Back in August, we launched a new website for Generation Investment Management’s philanthropic arm, Generation Foundation. Since 2004, the company, founded by Vice President Al Gore and former Goldman Sachs co-CEO David Blood, has created a model for responsible investments, combining a traditional research approach with a keen focus on social and environmental responsibility.
From the very start, Generation had in mind the creation of a strong foundational arm; I should know because this was a key part of our conversations when planning and designing their first website in 2004. The foundation would receive a portion of the firm’s profits and invest the proceeds in work that addresses climate change and related social and market challenges. Following is the Generation Foundation’s mission:
Charged with the mission of strengthening the field of Sustainable Capitalism, the Foundation’s funding is based on receiving a distribution from the LLP’s annual profitability.
The term Sustainable Capitalism refers to maximizing long-term economic value creation to address real needs while also considering all costs and stakeholders, including people and the planet.
On October 30, we helped the Foundation release the second of its white papers. Entitled Stranded Carbon Assets: Why and How Carbon Risks Should Be Incorporated in Investment Analysis, the paper proposes a new way of thinking about oil, coal, gas and other non-renewable energy from a quantitative investment perspective. It argues that markets and regulatory bodies will need to change rationally as climate challenges increase and economies respond.
One of the paper’s conclusions is that, given the data and global economic growth, we are on precipice of a wholesale change in attitude about carbon assets—and long-term thinking.
The inevitable transition to a low-carbon economy will revolutionise financial markets at an unprecedented magnitude. Although we cannot, and should not, abandon the world’s current energy infrastructure overnight, investors who equate the transition with drawn-out, incremental change do so at their own peril as the stranding of carbon assets may occur at unforeseen rates and at an unpredictable scale.
The paper is worth a good, sobering read—even if you are not a quant. Or maybe especially if you’re not.
The convention centre of the future.
A few weeks ago we launched an all new website for the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg, highlighting the upcoming expansion of the facility and showcasing the massive investment in convention infrastructure in Winnipeg.
This is one of the most complex responsive websites that we have produced to date. The website features prominent photography, webfonts from Hoefler Frere-Jones (a Manoverboard first), customized Google calendar feeds, slideshows, an archive of downloadable documents, interactive maps, and four unique levels of navigation. Oh yeah, and everything is responsive—meaning that the site needs to elegantly adapt to nearly all mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. I’ll elaborate below on how we overcame some of these challenges and some of the decisions we made to ensure content is delivered easily.
So Much Nav
Not only does the RBC Convention Centre website serve to function as a showcase of the Centre’s current facilities, it also shows off the expansion highlights and promotes the city as a whole. The marketing strategy, thanks to the hard work of Beyond Referrals, positions the RBC Convention Centre as a central hub in Winnipeg, around which orbits its many convention partners—the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the new Richardson International airport, the MTS Centre, Assiniboine Park, and others. In short: Winnipeg is Canada’s Newest Convention Centre. This focus is highlighted in the orange navigation at the top. The events page, previously located a few pages deep on the old site are included here at the top level to bring them into the spotlight.
Next, the website needed to communicate critical information quickly to everyone—where to park, what’s for lunch at the cafe, what room configurations are available, how an exhibitor can order electrical services, how much WiFi costs, etc. The list went on and on. Planners, exhibitors and attendees all require relevant, immediate access to different groups of information, so we felt it best to group content most relevant to those groups together. This second level of navigation is seen in the blue navigation below the banner images.
Next, corporate and contact information are found in the top nav, where people expect them to be, along with a couple more frequently used pages called out for direct access.
Lastly, all of the information needed to be responsive—to respond to browsers on smartphones and tablets . You’ll see that the site’s menus automatically rearrange to best utilize the available screen real estate, whether that screen is very large or very small. In fact, if your monitor is big enough, you’ll be able to see all four configurations of the menus by scaling your browser window big and small right now; just drag the lower right corner of your browser left and right.
Fixed Header Images
Arguably one of our favorite features of this site is the banner images. When any given page loads, the large photos at the top are quite striking, but you only see the real magic when you scroll down. The banner images are fixed in place so that when you scroll, the website slides over top of it. It’s difficult to explain in words, but if you visit the site, you’ll see what we mean.
HFJ Web Fonts
We’re also super-excited about using Hoefler Frere-Jones’ new webfont service. This site is the first opportunity we’ve had to use HJF’s hard-working Gotham on the web. Gone are the days of simply choosing Arial, Georgia, or Verdana as your font face. Web typography has evolved drastically and will continue to do so for many years to come.
Calendars and Documents
A website shouldn’t just look good and function well, it should also be easy to edit and update by someone with minimal content management or computer experience. That’s why upcoming events and daily cafe features are managed by adding events to familiar Google calendars. The calendar events are pulled into the site automatically and show up in all the right places. Adding order forms and catering menus is easy too thanks to a file management system built specifically for WordPress. When a new menu or form is uploaded, it need only be tagged with the appropriate category such as “order form” and it will automatically show up everywhere it’s supposed to.
Event Planner RFP
One of the most important pages of the site is the RFP form. Completing a form is the most efficient way for an event planner to inquire about hosting an event at the centre. We’ve set up an easily digestible web form with large text fields to make this less of a chore. No one likes squinting to read those tiny labels. The RFP form is also totally responsive, and collapses to a single column on a mobile phone. You can even talk to Apple’s Siri (if you like that kind of thing) to fill the whole thing out without typing a word—bonus!
Generally speaking, the more features you add, the slower your site becomes. To overcome this we are using a number of performance enhancing features such as image sprites, caching, minifying, htaccess tweaks, and several more. Without drifting off into an enthusiastic tangent filled with web jargon, we’ve essentially managed to reduce site load times by more than half.
To Infinity and Beyond
The website is live and delivered, but a web designer’s job is never done. We’ll be reviewing user feedback over the next couple months as our ongoing relationship with the convention centre continues and as the expansion unfolds. For those of you looking for a venue for your next event from 12 attendees to 12,000, we strongly invite you to consider the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg.
Many, many thanks to everyone at the convention centre for their guidance, to Cal Harrison of Beyond Referrals who led project strategy, and to Karen Ilchena of Ilchena Communications who developed all copy and content infrastructure.
Personally, my favourite part of the site is only 16 pixels tall. We hand drew a custom favicon to appear in browser bars and bookmarked pages. Take a look! You’ll see the famous RBC lion perched on the globe and our now icon orange bar sitting at the base.
P.S. Here’s our post about the project on Facebook:
At the B Corporation conference in Boulder a few weeks ago, it felt like there was tremendous change in the air. It wasn’t directly from the floods which had only recently heavily damaged much of the city and, unfortunately, created much loss of life and property in the nearby area. Rather, the community of B Corporations—and the B Lab team that made it possible—had come together to challenge each other to challenge how modern business is conducted. As I’ve said before, I sought certification for our company because I believe the Mad Men days are over—business has a responsibility to generate attractive returns but should also do no harm and should benefit all. In fact, this is a challenge within a challenge.
In my previous life, I worked at the Rockefeller Foundation helping to develop a program called Next Generation Leadership, founded by Jacqueline Novogratz (now heading Acumen Fund). The program’s mission was to find and develop a diverse group of American business, nonprofit, government and cultural leaders and to provide a space for them to connect, learn and, importantly, challenge each other’s ideas, assumptions and ideologies. The goal was to find and shape a better path toward civil society and grassroots democracy.
At the B Corp conference, I had a chance to reconnect with one of those NGL fellows. What I also found there was that the people representing the B Corp community are a kind of logical extension of that fellowship, a natural outgrowth if you will. It was my first chance to meet fellow business leaders who care deeply about the future of the planet, about our global social compact, and about the legacy we leave future generations. In essence, I felt at home again.
While the 250 B Corp attendees had different businesses, backgrounds, and beliefs, each one was there to bring their very best ideas and to learn from and challenge one another. To a great extent, the ethos was not a conforming one; it was a place where dissent and difficult conversation was welcome.
For example, I had the opportunity to moderate an Aspen style conversation on Dr. Martin Luther King’s 1963 Letter from a Birmingham Jail. In our discussion, I brought up whether the “movement” of benefit corporations could be said to represent the moderate white church leadership seeking to keep the status quo or the civil rights movement working to change the fundamentals of social justice at that time. No one at the table blinked— I think we all recognized that there were seeds of moderation, truth telling, and true action—in the B Corp Declaration that we all signed.
A few other observations:
- When I arrived in Boulder, I believe there were less than 800 B Corporations worldwide. When I left there were 830. The movement is growing quickly. I can see a time in a few years when this annual event will seem very small.
- To that point, I had previously not understood the true impact of having the state of Delaware become a “mecca” for benefit corporations. A piece at Huffington Post by the Governor himself explains how this changes the landscape of corporate business (in the US). It gives companies the option of becoming a benefit corporation and offers them fewer excuses for not doing so.
- The number of companies manufacturing products sustainably—and in North America by North American workers— is growing. I particularly like the “Nothing Wasted, Everything Gained” philosophy of Preserve Products, who makes toothbrushes, yogurt tubs, and other commonly used disposable goods.
To our Canadian friends and colleagues, wishing you a very happy and healthful Thanksgiving from all of us.
To the heights, together.
In mid-September, I’ll be heading down to the Boulder, Colorado for the B Corporation Champion’s Retreat. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends, meeting new people, and connecting the dots between the growing B Corp movement and the huge social and environmental challenges we face globally.
One topic that is of interest to me is how we can better communicate (as designers, practitioners, and citizens) to a wary public that the future of business is in shaping the ideals and principals of more equitable growth. While imperfect, capitalism affords an agility to business that nonprofits and government cannot. Business owners, thanks to the services of those same nonprofits and governments, have the liberty to provide tools for fundamental change at a structural level.
Whether this change is via technology, marketing, product development, or corporate behaviour, business owners and managers hold the keys to a bully pulpit that can be used for good. The trick is how to do this in unison with other like-minded businesses. This is where the network effect of B Corp is most powerful.
I sent an email to a colleague last week with two additional questions related to the Canadian B Corp community in particular:
First, how do we grow the B Corp movement and prove its viability and sustainability in Canada? With its history of activism and human rights protection (especially in this province), B Corp is a natural fit for companies here.
Second, how do we help brand the B Corp movement a global one and not a US-only one?
I’ll report back some answers heard in those Rocky Mountain winds.
Jory in reflection.
I’m proud to welcome on board Jory Kruspe to Manoverboard. A designer and developer who hails from Toronto via Ottawa, Jory brings hefty visual and coding talent to the business. Jory has worked in the industry for over ten years and gets the future of online like few others that I’ve met.
Look for his work and influence emerging over the summer. You can read his bio on our about page.
The Wheel goes round and round
My colleague, client and friend, Stuart Horwitz, is coming to Winnipeg as part of a North American book tour. Stuart runs the book and writing consultancy, Book Architecture, which is based in Providence, Rhode Island.
He’ll be speaking and then signing his new book, Blueprint Your Bestseller, at McNally Robinson on Grant Avenue here in Winnipeg. Monday, July 8 at 7:00 pm. It will not, I promise, be boring.