ChangeSprout Inc., a benefit corporation headquartered in New York, provides access to a full suite of tools for progressive organizations worldwide. In our second full year, we’ve expanded the tools available to our customers – allowing them to organize events and support local groups – and renewed our commitment to empowering regular people to work for change in their local communities.
This annual report serves as a place for us to internally monitor progress toward previous goals, while setting new goals for the coming year, and to publicly detail our commitment to serving the public good.
GENERAL PUBLIC BENEFIT
Selecting a Third Party Standard:
As in previous years, we chose to use B Labs’ B Impact Assessment to measure our impact. B Labs is a leader within the benefit corporation community and their assessment is one of the most highly regarded third party standards. By continuing to use their assessment, we’ve been able to easily compare our current performance with previous assessments and monitor improvements. Additionally, B Labs adds new criteria to the assessment each year, which provides us with ongoing ideas for improvement.
Pursuit of the General Public Benefit and the Extent the General Public Benefit was Created:
At the time of its incorporation, ChangeSprout Inc. decided to pursue a general public benefit, which is, according to Article 17 of the Business Corporation Law, a “material positive impact on society and the environment.” We work to create this impact through the production of well-engineered software that supports the work of progressive organizations – and their members – around the world.
General Public Benefit
All of ChangeSprout’s tools are built with our mission in mind – to help our partners to build power in communities across the globe and achieve a broad and transformative impact on people’s lives. Specifically, the tools are built to give organizing power back to regular people – allowing them to work on improving issues in their own communities – instead of relying on staff at advocacy organizations to decide the most important causes.
As a software company, our public benefit is primarily achieved by promoting the work of the progressive organizations that use our tools. We have partners around the world who are working on the full range of progressive causes – from environmental protection to LGBTQ issues to fair wages and affordable housing. The campaigns that are created with our toolset are started by members of these organizations; these campaigns cover a diverse range of issues and also vary in scope – from national campaigns to those targeting very local matters. However, each campaign is aimed at improving an issue faced by the community and every campaigner uses the platform to strengthen their voice and amplify their influence.
The following is a small selection of the campaigns we’ve seen this year:
In Australia, a night cleaner at a national retail chain was fired after learning that – due to the shady hiring practices of a subcontractor – he’d been underpaid by $7,000 in three months. Working with the Victorian Trades Hall Council, a coalition of labor unions, the cleaner created a campaign to speak out about his maltreatment. After nearly 4,000 people signed and shared his campaign, it received national attention and he was reinstated. With the help of his union, he’s now using the court system to get his back pay.
In nearby New Zealand, Greenpeace encouraged members to campaign their local city governments to block a proposal to allow deep sea drilling. Nearly 8,000 supporters signed the various petitions, which targeted 25 city councils in New Zealand. Campaign leaders used offline events – also organized with our tools – to deliver signatures to their city councils and attract media attention.
In Sweden, a member of Skiftet started a petition to ensure that diabetics have access to the same preventive treatments regardless of where they live or the hospital they’re assigned to. After receiving more than 5,000 signatures, the Stockholm government updated its rules to guarantee that all diabetics have equal access to preventive treatments. The campaign creator has now expanded her campaign nationally – working to ensure that this treatment is available throughout Sweden.
Here in the United States, Coworker.org has been mobilizing employees to campaign for changes in their workplace. Two big campaigns targeted parental leave policies at KEEN and Netflix. With pressure from employees and consumers, both companies agreed to extend their parental leave policies, so that mothers and fathers are given time with their new children.
While many of our partners are located in places where digital organizing is commonplace, we are also committed to fostering this model around the world by giving voice to people living in areas where grassroots, people-powered campaigns are a new concept. As part of this commitment, we offer our toolset free of charge to fledgling organizations that serve these emerging markets. This includes places like Sweden, South Africa, and Romania.
The organizations that use our tools work on the full spectrum of progressive issues, including environmental protection. We partner with Greenpeace International and offer our tools to national offices in eight countries – including New Zealand, Brazil, and India.
Along with the deep sea drilling campaign run in New Zealand, in Argentina, Greenpeace worked with residents of the Mendoza province to block a proposal that would allow for open-pit mining, which has been known to contaminate waterways with cyanide and heavy metals.
In addition to working with Greenpeace, we also partner with 350.org, whose Go Fossil Free initiative uses localized campaigns to encourage colleges, cities, and churches to divest from fossil fuels. Over 1,000 campaigns have been created, targeting institutions around the world.
All of the campaigns included above are some of the more visible victories that our partners have experienced in the last year using our toolset. However, there have also been less visible victories, like saving local libraries and hospitals, changing school policies to be more inclusive of LGBTQ students, or ensuring better access for disabled soccer game attendees.
While each of these campaigns have successfully achieved the change they sought, we think that any campaign – whether successful or not – creates a public good. When ‘regular’ people feel empowered to better their communities, when they learn that there are tools and organizations and strangers that will support them in making that change a reality, and when they see that it’s possible for someone like them to make a real and positive impact if they’re willing to work for it, it has a positive benefit for us all.
The results for ChangeSprout’s 2015 impact assessment, as compared to the previous two years are below.
|Category||Total Points Earned||Percent Earned||Total Points Earned||Percent Earned||Total Points Earned||Percent Earned|
DISCUSSION AND PLANS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Our governance score declined significantly over the last year. In the last year we’ve implemented some of the recommendations from our previous assessment, including finalizing a written employee handbook. However, this year’s assessment seems to place more emphasis on corporate structure than previous years. Because we still have a single owner, and not a board of directors, our score is significantly lower than it was. It’s unlikely that we’ll change our structure in the coming year, but we will try to implement some of the other best practices suggested by the assessment. In particular, we hope to identify key performance indicators that will help us track our social and environmental progress throughout the year. This was a goal of ours in 2015, but we hope to achieve it in 2016.
Our workers score increased over the last year and represents our highest scoring category. As predicted in our previous assessment, this increase is partially a natural increase – as our workforce remained constant – and partially due to changes we made in the last year – including the adoption of a written employee handbook and the establishment of an employee 401K plan.
Our community score also increased moderately over the last year. Because we are a distributed team, many of the community questions don’t apply to our situation, as we’re not able to have a sustained impact in one community. However, in the coming year we’d like to increase our company’s charitable giving percentage and better support the volunteer and community involvement of our employees.
Additionally, we’ll try to include more women and minority-owned businesses in our suppliers. While the most important factor in our decisions will always be the technical excellence of the tools, we’ll work to be more cognizant of who owns the software we use to underpin our toolset.
Like last year, the consumer section of the assessment seems to be a bit different than the others, in that it doesn’t include a percentage of points earned. Because of the nature of the software that we offer, our consumer base is relatively small. However, we’ll work to increase our score in this category by trying to better track the metrics that this category uses.
This was our lowest scoring section and a significant decrease from last year. The assessment now includes questions that are targeted to remote teams, which makes it easier for us to set specific goals for the upcoming year. A few of the suggested best practices that we’ll try to implement are: a written policy encouraging environmental stewardship in home offices and education to help employees be as environmentally friendly as possible.
However, many of the environmental questions concern efficiency in corporate offices and the reduction of energy use during production. Because we don’t have corporate offices or production facilities, these are targets that we won’t be able to meet. However, in general, we should try to better track our energy and water usage, as we currently rely on internal estimates. This will be a long-term project for us because our current infrastructure provider – and largest energy consumer– doesn’t provide detailed energy usage data.**
We have room for improvement in all of the assessment’s categories. While we are unlikely to implement some of the higher point value changes – like replacing our current corporate structure – there are many smaller changes that we can accomplish. We look forward to renewing and reaffirming our commitment to the public good in the next year.
COMPENSATION OF DIRECTORS
Nathan Woodhull is the sole director of ChangeSprout. His full-time position has an annual salary of $85,000.
Nathan Woodhull, founder of ChangeSprout Inc., is the only shareholder.