April 15, 2015

Dharma Named to B Corp Best for the World!

Dharma is Best For Workers!










For the second year in a row, Dharma Merchant Services has been named as an honoree in the B Corp "Best For The World" awards in the category of " Best for Workers".  The Best for Workers honorees are recognized for creating the most positive worker impact. These companies have earned a worker score in the top 10% of all certified B Corporations on the "B Impact Assessment". We are honored to powerfully support our Dharma family with free healthcare, free public transit passes, paid vacations and numerous other benefits that allow them grow and thrive together so that they can support our amazing community of clients and stakeholders.

March 27, 2014

Dharma Founder Interviewed About B Corp Status

B-Corp-Vendor-SpotlightWhen you do business with B Corps, you support a unique sector of the economy that is focused on doing well while also doing good. B Corps solve social and environmental problems while also turning profit. The more profitable they are, the better they can support their workers, their communities, and their social or environmental mission. Everyone wins.  Dharma friend and client MightyBytes is doing a series of interviews with registered B Corps in their supply chain. Click here for the interview with Dharma's founder Jeffrey Marcous! 



December 20, 2013

Right Action - Seafood Watch

SeafoodWatch APP Optimized
Dharma's name comes froms a sanskrit word meaning 
"right action". This new section is designed to share ways that we can all make more sustainable choices. 

Worldwide, the demand for seafood is increasing.  Yet many populations of the large fish we enjoy eating are overfished and, in the U.S.,we import over 80% of our seafood to meet the demand.  Destructive fishing and fish farming practices only add to the problems.  By purchasing fish caught or farmed using environmentally friendly practices, you can support healthy, abundant oceans.  The Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, California has created a handy Seafood Watch guide to help you choose wisely when purchasing fish at your local market or restaurant. The guide comes in a handy, downloadble .pdf form or you can even install their iPhone APP.  You never have to wonder whether it is better to choose U.S. farmed tilapia or wild-caught monkfish.  The Seafood Watch guide can help you navigate the waters and assist you in becoming a good steward of our oceans.  BTW, the U.S. farmed tilapia is the best choice because the wild monkfish have been drastically overfished in recent years.

December 20, 2013

Merchant of the Month - EO® Products

EO Staff OPTIMIZEDEO® Products is a family owned and operated, certified organic manufacturer of personal care products using the highest grade natural and certified organic ingredients. EO® creates products that are natural, gentle, effective and free from animal testing. At EO® , they know that providing a product with integrity and sustainability is a choice and they make the conscious choice to ensure that only the finest products are created.

Based in Marin County, CA, EO® was founded in 1995 by Brad Black and Susan Griffin-Black.  Brad and Susan believe the formulation of beneficial and synergistic herbs, essential oils and natural ingredients is an art form and they search for ingredients with uniquely beneficial traditional and therapeutic properties. EO® Products include no synthetic colors, fragrances or harsh chemicals. It is EO®'s mission to develop their own innovative and efficacious formulas, source natural ingredients, manufacture, and find the most environmentally friendly packaging to fill and ship each and every EO® product.

EO® creates and manufactures their products in their 22,000 sq. ft. organically certified facility with the help of more than 30 employees who are the force and the heart behind EO®.  EO® also gives back to their community by donating EO® products to local homeless shelters and community organizations. Not only are all EO products organic and sustainably sourced, but they are also free from harsh chemicals like paraben and artificial colors and fragrances. EO 's commitment to sustainability extends to their signature blue bottles that are cast from recycled PET bottles.

The EO® product line encompasses more than 100 items containing signature essential oil blends (EO® stands for Essential Oils). Essential oils are steam distilled directly from flowers, leaves, bark and wood without any adulteration or synthetic additives, as it was intended directly from nature, and their products smell amazing!

November 08, 2013

Partner of the Month: One PacificCoast Bank

One PacificCoast Bank FSB 699506 i0

By now, businesses and organizations who support sustainability are used to making green choices on several issues; for example, offering public transit passes for employees and using recycled packaging. But how "green" can we be if the bank we use invests in coal-mining mountain-top removal or is "too big to fail". Greening the financial side of your business can often be easily overlooked.  Fortunately, our partner of the month is here to help.  One way to green your finances is to partner with Dharma partner bank One PacificCoast Bank, one of the largest green banks in the US. The OPCB team dreamed of creating a triple bottom-line bank and a supportive nonprofit foundation and in 2007, their vision was realized when OneCalifornia Bank and OneCalifornia Foundation opened in Oakland, California. Fashioned in the image of the great socially responsible banks and credit unions of national and international fame, OPCB is mandated to produce meaningful social justice and environmental benefits at the same time that it is financially sustainable. Dharma is proud to partner with One PacificCoast Bank and its awesome green team in creating a more sustainable and socially just world.  

Providing credit to constructive businesses and non-profits -- especially those boosting entrepreneurial activity in inner cities, following and strengthening wellness models, or reconnecting vital rural/urban dependencies -- is OPCB's main business.  Credit allows these beneficial activities to grow and scale. OPCB also believes that a healthy environment is the only reliable foundation for economic prosperity. OPCB strives to be a catalyst for positive change in its communities by providing fair, transparent, and sustainable banking products and services as alternatives to more predatory practices that otherwise unwind the benefits of lending practices.  We are grateful to partner with OPCB in strengthening community and supporting sustainable businesses.

September 26, 2012

SFMade and Buying Local

sfmadeBy now, the idea of buying locally is imprinted on the minds of most sustainably minded consumers.  Buying food and products sourced from local vendors and stores close to your home (and preferably within your city limits) is smart AND eco-friendly for many reasons;

1.Local manufacturing and production of goods is vastly more eco-friendly
because the product doesn’t have to travel miles on a truck to get to you OR to be manufactured.

2.The money from your purchase stays in your community, allowing the business owner to reinvest in the community by hiring new employees and upgrading their facilities

3.Farm fresh produce from your local farmer’s market is picked at the peak of freshness and tastes delicious!

Organizations like SFMade know this better than anyone.  SFMade is an organization whose mission is to build and support a vibrant manufacturing sector in San Francisco  that sustains companies producing locally-made products, encourages entrepreneurship and innovation, and creates employment opportunities for a diverse local workforce.  Similar organizations have sprung up across the country in places as diverse as New York and Detroit to Chicago and Philadelphia;  all dedicated to promoting local manufacturing jobs.  Over the summer, I was able to tour several local SFMade merchants operating within San Francisco and was amazed to see the diversity of businesses operating and manufacturing products right here in the city limits.   From food and beverages to  clothing and accessories, I was amazed by how much actual manufacturing is done right here in San Francisco.   I will be profiling a few of these local businesses over the next week to share how they use local resources to produce superior, sustainable products.  Do you know of “Locally Made” organizations in your city?  If so, please let us know in the comments section below.

January 30, 2012

Dharma is Among the First Benefit Corps in California

Dharma is Among the First Benefit Corps in California

Dharma Merchant Services was privileged to become one of the first California companies to register as a Benefit Corporation.

“Benefit Corporation” provides a new legal structure to registered S or C Corps that allows companies to legally expand their purpose beyond exclusively maximizing shareholder value. Benefit Corporations are also certified by an independent third part that affirms the company creates a material positive impact on society and the environment, and meets higher standards of accountability and transparency.

Face of the New EconomyMany thanks to our legal counsel who scrambled to get our paperwork ready in time for this special day. Pictured is Jonathan Storper from Hanson Bridgett LLP right there with Alexia to help file the documents. Now that’s amazing service!

January 3rd was the first day the law went into effect, so we joined a cadre of like-minded businesses, including Patagonia, Give Something Back and ThinkShift, in line at the state office to register and show our support for this tremendous step forward in bringing triple-bottom-line operations into the mainstream.

For more information on Benefit Corporations, please visit

November 22, 2011

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary Green Festival

With Gratitude for All In Attendance

Celebrating the 10th Anniversary Green Festival

On November 12-13, Green America and Global Exchange hosted the 10th Anniversary Green Festival in San Francisco and Dharma was grateful to be there. We are always excited to see our conscious, sustainable community show up in force to network with each other.

This year’s event played host to speakers as diverse as perennial Green Festival favorite Amy Goodman from DEMOCRACY NOW and Frances Moore Lappefrom Food First and the Small Planet Institute. There were courses on how to break up with your Mega-Bank (and your mega-credit card processor!) to how to make sure your Thanksgiving is as Fair Trade as possible. We left this year’s event with many new friends and tons of inspiration.

greenfestival-boothA big THANK YOU! to everyone who stopped by our booth to say hello and to express gratitude for the work we do. We wouldn’t be here without you and we thank you for choosing to support us. And if you appreciate what we do and find it valuable to your business, we urge you to share your experiences with your friends. As we saw this weekend, our community grows stronger when we partner together. We hope to see you at next year’s event!

November 22, 2011

Green Chamber of Commerce Annual Event 2011

Celebrating at the Green Chamber's Annual Event

greenchamberWe were delighted to attend the Green Chamber of Commerce Annual Event! Celebrating “A Taste of the Bay” and held at the beautifully remodeled Levi Strauss & Co. headquarters in San Francisco, the event was filled with so many of our favorite Bay Area merchants such as Green Dentistry, Equator Coffee, Three Twins, and Frey Vineyards, as well as exciting companies new to us like Trim Tab Media !

We thoroughly enjoyed the fabulous program of speakers (expertly put together by Green Chamber Executive Director Stacie Shepp and the Green Chamber team) that included passionate and engaging community leaders such as Mitchell Rofsky of Better World Club, David Bodwin, co-founder of the American Sustainable Business Council , and Donald Simon of Wendel Rosen Black & Dean LLP,  who also served as lead attorney in advocating for the recently passed B-Corporation bill. The joyous Jess King ushered the evening to its close accompanied by a small, but riveting electric cello.

Congratulations to all who attended, catered, volunteered, and made the annual event a wonderful success! Our sincere thanks to the Green Chamber for hosting and fostering such a brilliant community of movers and shakers in the green business movement.

October 30, 2011

Books We Love: The Method Method

The Method MethodThis is one of the most enjoyable business books I have ever read. Actually I’m not sure I’d even call it a business book. To me most business books lecture, prescribe esoteric theory and talk at 10,000 feet. It’s like the author never started a business, except for writing business books. (Please send us examples to the contrary!) This book, while about the incredible business called Method that broke into the uber-saturated soap business, is more like a fantastic conversation. You always have the sense that you are hearing from a person, not an author. It’s refreshingly honest, gives practical and useful information, and is really funny.

The book covers the 7 obsessions that are the method to method. According to founders Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, these are the “rules written by our younger selves, holding us to the ideals we shared when we first decided to launch the company”. The seven range from internal culture to retail relationships, from to commitments to sustainability to commitments to high design. Knowing how vision and intention can get obscured and muddled by the frenetic pace and amount of daily challenges when running a business, it’s great to learn how Method has been successful by not losing sight of their priorities at the heart of their business.

One of my favorite aspects of the book (besides the humor) are the “error autopsies”. In “The Method Method”, these stories of how some pretty big blunders came about and what was learned from them are inspiring because they’re so honest and real. At Dharma we celebrate mistakes in order to create a shame-free environment and not let mistakes take us away from our commitment to oneness and being our best selves. As Rama says, “it’s not about whether or not you make a mistake, what matters is how fast you recover”, and in “The Method Method” we get to learn how mistakes didn’t stop them from forging on. In fact, we learn how these “learning experiences” increased their knowledge of their product, understanding of their customers and commitment to their principles.


October 18, 2011

Benefit Corporation Bill Passes in California!

Benefit CorporationOn October 9th, California became the newest state to pass benefit corporation legislation, creating a new, fully voluntary class of corporation in California called “benefit corporations”. This new corporate structure allows businesses to pursue a material positive impact on the environment and community in addition to maximizing profits. Previous corporate law required corporations to exclusively prioritize financial interests and shareholder profits. For example, this meant that executives could be sued for choosing organic ingredients over cheaper alternatives produced with pesticides that are toxic to consumers, workers and the environment. They could also be sued for giving back to the community if shareholders felt that was taking money out of their pocket. With this new legislation, businesses can choose to incorporate benefit corporations and enjoy these significant advantages:

  • Greater access to social impact and venture capital investments;
  • Legal protection for directors and officers in their more broadly defined fiduciary roles of maximizing profits as well as ensuring social and environmental considerations; and
  • Marketing opportunities that will allow consumers to distinguish, in a very real and ascertainable fashion, between a business that claims to be socially responsible, and one that is responsible.

The legislation was proposed by Assemblymember Jared Huffman under Assembly Bill 361, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both chambers of the California Legislature. The bill was supported by over 200 California-based businesses and associations. As noted in previous blog posts, we were more than happy to appear in Sacramento twice to testify in support of this bill. We’re thrilled that it passed and encourage you all to propose similar legislation in your state or consider becoming a Benefit Corporation!

September 14, 2011

Amazon Watch and SBA host Benefit Concert

Willie Nelson, Sara Wasserman, and friends at Amazon Watch & SBA Benefit Concert

Willie Nelson at Amazon SBA Benefit ConcertOn July 22nd, Dharma was privileged to attend the Benefit Concert with Amazon Watch and the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance (SBA) at the beautiful Bently Reserve in downtown San Francisco. This team-up was the first time that a rainforest protection organization and a bio-fuels organization worked together to raise money and awareness for a common cause. SBA’s hope was that the benefit would “help educate the public on how supporting local, sustainable biodiesel production and using local renewable resources instead of feedstocks like international soy and palm can protect our planet’s precious rain forests.”

SBA sources community-based biodiesel and works with celebrity environmentalists and social activists like Willie Nelson (who performed for the event along with Sara Wassermanand others) to use biodiesel for tours and festivals as well as to educate fans about its benefits. SBA’s chief mission is to ensure the U.S. is sustainable in our use of biodiesel. They create independent sustainability certification systems, educate the public, and provide tools to consumers and the biodiesel industry itself.

Unlike many environmental organizations, Amazon Watch actually partners with the indigenous people of the Amazon in their fight against deforestation, sickness, and death caused by oil drilling and other harmful enterprises threatening their ecosystem and way of life. Currently Amazon Watch is working with the Achuar (an indigenous tribe who call the Amazon home) to petition Chevron to acknowledge the damage caused by oil spills and to take responsibility for cleaning up Ecuador; to stop the drilling of oil; and to prevent the Brazilian government from damning the Amazon rainforest.

On a personal note, Dharma enjoyed meeting the collection of vendors, like the beautifulVilla Creek Winery in Paso Robles who donated some delicious wine for the auction that night.

sba-aw-logosWe look forward to seeing this collaboration continue between these two amazing organizations. Dharma is grateful to be the merchant services provider for Amazon Watch and even prouder to have taken action and joined the cause ourselves. Please join us for their annual luncheon on September 27th.

Dharma is also doing our part in our daily lives to combat the use of oil and promote the preservation of the rainforest. Read about our green initiatives here. What are some of the ways you are taking action?

September 09, 2011

18 Reasons hosts Tomatoland author Barry Estabrook

tomatoland-bookU.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” in regards to openness and transparency in government. Extended amounts of sunlight is also one of the best ways to grow a delicious tomato. Barry Estabrook, author of “Tomatoland,” drove these points home in a dinner/talk hosted by 18 Reasons, the community outreach organization of San Francisco’s own Bi-Rite Market and Bi-Rite Creamery. Estabrook writes the popular food blog Politics of the Plate and his article for Gourmet on labor abuses in Florida’s Tomato fields received the 2010 James Beard Award for magazine feature writing. This article has now been expanded into a book that details how the industrial farming behemoths grow the majority of supermarket/fast food tomatoes and the blind eye they turn to horrific abuses of the imigrant labor force in Florida. The talk was both informative and shocking.

Estabrook’s research took him to Immokalee, Florida, the tomato capital of the United States. During the winter months of December to May as much as 90 percent of the fresh domestic tomatoes we eat come from south Florida, and Immokalee is home to one of the area’s largest communities of farmworkers. According to Douglas Molloy, the chief assistant U.S. attorney based in Fort Myers, Immokalee has another claim to fame: It is “ground zero for modern slavery.” When Molloy was asked if it was safe to assume that a consumer who has eaten a fresh tomato from a grocery store, fast food restaurant, or food-service company in the winter has eaten a fruit picked by the hand of a slave, he corrected the choice of words. ‘It’s not an assumption. It is a fact.’ In the last 15 years, Florida law enforcement officials have freed more than 1,000 men and women who had been held and forced to work against their will in the fields of Florida, and that represents only the tip of the iceberg.

Not only are the working conditions of the farm-workers horrible, but as anyone who has ever tasted a winter tomato from a chain supermarket knows, the taste is virtually non-existent. Estabrook explained that Florida soil where the tomato plantations exist is some of the worst soil for tomatoes. Sandy and drenched in harmful pesticides, these plantations produce barely edible tomatoes. In order to last the long truck ride to stores, these unripened tomatoes are picked while still green and hard. Ethylene gas is used to “ripen” the fruit for store shelves. However, the gas only turns the tomatoes red, it doesnt really ripen the fruit. Essentially, you are still eating the same unripened, hard green tomato. This is why winter tomatoes are so flavorless. In addition, these tomatoes have a third of the vitamin C of Summer tomatoes and less calcium but 14 times the sodium! Also, pestcide residue from 110 different pesticides and fungicides has been found on 54% of tomatoes in grocery store produce sections. 34 of these agents make Pesticde Actions “Bad Actor” list because they contain known carcinogens, mutagens, neurotoxins and deadly poisons.

So, what can you do in your community to effect change?

  1. In the winter, dont buy tomatoes shipped from across the country. If they can’t be grown locally in your current climate, dont eat them.
  2. Instead of a boycott, Estabrook suggests a “Buycott.” If you see locally grown, organic tomatoes, buy those and send a message to your grocer that those are the only ones you will buy. By buying a local, organic tomato you are supporting just wages and healthful choices.
  3. Grow your own. If you have a sunny yard or balcony, tomatoes can be grown easily and cheaply. And nothing beats the flavor of a sun-ripened tomato.
  4. Consider donating to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. This organization has been fighting for humane treatment for farm workers since 1993. They have managed huge success getting tomato buyers such as McDonalds, Burger King and Taco Bell to agree to pay an additonal $0.01 per pound for their tomatoes so that farm workers can have a living wage. And the fight continues. Currently, no giant food supermarket chain, other than Whole Foods, has agreed to this penny a pound more agreement.

18 ReasonsThe event, hosted by 18 Reasons, included an amazing organic heirloom dinner prepared by our hosts. 18 Reasons

was created to bring people together and deepen our relationship to food and community. Through an innovative community center and thought provoking, fun programming, they have inspired action and fostered collaboration toward creating a just and sustainable food system. Dharma is grateful to be a member of this amazing group of concious foodies. You can check out their upcoming calendar of events here.

Barry Estabrook has succeeded in shining much needed sunlight on the treatment of tomatoland farm workers and on the tomatoes they grow. What change can you enact in your own life that will improve the lives of the Immokalee farm workers in Florida and send a message to the huge industrial farming companies that these tomaotes are no longer acceptable on your plate?

May 30, 2011

Yellow Pages Opt-in Legislation Passes in San Francisco!

On May 17th, San Francisco set a precedent for cities around the country to stand up to the Yellow Pages Association and prevent them from dumping unwanted Yellow Pages directories, sometimes more than once per year, on residents who don’t use them.

David Chiu, President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, proposed the legislation to eliminate the burden on Waste Management and costs to city taxpayers of over a $1 million a year for the production, delivery and disposal of unwanted phonebooks. This legislation is a key part of the city’s goal to reach zero waste 2020.

Among the Sierra Club, Rain Forest Action Network, the Product Stewardship Institute, Californians Against Waste, Senior Action Network, numerous small businesses, the San Francisco Small Business Commission, homeowners, tenants, and landlords, The Green Chamber of Commerce was behind this all the way, and as Vice President of the Board, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in supporting its passage. I spoke at at a press conference with President Chiu, representing the business case for why we supported this measure in three main reasons:

  1. it would bring advertising rates more in line with actual exposure 
  2. the environmental and cost reduction benefits of this ordinance would be done without a negative impact on business’s ability to advertise, and 
  3. reduction in distribution would make the Yellow Pages a more targeted and thus attractive advertising channel for the appropriate consumer demographic.

I also appeared at a Land Use Committee Hearing on behalf of the Green Chamber and Dharma Merchant Services to speak on behalf of businesses in San Francisco who supported the measure. I also met with Chief City Economist Ted Egan on this issue, prior to his preparing an Economic Impact Report that concluded “Many environmental policies involve a trade-off between environmental benefits and economic costs. This proposed legislation, however, generates both environmental and economic benefits. It will reduce the city’s waste and recycling costs, as well as fostering a more efficient business advertising system in San Francisco”.

I hope your city can pass something similar!

May 21, 2011

Good news for B Corporations: AB 361 Passes in the CA Assemly!


Great news: AB361 passed with majority support in the vote on May 3rd!

The bill was supported by Assemblymember Jared Huffman, and would authorize and regulate the formation and governance of a new form of corporate entity known as a benefit corporation. The only two dissenters were the two republicans, which surprised everyone since this is not a partisan issue. Assemblymember Huffman did an amazing job of presenting the bill, and as you can see from the picture, there were many influential folks there testifying in support of the bill. In the group are the founders of RSF Social Finance, Method,Guayaki, Kinesys, AlterECO, and folks from New Resource Bank, The Clarity Project, the American Sustainable Business Council, and the law firms of Wendell Rosen Black & Dean and Hanson Bridgett.

The opposing arguments came from the California State Bar Association and a representative from the non-profit sector. The bar thinks this could give stakeholders too much control to do whatever they want at the expense of the directors of a corporation. Huffman refuted that saying the increased transparency required to be a B Corp would prevent stakeholders from doing anything in extreme conflict with directors’ interests.

The non-profit sector rep said that non-profits can do this “benefit” work better. Huffman said this bill would increase the funds to non-profits and actually better enable existing non-profits to do the great work they do.

This is only one of the steps in the long walk to November but it was a really important one and the amount of enthusiasm and support shown at this early stage is giving this a lot of momentum. We were proud to be there to testify in support of this important legislation, and make a stand for a new type of corporate structure that legally supports doing the right thing!

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