We were honored to attend the B Corp Champions Retreat 2018: Building the B Economy in New Orleans in September. The Champions Retreat is an annual event that gathers leaders of the B Corp movement to discuss ways to improve and promote positive change. This year’s retreat included over 500 attendees from 375 companies, including Certified B Corps, future B Corps, Benefit Corporations, B Analytics Partners, Academics and other social impact organizations. These companies ranged from small, single-person entities to large, multinational corporations.
WHAT IS A B CORP, AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?
The B Corp movement has a mission to use “business as a force for good” and has inspired Wordbank for many years. Certified B Corps are for-profit companies that meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Certification is verified by B Lab, a non-profit that developed the B Impact Assessment. This measures a company’s impact on workers, customers, suppliers, the community and the environment. More than 2,600 certified B Corps span the globe in 60+ countries with a further 50,000 working through the assessment. Despite their status, all these companies are dedicated to a common purpose.
We first heard of the B Corp movement 8 years ago, and we thought, “we have to do this.” Many of the values that B Corps stand for – providing a supportive company culture for people, being sustainable in the way we do business and impacting the world on a larger scale beyond our company – seemed natural to us. While we hadn’t yet formalized our programs and objectives around these values, we still made a commitment not just to become B Corp certified but also to hold ourselves accountable for putting our words into action.
We started the B Impact Assessment in 2014, unsure of what to expect but confident we had the DNA and determination to make the grade. The assessment itself was a beast of roughly 1,500 questions that delved into extensive details of our business but provided a useful framework for holding ourselves accountable.
A small team of dedicated Wordbankers focused on the goal to meet every two weeks to slowly chip away at the assessment, while simultaneously creating and documenting the formal programs we needed to put in place. We attended B Lab assessment boot camps and B Corp events in the community to gain insight from companies that had previously been through the process. We’ve been through five versions of the assessment software and put several new formalized standards in place to support our people, such as a Volunteer Time Off program, a more robust environmental philosophy, training and guidelines around parental leave and return-to-work options for new parents, to name a few. We also formalized reporting on our B Corp impact and set targets and objectives for improvement.
In May, we were thrilled to be chosen as a 2018 Best for Colorado honoree. And we were later invited to attend the 2018 B Corp Champions Retreat, which moved us even closer to our goal.
Top right: Guest speaker Stephen DeBerry (Bronze Investments). Middle left: Wordbankers Michelle Miller (Director of People & Culture, left) and Lindsay Johnson (CEO, Managing Director, right). Center: Fellow Coloradans Rebecca Colgate (CauseLabs, B Local Colorado Board Member), Lora Ledermann (Scream Agency) and Liz Swanson (Best for Colorado, B Lab).
THE B CORP CHAMPIONS RETREAT AND THE B ECONOMY
The theme of the conference this year was the B Economy. This is “built by everyone who works for, buys from, invests in, learns or teaches about, or supports businesses striving to create a shared and durable prosperity for all.” It’s about creating an economy that’s inclusive and works for everyone, for the long term. It means working with leaders across all sectors of society to build a global movement of people who are using business as a force for good.
Sessions included the personal/individual level, the company/organization level and the broader movement and community. Some topics included “How to be an Anti-Racist Company,” “Can You Measure Belonging?” and “Equity as a Growth Strategy.”
Below were our biggest takeaways from the retreat on how to progress the movement:
- EQUITY, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION ARE KEY
One of the biggest goals of the B Corp community, as quoted from B Lab, is to be more inclusive. So the movement includes not just Certified B Corps, but any company working through the B Impact Assessment, Benefit Corporations and Global Partner Network members. As an aspiring B Corp, we were inspired by this mindset of inclusivity.
B Lab was open about its own struggles with equity, diversity and inclusion and how they are now measuring and emphasizing this struggle. They spoke about creating opportunities for people to bring their whole selves to work and to voice their stories.
B Lab’s Inclusive Economy Challenge is a call to action for Certified B Corps to improve their impact around equity, diversity and inclusion.
- STORIES ARE IMPACTFUL
The retreat was filled with inspiring stories, both from individuals and companies using “business as a force for good,” such as Rhino Foods’s Income Advance program and Patagonia’s commitment to the Time to Vote campaign. These companies are going above and beyond to drive change in their companies and communities. Check out more stories of companies that are doing good at the B the Change blog.
- BUILD CONNECTIONS TO LOCAL COMMUNITIES
It turns out that Colorado has one of the highest concentrations of Certified B Corps in the world, and the B Local Colorado chapter is very well established as a result. Since the start of our B Corp journey, we’ve been welcomed at events, and other B Corps in our community have been eager to help us in any way possible. While we recognized this was a great local community, we didn’t realize how unique it was until we spoke with others around the country who don’t have the level of local resources that we do in Denver.
B Local Colorado has been helpful for us, especially with its B of Service volunteering days at local non-profits throughout the Denver/Boulder area. This program has given us a way to increase our company volunteering hours by providing monthly volunteer opportunities. As such, we’ve already surpassed our volunteering hours goal for this year and are excited to continue our work.
WHAT’S NEXT ON OUR B CORP JOURNEY?
We came back from the retreat, recharged and motivated to push ourselves, both for our company and for the larger B Corp movement. Some key actions include:
- Commitment to achieving B Corp Certification by 2019. We just surpassed the minimum score of 80 on the B Impact Assessment and submitted our assessment for review. We are thrilled to reach this milestone after four years of working toward this goal and are eager to achieve our certification. Stay tuned!
- Expand community involvement through B Local Colorado B of Service days. Through these volunteer opportunities, we continue to seek new ways to engage with the B Local Colorado community.
- Empower our people around B Corp values. We will increase our people’s awareness on key areas from the conference with training programs on equity, diversity, inclusion, communication coaching and other life skills.
- Encourage voter participation. We recently kicked off our support of the Time to Vote campaign and are aiming for 100% Wordbanker voter turnout for the upcoming November 6 elections. This has included voter registration help and resources related to the voting process and ballot initiatives.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
We’ve talked about what we’re doing, but what can other companies or individuals do to join this movement?
- Take either the quick or full B Impact Assessment for your own company and work toward certification. Need help? We’d love to share more of our story and help you navigate the assessment.
- Support Certified B Corps with your everyday purchases, where you choose to work and who you choose to do business with.
We’d like to leave you with this powerful quote from Impact Hub Oakland’s David Jackson, one of the conference speakers who inspired us to keep reaching:
“B’s are disruptors. B courageous. B intentional. B radical. B collaborative. B loving. Do something. Do something. Do something.”