Compendium, not your average greeting card company

by Ethan Schaffer, Climate Solutions

This article was originally published in December 2009

greeting cards

(December 2009) — I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a greeting card connoisseur. But it didn’t take me long to figure out that Fremont-based Compendium is not your average card company. It started when I first met Kobi Yamada, the company president.

I work at Climate Solutions, a local nonprofit that propels regional and national solutions to global warming. I manage our fundraising program and part of my job includes finding like-minded companies to sponsor our organization.

Late last year, I was trying to land our premier, top-level sponsor. I was focused on big clean energy companies — companies directly connected to our work. That’s why I was surprised when Compendium approached us and offered to be our single largest company contributor.

What did a greeting card company have to do with climate change and clean energy? Apparently, a lot. I soon found out that Compendium is a shining example of a new wave of companies that are embracing a triple bottom line: people, planet and profit.

As Kobi explained to me, it started when he was in a grocery store and noticed a display for carbon offsets. Shoppers could purchase a credit card-like product and a donation would be made to forest restoration or some other carbon-reducing project.

Why should we create extra packaging waste for a simple donation? Even better, why not make the packaging something of value, such as a greeting card? Compendium’s Positively Green line was born.

The Positively Green line is a case study in sustainable business. First, Compendium wanted to make sure the card itself was as green as possible and it wanted to keep printing its cards locally.

So Compendium helped the printing company, Printing Control, transform its business. They sourced 100 percent Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, chlorine-free paper. They switched to 100 percent green power. They adopted a zero waste policy. By the time they were done, Printing Control won the Green Globe Award, King County’s most prestigious environmental award.

Kobi also wanted to make sure some profits went to addressing his initial concern, climate change. He knew the offset model was good but insufficient. We need proactive measures to change government policy and drive international change in emissions pollution.

He decided to donate 10 percent of the line’s profits to two groups, Conservation International and Climate Solutions. Conservation International supports carbon reduction projects through forest and habitat conservation. Climate Solutions drives the political and business changes needed to transition us to a new, low-carbon economy. This is on top of support it already gives to local community groups.

But Compendium wouldn’t be a triple bottom line company if it wasn’t concerned about its people as well. When I first visited the Fremont office, I could tell it was a great place to work. I was greeted by two happy dogs. The office was awash in color and local, inspirational artwork. Company bikes hung from the ceiling.

Their employee package includes excellent health benefits, including an in-house massage therapist. Employees can use company cars, all hybrids. Compendium consistently ranks in Seattle Business Monthly’s Best Places to Work. This year, Compendium won the Alfred P. Sloan award for workplace flexibility. And yes, it’s still hiring! Even in this recession.

It turns out that taking care of people and the planet also is profitable. In fact, Compendium cards have been recognized as the best greeting cards in the world.

This year, at the annual Greeting Card Association Awards — the prestigious LOUIEs — Compendium took home the award for Card of the Year. It was the first time that a boutique, first-time entrant won the award. In the greeting card world, this is the equivalent of “Slumdog Millionaire” winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards.

As a PCC shopper, you’re almost guaranteed to be conscientious. Now, in addition to organic food and Fair Labor/Fair Trade goods, you have a sustainable option for greeting cards. Funds from card sales will help Climate Solutions advance clean energy and climate legislation. Nationally, we’re lobbying for the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.

In the Northwest, we promote family-wage green jobs. Last year, we led a coalition to pass the Washington Climate Action and Green Jobs bill, making Washington the fourth state to cap greenhouse gas pollution, and the first to establish goals for green jobs.

So, next time you want to commemorate holidays or birthdays (or any special day, for that matter!), check out the display and be inspired.

Also in this issue

Sustainable Christmas trees

Which is more sustainable — a live-cut Christmas tree or an artificial tree that lasts many years? We’ve had both, not being sure of what’s more naughty or nice. So when we saw an editorial on this question in our regional agriculture paper, the Capital Press, we thought ’tis the season to share what it said.

Letters to the editor, December 2009

Organic cotton, PCC movies with a message, Gates Foundation, and more

Insights by Goldie: Winter: time to shift to crucifers!

Many call them “brassicas” or “cole crops” (hence, “coleslaw”) and they include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, and kale and all their kin — including mustard greens and some roots. What unites this nutritious family botanically is their similarly patterned flowers — four petals in the form of a cross; hence, crucifer, a “cross-bearer.”