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To B or not to B: Transparency in Business

Transparency in business is like a two-way sheet of glass, with you on one side, and the world on the other.

It shows others a clear window into who you are, the ethics you uphold, and the reasons behind your business decisions. Transparency allows others to see the real you. It serves to affirm your authenticity, and provides accountability through your actions.

In the absence of transparency, a business owner essentially operates from behind a one-way mirror. Your view of the other side might be blinded by the avarice, ego, and prejudice reflected back on you. The rest of the world can still see you from the other side, but you’ve blinded yourself from seeing them.

I’ve encountered businesses over the years that would like to believe they are transparent, but are not: Business owners who seem unable to accept any responsibility for their actions, who cast blame on former employees, and who think they can do no wrong. What these companies don’t realize is that “the fish rots from the head”. Accountability and responsibility both begin, and end, with those actually running the business.

We have entered an age of “purpose washing”, or as I like to say, “B washing”, in which companies project a much more socially responsible image of their company than truly exists. I am continually reminded of the need for transparency in business. No longer is it enough to take one’s words. We must look at the actions of a company, how it treats its staff and truly upholds the community, to understand the real ethics at work.

This is why I’m so strongly supportive of the B Corporation certification and movement. I strongly believe it to be the absolute highest standard of certification for socially responsible businesses. It cannot be subverted by the whim of the business owner. It is a window of transparency at a time when it is needed most.

When you hire a B Corporation, you can trust in that certification, and further, that its team, from ownership to management to staff, are united by a vision of driving business as a force for good.

To B, or not to B? That is the question you should ask the companies engaging you.

Celebrating Four Years as an Oregon Benefit Company

Wow! It’s been four years since we became an Oregon Benefit Company!

On January 2, 2014, we joined 28 other businesses to kick off a brand new Oregon business program. In the years since, it has grown into a statewide movement of more than 1,800 companies united through a common goal of using business as a force for good. (Read about the inaugural signing: Canvas Host: An Oregon Benefit Company)

Signed into law on June 18, 2013, House Bill 2296 enabled Oregon businesses to incorporate social causes into their operating by-laws. We were already a B Corporation, which implements similar corporate by-laws, but Oregon’s implementation of the benefit company structure brought us legal protection and precedence to operate on the triple bottom line.

Over the years, we’ve continued our mandate to uphold a higher level of ethics, transparency, and honesty throughout our business operations. From how we care for our customers, to how we provide meaningful services without the up-sell, to how we’ve improved employees’ lives with benefits most companies our size only dream of, Canvas Host is walking the talk.

What does the term, “benefit company” mean to you? It looks something like this: When you connect with us, we listen to you, and we break down the complicated technical stuff into plain English. We provide you the tools you need, and help you make the most of them. We’re here to help you succeed, period.

Our annual benefit report details the programs we’ve implemented and are actively working on. One of them is the creation of a statewide directory featuring Oregon benefit companies. Our objective is to help unify the community and enhance its capacity to effect positive change throughout the State.

We welcome your input as we enter 2018, and look forward to connecting with you and earning your trust.

Thank you,

David Anderson, Owner

Canvas Host selected as a 2017 Best for the World B Corporation


September 12, 2017

Portland, Oregon — Canvas Host has been selected from among its B Corporation peers as a 2017 Best for the World honoree, as a Service Provider with Minor Environmental Footprint for the Long Term.

Certified B Corporation were evaluated and selected based on areas of impact, including: Best For Workers, Best For Community, Best For Customers, Best For The Environment, Best For The Long Term, and Best For The World: Changemakers.

A total of 846 businesses across 52 industries from 48 countries were recognized on the full list:

“We’re thrilled to have been selected as a Best for the World company”, said David Anderson, owner. “We intentionally operate our company to bring benefit to our team, our customers, our community, and the environment. B Corporation values are in our company’s blood. We can’t imagine doing business any other way. It’s such a huge honor to have made this list, and we intend to answer the challenge to continually impact our world in a positive way, for the Long Term.”

Canvas Host recently renewed its certification through B Lab, the nonprofit certifying body for all B Corporations, and entered its eighth year as a B Corporation with its highest-ever B Impact score of 117 points. The measure evaluates a B Corporation on its impact with respect to Environment, Workers, Customers, Community, and Governance.

Full details of the B Impact score may be read in full on Canvas Host’s profile on the B Corporation website, at:

About Canvas Host

A sustainable web hosting provider based in Portland, Oregon, Canvas Host provides comprehensive web hosting, domain registration, email, e-commerce and dedicated hosting services. An Oregon Benefit Company and certified B Corporation, the company operates on triple bottom line principles of people, planet, and then profit, giving back to the community through partnerships with local non-profits and organizations, organizing monthly educational networking with Green Drinks, planting trees through Friends of Trees, and offsetting not only its energy consumption, but also 15 Portland-area homes with clean, renewable wind energy through Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

For information on Canvas Host’s services, please contact the Sales team at sales@canvashost.com, or by calling 877.HOST.503 x1.


On Making Tax Returns Great Again

b-corporation transparentTo anyone that doesn’t own a business, here’s a primer about personal and business tax returns, the difference between traditional corporations and benefit companies, and why transparency is so flipping important in today’s business and political world.

In America, the 1040 tax return reports your personal taxes owed from all income sources, including business(es). It is not a Schedule C form, which shows income you earned from a business, or a K-1 (form 1065), which shows income earned from a partnership. It is also not the same as a 1120, which is the tax return for the business itself, or an 1120-S in the case of a multi-owner partnership. The 1040 has very little to do with any business aspect of your tax situation, as business and personal taxes are treated separately by the IRS.

Although shareholders or owners personally pay taxes based on profit a company may have earned, a business’ tax liability is documented and reported separately. There are other factors, but this is in some way how businesses “are treated like people” in American business, because the two are taxed separately. A business, in the eyes of the IRS, is subject to very different rules of tax reporting.

For example, if your business files a net loss for a given year, it doesn’t receive a refund following your tax filing.  You simply owe no taxes for the business’ operations in that year, and you can carry that loss forward to offset any future profits the business may earn in later years. Schedule C and form 1120 show this clearly. And yet, you may have a 1040 return indicating you personally owe taxes, such as from earnings on capital gains (from stocks), or passive income on earned interest, unrelated to your business(es).

There are companies out there, and I could name several of the largest competitors in my industry, each of which have more than $1 billion in carried-forward debt for more than a dozen years, which means they can earn as much as they want, and yet, until that debt is fully “balanced out” with reported profits, neither those mega corporations, nor their owners, pay a single dime in taxes. For the entirety of one company’s operations, for example, one that used naked women to sell domains to NASCAR fans, that company has never once reported a profit, in the 18+ years of its existence. So no taxes have ever been paid on its revenue, ever.

Business tax returns can show many “interesting” details that you don’t find on personal returns: Side businesses and assumed business names commonly involved in umbrella companies and schemes, additional shareholders no one would otherwise know about, foreign subsidiaries and tax shelters that are fully legal in the eyes of the IRS, and retained earnings and distributions paid out tax-free as they are a release of assets, to name but a few. A business tax return can tell you immediately whether the company you’ve publicly come to know about, is truly the same company the IRS privately knows about.

The concern many have about our current President’s reluctance to share his tax returns are based on 1) He promised to release them and yet refuses; 2) It’s a simple act of transparency and addresses the point that if you have nothing to hide, then prove it; 3) No, it’s not enough, when you have established a long list of lies you have openly admitted to telling, for us to take you at your word that your taxes are above board; And 4) Those of us who regularly file our business tax returns understand just how telling it is about us as owners, how we run our business, and whether we are honest, versus pulling the wool over the eyes of everyone we do business dealings with, including our government.

Anyone who has maintained a business of many years should know the importance of an accurate and honest tax filing. Though the IRS only cares about the past seven years of a person’s or business’ returns, a lot can happen in those years. So with only a partial return, say… something from 2005, it’s not enforceable or audit-able, it’s meaningless in the present history of that company’s operations, and it says nothing about what current or carried-forward debts that company may hold and which it is in fact hiding from its non-ownership shareholders.

And that is why I feel our President isn’t offering up his current returns. It has nothing to do with us, the general public and our trust or distrust in him. It has much more to do with his sworn commitment to uphold profit motive for the shareholders that have invested billions in his enterprises, and whether he has breached his fiduciary duty to act in their interest first. Remember that phrase.

As bad as all the lawsuits may have been for the reported 41% of his failed businesses, can you imagine just how bad it would be for our current President for the shareholders of his businesses to learn that he didn’t act in their best interest? Tremendous power is given to shareholders of American businesses: Owners and officers can get sued and thrown in prison faster for lying to shareholders, than for committing violent crimes.

That is what is meant by the phrase, “fiduciary duty”. In a traditional corporation, the officers running the show are there to earn money for the company’s shareholders. If they don’t, they can be forcefully removed from that office, sued, and jailed. As much as it sounds nice to have investors who will front you capital for whatever plans you may have, they want their share to, and if they don’t get it, they are lawfully given the power to come after you personally for it. This is the primary reason many corporations push profit motive first and only, at all costs. It’s a way of keeping the investors happy and the officers out of jail. It’s also a way to wreck the planet, screw others in your industry out of business, and forcefully push droves of employees to the brink. Just think about a popular smartphone maker’s Chinese employees committing suicide at a giant manufacturing plant. That happens because profits are more important to its shareholders, than are its workers’ well-being.

This is one reason why in the current shifting tide of business, benefit companies and B Corporations are increasingly important and popular. They require a company’s officers to act not only in the interest of investors, but also to care for the environment, the community, and employees, which may come at a cost of profit to the shareholders. Benefit companies have in their operating agreement and articles of organization, language protecting officers’ rights to do just this. If you’re a shareholder in a benefit company, you cannot sue the officers for doing things that say, might help the environment but at a cost of less profit.

There are also mandates of being transparent and upholding business ethics. As an owner of a benefit company, I can be held accountable and even sued by a member of the public, if it is determined I acted on profit motive before considering the other requirements. My fiduciary duty goes far beyond profit motive. It forces a different type of conversation, you see. It promotes healthy business that yes, loves profit, but all the more cares about everything and everyone touched by that company’s operations.

Before you think I am complaining, I chose this path for my business. I couldn’t imagine it any other way. It’s something I believe in so strongly, that I willingly did this and have subjected my company to intense scrutiny in the name of accreditation as a B Corporation. It helps create trust with my customers, and I believe it makes for better business, period.

For me at least, it was an easy choice. And so, I put my money where my mouth is. My combined business and personal return, though small in comparison to large companies, still results in dozens of dense forms and pages. It’s quite a read. And yes, I have willingly opened my books to outside scrutiny as part of my company’s B Corporation certification. It’s a requirement, as a B, to permit third-party auditing. I believe so strongly in backing up my words, that I have had no hesitation to provide them this information.

In today’s world, it’s not enough to say something. You need to prove it. Third-party accreditation, such as the B Corporation seal you see all over this website and by our brand, are there to serve as a reminder that we stand by our commitment to honesty, integrity, and transparency. The B seal is a symbol of something you can trust in a business world full of uncertainty.

Creating an authentic space with customers

This late-night thought hit me.

Increasingly, consumers use social media to learn about and buy things. This results in less consumers going to actual stores, interacting with real people, and potentially missing out on a connection that is vital to the client/vendor model. At the same time, this inclination away from physical contact, and toward virtual communication, is creating a boon for companies like mine. Though we are more likely to only know a customer by phone or in text, we are finding it easier to “win” at customer service simply by:

  1. Being polite;
  2. Being patient; And
  3. Being authentic.

We care about every single customer we help, even those challenging situations in which a customer is rightfully upset about a mistake we made. It happens to every company, but even the most negative situation can become an opportunity: To validate the customer’s concerns and let them know they have been heard; And to learn from the situation, and reduce the chances it ever happens again.

I’d like to ask you to consider some recent customer service experiences that stood out to you for either the right or wrong reasons. Why do you remember them? Was there shared respect, or a sense of disrespect, in the exchange? Did you feel the person helping you was tuned into your tempo and not rushing you? Did you feel a sense of trust and honesty, or that you should run far, far away?

Where customer service is most needed, is when something has gone wrong. People are people, and most folks will be happy to chat with a friendly, non-pushy company rep about pretty much anything. The time you need that friendly face most, is when things have broken, you don’t know where to turn to, and you’re on the phone with a member of my staff.

My company is committed to doing the very best job it can at all times. Over the years, we have received increasing praise from customers simply for doing our jobs correctly. It’s gotten to the point that I wonder, how are our competitors (most of whom are much larger and have far more resources than us) so out of tune with this realization that to succeed, the customer must come first? After all, the phrase “customer service” begins with the word, “customer”…

Why are companies receiving accolades for showing up to their jobs and being nice to their customers? Why is the concept of being a decent human being, such a foreign concept for so many companies in technical industries? Is that the direction of business overall, in that customers are lowering their expectations due to their own distancing from the relationship with vendors?

What does this say about customer expectations of accuracy and quality? We have a commitment to providing and supporting our services to the highest degree possible — and with authenticity — but how many customers actually stop long enough to notice the difference between us and our competition?

I think it’s that word, “authenticity”, that speaks volumes about a company, builds trust with customers, and helps raise the bar for something better that both parties can set as a goal.

It’s definitely a lot to think about on this cool first morning of March 2017.