Boards Consider the Complexities of Impact Investing

Senior managers and board members of businesses and nonprofits wrestle with the issues inherent in balancing profitability and social responsibility in their investments, so I read “The Power of Money With a Purpose” in  The November/December 2019 issue of NACD Directorship, a publication of the National Association of Corporate Directors. Authors Erin Essenmacher and Judy Warner say that impact investing is rooted in the desire for organizations and their stakeholders to live in a healthy environment that is sustainable, yet they also expect to receive a return on their investments.

In saying that it’s important to understand what investors want, they trace some of the origins of impact investing. While it once may have been rooted in faith-based practices, it is more often today associated with an understanding that businesses share a responsibility for the world’s condition. They give examples of how some businesses and nonprofits have influenced the rise of impact investing.

The NACD Public Company Governance Survey (2019-2020) revealed this about the attention that boards gave to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors in the last year: “52% Improved understanding of the company’s current ESG-related performance, 50% Reviewed ESG-related risks and opportunities, 49% Discussed the link between ESG and the company’s strategy, 49% Worked to improve the company’s reporting about environmental and social efforts to investors or stakeholders, and 37% asked management to develop and report better performance metrics for ESG to the board.”

Board members of business and nonprofits must discuss impact investing and ESG practices regularly, and make decisions in light of these considerations, because stakeholders are concerned about the socially responsible practices of the organizations they do business with and how they invest their money. If you have some thoughts to share on this topic, please post them.

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National Children’s Dental Health Month

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month and is brought to you by the American Dental Association (ADA). The ADA website explains that in 1941, this program began as a one day event, changing to a week-long event in 1955, and month-long national health observance in 1981.  Today this brings together thousands of dedicated professionals, healthcare providers, and educators to promote the benefits of good oral health to children, their caregivers, teachers and many others.

In past years, Northeast Delta Dental partnered with the Manchester Boys & Girls Club regarding a new program incorporating the expertise of Dr. Richard Bolduc, a well-known area dentist, to provide dental care on site. Northeast Delta Dental had the great honor of funding the first tele dentistry program in New Hampshire providing visits for youth to improve dental health, and it doesn’t stop there.

Through the Northeast Delta Dental Foundation’s support of the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire, we are excited to share that throughout February, the Children’s Museum will host a series of age-appropriate activities related to oral health, introduce expert speakers about dental hygiene and nutrition, and offer product giveaways and raffles. You can find more information about the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire, here.

We also donate toothbrushes and Grin! for Kids! activity books to schools and dental centers who schedule oral health educational programs.

Download our Grin for Kids! activity book here, to help your child or family member learn more about good oral health.  The pages are filled with fun interactive activities and coloring pages.

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Environmental Sustainability Increasingly Considered in the Boardroom

I recently read “Environmental Sustainability As A Board Issue”, an article by Dottie Schindlinger and Annie Kors of the Diligent Institute, published in the July/August 2019 issue of The Corporate Board. There’s a rising expectation that board members consider environmental issues, an expectation that the authors conclude is likely to continue at an ever-increasing rate.

The report from which this article was excerpted was looking for answers to three questions: “· To what extent do environmental and sustainability issues rise to the level of board consideration? · What compels directors to consider environmental and sustainability issues with their oversight? and · On a practical, structural level, how are boards overseeing environmental sustainability (who owns that function?).”

Research was based on responses from board members, nearly half of whom said that environmental sustainability was covered at least once a year in their boardrooms. Excluding nonprofits and government respondents, when company directors were asked about motivations for considering environmental sustainability for board level oversight, three rose to the top: societal impact, long-term viability, and reputational risk.

One of my roles at Northeast Delta Dental is to direct our business with the members of multiple boards, and I’m on the board of several community nonprofits, making me a student of board best practices. If you’re a board member, or interact with board members regularly, I suggest you subscribe to The Corporate Board. Then please let me know if you’ve found it valuable.

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VA Tests Innovative Models to Improve Delivery of Dental Services

A few months ago I made a case for finding a national solution to the limitations on veterans’ dental benefits. Rules for who receives treatment through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Outpatient Dental Program are overly restrictive.    Only an Act of Congress can broaden those rules to include more veterans with dental issues associated with, and aggravated by, service-connected medical conditions. Our veterans need better access to dental benefits for a variety of reasons, one of the most compelling of which is that untreated dental disease undermines overall health and wellness.

Recently the VA announced that it had submitted to Congress a waiver request and pilot program to increase access to dental care. Called the MISSION Act, the purpose of Section 152 of the VA Maintaining Internal Systems and Strengthening Integrated Outside Networks Act of 2018 is to authorize testing innovative service delivery models to improve the quality of dental care for our veterans.

The VA itself has limited authority to provide dental services for veterans under the existing statute; but, with this waiver request, the VA increases access to those services through connections to community-based, pro bono, or discounted dental services providers. The VA will test both payment and service delivery models. Upon approval of the pilot, the VA will work with such groups as the American Dental Association and Federally Qualified Health Centers nationwide, serving veterans who have previously been ineligible for dental services. The VA accepted comments on this new program through January 13.

The announcement from the VA’s Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs said that “The dental care proposal, titled the Care Coordination for Dental Benefits demonstration project under the Community Provider Collaborations for Veterans Pilot Program, is the first waiver request and pilot program submitted to Congress under this authority”. The VA will publish details of the pilot program for public comment in The Federal Register, the Daily Journal of the United States Government.

I commend all supporters of this pilot program to increase access to dental benefits to more veterans and all of the service providers who will play an invaluable role in its success.

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It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For

After reading It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For: Why Every Extraordinary Business Is Driven by Purpose, I invited Roy M. Spence, Jr., who wrote the book with Haley Rushing, to present his vision of a purpose-inspired business to me and my colleagues. Roy is the cofounder, chairman, and CEO of a national advertising agency, GSD&M, and cofounder (with Haley) & CEO of The Purpose Institute, founded to help organizations discover their purposes.

His book encourages organizations to identify their purposes (beyond making money) and become purpose inspired. He says this is particularly attractive to workers of two generations, baby boomers and millennials.  He gives examples of organizations stewarding their purposes—among them, Southwest Airlines, Wal-Mart, AARP, and American Red Cross. In his presentation, he said that when a business is inspired by its purpose, it makes decision-making  and organization alignment easier, and employees are more innovative.  “Purpose-driven organizations tend to have values-based cultures built on love and commitment to shared purpose. They often become legendary as great places to work,” he said. That’s what we want to be!

The book is a good read, and I recommend it particularly for those in leadership positions in businesses and nonprofits.  When you’ve read it, tell me about what you learned.


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Dangers of Vaping to Young Users

The use of tobacco products is hazardous to our oral and overall health, whether it takes the form of cigarettes, cigars, or smokeless tobacco. As a nation, we’ve discouraged smoking in a variety of ways, to the point where smoking cigarettes seems less “cool” than when many of us were teens. Even so, according to the American Lung Society, each year more than 480,000 people in the U.S. die from tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, making it the leading cause of preventable death (

The demonstrably false notion that e-cigarette usage, or vaping, is a safer, less addictive, and, possibly more “cool” form of smoking than traditional cigarettes has lured our youth into bad habits, while undermining their health by damaging developing brains, lungs, and hearts.  Chemicals found in e-cigarettes impair teeth and gums, creating, or exacerbating, oral health issues.

These products are packaged in fruit flavors with appealing names, masking the taste of nicotine and other harmful ingredients. Whether marketed to teenagers or not, the increased appeal is too obvious to dispute. This creates a public health perfect storm.

The governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire have taken different approaches in dealing with the dangers of widespread e-cigarette use among adolescents, as the short- and long-term implications of this health crisis cause national and state leaders to grapple for effective policies that will begin addressing the problem now.

On a more personal level, we can all communicate often, and consistently, that, along with all other tobacco products containing nicotine, e-cigarettes are addictive and dangerous. As we discourage our children and grandchildren from using them, we can: point out the oral and overall health dangers, tell them this is an expensive habit (both in money and lost health), and make sure they know that the best way to avoid an addiction is to never start. And let’s help them recognize that it’s okay to say “no” when offered an e-cigarette or vaping pen, and tell them we’ll be very proud of them when they do.

On this topic:

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Doing Right by our Heroes: Expanding Dental Benefits for Veterans

As many as 9 out of 10 veterans seeking dental care at Veteran’s Administration medical care facilities may be denied access to treatment because of the eligibility rules governing what classification of veterans receiving medical benefits are also able to  receive dental benefits. These rules are highly restrictive and can only be broadened by an Act of Congress (38 USC Sec 1712) to include more veterans. These rules need changing. Our veterans deserve better than being denied dental benefits.

We need a national solution. Many dental professionals in our region are helping veterans with limited resources on a case-by-case basis.  But these remedies are not comprehensive enough for this complex problem.

Increasing access to dental benefits for more veterans makes good economic sense. As a nation, we can save money on veterans’ health care by investing more dollars in dental benefits. A report by the Wakely Consulting Group, commissioned by Delta Dental Plans Association, found a correlation between dental benefit use and overall medical costs, reporting that there is “a consistent correlation between dental benefit use and lower overall medical costs for commercial insured beneficiaries afflicted with chronic conditions, combined with periodontal disease.”

Let’s tell our Congressional representatives we’re unhappy with the number of veterans that have no access to dental benefits.  We can encourage them to put partisan politics aside and work collaboratively to broaden the scope of the existing VA rules governing which veterans with medical benefits also receive dental benefits, so that fewer veterans needing dental procedures are turned away. The dollars invested in dental care will be balanced by savings on health care costs. If this less restrictive approach to dental benefits by the VA is adopted, Congress will have accomplished something nearly as heroic on behalf of our veterans as the veterans themselves have accomplished for all of us.

This is an abbreviated version of the op-ed piece published in the Vol. 41 No 20 issue of New Hampshire Business Review.  Find the complete article here.

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