Lucky Iron Fish

Using Business as a Force for Good

Globally, there are over 2,500 Certified B Corporations (B Corps) from various industries, with a common goal of using business as a force for good. B Corp certification is rigorous, setting incredibly high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. We spoke to some of our B Corp friends and neighbours to understand more about why they chose to become a B Corp, and what it means to them. This is part 1 of 2.

Suzanne Siemens, Co-founder and CEO of Lunapads

Why was becoming a certified B Corporation important to you?

Being a founding Canadian B Corp was important because we wanted to be pioneers in the movement to promote sustainable business. It’s easy to say that you’re doing good for the world, but the rigorous third party B Corp assessment evaluated every aspect of our business and showed us where we could improve. The improvements have made us sharper and provided a tangible way to quantify our impact on the planet, making us more attractive to impact investors. It has also got us on the B Corp “Best for the World” list three years in a row!

How has being a B Corporation changed your supply chain?

Our supply chain was one of the first areas we saw a way to make a significant improvement. We discovered that we were using a lot of air freight as well as many different fabric suppliers. We reduced the overall number of suppliers, building more significant relationships with a few trusted partners. This made it possible for us to switch to ocean shipping, which dramatically reduced the carbon emissions in our supply chain. It also made our supply chain cheaper and more reliable - so often, the benefits of evaluating things for ecological sustainability make the overall business more financially sustainable.

What have you learned about making ethical products?

Manufacturing goods involves constant learning. We’ve recently worked to make our production processes zero waste, and that required working with our manufacturing partners to make sure that they understood their role in the upcycling process. There were some bumps, but thanks to great partners along the way, we were able to roll out zero waste products by the middle of 2017.
Why do you think B Corporations are the way of the future?
I think consumers are becoming more discerning about where and what they buy and the impact of their decisions. Knowing we live on a planet with finite resources, consumers are becoming more savvy and now have the tools to be able to research your brand and your claims. This makes transparency and authenticity key. B Corporations are held to account against the highest standards of social and environmental performance. So, as as more companies join the B Corp movement, these measures will become the new standard that all businesses will need to maintain to stay relevant and competitive.

What advice would you give to other companies thinking about becoming certified?


B Corp certification is not really just something you tick off, it’s a journey. As you move ahead with your assessment, you’ll learn things about your company that you didn’t expect to learn. When we took a workshop on trans-inclusion, it was more than a one-day learning experience. It deeply impacted our product design, marketing and human resources policies. While we are known for our progressive practices around gender inclusion, we continue to learn. So, I’d say that you need to be prepared to listen, learn and continue pushing your limits. Even great companies need to innovate, and being better isn’t about maintaining the status quo. It’s about embracing your evolution.

 

Lauren Archibald, Marketing Manager at Ethical Bean

What aspect of your business model are you most proud of?

One of the core components of being a B Corp is the commitment to transparency - every company's score is published and available online. Ethical Bean Coffee exemplifies transparency through our employee financial open-book policy, coffee origin and roasting traceability available on each unique bag of coffee, and other consumer communications. As the Marketing Manager at Ethical Bean Coffee, I’m very proud of our transparent communications since it shows that we have nothing to hide from our customers and partners. Being open and honest, even when it’s sharing more sensitive information, helps create deeper relationships and a better understanding and appreciation for when tough decisions get made.

Why should consumers support B Corporations?

It’s about simplicity. Consumers should support B Corporations because their standards are rigorous, continuously evolving, and audited. I work in the social and sustainability product space and can’t even keep up with all the standards and issues to look out for when purchasing products as an educated consumer. When you see the B Corp seal, the homework on that brand and their values is done. You can feel confident that you’re voting with your wallet for a better future on everyday purchases or perhaps the business service you may be using.

Why do you think B Corporations are the way of the future?

I love the B Corp Certification because it can apply to any industry or company size. Well... except for many publicly traded companies and large multinationals, but they’re working on that. There are so many competing social and sustainability certifications, that if we all committed to one *cough B Corp*, it would be much easier for the everyday consumer. For example, we only roast 100% Fairtrade Certified and Organic Coffee. The Fairtrade certification works really well for coffee since in order for a product to be Fairtrade certified, it needs to be grown by small scale farmers in developing countries, under the International standard. However, if you’re purchasing local beet sugar from Alberta, that can’t be Fairtrade Certified since it’s grown in Canada, perhaps supporting local makes more sense for your business than purchasing Fairtrade sugar from South America. Enter B Corp. The B Corp certification encompases purchasing and supply chain components such as local and Fairtrade. B Corp looks at all areas of an organization from the energy they use, other companies they hire, how they treat their employees and so much more. The certification is different depending on whether you’re an independent consultant, food manufacturer, or bank, so that it dives into the correct areas and scope for each business.

What advice would you give to other companies thinking about becoming certified?

If you’re thinking about becoming a B Corp, check out what other companies are already certified in your community through the “Find a B Corp” section on their website and reach out to those organizations. One of the wonderful benefits to being a B Corp is the amazing community of businesses and individuals who are open to collaboration and supporting one another. I was recently working through our re-certification and reached out to other B Corps to ask for their local purchasing policy and whistle blower policy that I could use as a template to develop ours. I’ve also collaborated with other B Corps on products, a Coffee Rye IPA with Persephone Brewing, and an influencer marketing campaign with Garden of Life. B Corps help other B Corps and we all are keen on growing the movement and each others brands since we’re all working towards the same end goal. A more sustainable and just future. So just reach out and ask for help throughout the process.
 

Michelle Reid, Sustainability Czar at Mills Office Supplies

Why was becoming a certified B Corporation important to you?

When Mills first certified, we had no idea how becoming a B Corp would so greatly impact us. Being a B Corp has given us a chance to grow and learn in so many ways, in particular with our employees and how we can support their growth and dreams. I absolutely love this community and how generous all the leaders are within in, never have I felt more supported and welcome.

How has being a B Corporation changed your supply chain?

Mills being a local company has always believed in the importance of supporting local businesses and the communities we reside in. As one of our core purchasing policies, we source local products and services first whenever we can.  Being a B Corporation has only heighten this awareness and by having control over what we are purchasing, it has given us the freedom to showcase and highlight amazing B Corp brands in our industry such as Ethical Bean Coffee and Method Cleaning Products. It also means when we are sourcing new volunteering t-shirts we want to support our fellow B Corps Fairware who create amazing swag that is ethically sourced.

What challenges have you had to overcome in order to achieve B Corporation status?

Mills has an extremely large and complex supply chain - for this reason alone certifying as a B Corp can be a very daunting task. It would be nearly impossible for us to know the footprint of all the products we carry and in the case of paper, we still have to carry white box paper to satisfy the market. It was a very difficult decision for us to make this concession and we tried for a very long time to resist. In the end, Mills has moved towards educating our customer about the impact their purchasing decisions create for our economy and the environment.

Why should consumers support B Corporations?

B Corporations are companies that are using their businesses as a force for good. They are the ones making sure their employees’ lives are better, caring for the environment and supporting their communities and suppliers. If the product and service provided are great - the question is why wouldn't you want to support a company like this? The truth is, to have these initiatives comes with a cost, a valuable cost - our product may not be the cheapest on the market nor should it be - being a sustainable company has value. 

What advice would you give to other companies thinking about becoming certified?

Take the first step and measure where you are currently at and do not become discouraged once you discover your company’s "opportunities". Look at these opportunities as gifts and ways to grow your culture. You may discover something that can change your employees’ lives, you may discover an action that can create a huge environmental benefit. I can guarantee you that if you truly embrace the journey, you will not be sorry and you will be changed - becoming certified was the pivoting point for us as a company and for myself professionally. Single Best Business Decision Ever.  

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