ORLANDO, Fla. (March 30, 2020) – Florida For Good (FFG), an organization that helps bolster the business for good movement in the state, has just launched the B Tourism resource platform for sustainable tourism businesses to connect, share best practices and during these trying times, provide free resources to those companies dealing with negative impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the For Good Movement Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit, FFG was founded on the principles of helping businesses in Florida become more conscious, sustainable and focused on people and the planet instead of just profit while putting a strong sense of community at the core of all they do. Having been co-created in partnership with a hospitality company, Certified B Corporation Legacy Vacation Resorts, that sense of community is stronger than ever during this unprecedented time for an industry that has suffered devastating impacts and leadership felt a strong call to action to create the new B Tourism network to be of assistance to their industry partners.
How our corporate leaders act now is critical to beating the coronavirus.
Over the past few years, we have watched the American business community move beyond caring simply about shareholders and bottom lines to embrace their relationships with their communities, employees and customers. Led by groups like the Business Roundtable and B Corporation, this movement — some call it “stakeholder capitalism” or “compassionate capitalism” — has the potential to change American society. Now is the time for us to live up to those commitments.
Lead by example — Ralph Waldo Emerson said “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” When you practice sustainable efforts at home and in your day to day activities, your children become forces for good by habit. My children and their friends are well aware that my family supports ethical and conscious products and companies, avoids single use items, drives electric vehicles uses solar panels at home, has a composter in the backyard and an heirloom seed garden for produce and herbs, and we even share with them how we donate to various charities to become carbon neutral through offsets. Showing children and young people exactly what to do and that you do it yourself is critical to driving home the message that sustainability is easily practiced and attained.
Aspart of my series about what we must do to inspire the next generation about sustainability and the environment, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jared Meyers.
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.
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.
“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.”
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 (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
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
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 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:
- 3 Ways to ‘B’ a Partner: Create, Share, Support: Certified B Corporations Benefit From the Power of Collaboration
- Minding and Offsetting the Environmental Costs of Travel: Costa Rican Tourist Destination Values Nature as Stakeholder
- Accelerating Industrywide Action on Sustainable Tourism: B Corp Better Places Builds on Travel Offsets Program
- Vendedy: Connecting Travelers Worldwide to the $10 Trillion Street-Market Economy
- Can Carbon Offsets Work? Eric Zimmerman and TripZero Join Others in Offsetting Emissions From Travel
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.
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.
Salt Palm Development will use half of its profit on its latest real estate project to benefit the St. Petersburg community.
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.”
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.
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.
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.