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Developer believes corporations obligated to give back

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Jared Meyers is pushing the idea of B Corps to get businesses to give back more to their communities.

by: Louis Llovio Tampa Bay Editor

We’ve all heard someone say put your money where your mouth is.

It’s not clear if anybody ever told Jared Meyers that, but even if they didn’t, he did it anyway.

Meyers, 45, is the founder and chairman of St. Petersburg-based Salt Palm Development and Legacy Vacation Resorts and an advocate —apostle, really — for B Corporations.

B Corporations, also known Public Benefit Corporations, are “businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose,” according to B Lab, a global network of B Corporations.

Basically, B Corps are companies created with altruism built into their DNA. In Meyers’ view, that means corporations have a responsibility to the communities they abide in and to the larger world. At a minimum, he says corporations should do no harm. But his personal belief is a company should only exist if it is a “net positive contributor and making the world better.”

He believes companies need to elevate communities all year and not just “rely on a year-end charitable donation or end of life gift.”

Meyers thinks that most corporations should consider becoming a B Corp. He says by structuring a company as a B Corp the responsibility to give back is laid out in the governing documents and makes a business legally obligated to make a positive impact.

Plus, he says being designated a B Corp allows a company to differentiate itself from competitors, attract investors and retain better employees.

To help push the idea, Meyers created Florida for Good. The organization helps companies become more sustainable and focused on the planet instead of just looking at profit.

For Meyers, the subject of corporate responsibility is not just talk.

Salt Palm has pledged to put at least 50% of its profits back into St. Petersburg and the state. Since 2018, Meyers says the company, a socially conscious developer of sustainable housing, has re-invested more than $600,000 to support community efforts.

Meyers says this profit-sharing approach leads Salt Palm to use more environmentally friendly building products than the market demands and to be carbon neutral even if it means a smaller profit in the short term.

And LVR, as the travel company is known, has committed to donate 1% of its revenue to the community. It’s also launched initiatives to institute living wage programs, recycling programs and committed to reducing its ecological footprint.

‘To change the DNA a company needs buy-in from the bottom to top of the organization and in both hearts and minds. However when you do so, it will be incredibly rewarding and its rewards go far beyond profits.’ Jared Meyers, Salt Palm Development and Legacy Vacation Resorts

Meyers says the approaches from both companies allow him to align his values with the work he does each day.

“It was important to me that any company that I am a part of be a positive agent of change, and that it transparently do so,” he says. “There is simply too much greenwashing out there and B Corps are the only way I know to easily differentiate companies that are actually doing what they say from ones that are merely good at marketing.”

Meyers’ push to improve how businesses operate comes in part from his desire to live a fulfilling life that makes the world better for others. And he wants his actions to set an example for his 15-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter to “help them embrace the concept of interdependence.”

He says that when we view ourselves as separated from the world around us, we lose our humanity and are more likely to exploit instead of being compassionate. “When I think about giving back, I think of living in harmony. Living sustainably,” he says.

“We cannot take more than we give and have balance in life,” he adds. “We’ve seen our imbalanced economic system lead to wealth inequality, racial injustice and the current climate crisis. To address issues like these, we need more than words.”

For anyone wanting to follow his footsteps, Meyers has one piece of advice and one warning.

He suggests to anyone who wants to start or transform their company to find a community of people or companies that have been through the process. These are people who can help minimize mistakes and provide support.

As for the warning: when he first made the switch from a company where the goal was maximizing profit to one that focused on “stakeholder prosperity,” he entrusted the work to some who saw the shift “as nice to have rather than a necessity.”

“Becoming a force for good is not a ‘check the box’ activity,” Meyers says.  “It is constant, never ending and needs to be at the core of your decisions. To change the DNA a company needs buy-in from the bottom to top of the organization and in both hearts and minds. However when you do so, it will be incredibly rewarding and its rewards go far beyond profits.”

Funnel : Leasing Launches H.O.M.E. to Increase Fair and Equitable Housing

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Non-Profit to Combat Housing Discrimination through Responsible Technology, Education and $1 Donations per Online Leasing Application

Funnel Receives Florida for Good Award, Moves Toward B Corporation Certification

Funnel, the only renter-centric property management software platform, announced the launch of H.O.M.E. (Housing Opportunities Made Equal), a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, dedicated to building responsible technology and supporting causes that provide disadvantaged renters with access to safe and healthy housing. The launch of H.O.M.E., timed during Fair Housing Month and the anniversary of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (April 11), will further Funnel’s mission to combat the systemic oppression prevalent throughout the leasing process and increase housing access for individuals of color and other marginalized home seekers. Every online application completed through Funnel’s platform will now generate a $1 donation on behalf of H.O.M.E. that will be used toward creating more equitable housing access and opportunity.

“A home is the foundational block of economic progress and possibility. Without equal access to housing, people of color and other vulnerable groups will continue to be left further behind,” said Tyler Christiansen, CEO of Funnel. “Biases and homogeneity in teams responsible for the development of technology in the housing process can make the problem worse. We formed H.O.M.E. because we knew we could make a difference. By helping to change the housing process, we can influence the industry and change the world.”

As part of this larger commitment, Funnel has made a specific point of identifying and eliminating biases in their suite of leasing products, including in their new virtual leasing agent. Funnel has ensured the virtual agent can respond to messages about affordable housing and help find the least expensive apartments. Steps were also taken to accommodate messages in foreign languages, unsupported inquiries, and messages that indicate adverse prospective renter situations, including potential exposure to trauma such as domestic abuse.

Often overlooked, housing discrimination is a constant and formidable obstacle for millions of Americans. Studies confirm that home seekers of color are told about and shown fewer homes and apartments than their white counterparts, raising their housing search costs and restricting housing options. According to the Urban Institute, people of color are shown 12% fewer rental units, respectively, than whites. Safe and affordable housing is critical to many other aspects of well-being, including health, education, and job security.

Funnel was recently recognized as one of the leading companies in Florida using the power of business as a force for good by the University of Florida and received their 2021 “Florida for Good” award. Funnel is also in the process of filing for B Certification, having completed the BIA assessment and ensuring all aspects of its business model are optimized for social and environmental impact.

About Funnel

Funnel’s renter-centric solutions revolutionize the antiquated process of finding a home into an enjoyable experience. We believe all renters deserve a seamless, simple and personalized journey. We provide leasing and communication tools that are intuitive and obliterate repetitive tasks — driving more efficient leasing. Join us as we help leading property management teams create tomorrow’s rental experience at funnelleasing.com.

About H.O.M.E. (Housing Opportunities Made Equal)

Funnel is dedicated to fair housing for all. We created H.O.M.E. to advance our commitment of building responsible technology and supporting causes that provide marginalized renters with access to safe and healthy housing. Through our actions, we strive to identify and combat the systemic oppression prevalent throughout the leasing process that results in limited housing access for individuals of color and other marginalized home seekers. Every online application completed through our platform generates a $1 donation on behalf of H.O.M.E. that is used toward ending housing discrimination and increasing economic opportunity through housing. Learn more at homebyfunnel.org.

Climate First Bank (In Organization) Appoints Female Industry Leaders to Spearhead Executive Team

By | Business, Environmental | No Comments
03/15/2021 | 09:29am EDT

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., March 15, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Values-based community bank Climate First Bank (In Organization), names Michele Glorie as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer, and Valarie Nussbaum-Harris as Executive Vice President, Tampa Bay Region Executive and Government Guaranteed Lending Executive.

With more than 22 years of executive and senior management experience, Glorie has a proven track record in overseeing strategic growth and driving profitability. Glorie has worked senior-level positions at various Florida community banks throughout her career. This includes working as EVP and CFO at Enterprise Bank of Florida, and as Director of Operations at Harbor Community Bank. During her tenure at Harbor Community Bank, Glorie successfully assisted with eight acquisitions and grew the bank from $50 million in assets to $2.2 billion over a seven-year period.

“In my role as CFO and COO, I look forward to executing Climate First Bank’s vision in becoming the largest and most profitable values-based financial institution in the Southeast,” says Glorie, one of the original six founding directors at Climate First Bank (I/O).

Glorie will be joined by life-long St. Petersburg resident, Nussbaum-Harris. In her new role as EVP, Tampa Bay Region Executive and Government Guaranteed Lending Executive, Nussbaum-Harris will draw on her 32 years of banking experience within the Tampa Bay market and her extensive background in SBA and USDA lending to help local businesses fund their expansion and growth sustainably. Prior to joining Climate First Bank (I/O), Nussbaum-Harris held executive positions at various national and community banks, including Bank of America, Regions Bank, SouthTrust Bank, and Freedom Bank. Adding to her resume, Nussbaum-Harris sat as board member for the City of St. Petersburg’s Environmental Development Commission, Leadership Tampa Bay and Leadership Pinellas.

“I’m ready to work with Climate First Bank (I/O) to transform traditional banking into a values-based model that didn’t exist before,” says Nussbaum-Harris, mother of two and a small business owner herself. “I’m especially grateful for the opportunity to serve the community I’ve lived in my whole life. With so many smaller banks being bought up and customer service reduced to dialing a 1-800 number, I look forward to working with Climate First Bank (I/O) to fill the vacuum in traditional, face-to-face community banking.”

Founded by veteran banker Ken LaRoe, Climate First Bank (I/O) is an environmentally conscious bank whose mission is to reimagine the community bank as a force for good. Backed by Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles, the community bank will combat the climate crisis by financing sustainable business practices and providing dedicated loan options for solar photovoltaic (PV), energy retrofits and green infrastructure. The premier location, opening end of Q2, will be carbon neutral from day one. The institution was also recently announced as Florida For Good’s 200th member.

About Climate First Bank (I/O)
Climate First Bank (I/O) is a values-based community bank that will offer a complete, full-service portfolio of simple and easy-to-use traditional banking products. Those products will be powered by modern technology to meet the expectations of today’s consumers. In addition to offering standard banking services, the company will place a special emphasis on non-governmental organizations (NGO) and businesses committed to sustainability. Eco-conscious customers will find dedicated loan options for solar photovoltaic (PV), energy retrofits and infrastructure to help combat the climate crisis.

Stay tuned for the latest updates, and to learn more visit https://climatefirstbank.com.

Media Contact
Abigail Lacaillade
Uproar PR for Climate First Bank (I/O)
(407) 547-9700
alacaillade@uproarpr.com

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., March 15, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Values-based community bank Climate First Bank (In Organization), names Michele Glorie as Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer, and Valarie Nussbaum-Harris as Executive Vice President, Tampa Bay Region Executive and Government Guaranteed Lending Executive.

With more than 22 years of executive and senior management experience, Glorie has a proven track record in overseeing strategic growth and driving profitability. Glorie has worked senior-level positions at various Florida community banks throughout her career. This includes working as EVP and CFO at Enterprise Bank of Florida, and as Director of Operations at Harbor Community Bank. During her tenure at Harbor Community Bank, Glorie successfully assisted with eight acquisitions and grew the bank from $50 million in assets to $2.2 billion over a seven-year period.

“In my role as CFO and COO, I look forward to executing Climate First Bank’s vision in becoming the largest and most profitable values-based financial institution in the Southeast,” says Glorie, one of the original six founding directors at Climate First Bank (I/O).

Glorie will be joined by life-long St. Petersburg resident, Nussbaum-Harris. In her new role as EVP, Tampa Bay Region Executive and Government Guaranteed Lending Executive, Nussbaum-Harris will draw on her 32 years of banking experience within the Tampa Bay market and her extensive background in SBA and USDA lending to help local businesses fund their expansion and growth sustainably. Prior to joining Climate First Bank (I/O), Nussbaum-Harris held executive positions at various national and community banks, including Bank of America, Regions Bank, SouthTrust Bank, and Freedom Bank. Adding to her resume, Nussbaum-Harris sat as board member for the City of St. Petersburg’s Environmental Development Commission, Leadership Tampa Bay and Leadership Pinellas.

“I’m ready to work with Climate First Bank (I/O) to transform traditional banking into a values-based model that didn’t exist before,” says Nussbaum-Harris, mother of two and a small business owner herself. “I’m especially grateful for the opportunity to serve the community I’ve lived in my whole life. With so many smaller banks being bought up and customer service reduced to dialing a 1-800 number, I look forward to working with Climate First Bank (I/O) to fill the vacuum in traditional, face-to-face community banking.”

Founded by veteran banker Ken LaRoe, Climate First Bank (I/O) is an environmentally conscious bank whose mission is to reimagine the community bank as a force for good. Backed by Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles, the community bank will combat the climate crisis by financing sustainable business practices and providing dedicated loan options for solar photovoltaic (PV), energy retrofits and green infrastructure. The premier location, opening end of Q2, will be carbon neutral from day one. The institution was also recently announced as Florida For Good’s 200th member.

About Climate First Bank (I/O)
Climate First Bank (I/O) is a values-based community bank that will offer a complete, full-service portfolio of simple and easy-to-use traditional banking products. Those products will be powered by modern technology to meet the expectations of today’s consumers. In addition to offering standard banking services, the company will place a special emphasis on non-governmental organizations (NGO) and businesses committed to sustainability. Eco-conscious customers will find dedicated loan options for solar photovoltaic (PV), energy retrofits and infrastructure to help combat the climate crisis.

Stay tuned for the latest updates, and to learn more visit https://climatefirstbank.com.

Media Contact
Abigail Lacaillade
Uproar PR for Climate First Bank (I/O)
(407) 547-9700
alacaillade@uproarpr.com

 

Build like a B Corp: A Startup’s Guide to a Socially-Conscious Company

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Allie Felix
Mar 8 · 6 min read

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As a startup founder, you have the unique opportunity to build a socially-conscious company from its foundation. Adopting values-driven business practices can help your startup become a more attractive and competitive choice for engaged and high-quality talent and loyal customers to choose you over other options. In this post, we’ll dive into why building a socially-conscious startup matters, share case studies on venture-backed startups that have pursued B Corp Certification, and offer real-world examples of how to implement better business practices now.

Glossary of Terms:

Certified B Corporation — A company that receives the third-party certification administered by the non-profit B Lab. Certifying your startup is to business what USDA Organic is to your milk, Fair Trade is to your coffee, or LEED is to your office building. Certification is based in part on a company’s verified performance on the B Impact Assessment.

B Impact Assessment (BIA) — To become a Certified B Corporation, or Certified B Corp, a company must complete the BIA, a free and confidential survey designed to help measure and manage your company’s positive impact on your workers, community, customers, and environment.

Benefit Corporation — A Benefit Corporation is a legal structure that empowers and protects a company to pursue positive stakeholder impact alongside profit. Becoming a Benefit Corporation legally protects your startup’s mission through capital raises and leadership changes and prepares businesses to lead a mission-driven life post-IPO. Startups that convert to a Benefit Corporation can still elect to be taxed as a C Corp. A Benefit Corporation does not need to be a Certified B Corp.

Note: Incorporating or converting to a Benefit Corporation is not a requisite to becoming a Certified B Corp.

Why Building a Socially-Conscious Startup Matters

We know that consumers are more conscious than ever before. They are not just focused on what their favorite brands deliver, but how they deliver on their brand promise as well.

  1. 80% of global consumers agree that business must play a role in addressing societal issues. (Conscious Company, 2017)

Completing the B Impact Assessment (BIA) is one free and simple way to create your roadmap to better business practices, helping you evaluate what is already in place and ideate other ideas to implement that will expand your startup’s impact — whether or not you choose to formally certify your company.

If your startup receives a score of 80+ on your B Impact Assessment, you can choose to become a Certified B Corporation alongside peers like Warby Parker, Prose, Hootsuite, and Bombas socks. Once becoming a Certified B Corp, there are measurable benefits that can add value to your startup, such as:

  • Attracting and Engaging Talent: Certification can help validate that you are building an employee-centric culture for recruiting purposes and better connect your employees with your mission, leading to a more engaged workforce.

Venture-Back Startups Can Also Become Certified B Corps

Most startups incorporate as a C Corp if they intend to raise institutional venture capital. Becoming a Certified B Corp does not change or impact your C Corp standing — only the requirements of corporate purpose, accountability, and transparency achieved through the BIA.

In fact, institutional investors are already paying attention to companies with a social or environmental impact, and mainstream tier 1 venture firms like a16z, First Round Capital, Benchmark, and Founders Fund have backed Certified B Corp and Benefit Corporation startups.

Venture-Backed Startup Case Studies:

Allbirds

  • Founded in 2014, became a Certified B Corp in 2016

Lemonade Insurance

  • Founded in 2015, became a Certified B Corp in 2016

Ripple Milk

  • Founded in 2014, became a Certified B Corp in 2016

You Don’t Have to Certify to Reap the Benefits

The B Impact Assessment (BIA) measures your company’s impact on its workers, community, environment, and customers. Whether or not you intend to certify, reviewing the BIA questions can serve as an inspirational blueprint to set up your company on a socially responsible path — and to benchmark your efforts over time.

“For a group of nerds who love data and measurement tools, this was the perfect framework. There were a lot of company-wide things we were doing, like composting our lunch waste and supporting local small businesses, but we had never actually measured any of those efforts. Now that we have measurements and goals around our efforts, it felt really gratifying for everyone.” — Jennifer McKaig, Etsy’s Social Impact Lead on the BIA framework (Source)

Here are some examples that can be implemented to create positive change in your startup now:

Workers

  • Know your local living wage and pay that rate as a minimum for your employees

Community

  • Offer paid time off for your employees to volunteer in addition to their PTO allowance

Environment

  • Encourage or provide a stipend for public transit for your team’s commute

Customers

  • Include your data and privacy policy publicly on your website or in your newsletters

Governance

  • Reference the impact of your business in your mission statement

Florida-based startups who are interested in learning how to build socially-responsible practices into the foundation of their company can contact Lorin Augerie at Florida for Good for guidance and free resources.

Specials thanks to Florida for Good for sharing information with Embarc Collective startups on the B Corp movement.

Inspired by the global B Corp movement, Florida for Good is an initiative which funds free resources, collaborative opportunities and networking connections to facilitate the spread of business for good and Certified B Corporations®. Florida For Good is the connector between B Corps, Conscious Capitalism, 1% For The Planet, like-minded organizations/networks, governments/chambers, academia, and the local For Good ecosystems throughout the state. FFG and the For Good Movement were co-founded in 2018 by Jared Meyers, owner of two Certified B Corporations in Florida (Legacy Vacation Resorts and Salt Palm Development).

Additional Resources to Leverage

KNOWPanel discussion delves into rise of B Corps

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Published on February 20, 2021

Clockwise from top left: Sirena Andras, Tonya Donati, Dan Bailey, Vinny Tafuro and Kimberly Jackson.

St. Petersburg College’s Institute of Strategic Policy Solutions held a virtual panel discussion on Thursday that took a detailed look at how the B Corp movement has brought a much-needed mindset shift to the business world.

The B Corp movement envisions business as a source for good and advocates for the “triple bottom line” — people, planet and profits. To achieve B Corp status, a company must meet certain environmental and social standards, such as paying its employees a living wage, offering paid time off for community service and implementing practices that reduce waste and pollution.

Worldwide, there are some 3,500 B Corps, and the movement has taken root in Florida, with 18 Sunshine State companies achieving B Corp status. In the Tampa Bay area, St. Petersburg-based Salt Palm Development and Diamond View Studios, a Tampa video production firm, have met the requirements.

ISPS Executive Director Kimberly Jackson hosted and moderated Thursday’s panel discussion. Her co-moderator was Vinny Tafuro, an author, economist and entrepreneur. Panelists were Sirena Andras, a Miami-based designer and art director; Dan Bailey, the founder of Amavida Coffee, a B Corp located in Santa Rosa Beach; and Tonya Donati, co-founder and managing partner of Mother Kombucha, also a B Corp, in St. Petersburg.

Tafuro kicked off the discussion with an overview of how B Corps operate. They allow “entrepreneurs and business leaders to voluntarily elect to choose this new format of operating their business that allows them to hit other metrics besides just financial statistics and financial reporting,” he said. “So they report on their impact to the environment, to the community, as well as to their shareholders.”

Prior to founding her B Corp, Creative G, Andras said she spent 13 years doing photo shoots for what she calls “luxury stuff.” Gradually, she came to the realization that she was using her talents to “dupe people, as was the case in marketing and still is for some companies.” The work gave her a “yucky feeling” because she was involved with companies that weren’t leaving a positive impact on the world. So she went out on her own. “I discovered B Corp,” she said, “and I said, ‘Those are the people I want to work with.’”

Andras said that as a solo entrepreneur, it took about a year for her to achieve B Corp status, but the hard work was well worth it. “I’m connecting more and more each day with other companies that are like-minded,” she said. “And when I get to use my talents and do work for these corporations, it’s an inspiration to me, and I feel like I’m leaving a positive footprint in the world. So that’s why I became a B Corp, and that’s why I like to support other B Corps.”

Bailey said his upbringing in an island nation in the Caribbean exposed him, at an early age, to the ravages of poverty, but it wasn’t until later in his career, in 2004, when “I decided I couldn’t sit on the sidelines any more. I needed to take action.” He said he founded Amavida Coffee with the goal of improving the sustainability of coffee growers around the world. “We really didn’t have a compass when we started,” he said. “We just knew that the things that were important to our growers were their income and their stability of income. Our mission was to be recognized as the best by our community, for our community, for the environment, for our employees and for our growers.”

Mother Kombucha’s application for B Corp status is still pending, but Donati said she started the business in accordance with B Corp principles such as using cleanly sourced materials and composting waste. “A lot of what the model of B Corp certification is, we had already been putting into our business,” she said. “And then about two or three years in, myself and another partner went to a conscious capitalism event. And we found out what B Corp was.”

Donati said B Corp status is good for a company’s brand, and she believes the certification will help, not hinder, Mother Kombucha’s growth. Becoming a B Corp, she said, is a way to “bake in our values and protect what we believe is the way we should be doing business.” Joining the B Corp community, she added, has allowed Mother Kombucha to connect and do business with a fair-trade tea company in Bangladesh that’s “raising women and children out of poverty.”

Visit the ISPS website to view the organization’s calendar of upcoming events like this one.

Punta Gorda Toy Company Receives Safety Certification Ahead of March Product Launch

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Pressure Games announced their first toy, Countdown, has received its ASTM safety certification ahead of its upcoming launch in March. This critical certification is a stepping-stone toward the toy’s launch in late March. ASTM is an internationally recognized safety certification organization which tests to both local, nation and worldwide standards. Approval is required for mass distribution and sale through online retailers, such as Amazon.

Countdown is a hide-and-seek toy designed for active, social play for children aged 5+. Set a timer and hide the small toy anywhere. Then, another team must find it and play through a set of bite-sized games to stop the timer and win. It’s a fast paced game that raises the bar for the classic game of hide & seek for this generation of kids.

In development for over 2 years, Countdown has won at international toy competitions, was featured at 2020 CES in Las Vegas & the 2020 San Diego Comic Con and has been play-tested at local Boys & Girls Clubs, elementary schools and numerous other venues.

Countdown is currently available for pre-order with deliveries expected to start in late March. To learn more, visit:
https://pressuregames.com/toys/countdown

Pressure Games is a Public Benefit Corporation with a mission to give back to the community and environment. They are also a member of Florida For Good, Pledge 1% and an aspiring B-Corp company.

Certified B Corporation Legacy Vacation Resorts reimagines their approach to mindful travel

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. – Florida-based Legacy Vacation Resorts (LVR) has been on a journey of growth and learning over the past few years, spending time and resources working diligently behind the scenes to become a Certified B Corporation. B Corps, as they are referred to, are 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. However, many of the changes happening at the company were invisible to the everyday guest– things like carbon offsetting, a living wage initiative for employees, reduction of emissions and an income and savings program for their workforce. Now, to honor the journey upon which the company has embarked, a refreshed visual appearance of the brand and properties will call attention to the work they have done and bring their passion for crafting a mindful travel experience center stage.

“This is so much more than a rebrand, it is more like a reset,” said Jared Meyers, Chairman and CEO of LVR. “This should not be perceived as the same company with some new font and a different color scheme– it is meant to be evidence of an evolution and that we have truly changed what we stand for. At the core of everything we do is an inherent motivation to be the best for the world and all people, to use our business as a force for good.”

The new logo, signage, refreshed digital experience and brand video will catch the eye of visitors differently than before, acting as a beacon of the company’s mission to serve social and environmental impact causes as well as shared prosperity. The reimagining will also be used as a way to educate guests through visual mechanisms in the hopes that they will be inspired by the message and grow a desire to continue to support values-driven companies in their day-to-day lives.

The ‘new’ LVR will embody what the future of tourism represents. Travelers in a post-COVID world will want the things they experience and companies they support to have a positive impact on the world. They will also want assurances that their accommodations provider has their health and safety top of mind. Being a B Corp means that LVR can deliver one of the highest levels of trust as a business to their valued guests, and that these desires are met. Despite being a part of one of the industries hardest hit by the pandemic, LVR continued to take action in living their brand purpose instead of suspending programs that positively impacted their communities. As the industry rebuilds, the company hopes to serve as a model of success when a values-driven mission is adopted and show that things such as justice, equity, diversity and inclusion principles should be addressed on a consistent basis.

“My wish is for LVR to be a steward of the regenerative travel movement, existing to help travelers enjoy a vacation experience that understands interdependence and interconnectedness,” Meyers continued. “This initiative will not only help us accomplish that goal, but also showcase our commitment to people and the planet and share the enthusiasm we have for those efforts with our guests.”

In addition to being Certified B Corporation, LVR is the only multi-state hotel company to be a member of 1% For The Planet, an organization fostering a global movement which inspires businesses to support environmental solutions by making a simple commitment to donate 1% of their revenue sales to various charities. The company is also a proud partner of Conscious Capitalism International, an organization that maintains a philosophy based on a simple idea that when practiced consciously, business innately elevates humanity.

Building upon the momentum of the regenerative travel movement and the evolution of the LVR brand, Meyers is working to create B Tourism, a global network of B Corp travel and tourism companies as well as other conscious travel organizations that take collective action for environmental and social justice. The network will make it easier than ever for consumers seeking conscious travel options as they plan vacations that align with their values.

Networking On Purpose: How B Corps Are Creating Connections And Building Their Community In The Southeast U.S.

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Christopher Marquis

While the internet and other technical tools put the global economy in reach for businesses of all sizes, community connections remain vital for many business leaders, who have long used them to network with others in their industry, expand their professional opportunities, and share best practices or other lessons.

The local community level is where many companies can make the biggest impact, as shown by Certified B Corporations that include community as one of their stakeholders and prioritize local ties and the strength they can provide, especially in times of challenge like they’ve seen in 2020.

While B Corps are now a global network of more than 3,500 companies, they are still a relatively new concept in some regions of the United States and the world where people are less familiar with businesses operating as a force for good. To raise local awareness and build regional business networks, B Corp leaders across the U.S. and Canada are forming B Local organizations that tap into community strengths and establish a foundation for future growth.

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As part of my research on purpose-driven business I recently talked with B Corp leaders in the Southeastern U.S., a region where the stakeholder-minded certification remains fairly novel, about their efforts to raise awareness of B Corps and encourage others to learn how business can be a force for good.

Emily Landry who researches B Corps at the University of Tennessee described to me the unique characteristics of the southeast: “I think the entrepreneurial spirit in the region is quite strong. But when I first began researching B Corps it was hard to find anyone in the business community who was familiar with the concept. Lots of entrepreneurs I have talked to want to go in this direction, but they don’t know where to go for help. This is a real opportunity local entrepreneurs and the nascent B Corp community.”

Below are excerpts from interviews with Jared Meyers, Chairman of Legacy Vacation Resorts and Salt Palm Development in Florida and one of the founders of Florida for Good, and Kevin Christopher, Founder and Principal of Rockridge Venture Law in Tennessee and a founder of B Tennessee. Both are champions of the B Corp movement as well as believers in this purpose-driven business community. Later this month I’ll join them and other B Corp leaders for BLD Southeast 2020, an online conference for people from Maryland to Texas, when we’ll discuss further some of the questions they answer here.

How do you spread the word about the B Corp community with other businesses, including your industry, personal, and community connections? 

Jared Meyers: My businesses promote B Corps through their marketing, supply chain management, hiring processes, and guest education, which reaches 300,000 people. To go a step further, I co-founded the For Good Movement to spread the word and grow the B Corp movement within Florida and the global travel and tourism industry through regular communications by email, social media and otherwise. We’ve established relationships with government, economic development, academia, values-aligned business networks, community foundations, and civil society to promote the B Corp way through events and collaboration.

Kevin Christopher: I give a number of corporate social responsibility (CSR) presentations to chambers, universities, and bar associations. For instance, in a recent presentation at Yale, I distinguished between the often confused B Corp business certification and benefit corporation, a legal structure for mission-driven businesses. To further uptake of the B Corp model, I partner locally with sustainability and social impact organizations like B Academics, B Local Georgia, Think Tennessee, Leadership Tennessee, green|spacesUrban Green Lab, and Vanderbilt’s Turner Family Center for Social Ventures.

As you work to build awareness of B Corps in your communities and state, what activities or programs have been most successful? 

Meyers: Floridians had virtually no knowledge of B Corps when we started our efforts three years ago. There were 16 B Corps, political leaders didn’t know to support them, attorneys and accountants didn’t suggest them, economic development didn’t consider them, and there was no strong statewide push for the movement.

The University of Florida’s Business for Good Lab has been successful in educating students about B Corps and helping businesses improve their impact and become B Corps. We’ve been able to engage additional colleges and universities since to launch their own programs or to provide their students the ability to participate in the Business for Good Lab. I have also become a Founding Director for Climate First Bank (In Organization), which will immediately seek B Corp status, to provide Florida with a full-service community bank on a mission to positively impact the triple bottom line of people, planet and prosperity.

We still have a long way to go, but B Corps are now part of conversations at important levels.

Christopher: Last year I launched an initiative called B Tennessee. Because we have only a handful of B Corps in Tennessee that are fairly dispersed geographically, we aren’t well positioned to establish a B Local (a network of local B Corps like in Boston or Portland, often organized as a nonprofit association). B Tennessee is our placeholder, serving as a community or forum for CSR generally and not just B Corps. Our August 2020 event featured panelists from chemical, industrial, faith, and retail communities that are leading engagement within those communities around B Corp principles, if not necessarily through B Corps. Perhaps the most impressive panelist was Ryan Bailey of The Bailey Company, a zero waste forklift retailer that prioritizes sustainability. We are trying to exhibit broadly how the people, planet and profit ethos might be best achieved through the B Corp framework, but we also want to recognize advancements in CSR by fellow Tennesseans where B Corp might not be a present option.

What resonates most, given you are in a conservative-leaning state, when you talk with other business leaders or the public? 

Meyers: Changing culture and norms takes a long time despite the immediacy of the problems we face. While there is now a better recognition of societal problems due to COVID-19, the virus and resultant economic crisis are also used as reasons that businesses cannot engage in better capitalism now. Words are very important. Business leaders and the general public struggle with understanding that stakeholder orientation does not make capitalism become socialism, and that justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion does not mean that white people are now being treated unfairly. People want things to be as simple as two choices. The reality is that the world is more nuanced.

There is a concern that businesses cannot succeed without shareholder primacy, but B Corps continue to prove that wrong. There is a feeling that societal change is too expensive, but that is only when the business leaders are short-sighted and do not account for the cost of the climate crisis or civic unrest which both will continue until societal and economic systems are changed.

Christopher: Vincent Stanley of Patagonia participated on our last B Tennessee panel. When I first connected with him, he recommended engaging the faith community. I believe the faith community, and I’m one of them, has sort of dropped the ball on this in the past for many reasons, including doctrinal and political, but many young faith leaders want to see more civic, socioeconomic, and CSR participation by members of their respective communities. I’m a tech lawyer transplant from Berkeley, so some audiences I won’t be able to reach. That’s why it’s so meaningful to have people like Jonathan Ingraham from Chattanooga Faith + Works + Culture supporting our events. When speaking to other business leaders, I highlight the workforce benefits to being a B Corp. Studies show that highly creative and productive employees, particularly millennials, increasingly want to work for companies that provide them leadership opportunities and champion environmental and social impact causes. When speaking to investors, I highlight some of the work by Yale’s Center for Business and the Environment and NC State’s Business Sustainability Collaborativeshowing how B Corps outperform their startup peers. As a county and state commissioner, I use political opportunities to educate legislative and executive leaders on social enterprise and how governmental actions, like stronger benefit corporation statutes and increased awareness around them can supplement B Corp growth.

What types of work have you done on policy or awareness among public/elected officials to encourage more businesses to adopt business corporation governance? 

Meyers: As one of the chairpersons for the East Central Florida’s Regional Planning Council’s Resiliency committee, I’m working with others to recommend regional and hopefully statewide principles around which Florida will unite to rebuild post COVID-19. With others, we have started the process of getting Florida to adopt benefit corporation law changes similar to Delaware’s. This may take some time to come to fruition based on early discussions.

Christopher: I recently provided the Georgia Social Impact Collaborative educational material around their recently passed benefit corporation statute. Earlier this year I led a B Academics panel focused on how trustmarks like B Corp, Fair Trade, and others can survive e-commerce bottlenecks like Amazon and Google Shopping that prioritize other metrics like cheap and fast supply chains at the expense of corporate citizenship. We have a great guide surveying southeastern benefit corporation statutes. The B Tennessee initiative is driven by my firm’s impact and innovation fellow Bruce Allen, kind of a rare role for a law firm. We’re currently finalizing a research study showing less than 1% statutory compliance in transparency requirements by Tennessee benefit corporations. We’ll use this research to help influence better state enablement and promotion of benefit corporations. These are essentially pro bono activities that my firm takes on to advocate for the B Corp and benefit corporation models. We are also sponsoring and helping plan the 2020 BLD Back Better Southeastern B Corp conference alongside Jared Myers and our friends from Florida from Good.

In states like yours with fewer B Corps, what is most helpful to raise awareness of this business community and its values? What are some of the obstacles?

Meyers: We need national campaigns and support at every level of society for business to be inclusive, equitable, and regenerative. I am constantly solicited by suppliers and vendors, and I’ve decided that an easy way to reply to them is to tell them that we prioritize B Corps and to send them the link to the B Impact Assessment (BIA), which is an online tool that all businesses can use. If they take the BIA, I am open to talk further.

The largest obstacle is that our economic systems are designed to produce the outcomes that we reliably receive today. Until the system is changed, it will always be an unfair fight.

Christopher: One of my interns developed a simple infographic on benefit corporations and B Corps that I was surprised to learn was circulating in the Missouri Legislature in support of their attempted benefit corp legislation. I think generally simple, easy-to-digest concepts are important. Also, when you start speaking about ROI and some of the data around B Corps as solid investments compared to peer businesses, that sells.

How important is public/customer awareness of B Corp values? What are some of the best ways you’ve found to explain B Corp to the public? 

Meyers: Extremely important; $400 billion is spent on philanthropy each year while $130 trillion is spent on everyday items. We need the everyday spending to go to companies like B Corps if we really want to solve our problems. If customers and the public don’t know they have a better option for where to work, shop, and support, they will never pursue it. The average person simply doesn’t have the time to engage in long research on most of their decisions, so we have to make it easy on them.

Christopher: The B Corp stamp is essentially a trustmark, which has become more important in times when consumer habits are radically shifting toward e-commerce without touchpoints and familiar validating mechanisms. In southern circles I shy away from using aggrandizing words like “movement” to describe B Corp because I think the model speaks for itself. B Corp certification means that a company has undergone a thorough vetting of its employment policies, supply chains, charitable giving, and other triple-bottom-line metrics. It would and should be very difficult to greenwash B Corp, so for companies looking to connect with conscientious consumers, it is in my opinion the best stamp for doing so.

Florida for Good highlights stakeholder message at first conference

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Photo credit: Institute B

Companies across the southeast United States that balance purpose and profits will come together for their first conference to learn how to improve their businesses.

Florida for Good, co-founded by Jared Meyers, a St. Petersburg real estate developer, will co-host the first-ever BLD [B Corp Leadership Development] Back Better Southeast Conference, a virtual gathering on Nov. 12.

“These BLD conferences have been held in other states, but none have been held in the Southeast. This year we decided we needed to do this,” said Jennifer Moreau, executive director of Florida for Good.

Jennifer Moreau

There are relatively few B Corp companies in the southeast U.S., but conference organizers hope to change that mentality through education.

“Either they don’t know they can do it that way or they are so ingrained in the profit-only and shareholder-only mentality. That’s something we want to change,” Moreau said. “We want to  talk to people about a stakeholder mentality, to consider employees, to consider the environment and think about something other profits. A company has to be profitable, but it won’t stay in business if it’s not considering all of its stakeholders.”

There are nearly 3,400 companies around the world that are certified B Corporation and are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. There are 20 certified B Corp companies in Florida, including Meyers’ Salt Palm Development and Legacy Vacation Resorts, as well as Diamond View, a video production company, and Harness, a subscription philanthropy initiative, both in Tampa.

Jared Meyers, owner and chairman, Salt Palm Development

The BLD Back Better Southeast Conference is not just for B Corp companies, Moreau said.

“We want to include the social enterprises, the Conscious Capitalism chapters, the 1 Percent for the Planet members, anyone who owns a sustainable company and who wants to network with others that they didn’t know existed in the region, and also to help companies that have just heard about this and want more information. We want to give them a taste of what it’s like running a B Corp company, what’s important and should be considered in business operations, to light their fire and let them know here are the next steps,” Moreau said.

The day-long event will feature networking and learning opportunities, including discussions with local and national B Corp leaders. Tim Moore, CEO of Diamond View, is a panelist for B Corp 101, which will focus on how the B impact assessment tool can improve business. Other sessions will focus on branding, climate change, leadership and impact investing. Meyers will host a virtual happy hour event at the end of the conference.

More details and registration are here.

Orlando Sentinel: Jared Meyers: Minimum-wage amendment good for business and Floridians

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Op-Ed By Jared Meyers
Orlando Sentinel, Oct 17, 2020

People are at the center of the hospitality business. How we treat people matters every day — from our employees to our community to our guests.

That’s why I support Amendment 2, the ballot measure to gradually raise Florida’s minimum wage. No one in the hospitality industry or any other industry should be working full-time and struggling just to keep a roof overhead and food on the table. There’s nothing hospitable about that. …

My companies and the organization I co-founded, Florida for Good, have joined with many others in the Florida Business for a Fair Minimum Wage coalition. There is strong business support for raising the minimum wage across the state and across industries — from hospitality to manufacturing; from big companies to the small businesses that are such a vibrant part of our local communities.

Amendment 2 will put Florida’s minimum wage on the path to a living wage, which is fundamentally good business. When wages go up, there is not only more consumer spending, businesses experience lower turnover (cutting down the costs of hiring and training employees), and businesses see increased productivity and better customer service.

Amendment 2 will help us build a more resilient post-pandemic economy that is more equitable, inclusive and sustainable.

We have a path laid out for shared recovery and shared prosperity. We just need to walk it together.

Jared Meyers is owner of Legacy Vacation Resorts (which includes locations in Orlando and Kissimmee) and Salt Palm Development in St. Petersburg. He is also co-founder of Florida for Good.

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