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What’s ahead for St. Petersburg’s sustainability and resiliency work in 2020

By Business, Community

Five years after it was created, St. Petersburg’s Office of Sustainability & Resiliency isn’t slowing down.

Reduced greenhouse gas emissions, solar co-ops and equity investments are among the projects on the drawing board for 2020, Sharon Wright, sustainability director, said at a Jan. 30 City Council committee meeting. So is meeting the commitments of the American Cities Climate Challenge, the Bloomberg Philanthropies-backed initiative to tackle climate change and promote a sustainable future.

St. Petersburg was one of 25 cities selected just over a year ago to participate in the accelerator program for energy strategies. The award, a technical assistance and support package valued at more than $2 million, funded a full-time climate advisor, helped create several energy programs and provided staff training, among other things, Wright told the Health, Energy, Resiliency & Sustainability Committee.

“If we had been given $2 million [in cash], we probably could have done one net zero building, or a couple of improvements. What this is doing is standing up some structures and working with us on data so that we can having lasting programs,” she said.

The Climate Challenge continues through 2020,  and Wright said there’s still a “heavy lift” to meet its goals.

Planned actions she cited for 2020 include:

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions community-wide by 20 percent
  • Establishing two solar co-ops, working with Solar United Neighbors
  • Waste minimization
  • Programs and collaborations across city departments, including reviewing codes with the city building department
  • Strengthening regional coalitions with other communities that also have sustainability and resiliency initiatives underway
  • Adding sustainability and resiliency data to St. Pete Stat, an interactive platform that uses live data to measure performance, demonstrate transparency and encourage accountability.

The office also is working on several equity investments, including in Childs Park, the neighborhood between 34th Street and 49th Street, and 5th Avenue South and 18th Avenue South.

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Wright expects the Office of Sustainability and Resiliency to take more of a role in urban forestry this year.

“The tree canopy analysis will help with equity investments because we want to make sure people have access to shade and cool ways to get around the city,” she said.

Among the 2019 accomplishments she highlighted was an improved scorecard in the STAR Communities rating system, a framework and certification program for evaluating local sustainability that takes into account economic, environmental and social performance measures. St. Petersburg was certified as a 3-STAR community in December 2016, and improved to a 4-STAR community in 2019. There are only five 5-STAR communities and 25 4-STAR communities in the United States.

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The STAR Communities program was acquired by the U.S. Green Building Council, which does LEED certifications for buildings and for municipalities.

“We negotiated a deal so we are now automatically a LEED certified city too,” Wright said.

The city’s Integrated Sustainability Action Plan, adopted in 2019,  is built around the STAR Communities framework.

“Even though it’s switching, STAR will be really good to have. These are big goals. We are keeping those as our targets with numbers to collect data against,” Wright said.

Margie ManningMargie started her journalism career as a radio news reporter in St. Louis, before putting down her microphone and picking up a pen to work at the St. Louis Business Journal. Unable to resist the call of warm weather and beaches, Margie took an entrepreneurial detour to run an ice cream shop in Treasure Island with her husband. Before joining the Catalyst, Margie spent 14 years at the Tampa Bay Business Journal where she wrote about business successes, failures and the exciting world of innovation and start-ups. Her writing coaches are Bonnie the Dog and Coffee the Cat, joined recently by a new edition, Jack the Cat. Margie can be contacted at margie@stpetecatalyst.com

Legacy Vacation Resorts sets the pace for social, environmental change in the hospitality industry

By Business

Published on January 22, 2020

The hospitality industry should be doing a lot more to address social and environmental issues, a St. Petersburg real estate developer says.

Jared Meyers, founder and CEO of Legacy Vacation Resorts, hopes his recent project in Indian Shores will help set an example for the industry.

Legacy, with eight resort properties in four states, is a certified B Corporation, a designation for businesses that voluntarily meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose through third-party review. Legacy is the first B Corp-certified, multi-site hospitality company in the United States, and one of just 22 B Corp companies in Florida. Another is Salt Palm Development in St. Petersburg, where Meyers is chairman. Last month, Salt Palm broke ground on The Royal, a 13-unit townhome development built with sustainable living in mind.


Related story: Catalyze 2020: Jared Meyers


Legacy just finished a four-year renovation at the 40-unit resort-style property, located at 19607 Gulf Blvd. in Indian Shores.

Meyers showed it off Wednesday morning, highlighting eco-friendly features such as LED lighting, improved energy efficiency in air conditioning systems, water reduction features in showers and sinks and on-site recycling. The company provides reusable water bottles to all guests, discouraging the use of one-time plastics, as well as 100 percent carbon footprint offsetting.

Jared Meyers

“We have tried to make this a unique boutique special resort experience here on the coast, specifically for those travelers who are not looking to be in large mega structures you might find in Clearwater or in St. Petersburg — not that there aren’t some nice ones there, but this is a different type of vacation,” Meyers said.

The company’s true differentiator is that it stands for more than money, and that can be verified through the rigorous requirements of meeting B Corp standards, Meyers said.

“If you design a system and are thoughtful in how you lay it out, you can in fact accomplish all that good and be profitable,” he said. “It’s not just a feel-good movement. I’ll admit, I was attracted to it at first because of the feel-good aspect and got to the other part by doing more research. A lot of businesses say they can’t afford it … but we live in an era where there’s a confluence of events, where the feel-good components and the profit-creation components are working together.”

He cited the World Economic Forum in Davos that’s underway right now, where there’s a focus on “stakeholder capitalism,” according to Brookings. That’s the idea that the purpose of a corporation is not just to create financial return for its shareholders, but to create benefits for all of its stakeholders, including customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.

“One of the biggest differences we can make is through our guests,” Meyers said. “They’re coming to us to enjoy their vacations, so we need to respect that and make sure they enjoy that, but  … if we can introduce them to more responsible products, B Corp products or other responsible companies, we go a step further, and start encouraging our guests to think in a different way when they go back home. They can become more conscious consumers. They can start making the world better through their daily actions and what they’ve learned just by being on vacation.”

Getaways for Good: These B Corps Help Travelers Build a Better World on Their Journeys

By Business
B The Change
Dec 11, 2019 · 4 min read

If you’re looking to give a gift that stands apart or planning next year’s vacation, consider Certified B Corporations that offer getaway experiences. Whether your travel plans include a volunteer-oriented vacation, a family ski trip, or a once-in-a-lifetime international journey, the B Corps in the list below stand ready to help you visit your dream destination while doing business with companies that match your values and allow you to vote every day as you escape the everyday.

And who says travel has to be one-dimensional? Through these B Corps’ programming, facilities and sustainable practices, they provide travel experiences that allow you to make memories and help build a better world at the same time.


Life-Changing Experiences with Wildlife

Animal Experience International

Animal Experience International (AEI) empowers animal lovers, students, professionals, and adventure seekers to travel and build a better world by volunteering with animals. Founded by a wildlife veterinarian and a volunteer coordinator for wildlife rehabilitation centers, the B Corp offers safe and ethical travel experiences that allow travelers to do what they enjoy and make a difference. From sea turtle conservation in Costa Rica to wildlife rehabilitation in Australia to elephant rescue in Thailand — and plenty of other options around the world — AEI experiences are designed to match clients with animal-related volunteer opportunities. Based in Barrie, Ontario, AEI has been a B Corp since 2013.

Less Stuff, More Experiences

Modern Adventure

This newly certified B Corp offers travel experiences designed to provide moments of discovery and exploration — as noted in its manifesto: “We invest in experiences, instead of more stuff.” Based in Portland, Oregon, Modern Adventure partners with brands and “tastemakers,” including chefs, fitness trainers, art gallery owners and other creative specialists, who accompany travelers for these once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Global travel options that cover Europe, Asia-Pacific and the Americas are created to enhance the positive differences that travel can make while minimizing its negative effects.

Destinations Fit for Families

Legacy Vacation Resorts

Families looking to make memories together on the road can turn to Legacy Vacation Resorts, an Orlando, Florida-based B Corp that provides sustainable, affordable and memorable vacation experiences. With destinations in four U.S. regions — from Florida’s East to West Coasts, the Colorado Rockies, the New Jersey shore, and Reno, Nevada — Legacy Vacation Resorts offers getaways in a range of climates and terrains. Its workers are a vital part of the experience, and their role in designing memorable vacations shows how Legacy Vacation Resorts values its employees so they in turn take care of travelers. While using its business as a force for good, Legacy Vacation Resorts aims to lead by example in the hospitality industry through conscious practices including carbon footprint offsetting, waste reduction and enhanced recycling efforts, and a living wage initiative for employees.

Traveling in (Personal) Style

Intrepid Group

Intrepid Group was founded to create a style of travel that could benefit travellers as well as the places and people they visit. With three tour operator brands, more than 25 destination management companies, and a not-for-profit foundation, the Melbourne, Australia-based B Corp has a history of leadership in sustainability, from incorporating carbon-neutral trips to stopping elephant rides. This year Intrepid Group made several updates to address overtourism, including changing itineraries in Vietnam and Sri Lanka in response to crowding pressures, replacing flights on Iran trips with overnight and day trains, and removing single-use plastics from adventure cruises.

Learn more about travel-related B Corps on B the Change:


B the Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.

INSIGHT Catalyze 2020: Jared Meyers

By Business, Community

This holiday season, we asked some of St. Pete’s best and brightest citizens to share one catalyzing idea for making St. Pete a better place to live. We asked not for lists of problems, but for meaty, actionable and impactful solutions, no matter how big or how small. Here’s the response from Jared Meyers, chairman, Salt Palm Development, and founder, Florida for Good.

In order to become an even better place to live than it already is, St. Pete needs its businesses to operate in a way that helps the city achieve its goals­ – and my thought is that these goals should align with the worldwide goals set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. St. Pete is more advanced and aligned than other U.S. cities, but it has yet to unleash the potential power of its businesses and citizens. It needs full and credible alignment, which can happen through a mix of policies, incentives and regulations. When a business succeeds, St. Pete must also succeed and not have a situation where the community gets stuck with the externalities of business– for example, if a business’s activities could cause red tide or sea level rise, and yet not contribute to the associated costs. 
 
A trusted framework is needed for this alignment and the best frameworks that exist are those from nonprofit B Lab, in their Business Impact Assessment and the Sustainable Development Goals (“SDG”) Action Manager.  The SDG Action Manager is a brand new tool created in partnership with the UN Global Compact and it is free, easy to use and confidential.
 
Undertaking these efforts will result in the city retaining its uniqueness, while also enhancing its way of life through reduced inequality, alleviating poverty, restoring a healthier environment, building stronger communities and creating more high quality jobs with dignity and purpose. I truly think that St. Pete can be the guiding light for Florida and our nation, inspiring other communities to undertake efforts to improve a shared prosperity for all residents and local environments.
 
Currently, the city relies on the STAR Communities Certification for “evaluating local sustainability, encompassing economic, environmental and social performance measures.” This organizes seven thematic goal areas being Natural Systems, Health & Safety, Education, Arts & Community, Economy & Jobs, Equity & Empowerment, Built Environment, and Climate and Energy. At this time, St. Pete is a 3 STAR community and it desires to be a 5 STAR. If business does its part to contribute to the betterment of the community, I feel St. Pete will get there.

St. Pete real estate developer pumps profit back into the community

By Business, Community

The Royal groundbreaking

Salt Palm Development will use half of its profit on its latest real estate project to benefit the St. Petersburg community.

Mayor Rick Kriseman and Jared Meyers, chairman, Salt Palm Development, at the groundbreaking for The Royal

Jared Meyers, chairman of Salt Palm, made the pledge at the groundbreaking for The Royal, a 13-unit townhome development at 545 4th Ave. S, just south of downtown and on the edge of the Innovation District. The project is across the street from Salt Palm’s initial project, Sabal Smart Homes, where profits also were reinvested in the community, Meyers said.

Salt Palm is a certified B-Corp, a type of for-profit business that balances purpose and profit.

“B-Corps are all about giving back to the community, taking  a portion or in some cases all of their profits and investing them back into the community,” said Mayor Rick Kriseman at the groundbreaking. “Philosophically, they are aligned with what we’re trying to accomplish here in St. Pete.”

A rendering of The Royal

The Royal, with prices starting in the $500s, will be built with sustainable living in mind, with features such as LED lightning, energy star appliances, water efficiencies and others.

It also will be solar ready. The company has committed to be net zero by 2030, meaning the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site.

Salt Palm is tapping into the “positive energy” in St. Petersburg, Meyers said. “Downtown St. Pete is unique and special. I felt that when I came here and wanted to be part of it and elevate it,” Meyers said.

There are only 23 B-Corps in Florida, and Salt Palm is the only one that is a real estate development firm.

“It’s a certification that companies receive that says you perform at the highest levels of social and environmental responsibility. It’s a hard certification to attain and that’s why there’s only 3,000 of them worldwide, half in the U.S.,” Meyers said. “I view this to be the type of business model that is best for any community. At the end of the day, communities need businesses that are there to lift the community up to the best of their abilities.”

Salt Palm has a formal commitment to use at least half its profits for the betterment of  St. Petersburg and Florida. The company also has committed 1 percent of its revenue to environmental causes In September, Salt Palm was named a “Best For The World” honoree, a recognition from B Lab, the global nonprofit that certifies and supports certified B Corporations.

Meyers also has launched St. Pete For Good and Florida For Good.

“Businesses are coming together to say we want to do good, we’re responsible, we would like your help to improve on that and we provide free resources for them to get there,” Meyers said. “Whether they become a certified B-Corp at the end of it, or they just improve along the way, that’s fine. We just want you to contribute more to your community, take care of your employees, be more inclusive, and focus on regenerative thoughts processes, not exploitative ones.”

St. Pete For Good, with about 50 businesses in its directory, has inspired other “for good” organizations in central and northeast Florida and Boca Raton, as well as a similar group in Miami, Meyers said. The statewide Florida For Good has about 150 businesses.

The Royal one of two new structures going up in the area. TRB Development is building a new headquarters for insurance technology company Neptune Flood across the street at 400 6th St. S.

Trevor Burgess, CEO, Neptune Flood

Neptune will have about 20 employees on the second level of the building. The ground level will house Lingr, an upscale casual eatery and bar developed by Jeffrey Jew, an alumnus of Bravo’s Top Chef.

“What we’re excited about is this entire part of St. Petersburg is getting the investment Jared is making, that we’re making, to help create this urban, walkable, livable, workable environment, where all of those elements can happen together in one place,” said Trevor Burgess, CEO of Neptune Flood and chairman of TRB.

Neptune fits St. Petersburg’s Grow Smarter economic strategy, which focuses on high-growth businesses. It’s the second business here for Burgess, who was president and CEO of C1 Bank before it sold to Bank OZK.

“Trevor has always been incredibly involved in the community, and so to have him back here with another business, employing people, paying a living wage, that’s a great thing,” Kriseman said.

This isn’t just your everyday luxury townhome development

By Business, Community
Published 1 hour ago

ST. PETERSBURG — Townhomes are popping up all over the Tampa Bay area but the 13-unit Royal in St. Petersburg has an unusual distinction. It’s being developed by one of Florida’s few Certified B Corporations — companies that meet high standards for “social and environmental performance.”

St. Petersburg-based Salt Palm Development recently broke ground for the Royal at 545 Fourth Avenue S. near another townhome project, Sabal Smart Homes, that it recently completed. Like Sabal, the Royal will include eco-friendly features like LED lighting, reflective roof materials and drought-tolerant landscaping.

Jared M. Meyers is chairman of Salt Palm and Orlando-based Legacy Vacation Resorts, another Certified B Corporation. Both received their certifications from B Lab, a Pennsylvania-based nonprofit with offices around the world. Meyers spoke with the Tampa Bay Times about Certified B Corporations and why he hopes to see more of them in Florida. The interview was edited for length and clarity.

What distinguishes this type of certification from something that says, for example, “this milk has been certified as organic.”

Other certifications apply to a certain product but you don’t know much about the company behind it. This is the only one that spans the entire business, not just a specific product. It says the entire company performs at a certain level so it enhances the trust level when you interact with it whether as an employee, a customer or an investor.

Where and how many Certified B Corporations are there?

They’re in 150 industries in over 70 countries. There are a little over 3,000 (corporations), about half in North America. Some of the companies are Ben & Jerry’s, TOMS shoes, Danone yogurt, Eileen Fisher (women’s clothing). In Florida, we have 23. Salt Palm is the only one in St. Pete but last month we picked up two in Tampa—a video production company called Diamond View and a software company called Harness. There’s a bigger concentration in South Florida.

What’s the process for getting certified?

There is an assessment every company must take, and you don’t just take it, (B Lab) does onsite audits and every three years after you have to be re-certified. There are five components— (corporate) governance, employees, environment, community and customers. With employees, they look at the ratio of highest to lowest paid, benefit packages, what sort of policies do you have in place re inclusion and diversity. B Lab will say, ‘Do you pay a living wage?’ At Salt Palm we don’t have many direct employees, it’s a lot of subcontractors, whereas my resort company has hundreds and we guarantee a living wage. In Orange County, it’s $12.70 an hour. (Florida’s minimum wage is $8.46.)

Does your board have any minority members?

(Laughs) The board is my wife and I, so no. What’s really cool about a B Corporation assessment is that as you take it, you become educated along the way and realize all the things you’re not doing. We’re constantly improving what we do. As proud as I am to be a Certified B Corporation, we’re not perfect, there are things we could be doing better.

What is the “community” aspect of certification?

That governs volunteerism, paid off time to volunteer, how many company-sponsored projects there are, what you give in the way of donations. For Salt Palm, for example, we have a public commitment to invest at least 50 percent of our profits into the city or the Florida for Good movement (encouraging businesses to become Certified B Corporations). We sponsored the SHINE Mural Festival, we’ve worked with the mayor’s efforts to beautify the city, We launched an initiative called HIVE – St. Pete, where we partner with nonprofits to educate the public about, say, water quality, and do local projects.

This all sounds great but presumably for-profit companies hope to get something out of B Corporation certification besides good will?

There are no tax breaks, no direct financial incentives. My personal reason to go in this direction is that I want to set an example to show other businesses that you can run a successful business with these practices. I want to create a new social norm. The Typical B Corporation becomes one because it aligns with their values and they use that to attract higher talent employees. Seventy percent of employees feel disengaged from the company they work for. If you can make them engaged and excited it changes everything. Some companies also use this to attract better financing.

And what is the “customer” aspect of a B Corporation certification?

We know the younger generation wants to know how their dollars are being used. We are very proactive in saying, ‘When you spend money with us, I’m not buying five new Feraris.’ We make sure we offset our carbon emissions. We will put money back into the community. The more we can lean into that, the more we will attract customers.

Rubio Names Mother Kombucha as the Senate Small Business of the Week

By Business
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, named Mother Kombucha of St. Petersburg, Florida as the U.S. Senate Small Business of the Week. Senator Rubio visited Mother Kombucha in St. Petersburg last week.

Rubio released the following video message to congratulate Mother Kombucha as the Small Business of the Week. A broadcast quality version can be found here.

“As Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, it is my pleasure to honor Mother Kombucha of St. Petersburg, Florida as the Senate Small Business of the Week.

“In 2014, Tonya Donati became the first licensed kombucha brewer in the state of Florida, when she founded Mother Kombucha.

“Tonya and her business partner, Joshua Rumschlag, originally brewed the kombucha in Tonya’s kitchen, selling bottles at local farmers markets.

“Through hard work and a strategic vision, Mother Kombucha now employs nearly 20 people and packages around 7,500 bottles a day, selling kombucha and switchel wholesale to retailers such as Whole Foods, Publix, and Winn-Dixie.

“Mother Kombucha has an exciting future ahead, and it is my distinct honor to name them as the Senate Small Business of the Week.”

As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Senator Rubio continues the tradition of honoring America’s small businesses and entrepreneurs. The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship oversees proposed legislation on matters relating to the Small Business Administration and investigates all problems relating to America’s small businesses.

St. Pete real estate developer pumps profit back into the community

By Business

Salt Palm Development will use half of its profit on its latest real estate project to benefit the St. Petersburg community.

Mayor Rick Kriseman and Jared Meyers, chairman, Salt Palm Development, at the groundbreaking for The Royal

 

Jared Meyers, chairman of Salt Palm, made the pledge at the groundbreaking for The Royal, a 13-unit townhome development at 545 4th Ave. S, just south of downtown and on the edge of the Innovation District. The project is across the street from Salt Palm’s initial project, Sabal Smart Homes, where profits also were reinvested in the community, Meyers said.

Salt Palm is a certified B-Corp, a type of for-profit business that balances purpose and profit.

“B-Corps are all about giving back to the community, taking  a portion or in some cases all of their profits and investing them back into the community,” said Mayor Rick Kriseman at the groundbreaking. “Philosophically, they are aligned with what we’re trying to accomplish here in St. Pete.”

A rendering of The Royal

The Royal, with prices starting in the $500s, will be built with sustainable living in mind, with features such as LED lightning, energy star appliances, water efficiencies and others.

It also will be solar ready. The company has committed to be net zero by 2030, meaning the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is equal to the amount of renewable energy created on the site.

Salt Palm is tapping into the “positive energy” in St. Petersburg, Meyers said. “Downtown St. Pete is unique and special. I felt that when I came here and wanted to be part of it and elevate it,” Meyers said.

There are only 23 B-Corps in Florida, and Salt Palm is the only one that is a real estate development firm.

“It’s a certification that companies receive that says you perform at the highest levels of social and environmental responsibility. It’s a hard certification to attain and that’s why there’s only 3,000 of them worldwide, half in the U.S.,” Meyers said. “I view this to be the type of business model that is best for any community. At the end of the day, communities need businesses that are there to lift the community up to the best of their abilities.”

Salt Palm has a formal commitment to use at least half its profits for the betterment of  St. Petersburg and Florida. The company also has committed 1 percent of its revenue to environmental causes In September, Salt Palm was named a “Best For The World” honoree, a recognition from B Lab, the global nonprofit that certifies and supports certified B Corporations.

Meyers also has launched St. Pete For Good and Florida For Good.

“Businesses are coming together to say we want to do good, we’re responsible, we would like your help to improve on that and we provide free resources for them to get there,” Meyers said. “Whether they become a certified B-Corp at the end of it, or they just improve along the way, that’s fine. We just want you to contribute more to your community, take care of your employees, be more inclusive, and focus on regenerative thoughts processes, not exploitative ones.”

St. Pete For Good, with about 50 businesses in its directory, has inspired other “for good” organizations in central and northeast Florida and Boca Raton, as well as a similar group in Miami, Meyers said. The statewide Florida For Good has about 150 businesses.

The Royal one of two new structures going up in the area. TRB Development is building a new headquarters for insurance technology company Neptune Flood across the street at 400 6th St. S.

Trevor Burgess, CEO, Neptune Flood

Neptune will have about 20 employees on the second level of the building. The ground level will house Lingr, an upscale casual eatery and bar developed by Jeffrey Jew, an alumnus of Bravo’s Top Chef.

“What we’re excited about is this entire part of St. Petersburg is getting the investment Jared is making, that we’re making, to help create this urban, walkable, livable, workable environment, where all of those elements can happen together in one place,” said Trevor Burgess, CEO of Neptune Flood and chairman of TRB.

Neptune fits St. Petersburg’s Grow Smarter economic strategy, which focuses on high-growth businesses. It’s the second business here for Burgess, who was president and CEO of C1 Bank before it sold to Bank OZK.

“Trevor has always been incredibly involved in the community, and so to have him back here with another business, employing people, paying a living wage, that’s a great thing,” Kriseman said.

Take an exclusive sneak peek at a new tool the UN hopes will revolutionize the way companies track their sustainability goals

By Business
Richard FeloniBI Prime

Dec. 14, 2019, 12:03 PM

 

  • Around 600 of the roughly 3,000 B Corporations pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
  • B Lab is a nonprofit launched in 2007 that verifies B Corps, businesses that reject shareholder primacy and go above industry norms in their treatment of employees, customers, the environment, and communities, in addition to their shareholders. B Corps include Danone North America, Patagonia, and Allbirds.
  • It is releasing a new tool in January in conjunction with the UN Global Compact that will allow companies to measure their sustainability practices and set new goals.
  • This article is part of Business Insider’s project “The 2010s: Toward a Better Capitalism.”
  • The Better Capitalism series tracks the ways companies and individuals are rethinking the economy and role of business in society.
  • Visit BI Prime for more stories.

On a recent night in B Lab’s small downtown Manhattan office, two of the nonprofit’s leaders gave Business Insider a demo of a tool they hope will change the way thousands of businesses around the world operate over the coming decade. It was the same day that 533 of the more than 3,000 “B Corporations,” like Allbirds and The Body Shop, pledged to achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 (20 years ahead of the Paris Agreement goal), and that Time magazine announced 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg was its “Person of the Year.”

For the past 12 years, B Lab has been dedicated to moving businesses away from profit at all costs. In the office, there was a sense that as the 2010s draw to a close, the group had not only been one of the first to tap into the most important discussion of the past decade, it had achieved real progress. And less than a day after the announcement, around 70 more B Corps announced they wanted to join the pledge.

“What’s exciting is, I think the B Corp community and the B Corp movement continue to be an aspiration,” said B Lab’s director of standards, Dan Osusky, one of the team members giving the demo of the tool, the SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) Action Manager. He said B Lab was like a “North Star” for many of the companies who have joined the decade’s movement for reconsidering the role of business in society.

Back in 2007, AND1 cofounder Jay Coen Gilbert, along with his former colleague Bart Houlahan and Andrew Kassoy, their friend from Wall Street, formally launched B Lab (the b standing for benefit). They decided that to avoid “greenwashing” and similar disingenuous practices, where companies can give the impression of “doing good” with nothing more than a clever ad campaign, there should be a certification system. B Lab, then, would analyze and then verify businesses that went beyond industry standards for not only sound corporate governance, but for treatment of workers, customers, their communities, and the environment. Examples include Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, and Eileen Fisher.

The founders’ driving force was a rejection of the theory of shareholder primacy that had reigned since the 1980s, which states that a corporation exists solely to benefit shareholders, and that anything that would benefit others would naturally come as a side effect.

In 2010, the team achieved a major victory when it successfully lobbied for the first “benefit corporation” legislation, in the state of Maryland, that allowed companies to embed the values of a B Corp in their charter. Over the next 10 years, B Lab accrued more than 3,000 B Corps and 8,000 benefit corporations around the world.

This year, the Business Roundtable, a collection of around 200 CEOs of the largest American companies, released a statement that rejected shareholder primacy and advocated for a “stakeholder” model in its place, which, despite lacking binding language, gave major credence to B Lab’s mission.

Additionally, when international food giant Danone’s North American branch became the largest B Corp last year, with 6,000 employees and $6 billion in revenue, B Lab gained a giant corporate ally. You can find the B Corp stamp on Danone’s popular American brands, like Dannon yogurt, Horizon Organic milk, and Silk soy milk products.

“By earning a B Corp Certification we show our employees, consumers, customers and others” that the company will “meet high standards of social and environmental impact, transparency and accountability,” Danone North America CEO Mariano Lozano told Business Insider. He noted that he has been proselytizing the value of joining the B Corp community to the heads of other companies. Danone CEO Emanuel Faber has also said he’s put the international parent company on the path to gaining B Corp certification, and is one of the funders for the SDG Action Manager.

Kassoy, one of B Lab’s cofounders, told us that over the past decade, the financial crisis caused a cultural shift away from corporate criticism on primarily a case by case basis to one demanding systematic change. He said that he saw businesses respond to the millennial generation’s demands for this change, as young people came of age in this time, through their spending and participation in the workforce. He sees this past decade as defined by a successful change in the conversation, and the upcoming one as a chance to put that momentum toward actual change.

“Now it’s about walking the walk, and things like collective action and public policy create the opportunity for lots of companies to walk the walk,” he said. He wants B Lab to be one of the leaders in guiding companies and politicians toward this action.

So, as this decade closes out and another is about to begin, B Lab is setting its focus on sustainability, and has partnered with the United Nations Global Compact. The UNGC is a UN-affiliated network of businesses that make joint commitments to sustainability and share best practices.

B Lab decided that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 17 goals set in 2015 that are aimed at addressing causes and effects of inequality and man-made climate change, would be their guide. The sustainability tool Osusky and his colleague Laura Velez Villa, who oversees the project, showed us gives companies the ability to assess their sustainability efforts against the SDGs.

un sdgsUnited Nations

Velez Villa pointed out that a central tension that companies face when considering the SDGs is that they were developed for countries, but that the private sector represents 75% of global GDP — that is, if the SDGs are ever going to be achieved, business has to be along for the ride.

“So our answer in putting this out into the world is, regardless of the type of business you are, here is how you make a real dent in these big challenges,” she said, referring to the SDG Action Manager.

With the manager, users can answer a series of baseline questions to determine which of the sustainability goals are most relevant to them. For example, an automaker will be especially equipped for working toward No. 13, climate action, but likely not No. 2, zero hunger.

b lab sdg action managerB Lab

The program will recommend a set of SDGs that the company can have the most impact on, and then the user can go through a series of questions for them. The modules are filled with learning resources provided by the UNGC, and allows companies to set goals for themselves. After answering every question, the tool will generate a percentage, where 100% is an impossible goal, and 40-50% is about what a typical B Corp would score.

Osusky and Velez Villa said that beta testers are indicating that most companies will want to focus on one to five particular SDGs, and that after about a month of being live, the Action Manager will have enough data to show how a company measures up against others in its industry. Velez Villa has set a goal of 5,000 users by the end of 2020, with at least 500 of them using the manager to set goals for their company.

sdg action manager b labB Lab

She noted that today’s conversation around the role of business seems to be a sudden shift, but has been building for years, and has been accelerated by events like the financial crisis and new research on the dangerous future the planet faces if we continue on the path we’re on.

“We all are aware of the Business Roundtable, which is a significant milestone and an important signaling mechanism, but for that type of thing to happen, so much was brewing underneath, right? There’s a lot of anger and disappointment and lack of trust in the public,” Velez Villa said.

This unrest, from peaceful ones like Thunberg’s climate march to the student demonstrations in Hong Kong, is compelling society to rethink power structures, and business is part of that, Velez Villa said.

“It is waking up to the reality that is inequity, and the reality that is environmental injustice,” she added. “And I think that something good should come out of that.”

Legacy Vacation Resorts All In with Business for Good Approach

By Business, Environmental
In March, Orlando, Fla.-based Legacy Vacation Resorts (LVR) announced that it had officially achieved Certified B Corporation status. Clean the World, also in Orlando, is another organization that has achieved the B Corporation designation. If you do a search on Hospitality on the B Corporation site, you will find just 15 businesses listed. Among them: Taos Ski Valley, Inc., Qbic Hotels, and the Sleeping Lady Resort. Other hospitality-related businesses can be found under other categories such as Catering & Meeting/Event Management and Travel & Leisure. There are currently more than 2,500 Certified B Corporations in more than 50 countries. One of the most well-known companies: Patagonia, Inc.

This past week I had an opportunity to meet with Jared Meyers, Co-Owner of LVR. Jared is very passionate about the Certified B Corporation program and is doing everything he can to spread the word about it. Jared co-founded the Florida for Good movement, which funds free resources and events to facilitate the spread of business for good and the Certified B Corporation program. Since its inception, LVR has donated more than $50,000 to Florida for Good’s charitable endeavors, with Meyers also dedicating a significant amount of his personal time and income to its growth.

“B Corporation looks at the entire business and how it treats the environment, community, employees and governance,” Meyers says. Participants first complete the free B Impact Assessment. While using the Assessment, one can set goals for improvement, compare one’s performance to similar companies, and learn best practices pulled straight from the Certified B Corp community. The assessment is evaluated by B Lab. Participants are asked to supply supporting documentation. As one example, Meyers says LVR had to submit proof, by county, that it pays its employees a living wage.

A Reasonable Annual Fee

Once the Assessment and supporting documentation is validated (a minimum score must be met), a business can become a B Corporation. There is a reasonable annual fee scaled to the size of the business. Fees start at $500 a year. Companies with more than $1 billion in annual sales will pay $50,000 or more. Participants must recertify every three years. There is no initial onsite audit, but one can occur over time. Representatives of B Corporations gather annually at a Champions Retreat. There are also regional gatherings.

In addition to its Certified B Corporation Status, LVR is a member of 1% for the Planet and donates 1 percent of sales to charitable causes. LVR also offsets the carbon footprint of the stay of each guest who books through the LVR website. LVR offers an option for guests to donate 5 percent of their reservation to a charity of their choice and has a goal of reducing its carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2025. The company is doing that through retrofits as it renovates its properties—LED lighting, water-saving fixtures, insulation, occupancy sensors and more. The company is also a partner of Conscious Capitalism International, an organization that maintains a philosophy based on a simple idea that when practiced consciously, business innately elevates humanity.

“With these various internal changes, partnerships and our B Corp certification, I sincerely believe we will experience company growth, as well as an additional type of traveler at our properties,” said Meyers in a press release announcing the B Corp certification. “These new travelers will share our values and place importance on social responsibility, environmental responsibility and sustainable travel when it comes to selecting their accommodations. I am looking forward to the relaunch of the brand and the many ways in which the company will contribute to the greater good for years to come.”