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B Corp Champions Retreat

November 19, 2015 by Posted in: B-Corporation

Annually, the B Corp community comes together for a global gathering called the B Corp Champions Retreat. I attended the 2015 Retreat on behalf of Amavida Coffee and now it is my pleasure to share the experience with you.

The B Corp Champions Retreat began in Portland, Oregon on October 13th. From there we were bussed to Stevenson, Washington. This bus ride was an incredible first impression of what was to come!

Out of four buses headed to three hotels, I was on the bus destined for the Best Western on the Colombia River, riding with sixteen fellow members of the B Corp Community. The first sixteen people I encountered worked in completely different industries and represented at least seven countries (B Lab Australia, B Lab UK, and System B: Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, to name a few).

Forty-five minutes and a few friends later, we arrived to the hotel with just enough time to rest and freshen up before heading to the Welcoming Ceremony where we would join the entire assembly of Bs at the Skamania Lodge. The collective 400 attendees were representing 260 different B Corps from 14 countries and 27 states.

There, we were greeted by gorgeous mountain views and B Lab co-founders Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan, and Andrew Kassoy. The three kicked off the 7th Annual B Corp Champions Retreat with an expression of gratitude and excitement for the good work performed through B Corp companies. Then, they reminded us why we were all there…

We were there to “make connections, to share practices, to address challenges, to discover solutions, and to begin building bridges to a new economy.”

The next days were full of learning about goals of the collective B Corp community.

“One day all companies will measure and manage their impact with the same rigor as they do their profits. And compete to be the best for the world.”

What does it mean to be the best for the world? It means we need to strive to be the top 10% of businesses with the highest scores on the B Corp Impact Assessment, proving to have met the highest standards of accountability, transparency, and purpose. These companies are considered the Best for the World. They are not just meeting performance standards, but setting them.

Ultimately, B Corps seek to create inclusive, quality jobs so that employees may have a positive impact in their communities and serve as stewards of the environment. Two paths were discussed which lead to the desired destination, “where society enjoys a shared and durable prosperity.”

Whether a company has been driven by purpose since day one or would like to begin working to create positive outcomes through their operations today, mission alignment is the way. Working to earn a B Corp Certification and/or going a step further and adopting Benefit Corporation status in articles of incorporation knits the values of the company into the legal DNA, gives protection and permission to consider non-financial stakeholders, and ensures the mission can survive over time. Mission alignment is not new, but the option of a legal commitment is.

While mission alignment assures a commitment to strive to meet the high standards set, measuring what matters with the B Impact Assessment (BIA) helps companies to gauge their social and environmental performance overall. The assessment varies depending on the company’s size (number of employees), sector, and location of primary operation. This is accessible to all businesses. The standards of excellence boil down to the same five core categories: governance structure, employee engagement, community involvement, environmental impacts, and business model. The Impact Assessment asks over 200 questions regarding best practices and gives any business who uses it a chance to see where they are doing well and where there is a chance to improve. This makes the BIA an invaluable tool to realizing where a business stands in relation to the highest performing companies in the world, and to discover and set strategic goals for impactful improvements.

By inviting others who are striving to create benefit to their stakeholders, we can help achieve the goal to grow the community of people using business as a force for good. How do we invite other companies to compete to be the best for the world? There are several ways! A favorite example is that New York City recently launched a campaign challenging local companies to use the BIA and will reward top scorers with the well-earned title, “Best for NYC”. Over 200 companies have participated so far.

Imagine over 200 companies in the Florida Panhandle challenging each other to see who engages their employees best, creates the most opportunities, gives back most in their communities, and reduces the most waste. I’d sure like to see that!

Building culture and communicating impact through storytelling were both topics of conversation highlighted at the retreat and an ongoing activity between attendees. Sharing Amavida Coffee’s mission, beliefs and values (often connecting to my own beliefs and values), listening to and embracing the experiences of others is one of the most effective ways to engage companies, consumers, and community members to “B involved in the B the Change movement.” We all have different needs, we live in different locales, we work in different industries, yet a similar vision and goal unities us. Relating through our differences strengthens our ability to achieve the common goal and redefine success in business to go beyond financial success and include social, economic, and environmental prosperity.

The coffee industry offers a prime example of this. In fact, the first full B Corp supply chain was announced at the B Corp Champions Retreat. From coffee producers in Rwanda, to the importers at Sustainable Harvest, to roasting of the beans at Equator Coffees, and B Line delivering them by bike to New Seasons Market, there is full transparency from seed to cup. I encourage you to watch this inspiring talk from David Griswold with Sustainable Harvest where he tells his own story, a journey that started with a question. Stories explain why we are, why we do what we do, and how we can help… This is how we grow the community, connect to other likeminded people, and help businesses create meaningful change.

Between the bus ride and the Welcoming Ceremony, the B Corp Champions Retreat began making connections and celebrating the ways we’ve worked to B the Change. This lead into two full days of mission alignment, measuring what matters, leadership development, culture building, and discovering answers to questions that will carry the movement forward, “What bridges do you build?”

Personally, I want to build a bridge to connect companies within my home community, within Amavida Coffee’s supply chain, to show how this movement can add value to our businesses and develop a culture in our community geared towards interdependence and sustainability. We should want more businesses to be like B Corps, because we all benefit through better jobs, more opportunities, healthier communities, sustainable supply chains, and enjoyable environments.

Jennifer Griffin, Project Coordinator