Vermont certified B Corps: Using business as a force for good

November 05, 2019

Vermont has long been an incubator of innovative companies whose mission and impact are central to their business models.

Today, our state is at the forefront of a national wave of socially responsible businesses. Global businesses based in Vermont like Ben & Jerry’s and Seventh Generation have become synonymous with social activism and sustainable practices. But sustainable operations—what customers don’t usually see—are an essential aspect of socially and environmentally responsible business. Many Vermont companies commit to higher standards than conventional businesses for environmental and community stewardship as well as employee well-being, supply chain transparency, and accountable governance.

In 2010 Vermont became the second state in the US to pass Benefit Corporation legislation, a new corporate structure that creates a solid foundation for long term mission alignment and value creation within a business. Vermont’s legislation paved the way for businesses to do good, while benefiting from the flexibility to create long term value for all stakeholders, including shareholders, over the long term, even through exit transactions such as IPOs and acquisitions. Benefit Corporations can also become certified B Corps. According to B Lab, the nonprofit that certifies B Corps, “certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.” Currently there are 36 B Corps in Vermont and many more Benefit Corporations.

Vermont B Corps make the grade

Vermont’s Governor Phil Scott recently proclaimed October as Employee Ownership Month. With a high national per capita ranking for employee-owned companies, Vermont is home to more than 40 employee-owned organizations, five of which are certified B Corps.

B Lab recently announced its annual “Best for the World” list, an annual recognition and celebration of  high-performing B Corps that create the greatest positive impact through their businesses. Honorees are recognized for committing to the highest environmental, community, customer, worker, supply chain, and overall positive impact by earning a score in the top 10% on the B Impact Assessment. Fourteen Vermont businesses—over 40% of the state’s certified B Corps—made the honorary list. One company, Clean Yield Asset Management of Norwich, made the overall Best for the World list, ranking high in four different categories.

In the last 18 months, seven Vermont businesses achieved certified B Corp status: Burton Snowboards (Burlington), Heritage Aviation (South Burlington), Bee’s Wrap Sustainable Food Storage (Middlebury), Driven Studio Creative Agency (Burlington),  Hallam-ICS Engineering (South Burlington), Lake Champlain Chocolates (Burlington), and Brattleboro Savings and Loan. One commitment held in common among these new certified B Corps is their focus on minimizing negative environmental impacts of their operations, while optimizing the well-being of their employees.

Vermont B Corps in action

The spirit of Vermont’s people shines through in the businesses they create. Vermont’s B Corp  landscape is one of collaboration and community building, inspiring employees and employers alike to do business the best way by balancing purpose with profitability.

In the agricultural field, several food-based Vermont certified B Corps recently created the B Corp Trail in collaboration with Dig In VT, a nonprofit that brings together food providers with businesses to help people connect to great food and farm experiences. Following the B Corp Trail takes visitors on a delicious tour to 10 Vermont B Corps including Cabot Creamery Co-op and the Alchemist Brewery.

Meanwhile, SunCommon, a Waterbury-based solar energy equipment supplier and certified B Corp, made news when it launched a student debt repayment program for its employees. Driven Studio, specializing in video production, graphic design, copy and photography, commits to a unique program that rewards every employee with an exceptionally generous 401K bonus as a way of sharing profitability with all employees equitably. Rhino Foods, manufacturer of all those good chunks you find in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, offers an income advance program for its employees, more than a third of whom are New Americans. King Arthur Flour recently raised its employee minimum wage to $15/hour for all seasonal, part-time, and full-time employees at the company.

For other companies, like Mascoma Bank, based in Lebanon, NH with multiple branches in Vermont, being a certified B Corp is a meaningful commitment to the community. Their emphasis is on environmental impact and significant annual giving.

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