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My guest today is Katie Kerr, Director of Communications for B Lab, which certifies and supports B Corporations.
JB: Welcome back to OpEdNews, Katie. We last spoke in December but there have been some exciting new developments. Would you care to fill us in?
KK: Hi, Joan. It's great to be speaking with you again. 2015 is off to a roaring start for the B Corp community. The biggest news is that we just released our fourth annual 'B Corp Best for the World' lists. (link bestfortheworld.bcorporation.net)
The 2015 B Corp Best for the World Lists highlight those companies creating the most impact for a better world. We think of this as the Fortune 500 of social and environmental impact. 'B Corp Best for the World' Honorees have earned a score in the top 10% of more than 1,200 Certified B Corporations from over 120 industries on the B Impact Assessment, a rigorous and comprehensive assessment of a company's impact on its workers, community, and the environment. 120 companies have been honored this year for creating the most overall impact, with separate lists issued for environmental, community and worker impact as well. These companies as leaders among leaders and hope they will inspire all companies to start measuring their impact with as much rigor as profit.
JB: That is exciting, but a bit abstract. Can you pick one company to illustrate what a Best B Corp might look like?
KK: Of course - The 2015 Best For the World Honorees come from a wide variety of industries and countries, but all are creating a high social and environmental impact. For example, Echale a Tu Casa is a social housing production company in Mexico, working to address the massive housing shortage in the developing world. Today, there is a total housing deficit of over 400 million around the world. Echale a Tu Casa helps families build their own homes using innovations in construction, technology and finance. By addressing the usual pitfalls of self-building (expensive materials and lack of financing), the company allows families, and entire communities, the opportunity to focus on their development and household wealth.
In addition to a offering a great product to those in need, Echale a Tu Casa pays its lowest-paid workers 355% above minimum wage and provides all employees with free or subsidized housing. They also source 60% of their supplies from local companies and work to minimize their environmental impact through energy and water usage monitoring and fuel efficient technologies. These, and many other policies and practices, make the company a triple threat when it comes to impact, and Best for the World.
JB: Wonderful. Another, please.
KK: Another one of our inspiring 2015 Honorees is Oliberte, a Canadian leather goods company which works to create sustainable jobs in Africa by sourcing materials from, and manufacturing in the continent. All of their employees come from chronically-unemployed communities and have access to free or subsidized meals, tuition reimbursement and language training.
Their shoes and bags not only help create jobs but are environmentally friendly. The rubber used for soles is natural and the leather is hormone-free and free-range. In fact, 75% of the materials in their products are recycled, biodegradable, or environmentally-preferred. Finally, Oliberte supports its community with nearly 90% of expenses going to local businesses (within 200 miles). This allows them to create the greatest impact, supporting jobs at other companies as well.
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JB: I love it! Can you give us one example more before we move on?
KK: Sure, this one is a multi-list honoree and a true inspiration. Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA) is home care provider based in the Bronx, NY. They are not only Best for the World Overall, but Best for Communities AND Best for Workers (This means they scored in the top 10% of all B Corps for the overall, worker and community impact.)
CHCA is a worker-owned cooperative dedicated to providing quality home care through quality jobs. They employ over 2,000 people (nearly all Latina and African American women) making them the largest worker cooperative in the US and their customers primarily live in low-income communities. To remove barriers to employment, CHCA's development program provides comprehensive home health training with guaranteed jobs for graduates, targeted mentoring, and a range of support to help workers address both professional and personal challenges as they transition to work. CHCA employees are offered full-time hours, competitive wages, overtime paid at time-and-a-half of base wage, worker ownership, peer mentoring and financial literacy training. All this is in an industry which typically direct-care staff as temporary and easily replaceable.
JB: Excellent! I have a question about this one. Home care, not even good quality home care, is quite expensive. I know this first hand because of caring for my own mother. If conditions at CHCA are so much better, how do they not price themselves out of the market, Katie?