Sustainability isn’t just good business – it’s a huge recruitment tool, these execs say

Insider's Karen Ho interviews Mark Frohnmayer, founder and president of electric-vehicles maker Arcimoto (c) and Are Traasdahl, CEO at Crisp, a food-supply analytics software platform, during an Insider virtual event on June 29, 2021
Insider’s Karen Ho interviews Mark Frohnmayer, founder and president of electric-vehicles maker Arcimoto (c) and Are Traasdahl, CEO at Crisp, a food-supply analytics software platform.

  • Corporations want to be more sustainable, and the pandemic has shown we need to all work together.
  • Competing with tech giants for talent can be hard, but working for a sustainable business is a draw.
  • This was part of Insider’s virtual event “What’s next: CEOs on How Talent Drives Transformation” presented by ProEdge, a PwC Product, on Tuesday.
  • Click here to watch a recording of the full event.

Mark Frohnmayer, founder and president of electric-vehicles maker Arcimoto, believes that the biggest misconception related to sustainability is that people can’t change.

“The other misperception is that we can take our time,” he said during Insider’s recent virtual event “What’s next: CEOs on How Talent Drives Transformation” presented by ProEdge, a PwC Product, which took place June 29.

The panel, titled “Accelerating the green transformation to drive growth and sustainability,” was moderated by Karen Ho, senior reporter for the business of sustainability at Insider, and featured Frohnmayer and Are Traasdahl, CEO at Crisp, a food-supply analytics software platform.

Both speakers agreed that the pandemic has shown how people can come together to tackle a global problem. For Traasdahl, whose company is using data to stop food waste, corporate sustainability is the art of the possible.

“Most people believe that large, small, medium-sized companies do not want to share the data because there can be some competitive information, pricing information,” he said. “They want to share – there just haven’t been any tools in place to share this data.”

Traasdahl is trying to solve the “huge paradox” of a world where 750 million to two billion people live with moderate to severe food insecurity, while nearly one-third of all food produced goes to waste.

“The pandemic forced everybody in this industry to actually start breaking open supply chains that they haven’t touched in 30 years and understanding how they can be much more proactive,” he said.

Frohnmayer said the disruption to supply chains affected Arcimoto’s manufacturing, but he believes the benefits of everyone traveling less during lockdowns are a long-term positive.

“Many areas in the world saw clean skies for the first time in some people’s lives during the beginning of the pandemic as industries shuttered operations,” he said. “What we’re building really is at the confluence of autonomy, lightweight electric platforms, shared mobility, and that’s a really key piece of driving a solution to carbon emissions.”

Competing with giants such as Facebook and Amazon for talent presents its challenges, but working for a sustainable business can be a strong recruiting tool.

“Everybody who joins Crisp feels like they have a connection to the mission that we have as a company,” Traasdahl said. He pointed to an internal survey which showed that 46% of employees have an “idealistic focus” in terms of their career, some three times the market average.

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4 ways small businesses made changes during the pandemic to help boost their bottom line

small business owner man at bar restaurant
Small business owners are “persistent, innovative, and creative” when it comes to keeping their businesses afloat during the pandemic.

  • Many small businesses were forced to make adjustments during the pandemic.
  • These changes, such as increasing online presence and working remotely, have yielded strong benefits.
  • Owners were challenged to think outside the box and adapt quickly to keep their businesses afloat.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Now that a year has passed since COVID-19 first made itself known across the US, many small business owners are taking a step back to process how the virus has impacted their business models. It’s no secret that it was a challenge to transform everyday practices into ones that met government mandates and kept people safe – but now, looking back, some entrepreneurs are recognizing that the changes they’ve implemented have helped their bottom line. Here’s how.

Small businesses have upped their digital presence

One of the toughest barriers small businesses have faced over the past year has involved brick-and-mortar operations: Specifically, businesses have had to close to the public, reduce occupancy or implement changes like frequent sanitization in order to comply with state and municipal guidelines. In response to these challenges, many businesses rapidly shifted operations to the virtual realm. Companies that were previously on the fence about refreshing their landing pages or starting social media accounts finally bit the bullet; storefronts began debating their ecommerce options; and service-based businesses found “contactless” ways to help their customers. And consumers shifted, too; now that just about anything can be done online, consumers are far more comfortable doing everything from telehealth visits to finding their next home on the web. Digital presence has always been a must-have even prior to the pandemic, but today, it’s a bigger opportunity than ever.

More teams than ever are working from home

Boutique firms, small creative agencies, rapidly-growing technology companies – you name it. If they don’t have to meet customers in person, they’ve likely found a way to let their teams work from home. Not only does this provide a slew of informal benefits for employees (like improved work-life balance, enhanced disability accommodations, and time and money saved on commuting), but it also provides major cost-cutting opportunities for the business itself. Businesses that know they’ll be working remotely for an extended period of time can avoid signing leases for pricey office space, and trendy startups can pause their snack subscriptions (for now). It’s a win-win.

A lull is a clean slate in disguise

Some entrepreneurs who have found themselves in a slow period during the pandemic have used deceleration as an opportunity to reassess and refresh. Though it’s always disappointing to see business decline, it can also be a blessing; companies that were previously in nonstop scale mode might benefit from a period of reflection on what really works and what doesn’t. While not a small business, GoDaddy notoriously took 2020 as an opportunity to reinvigorate its logo and renew its commitment to corporate responsibility. Other businesses are turning a break in brick-and-mortar operations into a chance to revamp their spaces and provide exciting updates to customers once circumstances dictate it’s safe to do so.

Many small business owners are stepping outside of their comfort zones

They say diamonds are formed under pressure, and the old adage rings true for business owners who are serious about helping their ventures thrive under unusual conditions. As contactless sales and services rose in popularity throughout 2020, many businesses found themselves capable of expanding into new markets and offering more customizable shipping options. Heightened social awareness has provided a catalyst for businesses to promote racial justice and gender equity, offset carbon emissions caused by shipping and delivery services and develop transparency in their daily practices. And because people tend to shop with both their needs and values in mind, this added level of consciousness has the ability to bring in waves of new customers and clients.

The obstacles presented by COVID-19 haven’t been easy to overcome – nor are they gone from our economy and from the world at large. But if time has proven anything, it’s that small business owners are persistent, innovative, and creative. Pandemic or no pandemic, that hasn’t changed.

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Stocks look ‘resilient’ as investors pour $120 billion into equity ETFs in the face of rising rates, BlackRock says

trader Gregory Rowe
  • Inflows into equity ETFs of $120 billion are outpacing inflows to bond ETFs, BlackRock said in a note Monday. 
  • Stocks and bond yields generally have been moving higher simultaneously as the US growth picture improves. 
  •  Value and cyclical stocks are finding favor among investors, said the asset manager. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Inflows into the equity market are strong despite the spike up in rates as investors respond to economic growth prospects by embracing risk and not staging a “taper tantrum”, BlackRock said in a note Monday.

Equity exchange-traded funds have raked in $120 billion so far this year, outpacing inflows into fixed income ETFs by 4:1, according to iShares data outlined by Gargi Chaudhuri, head of US iShares markets and investments strategy at BlackRock.

That rush of investor cash into equities has taken place at the same time that Treasury bond yields have made notable moves higher, including a jump past 1.5% on the 10-year yield last week.

“That’s not because the stock and bond markets have become untethered, but rather because rates are moving for the right reason: stronger U.S. growth,” wrote Chaudhuri in the note, describing equities as “resilient”. 

Economists have broadly been increasing their forecasts for economic growth as vaccinations to prevent COVID-19 continue to accelerate. Meanwhile, House representatives in Washington last week passed a proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus bill, sending it to the Senate for approval. The US economy in 2021 could grow by the most in decades, said John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, last week.  

“Unlike previous bouts of rising rates (like the Taper Tantrum of 2013), equity investors have generally responded with risk-on reallocations into pro-cyclical exposures this time around,” said Chaudhuri.

The response by investors could also be explained by real rates remaining “extremely accommodative” at around -70 basis points after the recent rise, she added. Real interest rates exclude the effects of inflation.

ETFs skewed towards value and cyclical stocks will keep benefiting as rates continue to rise and the yield curve steepens, Chaudhuri said, “with over $8 billion of ETF inflows to the value factor corroborating this view.” The inflows of $8 billion represent nearly as much as the previous six months combined, BlackRock said.

Meanwhile, earnings forecasts for 2021 and 2022 should increase through the spring and summer, “further cushioning in the impact of the rise in Treasury yields,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, in a Monday note.

Shepherdson said the spread between Treasuries and the S&P 500 earnings yield recently fell to 115 basis points after widening by 363 basis points at the peak.

“A narrower spread is no guarantee of future equity gains, but it ought to provide of measure of comfort,” he wrote.

This article and headline has been corrected from an earlier version that said $8 billion has flowed into ETFs this year. That figure refers to inflows into value stock ETFs. The correct figure for year-to-date inflows into ETFs is $120 billion. 

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