The Value Of B Corporation Certification – Q&A with Anne Sherman, Director Sustainability, Staach

B Corps are for-profit organizations certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Today, there is a growing community of more than 1,000 Certified B Corps from 33 countries and over 60 industries working together to redefine success in business.

Anne ShermanAnne Sherman led Staach through the B Corporation certification process and is a passionate advocate for the value it can bring to a company’s culture and brand. We caught up with Anne to find out what inspired her to get involved with the B Corp movement and the benefits and challenges of becoming certified.

When did you first become interested in sustainability?
I’ve been interested in environmental sustainability my whole life. My father worked on early environmental sustainability efforts in the 70s and so I was always conscious of environmental issues and the importance of protecting the planet.

How did you find out about the B Corporation Movement?
I did a Masters in Sustainable Design at Philadelphia University and learnt about many of the different sustainability certifications as part of my course. Philadelphia is where the B CorpStaach Furn @ BCorp Booth_Expo West movement first started so I had the opportunity to interact with a number of certified companies and see the value they got from improving their social and environmental impacts and being part of a community working together towards a shared goal.

I was also lucky to have the support and inspiration of my professor, Rob Fleming, who I worked with to develop Quadruple Bottom Line, defining Experience – particularly those which contribute to the improvement of the human condition – as the fourth ‘bottom line’ necessary to establish a lasting form of sustainability. I adapted it for use in business, but the concept is adaptable and is also described in Rob Fleming’s recent book Design Education for a Sustainable Future.

Anne and Seth

Anne and Seth hosting an event at the Staach office in 2014

What motivated you to pursue a career at Staach
The founder of Staach, Seth Eshelman, and I were undergraduates together at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He founded Staach in his senior year and I worked closely with him as he brought his vision to life. I guess I have always had an emotional connection with the company and hoped to find the right opportunity to work there. I reconnected with Seth when I used Staach as an example for the Quadruple Bottom Line tool that I worked on at Graduate School. As part of this process, I identified key opportunities for the company and made the case for a Director of Sustainability, which then became my role.

Why did you decide to pursue FSC and B Corporation Certification for Staach?
From the beginning, Staach only sourced FSC materials but it never formalized these efforts through certification. Becoming FSC certified is not easy and requires companies to go through an intensive audit each year – there really needs to be someone to manage the process. What’s more, between audits, there is lots of training required to ensure that materials are handled and stored in the right way throughout the company’s operations. The benefit is maintaining credible third party standards for our procedures to assure an unbroken chain of custody, as well as being able to use the FSC label on our products, which is really important for effectively marketing our products.

The B Corp certification is more comprehensive as it looks at both social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Staach was in a fortunate position in that the company was already going above and beyond in a number of areas to address its environmental and social impacts. However, the certification provided us with the third party credibility to talk about our efforts and to differentiate us from our competitors. It also provided us with the framework and data to evaluate and improve our performance and an opportunity to strengthen our role as advocates for responsible business.

Do you get support from B Lab and the B Corporation community?
The B Lab team provides a great deal of support to companies going through the certification process. They are more than willing to help answer your questions and they also accept and appreciate feedback to improve the process.

One of the biggest benefits of being a B Corp is the community. There are working groups and annual retreats where B Corps come together to collaborate and answer the big

Anne with NY B Corporation Community

Anne with NY B Corporation Community

questions. It isn’t easy to make radical changes in a company so it is invaluable to have a network of like-minded individuals who support and question your ideas and actions. You don’t have to participate in the B Corp community to be certified but, in my opinion, staying engaged helps you get the most value.

Does the work stop once you are a certified B Corporation?
The certification process is just the beginning. After Staach was certified, I went back and highlighted areas where are scores were lower, taking into account the weighting they were given by B Lab and how this compared to Staach’s priorities. Then I separated these questions into three categories: “easy wins,” “medium-term aims” and “longer-term thinking.” This process informed the development of Staach’s sustainability program and helped us identify what more we could be doing. First, we tackled the “easy wins,” while also considering the “medium-term aims” and “longer-term thinking” as part of our ongoing business decisions.

I know a number of other companies that have leveraged the certification results as a roadmap to drive continuous improvement.

The roadmap I created also enables me to project future B Corp certification scores. It’s not an exact science as the certification changes slightly; however, I’m looking forward to seeing how close I got!

What has been the impact of becoming a B Corporation on the Staach’s culture and its brand?
It’s definitely a value add  – both for the company’s culture and brand. Staach scored in the top 10% of B Corps and was awarded ‘Best in the Environment’ by B Lab. This external recognition of our efforts boosts morale internally and is hugely motivating for the whole Staach team.

It has also helped us gain visibility with potential customers. One customer recently told us that, for them, the fact that we source our materials locally was the reason they chose Staach over competitor brands. Having the B Corporation certification provides us with a robust, transparent and increasingly recognized means of verifying the sustainability claims we are making.

Staach Bulletin Board with B Corporation certification in pride of place

Staach Bulletin Board with B Corporation certification in pride of place

What advice would you give to those looking for a career with a positive social or environmental impact?
You don’t need to work for B Corp or a company with strong sustainability credentials to make a difference. Many companies that are not already thinking or talking about sustainability will be motivated to change if their employees really care about it. Be an intrapreneur, work from the inside out, identify influencers in the company and pay attention so that when the opportunity arrives you are prepared.

Education is important and my academic qualifications have really helped me; however, nothing rivals working on the ground and getting real-world experience.

Also, seek out mentors to help you be the best you can be. Organizations like Net Impact Boston enable you to meet like-minded professionals and potential mentors to guide you on your journey.

Which companies do you most admire?
I am inspired by so many members of the B Corp and broader sustainability community, in particular, the companies and non-profit organizations that collaborate and take risks.

  • International Living Future Institute: I am always inspired by this non-profit’s work as it is so comprehensive and Greg Norris and his team are not afraid to go where others won’t. In particular, I love the “Living Building Challenge” and “Living Product Challenge” (due to launch this year), which measure sustainability alongside beauty and happiness and yet are grounded in research and data.
  • Patagonia: in my opinion, this company leads the way in terms of corporate sustainability. Its efforts to reduce consumption have become integral to the business without compromising its success – in fact, that’s what many consumers love about the brand.
  • Beneficial State Bank: The work that Beneficial State Bank is doing is hugely important as the financial sector, on the whole, has been very slow to join the sustainability movement. I met one employee, who had been on the verge of quitting her job in finance until she got a position at Beneficial State Bank and was able to combine her passion for finance with her values. Check out this video of Kat Taylor’s B Inspired talk at the 2014 retreat.
  • New Belgium: this is a great example of an employee-owned company that is leading the brewing industry with its sustainability efforts.

Check out B Inspired talks to find out more about the amazing innovation within the B Corp Community. If your company is considering B Corporation certification, check out the free Quick Assessment, which enables you to take the assessment for a test drive.

Give Back at This Year’s Boston Marathon with Preserve and Stonyfield

Boston Marathon Recycling

For over a decade, Stonyfield has partnered with Preserve Gimme 5 to recycle millions of yogurt cups into new products – like the Preserve toothbrush. Today, as the official yogurt of the Boston Marathon, Stonyfield is working with Preserve Gimme 5 to recycle yogurt cup samples at the Boston Marathon.

Marathons and other sporting events often create a tremendous amount of waste due to the lack of infrastructure and logistical constraints. Given the generous amount of Stonyfield yogurt cups sampled, it is important to do our part to recycle at this renown event. As a recycling partner, Preserve works with Stonyfield to make sure every yogurt cup that wants to be recycled finds a home in a Gimme 5 bin.

Seeking Recycling VolunteersApply here! 

Preserve is looking for 30 individuals to come enjoy a glorious day in April cheering for the runners at the Boston Marathon and working with Preserve and Stonyfield to collect and recycle Stonyfield yogurt cups from the crowd.

  • When: 8am-4pm on Monday, April 20th
  • Where: We will need volunteers to help out at 4 locations from Natick to Boston. Each location will have a Preserve Team Leader to guide you throughout the day. We will be asking that you take public transportation to the event.
    • Natick Town Common 9 mi
    • Wellesley Whole Foods 13 mi
    • Newton Heart Break Hill 20 mi
    • Finish Stuart St
  • Preparation: Preserve will host a webinar in early April to go over the logistics for the day.

What do you get for volunteering?

  • T-Shirts: We will be giving each volunteer a t-shirt to represent Preserve on the day of the Marathon, and to keep as a memento.
  • Discount: Each volunteer will get an exclusive 50% off discount code to use on Preserve’s website toward our stylish, eco-friendly products.
  • Good company and a fun time recycling yogurt cups: Enough said!

How to volunteer: Apply here! 

Have questions? Email us at gimme5@preserveproducts.com

NIB Q&A: Maureen Lederhos, Director of Marketing, Two Ten Footwear Foundation

Maureen Lederhos, Director of Marketing, Two Ten Footwear  Foundation, will be participating in the “Cause Marketing: Do well by Doing Good” panel at the 2015 Net Impact Boston Career Summit on February 27.

Maureen LederhosMaureen Lederhos is a marketing communications strategist with extensive experience creating and managing content to build brand relationships. As the director of marketing for Two Ten Footwear Foundation, Maureen’s focus is on increasing awareness of the Foundation and the important work it does. Sign up today for the opportunity to join the discussion.

What inspired you to pursue a career with positive social or environmental impact?
After years of punching a clock within the technology sector on the west coast – I found myself wanting to connect with more than just a tag line about widgets – or simply the bottom line. After 9/11, my decision to exit technology was made much easier by the simple fact that most of my network began wearing sweatpants as they, too were displaced. California dreaming. I moved back east and landed a great job with Babson College. It was there that I began to understand the triple bottom line; people, planet and profit. My work with Babson provided me with a wonderful perspective of what it means to give back. Working with students to create a difference in the lives of others opened my eyes and led me to where I am now.

What’s the most interesting/most challenging aspect of your job?
I am fascinated by the compassion of the footwear industry – or perhaps better phrased, the footwear community. Many of the companies that occupy the domestic footwear market are either exploring, launching or fully embracing philanthropy as part of their individual missions. Associates understand the importance of giving back and that charity begins at home in the communities where they live and work. Now in its third year, Two Ten’s Footwear Cares program provides a variety of volunteer experiences for the footwear community – to enable shoe people to make a difference within their communities. During the month of April, over 6,500 volunteers from more than 100 companies will come together to participate in Footwear Cares. Remember, these companies compete for shelf space during the day but Two Ten – the industry’s charitable nonprofit – is able to bring them all together to volunteer side-by-side with nonprofits across the country. While the community service projects will vary, they will all focus on one unique goal: getting people back on their feet. It’s a huge job to organize Footwear Cares, but I’m so proud of what our industry, our community, does when it unites around cause.

What advice would you give to those looking for a career with a positive social or environmental impact?
It’s important to find your passion and pursue it – with energy and purpose. Love what you do – because in many cases, you’re always pitching your cause. It is becoming easier and easier to “sell the benefits” of establishing and maintaining corporate social responsibility.

The theme for the Career Summit 2015 is ‘Impact Across Industries’ – do you think it is important for different industries and sectors to come together to tackle social and environmental issues and why?
I do think it’s important to work cross-industry and cross-function to talk about needed change. Different industries have different challenges, however there is common ground. I believe in the value of collaboration.

Sign up today for the Career Summit on February 27 and prepare to be inspired!