Eco-friendly Cub Scouts? Well, when Todd Silberman and Mitch Rofsky met forty years ago, they learned a lot from their den mother. Fast forward through law school and gigs as travel agents, game show contestants, and at Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen, Todd and Mitch learned the importance of balancing economic goals with social and environmental responsibility. While test marketing an insurance program in Massachusetts, Mitch was approached by environmentalists who were fighting AAA on issues like Clean Air and Mass Transit. He and Todd agreed that there was an opportunity to compete with AAA but to infuse social responsibility into every aspect of travel — whether when from flying around the world, renting a cottage in Ireland, or riding a bike to work.
Enter the Better World Club, which strives to be a profitable example of social, economic, and environmental responsibility by supporting consumer advocacy, sustainable transportation development, and environmental projects that remedy the adverse impacts of travel. Their product line includes emergency roadside assistance, travel products and services, and insurance products and services. They support a cleaner environment and alternative modes of transportation by providing customers with high quality, good value, and environmentally sensitive products and services. They also offer unique eco-friendly travel alternatives.
Importantly, the Better World Club acts as an advocate on behalf of the consumer and demonstrates social and environmental commitment by donating an amount equal to 1% of annual revenues toward environmental clean-up and advocacy. The Better World Club Foundation carefully screens and selects offset projects to neutralize emissions that are directly contributing to global warming.
A few of their projects have included replacing out-of-date oil-burning public school boilers, maintaining a landfill methane recovery and destruction project, and supporting steel recycling facilities so that metal shredders can tackle buses and even airplanes. Moreover, since their donations are largely in the form of carbon offsets, their business helps to neutralize the greenhouse gas pollution that is associated with the burning of fossil fuels. Driving or flying releases harmful gases (including CO2) into the atmosphere.
To the Better World Club founders, being green isn’t just about spending money on environmental projects. In order to keep daily operations in line with their public advocacy, they offset all the emissions associated with their headquarters’ operations in Portland, OR and from their nationwide fleet of roadside service providers. Their web hosting is solar-powered, and they use eco-friendly ink in all of their printers. Recycling is important at the Better World Club, so their plastic membership cards are 100% recycled and recyclable, their paper membership materials are recycled from 100% post-consumer waste, and they recycle all office materials and equipment. They even offer prizes to reward ecologically-friendly towing providers.
Maybe most importantly, the Better World Club believes in the power of consumer-based change. Rather than lobbying with membership dues, they act by working to keep their members informed and engaged so they will speak up for what their beliefs with their voices and own money. Better World Club’s advocacy e-newsletter is called Driving Change.
To show how a green business can work to foster social change, this year Better World Club has:
- Asked Congress to close a $100 billion corporate tax loophole.
- Promoted Oregon’s Clean Fuels Program.
- Supported California’s continued efforts towards a 3-foot passing rule for bike safety.
- Advocated for non-corn ethanol production over corn-based ethanol.
- Encouraged members to participate in Bike To Work week.
- Sponsored The World Naked Bike Ride (a naked spotlight on biking and the social/environmental state of transportation) in Portland, OR.
- Spoke out against and asked members to oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Todd and Mitch are humble when they say that they had the right idea at the right time. Maybe their example will help you to decide that now is the time where your vision of a green business can take form and help to change the world for the better.
Photo credit: kohlmann.sascha via Foter.com / CC BY-SA