B Corps Encourage Customers and Employees to Use Their Democratic Voice for Strategic Impact — at the Polls and Throughout the Year
“As business leaders, some of us might think it’s not our role, it’s not our place to support democracy or democratic processes. But there is so much that each of us — as business leaders and community leaders and leaders in families — can do to make a change. And that change does require people to be engaged through the system of making their voices heard through voting.” — Diana Marie Lee, Founder and Principal of B Corp Sweet Livity, during the WeTheChange “B Corps Vote!” webinar
With more customers looking to spend their dollars with companies that align with their personal values, the line that used to separate business from politics is fading. In the United States, businesses are going beyond “get out the vote” campaigns with deeper calls to action — and Certified B Corporations are at the forefront of these impact strategies thanks to their strong ties with customers and workers.
In the run-up to this fall’s U.S. election, the WeTheChange movement of B Corp and purpose-driven womxn leaders has focused its weekly webinars and other programming on policy action and social impact strategies. One recent webinar featured women leaders from three B Corps that are advancing innovative and effective voter and policy programs: Rebecca Hamilton from Badger Balm, Jenn Swain from Burton, and Lindsay Dahl from Beautycounter.
All three companies ensure employees have time to vote, either through paid time off or flexible scheduling. Badger Balm and Burton also are members of Time to Vote, a nonpartisan movement of businesses encouraging greater voter participation in the United States. Through other initiatives — providing a forum for candidates, encouraging employees to volunteer at the polls, connecting customers with voting resources, and pursuing policy change year-round — these B Corps demonstrate the value of democracy and the power of each voter. Learn more in these highlights from the webinar.
Impact Strategies for Doing More Around Civic Engagement
Rebecca Hamilton of Badger Balm
At Badger Balm, Rebecca Hamilton serves as co-CEO with her sister in leading the 25-year-old company that manufactures organic body care products. In recent years, Hamilton saw a need for the company to act on its values as a B Corp and get more involved in politics, starting by supporting its 100 area employees and community members in getting out to vote.
“That’s the simplest thing that any company can do — simply don’t stand in the way,” she says. “And if you can do more, that’s great.”
This year Badger Balm is doing more in several ways. In addition to actually offering the paid time off for employees to vote, Badger Balm is giving employees time to volunteer to drive people to the polls. As a sponsor of New Hampshire Votes SAFE, the B Corp is part of an initiative that provides a toolkit on voting during a pandemic. “We run the risk of limiting the democratic process if people either feel unsafe or don’t have safe ways that they can go out and vote in this election cycle,” Hamilton says.
Badger Balm also schedules candidates to come to its facility to speak with employees and members of the community.
“We worked to create a vetting system, based on our mission and principles, where we could look at candidates’ voting records and policy platforms and determine if that candidate would forward our social and environmental mission. And if the answer is yes, then we could use that as a vetting process to be able to create a space for them to have a voice before the election process,” she says.
Tapping into a Passion for the Outdoors for Strategic Impact
Jenn Swain of Burton
Burton bases its political advocacy off its industry: As a company that helps others enjoy the outdoors, the B Corp, its customers, and nearly 1,000 employees prioritize protecting the environment. Jenn Swain, global senior sustainability manager at Burton, says the B Corp is involved in six democracy-related initiatives, including several focused on sustainability.
“We all need to be working to create system change — as businesses, as individuals. We’re encouraging everyone to vote their values, and to vote, period,” she says. “We do believe that our community, by and large, shares our values. And we really want to make sure they turn out.”
Based on its values and existing business network, Burton selects advocacy programs and partnerships that encourage employees and customers to be civically active. “We work to find that balance of what is an employee facing and what is that message, versus what is our brand message, because there’s going to be a slight difference,” she says.
Burton and other companies in the outdoor community work with Protect Our Winters, a nonprofit that focuses on improving voter turnout among people with a passion for fighting climate change. Swain says this partnership includes helping voters access resources such as mail-in ballots or candidate scorecards on pertinent issues, including the climate crisis, anti-racism, and social justice.
“There are 50 million eligible voters in the U.S. outdoor community. If we can turn out 10% more than typically vote, that’s 5 million more voters,” she says. “We’re aiming high. But this is the reason that we’re focusing on making a plan to vote.”
The “Make a Plan to Vote” widget on Burton’s website allows users to fill out a form so they can check their registration and request a mail-in ballot or application. “We’re actually helping to fund those ballot requests to be mailed to people’s homes,” Swain says. “This is incredibly important, in particular during the pandemic, but in general for accessibility.”
With a young customer base, Burton is seizing the opportunity to encourage younger voters by having some of its ambassador athletes visit swing states. They share how the climate crisis is affecting snowboarding and the connections between policy and athletics.
“Something like 20% of people in the U.S. follow politics, and 75% follow sports,” Swain says. “In the era of influencers, don’t lean away from that. Really see how you can leverage that.”
Burton also is part of Business for America’s Vote Safe campaign supporting vote-by-mail policy; Time to Vote, providing time off or flexible scheduling so employees can vote; and Power the Polls, encouraging employees to use their volunteer time off this year by staffing the polls.
Year-Round Policy Engagement
Lindsay Dahl of Beautycounter
At Beautycounter, advocacy is built into the business DNA: The beauty product company was founded with a goal to ensure personal care products are safe for everyone.
Lindsay Dahl, senior vice president of social mission at Beautycounter, says this means the B Corp works to mobilize people to get out to vote and engage with elected officials on key issues. Many companies have a history of working behind the scenes to influence policy, but Beautycounter makes it a focus to do so publicly and transparently by providing nonpartisan training so associates, not a hired lobbying firm, can engage with elected officials and hold them accountable. Beautycounter also established a business collective called the Counteract Coalition to mobilize customers in policy work.
“We have a very big tent company — people of different political backgrounds that both purchase and sell our products,” Dahl says “It’s been really encouraging for us to unify what is an increasingly divided country by saying, ‘We’re not all going to agree on every issue. And that’s OK. But what we do care about or agree on is the need for clean beauty laws.’”
As a member of Time to Vote, Beautycounter ensures its workers have time to vote in advance or head to the polls on Election Day.
“We’re partnering with I am a Voter this year knowing that getting out to vote is really important,” Dahl says. “But the first step in order to get out to vote is to understand if you’re registered. And so we’re launching on voter registration day, heading through the election, a pretty content-rich campaign.”
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