Certified Strong: How Employee Involvement Empowers B Corps and Their Communities
By Creating Internal B Corp Champions, Companies Make Powerful Connections with Workers and Customers
Whether businesses are new to the Certified B Corporation community or longtime members, they know it’s vital for workers to understand the certification process and how it aligns with their everyday work and the company’s broader mission. Many B Corps have long been champions of the environment and their communities, but certification reinforces the importance of that work for the long term and codifies it in their operations.
By engaging more workers with the significance of certification and creating more champions of business as a force for good, B Corps strengthen employee involvement and engagement and attract customers who look for purpose-driven companies — two factors that also have been shown to contribute to a stronger bottom line. When employees are more connected with B Corp values and benefits, they are more likely to share that message with customers, friends and workers at other businesses.
B the Change recently reached out to two B Corps that build employee involvement around certification, survey workers to gauge their satisfaction and glean new ideas, and set up their businesses and communities for future growth and social impact.
Stash Tea employees participate in a beach cleanup event near the company’s Portland, Oregon, headquarters. (Photo courtesy Stash Tea)
Make It Relatable for Employees
As a newer B Corp, certified in September 2017, Stash Tea continues to build knowledge among its 50 employees on what certification means for them, the business, its customers and its community. The Portland, Oregon-based company creates all-natural teas for customers around the world while also working to protect the planet’s future. Founded in 1972, Stash Tea partners with farmers and suppliers who keep the planet in mind by producing non-GMO products and following sustainable practices.
“Since certification, we’ve worked to communicate to employees what B Corp was and how it lined up with Stash Tea as a company,” says Sarah Snyder, R&D and program management specialist at Stash Tea. “Because certifications can be daunting or intimidating, it was important to make it relatable to the employees.”
By breaking down B Corp certification into its components — community, customers, environment, governance and workers — Stash Tea aims to show employees how it aligns with their everyday work tasks and the company’s mission, Snyder says.
“It became apparent that we needed to make it movement-based,” says Snyder, who helps facilitate the company’s B Corp efforts with Carla Marchese, Stash Tea brand manager.
To build B Corp knowledge and engagement among more employees, Stash Tea launched “lunch and learn” sessions that are open and accessible to everyone in the company.
“We were trying to communicate what was a B Corp to employees who often don’t have time to read or understand how it impacts them on a daily basis,” Marchese says. “The lunch and learn was really key to have everyone from the company together and get their attention and answer their questions in case they were wondering how it applies to their work.”
“That’s something we’re definitely working on, to help employees understand what it means to be a B Corp,” Marchese adds. “It’s not just the big initiatives but also the small ones that can make a difference. B Corp is very important to what we’re doing — to be better not only from the outside but also from the inside.”
Community outreach for Stash Tea includes events with yoga and other wellness activities. (Photo courtesy Stash Tea)
Enhancing Employee Involvement
In addition to building awareness of what it means to be a B Corp, Stash Tea is building its internal team that works on the B Impact Assessment and other elements of certification.
“We identified a need for a broader team. We saw that it would be beneficial to have other people from the company speaking up and sharing their ideas so it becomes a movement that everyone in the company is a part of,” Marchese says.
The team that originally had four workers now has grown to 11 members — a “diverse range of employees” drawn from different departments, Snyder says — who meet at least monthly. Stash Tea is establishing a subcommittee structure so some team members can focus on specific areas of the B Corp Assessment, such as community or environmental initiatives.
Stash Tea employees participated in a community tree planting event. (Photo courtesy Stash Tea)
“It gives them a clear area of ownership, engagement and commitment,” Snyder says.
To prioritize the company’s B Corp goals, Stash Tea evaluated the B Impact Assessment to determine which areas would be easier to achieve and which would take more time to address, Marchese says.
“This helped us put together a game plan: short-term, mid-term and long-term,” she says. “Some things are not so easy for us to change. So by having this game plan we can address the short-term things sooner and keep in mind the mid- and long-term goals that are being addressed as well but not as urgently.”
Marchese adds: “Otherwise it might be a bit overwhelming to focus on everything at once. It’s a good way to tackle it without making the team panic — seems like less of a daunting task.”
Surveying for Data — and Priorities
Since completing its first B Impact Assessment, Stash Tea initiated an employee survey to better understand workers’ thoughts and needs, Marchese says.
“The employee survey we implemented last year gave us good feedback about things we could change and things that were important to the employees. It’s also good for the executive team to have numbers,” she says. “Some things we might already know, but when you see the numbers of what things people would value you see it’s important to them. It gives us a new perspective on what’s urgent and needed.”
“B Corp really is a movement that needs to be built into your values and principles.”
Snyder says Stash Tea’s B Corp certification serves as “a clear way to have standards to measure ourselves against.” And by engaging employees in the certification process, she says, they become more engaged and see the “payoff” of being a B Corp.
Stash Tea also can benefit from the strong local B Corp community in Portland, Oregon.
“We’re fortunate to be in Portland because B Corps here are thriving,” says Snyder, who notes that after employee education, Stash Tea will shift its focus more toward external reach and collaborations with other B Corps.
“B Corp is unlike typical certifications — it’s not just collecting documents,” Snyder says. “B Corp really is a movement that needs to be built into your values and principles.”
As Canada’s only bank dedicated to entrepreneurs, BDC offers informational sessions about B Corps to share the benefits and build the B Corp community. (Photo courtesy BDC)
An Entrepreneurial Mindset at BDC
Beyond its status as a B Corp, BDC has long been a leader in building awareness and knowledge of businesses that redefine success beyond profit. In becoming Canada’s first B Corp bank when it certified in 2013, BDC promotes purpose-driven business practices among its entrepreneur customers and the 2,200 workers who support them through financial, capital and advisory services. BDC is the only bank in Canada exclusively dedicated to entrepreneurs.
BDC’s internal B Corp Team has been around since before the bank gained certification. The team has grown to nearly 50 members who are pulled from departments throughout the bank. They share what it means to be a B Corp with BDC colleagues, clients, and prospects through their work with entrepreneurs. The BDC diversity and inclusion and procurement teams have helped the B Corp Team work toward goals and contribute information to the Inclusive Economy Challenge.
“BDC is thrilled to have such an engaged team that understand the value of integrating purpose and impact into all business models,” says Carla Heim, senior advisor for social entrepreneurship at BDC.
To further spread the B Corp message among entrepreneurs, BDC created a series of podcasts with leaders of purpose-driven Canadian businesses, including B Corps Fiasco Gelato, Gladstone Hotel and Chandos Construction.
BDC also offers outreach events that include basic information on B Corps at its locations across Canada, and workers participate in B Local group activities in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
“We have a very supportive team in our Prairie provinces, and because of their commitment we will be launching a B Local Alberta this fall,” Heim says. “They were trained to deliver B Corp 101 presentations and actively seek opportunities to speak. This has provided more opportunities to share the B Impact Assessment with entrepreneurs.”
The B Corp Team at BDC takes community engagement to new levels by communicating the meaning of B Corp certification to customers and workers, and encouraging more businesses to join the B Economy.