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ChangeWorks: LifeCity grows a greener business climate for NOLA

Liz Shephard: thinking green

Liz Shephard: thinking green

What’s the difference between a computer chip and the poverty rate in America?

No, this is not the beginning of a bad joke.

It’s something that local entrepreneur Liz Shephard thinks about when addressing social and environmental issues.

Shephard is the president of LifeCity, an organization that helps make social and environmental impact profitable for business.

Innovation and financial incentives, Shephard explains, have transformed the computer chip, making it smaller, cheaper and capable of holding more data. That type of thinking has revolutionized electronic hardware, she says, so why should the corporate mentality -- thinking smarter and more economical -- be any different when addressing social and environmental matters -- like the poverty rate?

“Its really important that we use the business mindset for innovation to get results to be applied to the social/environmental sector,” Shephard says. “By not looking at it in those terms, we’re actually wasting a whole lot of money.”

LifeCity helps companies make a greater impact in these arenas while also improving their profit margins.

“In the end, all the company cares about is the bottom line,” Shephard says. “If the company can’t exist, what’s the point?”

LifeCity takes a multi-step approach to addressing a business’s social, economic and environmental impact on the local community. The process involves a sector-specific assessment that looks at how the organization can make the necessary changes to become more socially and environmentally conscious — and save more money. Recommendations might involve water and utilities usage, choosing non-toxic materials, buying locally and the like.

The goal is to help companies realize that they can buy and sell goods that generate greater ecological health or promote physical, spiritual, and psychological well-being at the workplace while also helping that all-important bottom line.

And any business can be green, Shephard says. LifeCity takes an inclusive approach to helping companies, whether it’s a souvenir shop on Bourbon Street or a major oil conglomerate.

“Our role is to help any organization take their best next step.,” Shephard says. “We have to make sure to understand that we’re in this boat together, whether we like it or not. Are we going to build relationships and understand their meaningful impact? Our strategy is that one.”

For consumers, LifeCity maintains a list of local companies that are thinking green. On the customer end, supporting businesses that are socially and environmentally aware completes the green business circle -- thereby profiting all. LifeCity also offers a $20 Green Card that offers discounts at local green businesses and events.

New Orleans may not be touted for its sustainability practices, but Shephard believes the city has characteristics that could make it a driving force in the green industry.

“I actually think I would rate New Orleans pretty high because of a sense of place,” she explains. “You can bring in infrastructure, solar panels, but you can’t create a love of place as easily. People love New Orleans. If you can tap into that sense of pride, that sense of love of place, that’s going to move mountains further than any community. I think New Orleans has a great opportunity to really be a leader in this regard.”

*Correction: In an earlier version, this article incorrectly cited Life City as a not-for-profit organization. Life City is an LLC, for-profit organization.