner-city Denver.

But their Realtor, PJ Magin, remembers the 4,200-square-foot place was a gut job – the roof was shot, the hardwood floors wrecked, a detached garage needed scraping, and an old “octopus” boiler appeared to have been recently coal-fired by the foreclosed-upon owners because the house had no power.

Realtor PJ Magin and owner Sarah Coleman remember the trauma and drama of getting to Big Blue's closing. Coleman and Sack are doing much of the current work themselves, and the house is still a construction zone.

The bank initially listed the place at $789,000, and by the time the couple found it in winter 2010, they put in an offer of $245,000.  Their first lender backed out one day before closing, and the bank gave the couple a small window to resuscitate the deal when Magin recommended working with mortgage lender Brett Popish.  Because Coleman and Sack had done the heavy lifting for the previous lender, including getting bids, Popish was able to fund and close in two weeks.

The 203K loan product Popish used funded $163,000 of conventional improvements like a new roof, historically right-on windows to replace the 60 single-pane original ones, and rewiring the house.  More importantly, the loan also funded “green” upgrades like a high-efficiency furnace and sealed ductwork, tankless, “on-demand” hot water heating and ENERGY STAR appliances.  And Popish, who’s a 203K veteran at Universal Lending Corporation, says homeowners are more and more choosing the loan for green upgrades to existing homes in both purchases and refis.

The beauty of the 203K is that it’s agnostic about what’s green and what’s conventional.  Viewed through the 203K lens, granite countertops are weighted the same as high-efficiency furnaces as new carpet as low-VOC paint as structural repairs as solar panels (owned, not leased).  The mortgage lender can fund up to 110 percent on the “as-completed value” of the purchase price ($245,000 in the case of Coleman and Sacks) plus the improvements ($163,000) up to the FHA county loan limit ($406,250 in the Denver metro area in June 2011).

Coleman saved the original 60 single-pane windows for reuse.

The 203K is essentially a construction loan and a purchase loan rolled into one, and the FHA, its guarantor, estimates they’re two percent of the entire FHA portfolio.  The loan comes in two flavors – a streamlined loan up to $35,000 in non-structural repairs, and a full up to a county’s FHA loan limit.  Coleman and Sack opted for the latter, given the massive overhaul that the house required.

The loan also solves a couple of problems that existing “energy-efficiency mortgages” (EEMs) have.  EEMs require a HERS rating, a “miles-per-gallon” metric assigned to a home, and those start at $500 and go up depending on square footage.  The math behind a HERS rating generates the net present value of future energy savings based on a prescribed scope of work.  Vary outside of that complex calculus, and you’re on your own.

Read the rest of this entry »

“Marilyn” by Tom Deininger. (From

Artists were some of the first environmentalists, whether they knew it or not.  Early 20th century Cubist painters like Pablo Picasso used chair bottoms, newspapers and smoking pipes to create depth and a sense of the everyday in their artworks.  Later, Jackson Pollock dropped cigarette butts in the pools and paint blobs of his Abstract Expressionist paintings.  And mid-century artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Ed Kienholz used junk like mattresses, taxidermy animals and abandoned cars to break free from traditional art materials like paint and stone.

But toward the end of the 20th century with the theory of climate change largely accepted, a number of artists have used garbage in their works as much more than jokey metaphor.  These artists “upcycle” trash into works of art like a neon arrow pointing at the piles of refuse threatening to overwhelm the earth’s landfills and oceans.  Working from literal garbage, enviro artists create works, some gorgeous, with darker messages about humankind’s impact on the planet.

“Trash People,” Giza, H.A. Schult (2002) (From

For German-American designer and conceptual artist H.A. Schult, his use of trash is anything but accidental.  In 1983, he created a paper river in downtown New York to highlight the amount of paper waste cities generate.  He later directed his focus to landfills and hired a stunt pilot to crash a Cessna into a Staten Island garbage dump.  And in 1996, Schult and 30 assistants created over 1,000 “trash people” sculptures that he placed in various installations around the planet, including Moscow’s Red Square, Piazza del Popolo in Rome, La Defénse in Paris and the pyramids at Giza in Egypt.

“Save the Beach” Hotel by H.A. Schult (From

Schult also created the “Save the Beach” hotel in central Madrid last year – part art assemblage and part working hotel festooned with garbage collected from the mountains of trash washed up on European beaches.  Says Schult, “The philosophy of this hotel is to expose the damage we are causing to the sea and the coastline.  We live in the era of trash, and we are running the risk of becoming trash ourselves.  Do we really want this world?” he asks.

For British artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster, trash is a metaphor for humanity’s dark unconscious– psychological aspects relegated to distant (mental) dumps and landfills.  Yet these expanding garbage repositories (both real and psychological) overwhelm the boundaries that hold them.

“Dirty White Trash (with Gulls),” by Tim Noble and Sue Webster (1998) (From

The artists started using garbage as a primary art medium in the mid-1990s, and even hired celebrity architect, David Adjaye, to design their studio  – The Dirty House – as a creative warren and a trash warehouse.  In their “Shadow Works” series of assemblage sculptures, the art duo creates seemingly random piles of junk that, when illuminated from the front, cast human shadows and silhouettes – people confronting or disconnected from each other, lost in drink or peeing in private.  With artwork titles like “Real Life is Rubbish” and ”Dirty White Trash,” Webster’s and Noble’s pieces suggest a parallel side living in shadow – unaware, detached from self, others and the natural world, illustrated by the metaphor of overloaded landfills.

American garbage artist Tom Deininger says his favorite art-making tool is a glue gun, and he sticks together refuse like broken CDs, Coke crates, bottle caps and cigarette butts.  “I find almost everything visually stimulating from NASCAR smash-ups to Hubble images and shit just lying around the streets,” he says.  “When it comes down to it I am a real visual slut. I try to look at everything and not to judge beauty with a hierarchy of value or the source from which it is derived.”[1]

Deininger works in the same vein as early 20th century Pointillist painters like George Seurat (“Afternoon at the Grande Jatte”) who almost mathematically arranged dots of paint – imperceptible  at a distance but predominant on closer inspection.  Deininger uses a cornucopia of trash – bottles, candles, masks, paper and all manner of useless plastic – creating portraits of pop  icons like Marilyn Monroe and John Lennon, Impressionist painter Monet’s bridge at Giverny and even natural forms like seashells.  The images are lost in an inescapable smorgasbord of garbage up close, but at a distance, the pieces merge, and the whole becomes beautiful.

“Shell” by Tom Deininger. Made from cigarette butts picked up in beach parking lots around Newport, R.I. (From

For Schult, Webster, Noble and even Deininger, they intend their trash works to roust viewers out of complacency about what they see as the rivers of waste threatening the planet.  Some of these artists’ works are beautiful, but most are jarring.  Says Noble, ““I think anything that’s a bit of a rocket up the arse, anything that kicks against the routine, against the mundane things that close down your mind, is a refreshing and good thing.”  [2]

-Melissa Baldridge, eGreenContractors


[2], “Tim Noble and Sue Webster, The Work.”


Sean Smith and Jamil Dillon helped bring green-field addenda to Colorado MLS listings.

On March 7, 2012, Metrolist, Denver’s real estate colossus, will finally unveil its searchable “green-field addendum.”  And it’s been a long time coming, says Jamil Dillon.

Dillon would know because he helped hatch the idea.  He was the Residential Program Senior Associate at the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO) in 2010 when he and green home builder Sean Smith began conversations with some Colorado MLSes, including Metrolist, to provide “green” and energy-efficient home-listing info that can be easily searched.  Dillon says that even GEO management was at first hesitant about promoting and helping fund such a far-reaching initiative, affecting all the state’s listing services.  But like Tim Tebow scrambling through an opening, Dillon and Smith grabbed the ball and bolted for it.

“In hindsight, people commend it.  But at the time, they were like, ‘They’re doing their own thing.  Can we do that?’” Dillon recalls.  “Sean and I formed our own [working] group [within the GEO], started talking to Metrolist, to the folks on the western slope and with the U.S. Green Building Council.”  Fast forward to today, and their conversations have become bricks-and-mortar reality.

Metrolist is the 800-pound gorilla in Colorado real estate with approximately 50 percent of the state’s REALTORS and almost 70 percent of the real estate transactions.  Compiling this data in Colorado is critical because green-building advocates say it will mirror what’s been happening in the Pacific Northwest – that, in fact, green homes sell faster and for more money than conventional, code-built comparables.  Cities like San Antonio, Santa Barbara, Phoenix and Charleston already have green-field addenda (GFAs) in place. Though several MLSes in Colorado already have GFAs, when Metrolist snaps this new lens in place, nearly everyone will see green.

Kirby Slunaker, Metrolist's chief operating officer. He and Melissa Olson snapped the green lens in place there.

Kirby D. Slunaker, Metrolist’s chief operating officer, says the organization had to cover ground quickly against the backdrop of other sea changes – rolling out new software and real estate tools to Metrolist members, plus a rental property database.  Also, Metrolist’s founding president of 27 years left the organization in fall 2011, and the organization is exploring a possible merger with IRES – Boulder and northern Colorado’s MLS.

Slunaker identified two major reasons why he and Melissa Olson, Metrolist senior manager for marketing and sales, recently punched the gas on the GFA.  “Social responsibility – it’s the right thing to do,” says Slunaker, noting that buildings consume 39 percent of the nation’s energy use.  “And REALTOR differentiation – there’s a value proposition here,” he says, noting that anything REALTORS can do to differentiate themselves is good.

Until 2009, there was a disconnect between hearth-and-home green improvements, and increased appraisal values.  And in fact, some additions like solar panels historically decreased the value of a home.  One Boulder banker and appraiser aptly named Elizabeth Million says all this re-tooling and data capture is largely focused at loan underwriters.

“The ultimate decision maker in the green real estate chain is the underwriter,” says Million.  “An owner says, ‘This home is worth 20 percent more because it’s energy-efficient.’  When it gets to the underwriter, the underwriter says, ‘What’s a PV panel?’  We need these data points because underwriters make decisions based on the data they have in front of them,” she says.  And that translates into higher appraisal values for green features.

Elizabeth Million, bank officer at Elevations Credit Union in Boulder. Million says GFA data is key so underwriters and mortgage insurers value green features for more money.

Million also notes that GFAs don’t just benefit listing agents (with bigger commissions) and sellers (with higher sales prices), but GFA data can also help buyers’ agents.    Descriptive GFA fields are currently available on Metrolist, but their effectiveness, however, hinges on two critical words – searchable fields something not available on IRES.

“If someone is here from California, they want to see four properties, and they want them to be energy-efficient.  That client has half a day.  You have to be able to search quickly,” she says.  “Addenda are great for documentation, but really what we need is more searchable fields.”

Slunaker points to a couple of issues that could significantly slow adoption of the GFA.  The first is the age of Metrolist members, 40 percent of whom are 55 years old or older.  Many may not be earth-friendly natives like younger REALTORS.

Also, real estate agents may be slower on the uptake to learn how to use the GFA.   MLSes across the country, and even IRES deep in the heart of Boulder, have experienced a much slower adoption than expected.

Slunaker also says some of these older brokers feel like their older, affluent buyers don’t care about lower utility bills or other green benefits.  Yet hardly anyone, even the wealthiest, wants to pay Xcel Energy $800 every month (or more) because their homes are energy hogs.  “If you miss an opportunity to help buyers and sellers, hey, you’re glossing over something.”

Dillon agrees that it’s up to Metrolist to make this a financial concern, first and foremost.  “I consider myself an environmentalist, for sure,” he says.  “But the primary benefits have to be about the bottom line – saving money on utility bills and health.  Money’s very in-your-face.  Explaining to people about formaldehyde and paints is much more abstract.”

–          Melissa Baldridge

This blog is syndicated on


  • ATTEND – Metrolist’s RE Bar Camp, “Greening the MLS,” March 9, 2012, 9 – 10:30 a.m., Denver Metro Association of Realtors (central office), 4330 E. Warren Ave., Denver, CO  80222.  For reservations, call 303.756.0553 or send an email:
  • READ – Ann Griffin, “Certified Home Performance:  Assessing the Market Impacts of Third Party Certification on Residential Properties,” Earth Advantage Institute, May 29, 2009.
  • AND CONTACT – eGreenContractors for a BPI-certified, insured energy auditor to fill out your GFA.  Cost $99.  Sign up at, or call 1.877.376.8953.

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Sean Smith was the man in the middle. – a key figure with a foot in both worlds of business and “green.”

A high-end general contractor, he built two LEED-certified homes in the Washington Park neighborhood of Denver in 2009.  At an educational session he hosted there, the U.S. Green Building Council approached him to serve on a committee.  “If you’re doing big-picture things, I’m all over it,” he told them.

At a subsequent meeting with the Governor’s Energy Office (GEO), Smith realized he was one of the few businesspeople in a room full of well-intended greenies.

“There wasn’t one REALTOR.  I was the only builder.  There weren’t any bankers or appraisers.  They were talking about moving the market at a macro scale,” he said.  “The market they were talking about was not there in any way, shape or form.”

Sean Smith, a bridge figure between building industries and the world of “green”

The problem Smith and his colleagues wanted to solve was validating the theory that green homes sell faster and for more money than conventional homes.  It’s a real “chicken-or-egg” conundrum as appraisers, mortgage lenders and underwriters, REALTORS, builders and homeowners look to each other for numbers to prove the claim.  If a market-based case can be made, it would grease the skids for moving the green-building industry into the mainstream.

An important yet imperfect study emerged in 2009[1] from the Pacific Northwest, specifically Portland and Seattle.  The MLS (Multiple Listing Service) had collected sale data from certified green homes that proved the theory there.  What implementers at the GEO realized is that grant money could be directed to Colorado’s 18 MLS’s to add “green  field addenda” (GFAs) to start data collection here.

IRES, the MLS for Boulder and northern Colorado, was one of the first aboard.  Lauren Hansen, IRES’ CEO, said she rolled her eyes when the GEO first knocked on her door about placing GFAs on IRES, but she quickly saw the value of the undertaking.  Boulder’s building codes now require all new construction and remodels to be 30 percent more energy-efficient than conventional codes.  And that’s just the starting point.

“It’s not just about listing and selling homes, but instead how can we gather the right kind of applicable data, meaningful data, so appraisers can start putting these houses side by side [next to code-built twins].”

Lauren Hansen, CEO at IRES, which serves northeastern Colorado

The GEO approached Hansen in April 2010, and IRES moved with lightning speed, launching its GFA in August.  She says she had IT support that a lot of smaller MLSs don’t have in-house.  (The GEO MLS grants intended to offset that expense, even if the work has to be sent out-of-house.)

Another reason Hansen moved so fast is because the GEO offered her a data template to facilitate apples-to-apples comparisons.  “This is not the area for you to be creative,” the GEO told her.  “If you want to change up data collection, go for it.  But be sure to have at least the same info that we do.”

The 800-pound gorilla, Metrolist serving metro Denver and almost half the REALTORS in the state, has been slower on the uptake, and its founding president resigned in October after 27 years there.  Melissa Olson, Senior Manager for Marketing & Sales, says it hasn’t been a priority for Metrolist because REALTORS haven’t asked for it.

“In our market, there just hasn’t been a real call in the brokerage community for the green fields,” she says.  She advises brokers who are interested to tack green data on as “additional information.”  Olson does say, however, that a bona fide GFA will be available on the MLS toward the end of this year.

Smith notes another issue with widespread acceptance – no secondary market for energy-efficient mortgages.  “Fannie and Freddie and HUD can come up with energy-efficiency mortgages all day long, all they want.  Underwriters and lenders will add their own layer of criteria,” he says.  “If we get the mortgage industry to really buy into an energy-efficient home with a HERS score of X (a “miles per gallon” comparison) with data from an MLS, appraisers can understand it, and they can get comps from an MLS because it’s all in there.”

He says one sticking point is that appraisers have lacked mechanisms to value green improvements.  But this year, the Appraisal Institute passed its own GFA with, Hansen notes, fields similar to IRES’s and other MLS’s.  Hansen says it’s a game changer because where appraisers go, lenders and underwriters can follow.

One more obstacle to a green MLS – and perhaps the biggest – is actually getting REALTORS to use it, and that’s a problem of education.  Even Hansen in green-tinged Boulder says she doesn’t have the acceptance of the GFAs that she’d like to see.

She says acronyms like VOC paints, SIPs and ICFs (both insulative building foam) can be intimidating.  “It’s like looking for a job.  If I don’t know what the acronyms are, I probably shouldn’t apply.”  Hansen keeps up the drumbeat in all her real estate CLU classes, not just green classes.  And Olson says she’s had the same experience in Denver.

As the various components surrounding green-building valuation gel, Hansen says it’s only a matter of time before REALTORS start using them.   “Once the brokers understand this could make my seller’s property more valuable and more attractive, it’ll be easy for them to jump on board.”

For more information, the U.S. GBC Colorado published a video on the subject:

-Melissa Baldridge

[1] Ann Griffin, “Certified Home Performance:  Assessing the Market Impacts of Third Party Certification on Residential Properties,” Earth Advantage Institute, May 29, 2009.


“Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day.  Teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”

-Chinese proverb

Newmont Mining officials signing social responsibility agreements with the Ahafo Host communities in Ghana. (Courtesy of Newmont Mining)

Let’s say you own a waterfront business that invests the time and resources to teach that man or woman to fish.  You routinely offer “Fishing 101” classes.  Your customer base could expand exponentially, and those newly schooled anglers could become your best customers.

Your investment – in this case, education – is the heart of what’s called “creating shared value” (CSV).  And strategists/visionaries Michael Porter and Mark Kramer say it’s the next evolution of business.  CSV harnesses what business does so well – create profit – as well as advance the social and economic conditions in the communities in which it operates.  Everyone wins.

A number of well-known global brands are embracing CSV’s “profits-plus,” and several Colorado companies are breathing new life into their businesses based on the CSV model.

To comprehend CSV, it may be easier to understand what it’s not – the sacred cow, “corporate social responsibility” (CSR).  Kramer and Porter say that corporations developed CSR programs as philanthropic ways to salvage their reputations as bad stewards of the environment, jobs exporters and sweatshop operators.  CSR programs, while often laudable, are peripheral expenses (cost centers), fringe programs that add nothing to the bottom line.




“Creating Shared Value” co-author Michael Porter (From

One example is fair trade pricing, where well-intentioned companies purchase commodities like coffee and cacao at prices above what the subsistence farmers who grow them would otherwise be able to get.  Fair trade is essentially a price support and redistribution rather an expansion of value for those suppliers.

Porter and Kramer point out Nestlé’s Nespresso division with its single-serve espresso machines as fair trade’s next iteration.  Nestlé opened the division in 2000, redesigned its coffee procurement processes and has reaped 30 percent annual growth since.  Nespresso helped its farmers with new growing techniques, bank loans, better fertilizers and pesticides, all resulting in increased yields.  While fair trade can raise farmer incomes as much as 20 percent, Kramer and Porter estimate CSV in coffee growing can raise them as much as 300 percent.

Energy efficiency is a natural fit for CSV because it creates value along the supply chain by cutting energy and waste costs, and General Electric turned energy efficiency into a $21 billion a year business with its Ecomagination division.   Whether creating über-efficient jet engines, long-lived batteries and electric car charging stations, the division’s focus on energy efficiency creates value for the company and its customers by reducing energy use and creating less waste.

And the other half of the “Creating Shared Value” team – Mark Kramer (From

Closer to home, two Colorado-based companies, both approximately 100-years-old, are reinventing themselves from a CSR mentality to a CSV model – Western Union and Newmont Mining Corporation.




Western Union is a $5.2 billion a year backbone for global money transfers with 470,000 agent locations, marketing in over 100 different languages and operations in 200 countries and territories.  “We can see where people send money,” says Talya Bosch, Director of Corporate Responsibility.  “People literally line up at Western Union offices around the world if it’s payday in, say, Germany.  If the money doesn’t get there safely and reliably, they literally won’t eat.”

Similar to microloan programs on the Asian subcontinent that foster local small business, Western Union’s core business meets peoples’ basic needs all over the planet.  “What we do puts food on the table, helps educate children and has a tremendous impact,” says Bosch.

Western Union CEO Hikmet Ersek addressing the United Nations (Courtesy of Western Union). Ersek is reinventing the company using the CSV model.

The company started the Western Union Foundation in 2001, which operates under its Corporate Responsibility arm, and last year the foundation donated over $20 million, with 46 percent of Western Union employees contributing to that.  “We’ve engaged our employees and agents, creating a culture of giving.  That’s good, but there’s more that we can do,” Bosch says, noting that CEO Hikmet Ersek pegs CSV as the company’s new magnetic north.

Bosch describes the foundation giving as “layered,” addressing issues of economic opportunity like financial literacy and job creation.  And Western Union goes where few companies have gone – to underserved, poorer parts of the planet, which is precisely what Porter and Kramer say is CSV’s sweet spot.  (Remember the newly schooled anglers.)  Bosch also says the company intends to develop programs to help the underserved stateside – small business.  (We’ll be in touch, Talya.)

As the foundation evolves, Bosch says Western Union’s grants benefit the people the company serves.  “We’re not just giving grants but education,” Bosch says.  And that education investment can generate new business.




Based in Englewood, Colo., Newmont Mining Corporation has 31,000 employees worldwide, and is primarily involved in gold mining.  Its division in Ghana, Newmont Ghana Gold Limited, is determined to avoid mining gold without properly re-seeding and re-investing in communities there.

“We clearly see we have to be a partner in the host community and in the environment in which we’re working,” says Randy Barnes, the Regional Vice President of Environment and Social Responsibility for NGGL.  “We’re trying to really flesh out what that means to them (Ghanaians).”

Newmont Ghana, too, has started with a foundation model that engages Ghanaians directly affected by mining to create local investment and ownership with an endowment that will live beyond the mine’s operations.

Ahafo Program apprentices in training, 2010. (From Newmont Mining Corporation)

To that end, Newmont established the Newmont Ahafo Development Foundation, run by a board with community and corporate representatives.  Newmont Ghana tied community investment directly to mine proceeds — $1 for every ounce of gold sold and 1 percent of NGGL profits made.  When the company does well, that’s directly channeled to improving health, education and infrastructure projects like new police facilities, upgrading water and sanitation and improving local schools and hospitals.

One key point for Ghanaians in the mine region was that one-third of jobs created go to local folk, even ahead of Ghanaian nationals.  This was a stretch because 85 percent of area residents are subsistence farmers, never trained for the technical and higher-skilled jobs required in Newmont’s operations.

So Newmont started its Apprenticeship Program in 2005 and has enrolled 145 students to date, including four women.   The apprenticeships teach mechanical, process operation and electrical skills, and a number of grads are now working for Newmont.  “One of the advantages of training locals is that you’re creating value for them to stay in the community,” says Barnes.

The mantra for CSR is “Do well by doing good.”  For CSV, it could be “Do well by engaging others in ways that create value for them.”  Companies that fail to do so will suffer withering market share as CSV companies create new markets by investing in the people they serve.


-Melissa Baldridge

The GreenSpot blog is nationally syndicated on