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Letter From A Founder #5. Why We Became a Certified B Corp

Letter From A Founder #5. Why We Became a Certified B Corp

Why are these men weighing trash? Well, it's because we're a B Corp and we run a zero waste facility and we were doing a waste audit...fun times!

But, why did we become a B Corp?

Wait, what is a B Corp?

Maybe you’ve already heard the term before or seen the logo around. It looks like this:

There are over 3,200 Certified B Corps around the world. The official definition of a Certified B Corp is this: 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.

How and why did we become a B Corp?

I won’t retell the story of how The GFB got started (you can read my brother Marshall’s blog post about that) but picture this: we had just opened our first facility in Grand Rapids, MI. We had a handful of team members and we’re just scrambling to make enough bars to fulfill orders. I would take out the trash at the end of the day, and I remember having to drag cardboard boxes across a parking lot to a neighbor’s cardboard recycling dumpster because we didn’t have one at our building. That didn’t seem right, and I think that was actually the beginning of our journey towards becoming a B Corp.

Fast forward a few months...we did manage to get our own cardboard recycling dumpster, but the responsibilities of running a business had become more apparent. Realizing that there are actual people that work here that depend on us for their livelihood is a big one. The waste that we generate from just our daily production was another. We had always felt that, if we’re going to start a business, we had a responsibility to do the “right thing”. At the time that meant we should pay people a living wage and recycle what we can. So, that’s what we did and we felt pretty good about it.

A few months later I had lunch with a friend, Kris Spaulding, an owner at Brewery Vivant. Kris and her husband Jason started Brewery Vivant and they are the world's first LEED Certified microbrewery, which is amazing all by itself, and they are also a B Corp. I had no idea what a B Corp was but Kris told me "it’s like LEED Certification, but for your business practices". I knew right away that this is something we need to look into. There’s actually a mini B Corp "test", called the Quick Impact Assessment, you can take that gives you an idea where your business stands in terms of sustainability (that tricky blend of giving equal importance to people, planet and profits). Perhaps more importantly, it highlights the areas that you need to work on. After taking the quick impact assessment, it turned out that becoming a B Corp seemed somewhat attainable, but there was a lot we needed to work on. 

It took over a year of developing better policies and business practices, such as a more robust recycling program, more impactful team member benefits, better energy efficiency, using suppliers that aligned with our values, doing more to support the local economy and community and many other things. At the same time we had to do this all in a way that allowed our business to still stay in, well, business. It took some serious effort, but in 2015 The GFB became an official Certified B Corp.

When I think back to the “why” behind deciding to become a B Corp, it hasn’t really changed. At it's core, being a B Corp is a commitment to always striving to do the “right thing”. B Corp simply provides the framework for defining what those "right things" actually are, and more importantly proving that you are actually doing those things.

To sum it all up, there are the three main reasons that we became a B Corp.

  • It’s who we are. We have never put profits above all else. We always strive to do the right thing for our team members, community, and the planet. We believe that being a B Corp leaves the world a little bit better than the way we found it.
  • Third party verification: It’s one thing to say you’re doing something, it’s another to prove it. There’s no better way to prove that you are doing the “right thing” in your business practices than becoming a Certified B Corp. 
  • It helps us to connect with customers: Today’s consumers care more than ever about the values of the businesses behind the products they buy. Being a Certified B Corp clearly demonstrates our values and hopefully can serve as an inspiration for us all to do a little better and realize there is more to success than just making money.

Today, some of the things that we are most proud of are that we now operate a zero waste food production facility, we have an inclusive hiring program where we provide job opportunities to those with barriers to employment (such as formerly incarcerated individuals) and a strong benefits program and resources to help any team member with any challenging situation they may have in their lives.

If you’re a business owner, or know somebody that is, share this article with them. My hope is that it inspires someone to think about using their business as a force for good. Growing the B Corp movement is going to make the world a better place. Any questions on becoming a B Corp? Email me at elliott@thegfb.com