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On Certification and Seals

That cute photo of the seal set as this posts’s featured image has absolutely nothing to do with third-party certification. I’ll connect its relevance later in this post.

This blog post could also have been entitled, Who Certifies The Certifiers?

As an advocate of the B Corporation movement and designation, I speak often about business certifications. Should a company apply for a certification? What’s the value in becoming certified? Is it worth the cost? Are some certifications more important than others?

In this post, I’ll try to answer some basic questions, framed in our company’s experience, and help you identify the kinds of designations you may want to avoid.

Why A Company Should Certify

A business can choose to certify for any number of reasons.

In an age of “fake news” (in which media companies publish unvetted and misleading content as “news”) and “greenwashing” (in which unproven or misleading claims are made about the ecological benefits of a product or service), third-party certification can validate a company’s brand for its proven merits.

Certifications exist to spotlight a company for its efforts, to set it apart from its competition, and to help build trust in its brand. The range of possible certifications is determined by a company’s industry, its philosophical and social values, and in some cases, geographic location.

Certification Examples

Within Oregon, numerous ecological-based certifications exist: Salmon Safe, Certified LIVE, OEC Carbon Neutral, and Oregon Tilth Organic, to name a few. Each has its own set of costs, as well as unique application, certification, and renewal processes.

Outside Oregon, national and international certifications include 1% For The Planet (in which a business contributes at least 1% of its gross revenues towards environmental causes), Certified B Corporation (the highest level of third-party certification for socially conscious businesses, internationally recognized and administered by a nonprofit, B Lab), and Benefit Corporations For Good (a locally-run certifier and designation for triple-bottom-line businesses).

What To Consider When Choosing A Certification

Ultimately, the particular choice of certification is up to the business:

  • Is it a match for the company’s values and service lines?
  • Is it important to be recognized for the good that business is doing?
  • Is it worth the cost and hassle to go through certification, and re-certify at each renewal period?
  • Is the effort going to equate to increased respect and trust for the brand, and thereby enhance sales that will at least offset the associated costs?

When A “Certification” Is Just a “Seal”

Now we get to ogle over that adorable seal photo — SOO cute!

Over the years, Canvas Host has earned many certifications. At the time we applied for a given certification, we felt it matched our values, and that our brand would benefit by being associated with the certifying organization. Most importantly, we wanted others to understand why we do what we do, and to increase trust in our words and actions.

We’ve also dropped several certifications. We determined in some cases, that were not enforced — a business need, or lacked accountability due to being associated with greenwashing or similar abuse by unscrupulous businesses that broadcast the designation.

A prime example of a certification that has lost almost all credibility, is Green America Certified. One of the first organizations in North America to organize a business community for environmental and socially responsible causes, Green America was an association we were drawn to during our early years. The Green Business Network, a business community of thousands of like-minded companies, provided us many wonderful connections and relationships that, to this day, we are still proud to maintain. That said, the Green America Certified designation has little value to us any more. Here’s why:

To register as as Green America Certified business, a company fills out an online form. Within 20-30 minutes, the business is certified. Submitted information is not vetted. Though we pressed the organization many years ago to enforce accountability, a business close to us went through the online certification process, and nothing has changed. We have seen many examples over the years, of businesses that should not be certified, but are taken at face value.

Beyond vetting, the renewal process for Green America Certified couldn’t be easier: For as little as $150, a business can extend its certification for one more year. Again, there is no vetting or personal communication to ensure the business is in fact living up to its claims. Without accountability, we do not see the value in the certification, and so we have removed all mentions to the certification from our website, social media, and printed marketing materials.

Please don’t get me wrong. I believe there are many great people working at and supporting Green America. They are a good organization that has helped legislate and fight for worthy environmental causes. Where the organization falls short is in the vetting of its business community, and I would suggest they withdraw their certification program until such a time as they can truly enforce it to the extent that is needed.

Sometimes a “certification” is really just a “seal” — something cute or cool to place on your website. If you want to spend $150 each year for nice images to entice customers, I’d suggest spending that money on good photos, and drop the fake seals. Even if seals are absolutely adorable.

Overall, when it comes to vetting a certification, if the certification process was “easy” to obtain, or “easy” to renew, and ask yourself: Who might abuse this process, and do I want my business associated with companies that do not live up to the standards this certification claims to signify?

Celebrate The Right Certification

Thankfully, there are many great certifications available to a business. In Oregon, one of the newest certifications is Benefit Corporations For Good (BCFG). This is a standard began by two colleagues in our business circles, as an answer to the limited field of recognized for the Oregon Benefit Company designation.

Going through the certification process, we were reminded of what it took for us to become B Corporation Certified: A rigorous application process, providing vetted information about our business, and being personally interviewed by administrators of the program. Even better, future certifications will see us go through the same vetting process. As our business evolves, this will ensure we are able to maintain a current designation that truly reflects the state of our brands for which we seek renewed validation.

BCFG certifies businesses located outside of Oregon, as well. This came as a surprise to us, but it’s wonderful news, because more than 30 States recognize benefit company designation, but not all have a domestic certification process.

If you are interested in learning about certification for your business, or would like to learn more about our company’s journey down the certification path, please contact us, at csr@canvashost.com, and we’ll be happy to chat.

Thank you,

David Anderson


Say What?!? Power in Words

By Angela Anderson, Operations/Co-Owner

Transparency and full disclosure time.  Lately it has come to my attention that words can do a lot to cut down or build up a conversation.  At Canvas Host, we communicate with our customers in various formats.  In all instances, we do our utmost to deliver a professional message, even when the initiator of the message uses derogatory language.

Case in point, two tickets were opened today that started off by the customer dropping explicatives in a condescending tone to our entire team.  These two tickets were not from individuals that had an ongoing support issue, nor have had issues with their accounts in years.  Their messages started off in escalatory tones demanding service.  This form of communication is not acceptable.

As Founders, David and I are gatekeepers and defenders of our team.  All tickets like this come to our immediate attention to de-escalate and resolve in the most professional and productive manner.  In both of these cases, David was able to communicate to these customers our boundaries and reroute the concerns appropriately.

Our mission statement as a company, revised in January 2019, states “At Canvas Host, we strive to create a safe, just, and socially equitable internet one website at a time.”  When asked why this necessary change, David Anderson, our Founder and Co-Owner stated, “It’s not enough to create a free internet.  Freedom is nothing more than anarchy without a sense of fairness and responsibility towards each other.  Our goal is not to create a wild west of the internet.  It is to create an internet that people want to use and benefit from.  Enforcing rules that support mutual respect doesn’t hinder expression so much as it facilitates a higher quality and a shared sense of appreciation for each other’s content and place on the web.”

To that end, we want to enforce and make clear our Mutual Respect Policy that is referenced on our company website.  There are signs on roads that state “Drive Like Your Kids Live Here”.  Communicate with us like your kids are watching over your shoulder.  Language can be used as a force for good. It should be used to build up and not break down.


Putting A Stop To Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is defined as “the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.” While cyberbullying can occur against anyone, it typically is focused against protected classes and youth.

The United States government operates a public service website, stopbullying.gov, detailing laws by each State and programs designed to assist in the prevention of cyberbullying. I spent some time reading up the laws in Oregon, in which Canvas Host is legally registered and operates.

Oregon’s Regulatory Statute (ORS 339.351) widens the scope of cyberbullying, emphasizing protected classes (groups of people defined or perceived to be set apart by race, religion, and sexual orientation, to name a few) as well as youth and students, and spells out disciplinary and legal actions that may be taken wherever cyberbullying occurs against these groups.

The reason I’m talking about cyberbullying, is that as a parent, community member, business owner, and private citizen, I’ve had it. I’m fed up with the plethora of abusive behavior I see on social media, as attack articles pushed through “fake news”, or blatantly oppressive actions people think they can get away with in emails. Cyberbullying is very real, and it has the ability to bring harm to a victim. In some cases, it can be lethal.

Cyberbullying: 30 Years In The Making

In 1998, when I first started dreaming about an online business, “cyberbullying” didn’t exist as a word, but abuse was already plentiful on BBS (bulletin board systems) and in email. I was targeted a few times by people that just wanted to get a rise out of me. It seemed these people didn’t understand that their words could inflict harm.

Around the Millennium, a group of individuals got together and wrote a book foretelling the advent of social media. It was called, The Cluetrain Manifesto, and it predicted an “Internet 2.0”, in which businesses would find themselves no longer the masters of the Internet, presented with new apps and communication platforms that would give rise to an online population of consumers and private citizens that would want to connect. A poorly-worded exchange would have the potential to destroy a brand’s reputation, just as an act of good will could launch admiration and support for a company to new heights.

Was business, as a whole, prepared for the Internet to become a two-way conversation? Seeing how vicious complete strangers could be towards one another, I had my doubts. Even so, I realized that to remain relevant, a business must develop a personal voice with which customers could learn to love. When I founded this business in 2002, I wanted to create a service to help customers and businesses connect and prosperous online.

I didn’t realize what a future with social media would mean. Since that time, I have seen an additional evolution of social commentary: No longer would it be a two-way conversation for businesses and people to exchange ideas; Rather, it would become like any other middle school gossip ring: Cutting one party entirely out of the conversation, with private exchanges behind its back and bringing rise to entirely new, uncontrollable, and viral attacks. In the twenty-teens, this is what cyberbullying has become.

Cyberbullying Spreads Like A Virus

An ill-stated comment by a brand, an unfortunate photo taken of a friend without their knowledge, a compromising “revenge” video posted publicly, all of it carrying the potential to spread faster than a biological pandemic with global reach… You know what I’m talking about: The kind of stuff that damages reputations, spans further and deeper and worse than schoolyard note-passing and that can even lead someone to commit suicide.

It’s led me many times to unfollow “friends”, “unfriend” contacts, outright block some user accounts, and trim down the digital noise — something that in 2019 is becoming known as “digital minimalism” (I will save that for a future post). It works for me — but what about you, your friends and loved ones? What can you do to counter cyberbullying on your own terms and turf?

Fighting Back Against Cyberbullying

One of the best ways to prevent cyberbullying, is awareness: To learn how to identify it, who within your circles of influence are participating in it, and who is being victimized by it. Education and behavioral shifts are possible, but may require involvement of educational administration, or potentially law enforcement if necessary. Thankfully, in the few situations I have been involved in, simply talking about what happened, and how it made the other party feel, has provided enough feedback so as to prevent it from happening again. I recognize this is not always the case, but I feel that a de-escalatory approach, whenever possible, is the best first approach.

On the business side, we take cyberbullying extremely seriously. We have revised our Acceptable Use Policy to directly forbid our network from being used for the purpose of cyberbullying, with a zero-tolerance response that will see a customer’s account terminated without exception, and possible referral to law enforcement if it is determined the action was done willfully.

As a B Corporation, we actively take a stand on issues that impact us, our customers, and our community. Cyberbullying is something that we can do something about. In 2019, I am proud to announce that we have evolved our mission statement to reflect this:

At Canvas Host, our mission is to create a safe, just, and socially equitable Internet, one website at a time.

Thank you,

David Anderson, Founder and Co-Owner

Sources / To learn more:

Canvas Host’s Acceptable Use Policy

Oregon Regulatory Statute 339.351 (Cyberbullying Law)

U.S. Government Stop Bullying Campaign

IC3 Internet Crime Complaint Center

Cluetrain Manifesto


WordPress 5.0, One Week Later

If your website runs WordPress, the latest version is here. We emailed our customers last week about the new interface, the Gutenberg editor, and included troubleshooting advice.

Gutenberg isn’t for everyone. It may not be compatible with your theme or page builder plugins. It could simply break your WordPress installation.

With the benefit of one week’s insight, we’re pleased to provide four simple steps to upgrade to WordPress 5.0 safely, and with minimal risk for your WordPress website.

How do I Safely update to WordPress 5.0?

1. Make a complete backup of your WordPress installation. This is done using a plugin like BackupBuddy, or by importing your WordPress installation into Installatron within Cpanel, then choosing Backup. Or, if you’re subscribed to our Managed WordPress service line, we’ve already taken care of it for you.

Learn more about our WordPress Management here:

https://www.canvashost.com/wordpress/wordpress-support.php

2. Update your core WordPress to 5.0. This is done by logging into WordPress administration area, and then navigating to Dashboard -> Updates on the left-hand navigation bar.

3. Once WordPress is updated, you will be prompted to update your theme and plugins as well. This is because theme and plugin developers have created versions compatible with the older WordPress versions (4.9.x), which function differently than the versions needed to use WordPress 5+.

4. Finally, let’s be honest… the Gutenberg editor is different. It is used to build pages in blocks of content, which is more akin to platforms like Concrete5, but a complete diversion from the interface to which WordPress are accustomed. If you’d prefer to avoid Gutenberg, there is a plugin you can install, aptly named Classic Editor. It returns your WordPress 5.0 website to look like the older interface.

To install Classic Editor, navigate to Plugins -> Add New -> In the search bar, type “classic editor”. You will see the first one that comes up is named Classic Editor, and as of the time of this blog post, has been installed by more than 1 million WordPress websites! If you’d prefer to visit the plugin page directly in a separate browser, the URL is:

Classic Editor

With these four steps, you can mitigate the major issues of upgrading to the latest WordPress edition.

What if I still need help?

If you have questions or need help, Canvas Host is a full-service web agency. At $60/hour, our WordPress consulting services are far less than other agencies’ rates. And, as a B Corporation, we don’t nickel and dime you, and want you to get the most out of your website. We’re here to help.

Thank you,

David Anderson, Founder and Co-Owner


Giving Thanks, Opting Outside, and Paying it Forward

By David Anderson, Founder/Co-Owner

We’re at the eve of Thanksgiving weekend, and the many holidays to follow. On this day, I’m reminded of the things I’m thankful for, and the reasons I got into this line of work. It began with the desire to help others navigate technology. Over the years, it grew into what Canvas Host is today.

The opportunity to work with each and everyone in our family of customers is incredibly rewarding. I want to thank you for being a part of this journey, and for supporting Canvas Host through the years.

During this holiday season, I’m also reminded of the commercial side of business, especially in American culture, and the negative impacts it carries. Our company is unique in that we rarely advertise our services. Much of our growth and sustained success through the years has been due to customer referrals and loyalty. Again, thank you.

I don’t care for the craze that turns otherwise well-intentioned members of society into shopping zombies, frenetically careening their carts down the aisles and treating other humans like bowling pins. Thankfully, I’m reminded of something else: The options to avoid those crowds, and make a difference.

First off, I’d like to encourage you to avoid Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and instead Opt Outside. Several years back, REI (an outdoor retailer) began this campaign and partnered with various park services. The idea is to visit a local, State, or National park, to get outdoors, breathe fresh air, and do anything but spend lots of money. The National Park Service has some great suggestions for activities you can do this weekend:

https://www.nps.gov/articles/optoutside.htm

If you are going to purchase products or services, I’d like to suggest you consider supporting local businesses on Small Business Saturday. For every dollar you spend on a local business, $.68 stays within the community. Compare that to shopping online or at a big box retailer, where your purchase supports a large corporation or distant business. You can learn more about Small Business Saturday at the SBA:

https://www.sba.gov/about-sba/sba-initiatives/small-business-saturday

Finally, next week is Giving Tuesday. It’s a time to support and celebrate a cause, nonprofit, or other organization dear to you, and with a financial contribution, help them make a difference. This global movement rarely gets much publicity, but especially in the United States, I think it’s fitting to wrap up the Thanksgiving weekend with a day to help you pay it forward. You can learn more about Giving Tuesday, at:

https://www.givingtuesday.org/

On behalf of everyone at Canvas Host and Canvas Dreams, I wish you a safe and happy holiday weekend, and hope you find reasons to give thanks for all the good in your life.