Randy Paynter CEO of Care2.com on Reducing Business Travel
I was looking for a company to profile for a piece on webconferencing as a greening strategy when Randy Paynter, President and CEO of Care2.com volunteered to share his experiences.
Founded in 1998, Care2.com is the largest and most trusted information and action site for people who care about green living, health & wellness, human rights and protecting the environment—and the organization’s business model is inherently green. With more than 50 employees, over 10 million members and 400 non-profit partners, the company has offices on the east and west coasts, as well as employees scattered around the United States. And it’s still growing. In order to enable face-to-face meetings among geographically dispersed staff members, Care2.com introduced web conferencing in in 2006 to facilitate internal meetings. Here’s what Randy has to say about it all:
JK: For readers who aren’t familiar with Care2.com, can you describe your business?
RP: Care2 is the largest online community helping people live a more healthy and sustainable lifestyle. We connect individuals with organizations, opportunities, and other caring individuals interested in making the world a better place. We generate revenues by being a match maker between companies and nonprofits, and consumers who are interested in their products/services, for example, through advertising.
JK: What aspects of Care2.com are green?
RP: Pretty much everything we do. Care2 is one of the few companies where our product is literally “good”. We’ve designed a model where we can’t generate revenues without doing good, and the more good we do the more revenues we should be generating. If we stopped doing good, our members would quickly abandon us, so focusing on doing good is literally good for our business. So, our product is green – helping individuals make the world a more healthy, sustainable place. Also, our company practices are green – for example, we actively strive to reduce our carbon footprint (and offset 100% of our carbon produced), support employee volunteering, focus on local customers, etc.. And, as a corporation all of our employees are shareholders and we donate 5% of our advertising revenues to nonprofits (which this past year was more than 100% of profits, as we didn’t have any) So, as you can see I take a fairly broad view of what it means to be “green”, as I believe being green must include sustainable solutions for people and the planet.
JK: What inspired you?
RP: I realized long ago that we need to get millions of mainstream people involved in good causes if we’re going to create the change we wish to see in the world. So, we set out to make it as easy as possible for people to get informed and take action on the issues they care most about. The longer version is that as a child I was on a trip on the Amazon with my father, an ornithologist, and was profoundly moved by the dichotomy I saw between the tribes living in the lush old growth forest and the poverty, sickness and despair I saw in the more “developed” towns along the river. I knew that if modernization caused so many problems, we were heading toward disaster… and I wanted to help stop that.
JK: You mentioned that you use webconferencing to reduce business travel? Why?
RP: We use webconferencing for team meetings and webinars for sales promotions to reduce travel. The primary benefits are 1) to save money; 2) it keeps the team feeling connected even though we have two offices on opposite coasts and roughly 10 other folks scattered around the country; and 3) it helps us minimize our carbon footprint.
JK: How it’s working out?
RP: It works great. It’s amazing the difference it makes to see someone’s face versus just hear their voice on the telephone. The human-connections are so important to help an organization work efficiently and effectively, and we find that literally seeing someone’s face during a meeting builds these ties and helps people work together from remote locations. In addition, we share spreadsheets and documents via the webconference software that helps keep everyone on the same page and tuned in to the meeting.
JK: Who are you web conferencing with? Customers? Staff?
RP: Primarily with staff, but we are beginning to do more customer lead generation through webinars.
JK: What has the response has been?
RP: Some employees feel a bit self conscious and prefer to just observe rather than show their faces (and we’re ok with that, but prefer they use a camera too). The webinars have been going great – we have gotten several hundred attendees which we either wouldn’t have otherwise, or would have had to have waited to see at a conference.
JK: Have there been cost savings? Travel reduction? If so, how have you measured it?
RP: We’ve avoided costs – for example, we don’t feel the need to get staff physically connected as much as we used to… but it’s hard to measure as we’re growing rapidly and thus the total number of flights is increasing even with these savings.
JK: Based on your experience do you have any advice for small business owners trying to green their operations?
RP: Get started today! It’s okay to take small steps. Sustainability is a journey, not a destination, so don’t worry if you’re “green enough” (you’re not… but if you commit to the journey you’ll make progress, and that’s what matters). First do the green improvements that are good for your bottom line. While the marketing benefit of being able to say you’re green is nice, it’s probably not going to be the fundamental driver of success. The more you do to green your business in ways that helps to build your financial success, the easier it is (and more fun) to continue down the green path, and to take on opportunities where the economic benefits are harder to measure (or don’t exist, but you’re doing them because you know it’s best for the planet).