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SOCAP11 Panelist Spotlight: David Leventhal, Playa Viva

SOCAP August 2, 2011

What is your role in the Social Capital Market?
Pure Entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, business is about doing, learning and perfecting. I believe that there are no original ideas only original execution. As social and environmental entrepreneurs, we subscribe to building enterprises in a regenerative manner. That is, we can make it better. Just like the land we now steward was depleted and degraded, our role as developers is to make it the place better, not just settle for doing less damage. We also subscribe to principals of regeneration including developing a history of place and understand our roles as stewards for the relatively short time we will inhabit the place. We also see our role as organic – launch, listen, learn – adapting as nature does. Finally, we see our role as integrated and holistic combining enterprise with environment and social impact. Each of these has equal footing as part of our role and mission.
How can the green movement progress from simply eliminating harm to adding value?
We subscribe to the term “regeneration”. When my wife first heard Bill Reed from Regenesis Group at the Green Build Conference back in 2005 and then hired to head up our design Charettes, I was skeptical. My first thought, “just by the fact we are building means we are degrading.” But Bill made a quick convert of me when he stated, “in most cases we are taking over a location that have already been degraded.” Our role was then to understand the “history of place” and define our role, mission and values as to how we, as stewards of this place, could go beyond less harm, to restoration and eventually regeneration. Today, we are experiencing exactly that through our investment in permaculture and community entrepreneurship. We are regenerating over 85% of the land and engaging in positive social impact in this community of 600.Come to our session – learn more.
What does Money + Meaning = to you? What should the social capital market stand for?
Every day, we vote with our wallets. “Money + Meaning” = making financial decisions based on your values, values that go beyond just the highest-short-term return. We spend a significant amount of money on regeneration of 85% of our land. Many would argue that this investment is a waste, it contributes very little if anything to our profits. Why not invest that money in revenue generating assets? But we take the long term view: What is the value of 10,000 planted today in 30 years? What is the value of restoring a lagoon and the resulting biodiversity ? What is the value of our investment in the community? What is the value of these “externalities?” Do our customers appreciate this investment and are they willing to pay a premium for our product? We believe so and are committed to make those investments.

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