Advice From the B Lab Team on Making the Most of the Inclusive Economy Challenge
When setting goals to achieve change on any level for any project, we can easily set our sights too high—ignoring the foundational work we need to accomplish first—or set our bar too low, ensuring quick success but limiting any meaningful progress. Somewhere in the middle is the sweet spot — we must start where we are, but not be afraid to stretch ourselves.
For the annual B Corp Inclusive Economy Challenge, participants are asked at the outset to set at least three goals for their companies to work on achieving over the course of the year. Participants are provided with a metric set to help them reach their goals.
We sought guidance for participants on how to set the best goals by asking members of the B Lab team who have worked on the Inclusive Economy Challenge (IEC) in different capacities. (See their short bios at the end of this post).
Some of their key takeaways? The metric set should be used as guidance, not as set-in-stone doctrine; useful tools to set clear goals that drive meaningful action and make the biggest impact; and that the ways you source and communicate about the goals is just as important as the goals themselves.
What factors went into creating the Inclusive Economy Metric Set? How, if at all, is it unique?
Dan Osusky: The choice of questions added to the IEC Metric Set was intended to accomplish several things:
First, it was designed to be holistic — the content of the metric set was intended to broadly reflect what we envision an inclusive economy being, as well as the broad range of practices that a company could adopt to contribute to an inclusive economy. Second, it was designed to be action-oriented and applicable to many types of companies, no matter where businesses are in their journey to creating an inclusive economy. The purpose of the metric set is to offer a menu of concrete options that would directly contribute to creating an inclusive economy.
We know the metric set is not perfect. Since launch of the IEC, we have revised the metric set. With support from participants and inclusion experts, these improvements have included developing new questions related to inclusive hiring and workplace practices. These will be included in the full B Impact Assessment beginning with Version 6, launching in January 2018. We know there’s always more room to improve, and feedback is always welcome.
What are best practices for setting clear goals, strong goals?
Liz Fernandes: A framework I recently learned from the Management Center at the Facing Race Conference is setting SMARTIE goals. It takes a tried-and-true method of SMART (Strategic, Measurable, Ambitious, Realistic and Timebound) goals, and adds an inclusion and equity lens (that’s the I and E). That means:
Inclusive — Brings traditionally marginalized people — particularly those most impacted — into processes, activities, and decision/policy-making in a way that shares power.
Equitable — Includes an element of fairness or justice that seeks to address systemic injustice, inequity, or oppression.
Here is an example of SMARTIE goals set by Fiasco Gelato of Calgary, Alberta, in the 2018 Challenge:
- Pay 100 percent of employees at or above a living wage.
- Make all part-time employees who work at least 20 hours per week eligible for health care benefits.
- Achieve 10 percent of company ownership by non-executive employees.
- Convert 50 percent of the facility’s energy use to low-impact renewable energy.
The goals are specific and measurable (e.g. 100 percent, not “some employees”); ambitious (inclusive of higher impact questions including living wage, worker ownership, and health care for part-time workers) yet realistic, timebound (all goals should be achievable within the program timeline) and equitable. Hopefully, Fiasco used our helpful guides to build an diverse and representative IEC team and set their goals in an inclusive way, too.
Are some of the metrics in the IEC Metric Set “better” than others?
Jocelyn Corbett: The IEC includes a breadth of metrics, so achieving goals associated with some of the metrics will have a more significant impact than others. However, a core tenet of this program is the acknowledgment that “not all EDI work is created equal, but we must start where we are.” Put another way, doing the foundational work might be necessary before tackling the more immediately impactful practices.
That said, the metrics that make the most meaningful impact for all individuals, and especially those from marginalized populations, are:
- Living wage
- Flexible scheduling for hourly workers
- Health care for part-time workers
- Financial services for workers
- Worker ownership
- Supplier low-income job creation
- Primary caregiver leave
- Inclusive hiring practices: especially the answer option “Company does not ask about incarceration history during application process”
- Management of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: especially the answer option “Company has conducted a pay equity analysis by gender, race/ethnicity, and/or other demographic factors and, if necessary, implemented equal compensation improvement plans or policies”
Care to know why these metrics are more impactful than others? Read our “impact case” for these metrics.
With equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work, there are some pitfalls around goal setting that can actually reward negative action. What should folks avoid when setting goals related to EDI?
Jessica Friesen: Tokenism! You want to lead an inclusive process, but make sure that people are opting into contributing their perspective. Not every person who is queer or a person of color or a woman or a person who is differently abled on your team will want to provide their lived experience as expertise — and no one person can speak for an entire group. Open up opportunities for contribution broadly and start with people who have already volunteered for being engaged with these topics, such as your Diversity and Inclusion Committee or Employee Resource Groups if you have them. When you are asking people to create emotional investments based on their lived experience think through — and ask — how you can compensate them for their time and work.
Speed can really undermine equity, so give yourself time, a clear project plan, and make sure that you’re resourcing this effort. This doesn’t mean that all decisions need to come via consensus (try approaches related to consent) or that you need to wait until you have a full-time staff member, but, like most things, the amount you put into it is what you’ll get out of it.
Can you explain why “equity is achieved by process”? How might that apply to IEC goal-setting?
Friesen: Through our equity, diversity and inclusion journey at B Lab, we’ve learned that how our IEC goals are set directly impacts the metrics that are selected, the buy-in for any decision that is made, and the effectiveness of actually implementing changes. Whether it’s our staff or community members, the depth of our impact is directly correlated to creating an equitable and inclusive process. Implementing a useful staff EDI training requires knowing our shortcomings in building an inclusive culture as well as what people want to learn about. Deciding the financial tradeoffs between more robust health care benefits or higher wages is more informed by understanding what’s important to our team.
When developing your metric-setting process, think through the roles and positions that are represented, the demographics of the people involved in the process, and who might need to be heard via a survey or focus group. (Read how valuable a survey was to B Lab in our IEC work.) Then think through the process itself: Can you circulate the content ahead of time to allow individuals to process and think through their contributions in advance? How can you facilitate meetings to ensure that all voices are heard?
In the case of setting your IEC metrics, not walking the talk with how you move forward can cost you later on.
Anything else you’d like to share with our awesome 2019 IEC participants?
Osusky: When working on any type of metric set like this, it’s easy to adopt a mindset that focuses too much on the metrics themselves. It’s important to recognize that these metrics are intended to provide a framework for identifying and tracking your improvements, but aren’t themselves the end all, be all. Otherwise, you’ll only achieve marginal, real improvements (if that) and be limited in your ability to identify innovative solutions that are relevant and specific to your own circumstances. I like to think of this work as kind of like one of those 3D hidden picture books — if you stare too hard at the image you won’t see anything. Instead, you need to focus deeply but also broaden your vision, and then you’ll see the spaceship.
Jocelyn Corbett: Senior Community Service Associate, Community Engagement and Inclusive Economy Challenge Lead. Corbett directs the Inclusive Economy Challenge and is a main contact for B Local teams as well as IEC participants.
Liz Fernandes: Inclusive Economy Challenge Senior Associate. Fernandes has spent a big portion of her time supporting B Lab’s Income Advance work in partnership with Rhino Foods Foundation and designing peer-learning experiences through the Challenge.
Jessica Friesen: Director of Operations & Strategy, Chair of B Lab’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Friesen supports the EDI Committee in setting and achieving goals that create greater equity, diversity and inclusion within B Lab, its governing bodies, and its external-facing work like the B Impact Assessment and our standards.
Dan Osusky: Director of Standards Management. Osusky oversees B Lab’s standards — the content in the B Impact Assessment all B Corps take to become certified — including the Inclusive Economy Challenge Metric Set.