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1% in the news: Vancouver Sun

This ‘one per cent’ group has explicit eco-agenda

Companies direct fraction of gross revenues to environmental projects. BY SCOTT SIMPSON, VANCOUVER SUN

They are the other “one per cent” group. They could be financiers, or even millionaires, but they could also be unicycle-propelled downhill racers, co-op members, micro-brewers, photographers, or operators of any kind of business that you could imagine.

They’re unified not by their privileged tax status but by their involvement in a 45-nation enterprise that sees members direct one per cent of gross revenues to environmental projects.

According to 1% for the Planet CEO Terry Kellogg, who was in Vancouver last week, businesses have been joining at a rate faster than one per day for the past four years, and “1% FTP” global membership now stands at 1,450.

Anchor members include Vancouver-based Mountain Equipment Co-op, Clif Bar energy food makers, Patagonia outdoor equipment manufacturers, and New Belgian Beer, a wind-powered brewery.

Membership is straightforward. You pay annual dues on a sliding scale. If your annual gross revenue is $100,000, dues are $200. The dues go to the operation and promotion of the program.

You contribute a further $800 to the environmental groups of your choice. Then, you can advertise yourself as a 1% for the Planet member.

Musician Jack Johnson was the 50th member, with his five-million-selling album In Between Dreams bearing the 1% FTP logo on its cover.

“People can look at the price of the item and know that one per cent is going to go to the causes [selected by] the organizations. It’s transparent, it’s verifiable, it’s legitimate and it’s very clear,” Kellogg said in an interview.

The program began in 2002, created by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and a fly-fishing buddy, Craig Mathews of Blue Ribbon Flies, and has since raised $100 million.

“Both of their companies, independently, had been giving one per cent of revenues to environmental causes,” Kellogg said. “They compared notes and said ‘This is actually helping our businesses, and if it’s helping our businesses maybe it will help others — and it’s obviously the right thing for the planet, so let’s do something to inspire more companies to step up.”

It was run as an internal project of Patagonia for the first couple of years and grew slowly, mostly by word of mouth, in geographic regions and industry circles.

MEC’s 2007 decision to climb on board was a big boost — three million people, nine per cent of the population of Canada, are members of the outdoor equipment cooperative and most of 1% FTP’s Canadian members joined after MEC’s decision.

Today, close to 10 per cent of all 1% FTP members are based in Canada — a proportionately huge market share that has convinced Kellogg there’s even more room for expansion here.

“They’ve made it feasible for us to come in and do our own work to further grow the movement.”

Kellogg sees other trends working in their favour.

“One of them you can see evidenced in these Occupy movements. There are people looking for a different way of doing business. That’s from the customer side but it’s also from the side of the business owner.”

Thao Pham, director of community for Clif Bar & Company, said preservation of “wild places” is fundamental to the California-based company’s corporate values.

“1% for the Planet is widely recognized as the gold standard of environmental philanthropy, in part because giving is based on one per cent of sales [revenue] rather than profits, so it reflects a resolution to giving back that’s truly integrated into a company — the commitment won’t change in good times or bad,” Pham said in an email.

Conservation projects supported by Clif encompass rock climbing, whitewater paddling, mountain biking and snow sports.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society is one of the primary beneficiaries of MEC’s involvement in 1% FTP.

Sabine Jessen, national manager of oceans and great freshwater lakes for CPAWS, likes the simplicity.

“It’s totally up to the companies, who they want to support — and the particular project.

“There might be a discussion or they might just send you a check for you to use for the good work you do,” Jessen said. “We have so many common goals with MEC. So for us it has worked really well.”

Esther Speck, director of sustainability and community for MEC said the co-op is “acutely aware” of the environmental impact of its enterprise.

“Everything we make, sell or do has an impact, so we want to do our part to contribute to a sustainable future,” Speck said.

She said 1% FTP is “a great brand fit and it helps us express our commitment to the environment and outdoor communities through a simple message.”

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