The building industry’s full range of impacts on human health and our environment is significant. Building product manufacturing, building site preparation, construction activity and building occupancy and operations account for about one-third of all raw materials used globally.1 Add to the impact on our natural resources the fact that in the U.S. our buildings are constructed almost entirely with synthetic materials which are processed or treated with toxic chemicals. Designers, builders and building owners rarely know what’s in the materials they use, often learning about health concerns only after a project is completed.
Healthy Building Network (HBN) is a nonprofit whose work is changing all this. HBN’s mission is to help transform the market for building materials so that decision makers can identify and choose healthier options throughout the entire product lifecycle from resource extraction to manufacture and use to disposal.
Several years ago, HBN asked WestWordVision to help them craft their story in a way that would have appeal for the social impact investor. Their goal was to raise more awareness and funding for environmental health. Working with HBN’s business consultant Wendy Vittori, we identified the key events that had shaped the organization, dating back to its formation 2001. We interpreted each event to gain a deeper understanding of its impact—how it had affected the organization, the industry and people’s lives. We began to see HBN’s success story unfold in a chain of events that included:
- Closing the last loophole for the use of arsenic in the pressure treated wood industry,
- Establishing the nation’s most stringent restrictions on formaldehyde emissions from composite wood building products,
- Ushering in an era of transparency with the Pharos Project web-based evaluation system,
- Introducing the Health Product Declaration, the first global, industry-wide, open standard for the disclosure of chemical and health-related hazards in building materials, and
- Developing the leading edge of healthy building practices through the Healthy Building Roundtable, a peer-to-peer collaboration with New York City commercial building owners.
As we mapped the “cause-and-effect” events in the life of HBN, we saw the organization’s role in helping the building industry move towards transparency by creating new tools, systems and partnerships for evaluation, standards and best practices.
Success Story With Social Impact
Our work with HBN also tracked other untapped assets within the organization, including its problem-solving abilities, core beliefs, core competencies and strong leadership position. Now, with the story clearly articulated and substantiated through historical events, these assets are being leveraged in HBN’s outreach and fundraising efforts.
Our process helped HBN see how their actions created an evolutionary pathway that authenticates their story and defines their organizational character. Now, with a clear sense of their origins, they are sharing their story in a way that truly resonates with donors, stakeholders and the broader community.
That’s the power of self-knowledge. Read HBN’s remarkable story “It All Starts Here.”