Elliot Hoffman, CEO of True Market Solutions, recently spoke with Grand Pacific Resorts about sustainability. Grand Pacific Resorts recently joined the San Diego Sustainability Circle led by True Market Solutions.


Q: Tell me a little bit about True Market Solutions and the Sustainability Circles.

A: True Market Solutions works with small- to medium-sized businesses to help them integrate sustainability into their day-to-day operations and accelerate their results. We do this by connecting people, expert resources, knowledge, and innovative thinking in the context of peer-learning Sustainability Circles. Sustainability Circles are regionally based and bring together businesses from diverse industries for six months of collaboration. Each business creates an action plan to engage and inspire stakeholders and employees, implement initiatives, and help drive a mindset of efficiency and sustainability into the culture of the organization.

Q: Prior to starting True Market Solutions, you founded Just Desserts, a highly successful bakery in San Francisco. How did you go from baking cakes to empowering businesses to be more sustainable?

A: When we ran the bakery we were always looking for ways to be energy efficient and environmentally conscious. The word sustainability wasn’t even around 40 years ago, so we were doing a lot of unusual things back then. For example, in 1982 we installed a solar thermal water heating system on the roof of our 30,000-square-foot facility with about 24 solar panels. It produced virtually all of the hot water we needed for washing. We did a lot of that kind of stuff.

By 2004, I was an advocate and leader in the small business community in San Francisco, which is where I got my passion for small- or mid-size companies. That year I was asked to join the board of an MBA program—the Presidio School of Management—and at that time it was one of only two programs that had sustainability as its core focus. It was all about enabling young people who wanted to be in business to combine that with a passion for deep sustainability.

I got to know a lot of the professors, and many of them did consulting work, but mostly for large corporations. I recognized that no one was bringing sustainability to small- and mid-size business, so I started True Market Solutions. It brought my two passions together and made it accessible and affordable and very impactful. It was a real need in the marketplace.

Q: You’ve said elsewhere that social responsibility and sustainability make good business sense. What do you mean by that?

A: There’s been this myth for 50 or 60 years that anything having to do with the environment is going to cost you money, but especially today that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a myth we’re working to destroy. Our society wastes so much water, energy, and food. Right now there are hundreds and hundreds of billions—if not trillions—of dollars in potential savings per year.

Q: How does industry diversity within the Sustainability Circles strengthen the peer-learning process?

A: Diversity forces everyone to think outside the box. The brewery representative and you as the resort representative are thinking with different mindsets. As you’re in conversation, the brewery representative is going to think about ideas for you that you might not have thought of because he’s seeing things from outside your normal perspective.

However, we are getting more and more requests from companies with multiple locations. For example, a supermarket chain may have multiple locations and bring all their managers together in one Sustainability Circle. We love diversity, but there’s also room for businesses in the same industry or company to come together and learn from each other.

Q: What unique contributions can the hospitality industry and Grand Pacific Resorts in particular make to the green movement?

A: We’re all on this journey together, and you’ve got enough of a footprint that you can make a difference for people. You can work with other businesses to engage them on these issues, and you can model sustainable practices for guests so that they bring them to their own communities when they return home.

The opportunities in the hospitality industry are endless. There’s a little place north of San Francisco that has chickens and a whole greenhouse filled with organic fruits and vegetables. Guests pick their own produce to cook and have eggs delivered every morning. It’s just one of the creative ways resorts can get guests involved.