"Thank you, Councilmembers, for listening to our stories today. My name is Nicole Koedyker and I am co-founder of Forsei Consulting, a social and environmental consulting firm here in downtown Philadelphia. I am here today in support of the two pieces of legislation proposing tax incentives for sustainable businesses. I believe the support for social enterprise tax incentives is the first step towards making Philadelphia a more sustainable economy.
My journey starts across the country in the dry, hot, Southern Arizona desert. I spent my childhood on my father’s cattle ranch, the Last Chance Ranch, in the outskirts of Tucson, AZ, where nature and playtime were one-in-the-same. This time outside gave me a deep-rooted, connection to nature, and was ultimately what fueled my passion for sustainability and environmental responsibility. I ventured to Philadelphia to attend Drexel University as a business administration major, knowing that I wanted to make business the solution, not the problem.
As I was about to graduate from Drexel in 2012, I searched for local jobs that aligned with my educational background and my values rooted in making the world a better place. With little success, I sat down with one of my best friends at a coffee shop between classes and we decided to start our own company. That was the day Forsei Consulting was born. With my love for sustainable business and my business partner ‘s passion for community development and philanthropy, we made the perfect team. Forsei Consulting was created to fill a gap that we saw in the market: businesses want to do good, but don’t always know how. Upon the incorporation of our company, my partner and I agreed that we had to walk the walk to talk the talk. As a result, we are a Pennsylvania Benefit Corporation and a Certified B Corp. As often as we can, we work with local businesses, we purchase 100% renewable energy, we use a local credit union, and overall, our mission is to increase the social and environmental impact for businesses and other organizations.
Forsei is a social and environmental consulting company that uses the third-party frameworks like the B Corp Impact Assessment, a questionnaire completed by businesses in order to become B Corps, to find gaps and provide recommendations for businesses to improve their social and environmental programs and policies. We have worked with B Corps, B Corp wanna-be’s and other organizations who just want to do better. Our clients range from a commercial cleaning company that hires formerly homeless individuals into low-skill positions, to a digital marketing agency that helps their clients make the most environmentally responsible decisions when printing and creating content, to a corporate event company that is improving their transportation policies as they travel over 750,000 miles around the world every year. All of these companies are based in Philadelphia with employees who live in the Greater Philadelphia Area. Their charitable contributions, volunteer hours, workforce training, community partnerships all exist within our city.
I’ve had many people ask me why I don’t just move to San Francisco or Portland where everyone is already doing this. But time and time again, I shake my head and tell them that I like a challenge. We’ve seen high potential in the businesses that make up our neighborhood corridors. From restaurants that pay all their employees a living wage to technology companies that challenging the status quo of what you have to look like to work at a tech company. While many of these businesses may not identify themselves as “sustainable”, they just do it because they it’s right, we need to reward these businesses – to tell them to keep doing it and investing in them shows that we’re committed to the work they do.
I’m fully invested in doing our part to make Philadelphia the Social Enterprise Capital of the country. If these two pieces of legislation are passed today, we will be the first city in the nation to promote economic incentives for social enterprises, paving the way for other programs and initiatives that also support responsible businesses. The conversations among City Council members about paid-leave, the living wage, workers rights, and job creation are all on the table at once. B Corps are more likely to pay a living wage, provide paid-leave, donate a portion of profits to local charities, and likely be owned by women and minority entrepreneurs.
I came to Philadelphia to go to school but stayed to make a difference. I know of many entrepreneurs and individuals, many of whom are testifying today, that feel the same way. I sit before you today presenting the potential that we have right at our fingertips, something greater than all of us- a movement towards a more responsible economy and I hope that you’ll move forward with me."
On Thursday, May 19th, our co-founder presented her testimony to Philadelphia City Council's Committee on Environment in support of two bills proposed to provide economic incentive for social enterprises and B Corps in Philadelphia. She joined other SBN members and Certified B Corps such as Message Agency, Azavea, Solutions for Progress, and Strategy Arts.
Philadelphia City Councilwoman Quiñones Sanchez introduced two pieces of legislation proposing tax incentives for sustainable businesses. These bills serve as acknowledgment of the considerable benefits provided by businesses that seek to be environmentally and socially responsible, and also hold the potential of encouraging a broader base of businesses to adopt such practices.
Bill No. 160133 would improve the capacity of Philadelphia’s current Sustainable Business Tax Credit to fulfill its purpose of increasing the number of local sustainable businesses. If passed, the ordinance would increase the amount of the tax credit from $4,000 to $8,000, remove the cap limiting the program to 25 businesses, and extend the credit’s applicability to the net income portion of the Business Income and Receipts Tax (BIRT).
Bill No. 160132 l would amend the Jump Start Philly program to provide a total of 36 months of BIRT tax exemption for new businesses that obtain B Corp certification. Currently, the Jump Start Philly program provides up to 24 months of BIRT exemption for any new business that meets specified job creation requirements. But by placing traditional startup businesses on equal standing with sustainable businesses, the program creates no incentive for the adoption of sustainable practices in the startup phase. The bill would also place lower job creation requirements on new sustainable businesses than those applicable to traditional startups.