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(BPT) - Home Depot announced that personal financial information from 56 million credit and debit cards was at risk following a data security breach in September. Americans were still reeling from the Heartbleed bug, which compromised the security of some of the country’s largest companies in April 2014. Today cyber hacking – a crime that exploits technology to compromise personal information – is all too familiar.
In an increasingly digital world, financial losses from cybercrime will continue to rise. Experts estimate cybercrime leads to global financial losses of at least $375 billion annually, according to a 2014 Intel Security report.
How do businesses strengthen protection against cyber criminals? They beat them at their own game by employing ethical hackers. Cyber security expert Dr. Karmaveer Koonjbearry, professor in the Colleges of Business & Management, Engineering & Information Sciences and Health Sciences at DeVry University, explains how hacking can be used for good.
What is ethical hacking?
Ethical hacking is a legal, authorized process to identify security vulnerabilities in computer systems. Professional ethical hackers identify unnecessary open ports and backdoors that malicious hackers could potentially infiltrate to access files, credit card and Social Security numbers or other personal information. Ethical hackers make recommendations to large companies on how to mitigate such vulnerabilities.
Where do ethical hackers work?
Jobs for ethical hackers are expected to increase as organizations seek to strengthen their Internet security. Many large organizations already employ ethical hackers to test applications before they are deployed. Smaller organizations typically outsource ethical hacking periodically to check their systems.
What training is available for someone who wants to become an ethical hacker?
Degree programs in computer information systems and network and communications management can prepare students well for future careers in ethical hacking. The International Council of Electronic Commerce Consultants (EC-Council) offers a Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) course to help professionals develop the skills required and prepare for the EC-Council CEH Certification exam.
What soft skills should ethical hackers possess?
Ethical hackers must have strong communication skills to explain system vulnerabilities constructively to corporate leadership, Web developers and application owners. They must be efficient yet thorough, and be prepared to work with some people who may not welcome the additional work required to secure their systems.
Are there any risks in ethical hacking?
Ethical hackers develop extensive knowledge about an organization’s systems, safeguards, vulnerabilities and practices. This information, in the wrong hands, can have disastrous consequences. It is critical that organizations select ethical hackers with the right background and ethical disposition. A “bad” ethical hacker can have significant consequences on an organization’s bottom line and reputation.
(BPT) - About 16 million Americans work from home – a number that Global Workplace Analytics expects will increase by 63 percent over the next five years. In fact, every 12 seconds someone starts a new home-based business in the United States, according to Business for Home. Access to new technology, increased job flexibility and a higher earning potential are just some of the reasons many entrepreneurs consider a home-based business more rewarding than the typical corporate cubical.
Home-based business owners can easily engage with customers in real-time through social media channels. They can even take advantage of technological advances, such as cloud computing, video conferencing services, apps and mobile payment devices to connect with business partners and conduct business from virtually anywhere in the world.
Millennials especially enjoy the idea of not worrying about the dress codes, arrival times and rush-hour traffic that come with traditional jobs. Global Workplace Analytics found that 81 percent of them expect to have a flexible work schedule, and home-based business models allow just that. Perhaps most attractively, self-employed business owners also have the potential to earn more money instead of being confined to a pre-determined salary, since higher risks sometimes yield higher rewards.
But while owning your own business and working from home offer many advantages, there are some important things to consider before taking the plunge. Here are three things you need to know before starting your own home-based business:
Having the initial courage to get started is often the hardest part of setting up your new business at home. Proper financing can make or break your success. While federal agencies do not provide grants for starting a home-based business, many low-interest loan programs will give you startup financing.
It’s also important to decide what type of ownership is best for your business. You have many options: sole proprietorship, partnership, Limited Liability Company (LLC), corporation, S corporation, nonprofit and cooperative. The U.S. Small Business Administration notes that you must establish your business identity, as it determines which income tax return forms you have to file – income tax, self-employment tax, taxes for employers or excise taxes.
Once you’ve decided how to finance your business, most states require you to register your “Doing Business As” (DBA) name, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. For sole proprietors and partnerships, you need to register a DBA if your business is called anything other than your real name. You can register a DBA at your county clerk’s or state government office.
Get in the zone
Depending on where you live, zoning laws can prohibit some home-based businesses. Restrictions may limit how much of your home can be used for business, your ability to advertise with signage, parking and the number of employees. If you’re not approved to have a home-based business due to zoning ordinances, you can apply for a variance. You can familiarize yourself with these local rules and ordinances by checking with the public library and local government websites in your area.
Depending on your business, you may need to obtain additional licensing, according to BizFilings.com. For example, if you’re a caterer, you not only need to obtain a business license, but you may need to meet Food and Drug Administration requirements. You can consult your local and state government websites to find specific requirements in your business region.
You probably already have homeowners insurance, but it may not cover your home-based business. “The three most common coverage options for a home-based business are a Homeowners Policy Endorsement, an In-Home Business Policy and a Business Owners Policy (BOP),” says Erie Insurance Vice President and Product Manager Joe Vahey. “You might even want to consider extra coverages like workers’ compensation if you have employees; disability insurance to protect your income if you’re ever injured and can’t work; and business auto insurance if you use vehicles to conduct business.” Most of the time, business insurance provides more coverage than personal insurance. An Erie Insurance agent can help assess where your coverage gaps lie, and which coverages will best protect your business.
By taking the proper steps to establish a strong home-based business up front, you may reap the rewards in the end by having a secure, stable and profitable business with the flexibility and earning potential you’re looking for.
(BPT) - For small businesses, January’s arrival usually brings one very important task: issuing W-2s and 1099 forms to employees and independent contractors. The good news is this year, due to the typical filing date of Jan. 31 falling on a weekend, businesses have a built-in buffer and a couple extra days to complete these tax reporting documents.
February 2, 2015, is the date to remember when preparing your business’ tax reporting forms this season. But don’t forget, even with the additional days, getting a head start on cutoff dates can protect you and your company harsh consequences, wasted time and unneeded hassle.
According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), businesses must send their employees’ W-2s by Feb. 2 and provide all W-2s and the transmittal Form W-3 to the Social Security Administration (SSA) by March 2, 2015. This has also been extended because the normal due date falls on a weekend.
In the event that an employee does not receive a W-2 from their employer on time or at all, they can contact the IRS for assistance. Even with the extended reporting date for businesses, the IRS requests that employees wait until at least Feb. 14, allowing for slow mail delivery and other varying factors. After Feb. 14, the IRS will contact the employer for the employee, request the missing form, and send the employee Form 4852 to complete, which is a substitute for the original W-2. The payer will be notified of the penalties if it fails to comply with government regulations, which can include significant fines.
The same applies to issuing 1099s, used for reporting company payments to freelance and contract workers or other non-employees. In general, businesses need to supply workers with a copy of their 1099 form by Feb. 2.
Employers who unintentionally misclassify workers also run the risk of significant penalties and interest, so being overly cautious never hurts, according to the experts at Greatland Corporation, a company that provides W-2 and 1099 forms and e-filing services to small businesses. What’s more, if a small business fails to file a W-2 or 1099, it can be fined up to $500,000, which can accrue interest if it remains unpaid.
“We have many customers who become overwhelmed when submitting their forms and managing the deadlines over the next few months,” says Janice Krueger, a spokesperson for Greatland, one of the country’s leading providers of W-2 and 1099 products for business. “Thirty-nine percent of small business filers are never certain if they are meeting all rules and requirements when reporting each year. Knowing what obstacles and deadlines lie in the months ahead allows enough time for tackling even the most complicated filings.”
Estimates are that 30 percent of businesses misclassify workers; so make sure your business knows how to correctly report your workers when issuing W-2 and 1099 forms.
Remembering these key dates will allow W-2 & 1099 filers to stay on track this filing season:
* Feb. 2, 2015 – Due date to mail employee copies for W-2
* Feb. 2, 2015 – Due date to mail recipient copies for 1099
* Feb. 17, 2015 – Due date for 1099-MISC if reporting payments in boxes 8 or 14
* Mar. 2, 2015 – Due date to send Copy A to federal agency on paper (W-2 to SSA, 1099 to IRS)
* March 31, 2015 – Due date to send Copy A to Federal agency electronically (W-2 to SSA, 1099 to IRS)
To make sure your business doesn’t miss a deadline, you can find a full list of federal and state filing dates to remember, along with even more reporting tips on Greatland’s W-2 and 1099 fact center website.
(BPT) - All businesses can be susceptible to threats like hackers and computer viruses. Making matters worse is the great deal of misinformation floating around regarding cyber security. The Internet attracts urban legends and computer security isn’t immune from this trend. Many alleged security “facts” are, at best, inaccurate. Some of these myths are recent developments, while others have been around for years.
Clearing up some common misconceptions about computer security, Staples and Norton have teamed up help separate fact from fiction.
Myth 1: Companies that sell antivirus and security solutions create viruses
The idea that the online security companies develop and release computer viruses to maintain sales is false. While it’s true that one variety of malware (malicious software) called “ransomware” infects computers and then sells its victims a “solution” to the problem, these rogue programs are not affiliated with legitimate antivirus programs, like Norton. In fact, legitimate antivirus programs are the first line of defense against devious hackers.
Myth 2: A small business’s main security threat is the Internet
A security policy that only considers Internet-based threats is woefully incomplete. Yes, hackers can breach your network security. Yes, malware can infect your network through unsafe websites. However, the biggest risks to your security are often those who work for you.
Many security breaches originate with employees. A small number of employees are simply dishonest. More often, however, security breaches are caused by simple human error. An employee loses a laptop, for instance, or incorrectly disposes of printed or digital information.
“Now more than ever, small business owners should be taking all precautions to ensure their businesses are secure,” says Conor Kearney, vice president of technology merchandise for Staples. “While antivirus programs are a great first line of defense against cyber threats, it is important to make sure you educate your employees on what constitutes good cyber security and have safeguards in place to prevent a minor incident, like a stolen computer, from turning into a full out data breach.”
Myth 3: Apple’s operating system is safer than Microsoft’s Windows
For years, Apple users held up the relative lack of malware on Mac computers as evidence that the Apple operating system had fewer security flaws than Microsoft’s Windows operating systems. Actually, Mac users were safer because they represented a relatively small percentage of all computer users. Malware writers prefer to target the largest possible audience. As so, because many people use Windows, the hackers focused their attention on Windows and, for the most part, ignored Apple.
But now, people use Apple devices in sufficient numbers to attract malware. For example, in 2012, the Flashback Trojan affected 600,000 Macs. And a year later, Apple computer users were hit by a virus that targeted iPhone developers via the Java programming language. Recently the Shellshock/Bash vulnerability was identified as putting Mac users at risk.
Myth 4: Hackers only target “big business”
Some small businesses take false comfort in their size. The assumption is that hackers and data thieves only target big companies, major financial institutions and government agencies. However, small businesses can also be targets for data breaches and hacks.
Small businesses need to have a defense plan in place. Often, small-business owners recognize the importance of cyber security, but are unable to manage the complexity of this issue themselves. Consequently, the cyber security of small businesses tends to be neglected. “Protecting customer and business data from cybercriminals is a matter of life and death for most small businesses. Because small-business owners are insanely busy, they need a multi-layer security solution that’s easy to install and manage,” says Brian Burch, VP product marketing, Norton Business Unit, Symantec, a leading provider of award-winning products and services that deliver online protection. Easy, quick setup antivirus solutions are most preferred by small businesses. For example, Norton Small Business is a single solution to securing computers and mobile devices within a small business’ network.
A false sense of security
Today’s computer security myths all have one thing in common - they can lull you into a false sense of security. Keep your office free from viruses by always employing a critical eye and lots of common sense. Similar to your annual doctor visit, be sure to give your small business a cyber-security check, reassessing its network security and ensuring you have the proper tools in place to protect it from a cyber-attack.
(BPT) - For many small businesses, tax form filing season can be one of the most dreaded times of the year. But with the winter months quickly approaching, there is one simple step that can save you and your business headache, heartache (and money): double-check all reporting documents and deadlines.
While checking these easy-to-find facts seems like a simple thing to do, it is one of the most neglected actions among small- to mid-sized companies.
It is vital to double-check the information on tax forms for accuracy, while also making yourself aware of all year-end deadlines to prevent fines or other penalties. Going by what you did last year is never enough, as forms, deadlines and regulations can change in subtle ways.
Raising the stakes, in recent years, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has increased penalties for misfiled or late tax forms. As a result, it’s essential to be vigilant in assembling and reviewing reporting documents. Re-reading those forms and setting reminders may be the easy fix that saves your business time, money and aggravation.
“Small-business leaders have enough stress in their daily lives, the last thing they need is to wonder after the fact if they have complied with all deadlines and regulations,” says Janice Krueger, a tax and reporting expert at Greatland, one of the country’s leading providers of W-2 and 1099 products for business. “A recent study revealed that 43 percent of filers are concerned about being fined by the IRS for not complying with new rules or regulations when reporting. We want to help alleviate those concerns by informing taxpayers about filing requirements and deadlines, along with the ramifications of errors, late filings and failure to file.”
Many 1099 and W-2 reporting penalties have increased over the past few years and it is critical that businesses file and complete all wage and income filings on time. Here is a list of filing penalties for W-2 and 1099 forms Greatland believes taxpayers should be aware of this season:
* The penalty for failing to file accurate information on returns is $60 per return
* The maximum failure-to-file penalty is $1.5 million.
* If returns are filed within 30 days after the due date, the penalty is $30 per return.
* The maximum penalty for organizations that issue returns within 30 days is $250,000.
* The penalty for filing returns more than 30 days after the due date, but before Aug. 1 is $60 per return.
* The maximum penalty issuing returns more than 30 days past the due date, but before Aug. 1 is $500,000.
* Failure to file information returns or if filed after Aug. 1 results in a fine of $100 per return.
For small businesses, defined as organizations with annual gross receipts of $5 million or less for the three most recent tax years:
* The maximum penalty for organizations that issue returns within 30 days after the due date is $75,000.
* The maximum penalty for organizations that issue returns more than 30 days past the due date, but before Aug. 1 is $200,000.
* The maximum consequence for small businesses that fail to file or file after Aug. 1 is $500,000.
To make sure your business has all of the accurate information needed, you can find a full list of federal and state filing regulations to remember on Greatland’s W-2 and 1099 fact center website.
(BPT) - There’s no denying that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education is on society’s radar. President Barack Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” initiative hosts a yearly STEM-themed science fair at the White House. STEM summer camps are popping up across the country and hundreds of thousands of parents, educators and policymakers convene annually at STEM conferences nationwide. The nation’s job market even reflects the popularity as recent data shows that across STEM fields, job postings outnumbered unemployed people by almost two to one.
Although STEM education is recognized as a crucial way to spark students’ interest in innovation and technology, there remains a perception that it only focuses on a few areas of study and does not expose students to more creative activities or job fields, like visual arts, music or writing. However, STEM education helps children develop several crucial skills outside of an interest in science, especially at the elementary level, and these skills can be applied across most areas of study. Here are a few extra benefits of STEM education beyond the beaker and microscope:
* Cultivating creativity – Creativity is rooted within the scientific process, especially when it comes to figuring out solutions to problems. STEM education encourages students to look beyond the obvious solutions and come up with creative ways to make something work in a new or different way than is typically intended, such as figuring out how to survive without natural sunlight. This kind of experience parallels the creative process a musician or artist undertakes, as there may not be a wrong or right answer and the student will likely discover something interesting no matter what.
* Building teamwork skills – Many popular STEM activities, such as building a bridge using only toothpicks and gumdrops, require students to work in pairs or groups to accomplish their objective. This gives kids opportunities to learn how and when to both lead a group and listen to their peers, and demonstrates the value of what they can accomplish when they put their heads together to complete a task
* Becoming problem solvers – STEM education centers around problem solving. The entire practice of engineering is about finding a solution to a problem, and if that doesn’t work, starting over again and finding another one. This kind of thinking helps kids develop crucial problem-solving skills so that they are ready to tackle life’s problems, big or small.
Recent studies have shown that kids are not asking as many questions as they grow older, causing a loss of interest in their environment. This startling notion has prompted policymakers and educators to take action. In 2013, several groups including the National Research Council (NRC); Achieve, Inc.; the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA); as well as thousands of science educators, scientists, business leaders, and other leaders in science education, came together to develop the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These new standards emphasize exploration and experimentation, rather than unengaging lectures or rote memorization of facts.
In addition to new science standards, there are many programs that reinforce STEM skills and foster a love of science in kids of all ages, such as the Toshiba/NSTA ExploraVision program. The world’s largest K-12 science award program, ExploraVision invites students to think ahead 20 years into the future and propose an idea for a new technology and approach based on a challenge or limitation that exists today. ExploraVision incorporates many of the science and engineering practices promoted in the NGSS, so teachers can use it as an opportunity to enrich their curriculum with hands-on experiences or offer it as an extracurricular opportunity for their students.
“ExploraVision provides a unique opportunity for kids to experience the benefits of STEM education, especially at the early age in the kindergarten-3rd grade level of the competition,” says Bill Nye, acclaimed scientist, educator and program spokesperson. “As they work together to solve a real-life scientific problem, they develop not only an interest in science, but also develop their creativity, leadership skills and communication skills.”
While STEM education may increase the prevalence of much-needed scientists, engineers and mathematicians, it will also help contribute to a generation of well-rounded, inquisitive children who are equipped with skills to help them become the future leaders of the world.
(BPT) - If social media isn’t at the top of your list when starting your job-searching endeavors, you might find the process slow and tedious. That’s because social networks are the way nearly all U.S. companies are finding new employees, according to Jobvite.
As you finalize your resume and create drafts for cover letters, be sure to plan your social media strategy as well.
“Make sure you have a social media strategy to augment traditional methods such as face-to-face networking and informational interviews,” says Lyndsay Cooper, career services director for The Art Institute of Tennessee-Nashville, which is a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta.
Check out the following tips to give yourself an edge in your job search.
* Brand consistency. Make sure your profile is professional and reflects the job you’re looking for across all social media platforms. Ensure your privacy settings are secure (especially on Facebook). On LinkedIn, make sure your profile is complete with skills and recommendations. On Twitter, link to your website, blog or online resume. And don’t forget Pinterest, YouTube, Google+ and Foursquare.
* Know your audience. Your audience on Facebook is different from your audience on Twitter or LinkedIn, so make sure your updates reflect that. On LinkedIn, share articles and blogs on industry-related topics. On Facebook, post more personal (but not too detailed) updates to remind your friends that you’re in the job market.
* Be proactive. Use social media to connect with recruiters, employers and employees of companies you’d like to work for. Join – and participate in – organizations, groups and blogs in your industry or alumni groups. Become an industry expert or thought leader.
* Research. Use social media to create your target list of companies, then research those companies and their employees. Use hashtags on Twitter to find jobs. For example, if you are interested in fashion, search #fashionjobs. Sites like Twellow let you search people’s bios and the URLs in their bios; you can easily find, follow and engage key employees of those companies so they get to know you before you approach them for a job. Prepare for a job interview by using social media to research the interviewer and find common topics to break the ice.
* Network online. Expand your network and engage others with similar interests by posting, sharing/forwarding, tweeting and retweeting relevant articles and blogs. This raises your online profile, and encourages others to do the same for you. Twitter works well for this.
* Know your online profile. Google yourself and make sure what you see is what you want it to be. Go to Klout.com so you can see your “klout” score, which reports how influential and engaged you are across platforms. Another great site is wefollow.com, a Twitter directory organized by shared interests or categories. Users can add themselves to the categories that best fit their interests.
Today, employers use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media to identify, recruit and check out new employees. The Internet has helped level the job search playing field by offering access to resources that enable you to identify and prepare for career opportunities. But it’s also offered employers access to more talented job candidates. A smart social media strategy can help you stand out and land the job you seek.
For more information about The Art Institutes, visit www.artinstitutes.edu.
(BPT) - It’s a competitive market for all types of jobs, from entry level on up. If you have an interview scheduled, make certain you’re prepared for the questions you’ll be asked.
The first step is to do your homework, which includes researching the company, the industry and the job position you’re applying for, says Jodi Berkshire, assistant director of Career Services at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. No one can be prepared for every question an employer might ask, but you should be prepared with ways to gracefully answer categories of questions. Here are Berkshire’s top five job interview questions to anticipate:
1. "Tell me about yourself." Don't mistake this one for an easy question. If you don't carefully prepare your answer prior to the interview, it will show. Craft a short response that gives a thumbnail sketch of you professionally. This is a great place to insert some of your sterling qualities and accomplishments, and you should make sure that they dovetail with the requirements of the position for which you are interviewing. Be positive and enthusiastic, and whatever you do, don't ramble.
2. "What are your strengths?" "Why should we hire you?" Here's a simple way to prepare. Take a sheet of paper and fold it in half vertically. On one side list all the specific technical qualities that you possess. Look at the job description and consider each skill that is mentioned. For example, if the job description mentions software skills that are required and you have those skills, go ahead and list them. In the other column, list the personal qualities that you bring to the job. These could be things like punctuality, reliability, enthusiasm, work ethic, professionalism, etc. Again, take another look at the job description and anticipate what qualities that hiring manager would be looking for. Here is your chance to sell yourself. Don't be afraid to let them know what a great addition you'll be to their company.
3. "What is your greatest weakness?" "How have you overcome it?" You have two good choices here. You can either choose a weakness that is really a strength to an employer (you become so engrossed in your work that you find it hard to take a break until the project is completed), or choose something that you had to master at the beginning of your career that would be an expected learning curve for any entry-level recent college grad (you didn't really grasp project management in your first job and you had to make a deliberate effort to learn about time lines and time management). If you choose the second example, make sure that you stress how your performance increased once you mastered the missing skill.
4. "What do you know about our company?" "How did you hear about us?" Or, "Why do you want to work for us?" These are all variations on the same theme. The real question is: Did you do your homework? Any interviewer will expect that you have researched the company. That means that you should know their website inside and out. Have you Googled the company? Have you read any recent articles about them? If the only information you have to offer is what any person off the street who isn't applying for the position knows, it shows that you don't care enough and you're not very thorough.
5. "What would your past employer tell me about you?" Again, tread carefully. Do not under any circumstances say anything negative about any past employer. Settle on a few of your strongest qualities and concentrate on those that reflect your strong work ethic and professionalism. Here is another perfect opportunity to sell yourself, but once again, be careful not to ramble.
Once you've done your research, practiced answers to commonly asked questions and become comfortable with the idea of selling yourself, remember to smile. In most interview situations, the candidate who appears to be relaxed, confident (not arrogant) and enthusiastic usually has the best chance of being hired.
For more information about The Art Institutes, visit artinstitutes.edu.
(BPT) - Sustainability is good for the environment, but did you know it’s also good for the bottom line? The headlines are filled with stories about the latest and greatest sustainability goals and projects for large corporations. But, you don’t have to be a giant company to be a green business.
Sixty-five percent of leaders at small and medium sized-businesses are committed to increasing eco-friendly activities, according to the Cox Conserves Sustainability Survey. The survey also revealed that half of small businesses believe sustainability is good for the bottom line and will become a standard practice in the next five years.
“Our research revealed that SMBs welcome the opportunity to learn more about sustainability, and there is compelling data that education can move the needle on sustainability,” says Cox Enterprises Executive Vice President Alex Taylor. “There is a correlation between the amount of sustainability knowledge business leaders reported having and their level of participation in eco-friendly programs.”
While some projects require large-scale investments, small businesses can easily become more efficient in many other ways.
Here are some quick tips that can help any sized business improve efficiency.
1. Turn off computers and other office equipment when they are not in use.
2. Lower your heater thermostat to the lowest comfortable setting when your business is occupied. Set the temperature back further when the business is unoccupied.
3. Use paper efficiently by printing double sided and using shredded scrap paper as packing materials for shipping.
4. Talk to your building manager about incorporating recycling programs, as well as energy and water-efficient appliances.
5. Offer paperless billing to reduce costs associated with materials and mailing.
Operating in an efficient manner is important, and engaging your customers and employees can also make a difference.
1. Consider teleworking as an option for employees.
2. Encourage employees to keep reusable mugs and bottles at work. Earth911 reports that the average American office worker uses 500 disposable cups every year.
3. Ask your employees for ideas on how to operate more efficiently.
4. Offer discounts to customers who bring their own bags or opt out of taking one.
5. Add a note to your email signatures with the message: Consider the environment. Please print this email only if necessary.
These easy tips can start your business on a journey toward becoming a more efficient and eco-friendly organization. The benefits start at protecting the earth and extend to enhancing the bottom line.