Andrew Behar, CEO of As You Sow, spoke with Rachel’s Network members about the work As You Sow is doing to promote environmental and social corporate responsibility. We recently followed up with Andrew to learn more about his work.
What about your work keeps you up at night?
The fact that so many people do not realize how much power they hold — and rarely use it. I wrestle with strategies on how to spread the message that we have tools to activate broad environmental and social change. The issues we are working on are so important – from toxins in foods that we feed to our children to climate change, yet so many people think, “This is too big. What can I do?” and so do nothing. What inspires me about Rachel’s Network is that here is a group of empowered individuals making change through philanthropy. I am hoping that more of you can activate the power of your portfolios to become active shareholders for even deeper change.
What about your work gives you hope?
Interacting with high-level executives at corporations gives me hope because I see that they also have families and for the most part really do care about the future. They often tell me, in an aside, that they are glad we filed our resolution because it brought an important issue to the table and disrupted “business as usual.” Another thing that gives me hope is that since filing the Abbott resolution, there has been a groundswell of support from so many parents grassroots groups that are writing petitions, creating Twitter storms, and organizing call-in campaigns to Abbott. The filing of this resolution inspired them to find a voice. Support from Senator Boxer, who is leading a federal legislation campaign for labeling of GMOs, gives me hope that the U.S. can join the rest of the world in demanding safety in our food and overcome the gridlock in our government.
What’s something people might not know about your work, but they should?
First of all, that As You Sow is a 501c3 nonprofit organization founded 20 years ago. We are funded by foundation grants and individual donations. We are unique in our strategy using the power of shareholders to shift corporate policy.
Over the last 20 years we’ve been instrumental in:
- Establishing electronic waste take-back and recycling programs at Best Buy, Apple, Dell, and HP.
- Securing commitments from Coke, Pepsi, and Nestlé to recycle 18 billion plastic bottles each year.
- Organizing shareholder actions leading to the retirements of coal plants in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.
- Encouraging McDonald’s to replace Styrofoam cups with recycled paper cups at 2,000 U.S. stores.
- Encouraging Starbucks to remove bovine growth hormone from their milk and to create in-store recycling programs in 1,500 locations.
What organization would/do you support (other than your own) that is advancing issues important to you?
We work closely with and have enormous respect for Responsible Endowment Coalition, Sustainable Endowment Institute, Energy Action Coalition, Center for Environment, Health & Justice, Rainforest Acton Network, Sierra Club, 350.org, Earthjustice, Center for Biodiversity, Amazon Watch, and many, many other local grassroots organizations.
What woman leader or role model had an influence on your work or inspired you?
If I had to pick one it would be Lois Gibbs, founder of Center for Environment, Health & Justice. She has always been an inspiration to me in her personal strength, dedication, and focus. I recently spent some time with her and she is the most humble human being imaginable, yet is forceful, empowered, and continues to motivate change.
Andrew Behar is the CEO of As You Sow, a nonprofit promoting environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies. Prior to joining As You Sow, Andrew founded and was CEO of a clean-tech start-up developing innovative fuel cell technologies. He served as COO for a social media agency focused in the sustainability space and has been a strategic consultant in the nonprofit sector. Follow As You Sow on Twitter.