B in Community Event Highlights
Messages of gratitude and love launched the recent B in Community event, a year-end celebration for Certified B Corporations in the U.S. and Canada. In honoring all that B Corp leaders have been through in 2020 — working separately to keep businesses afloat, adjusting to shifting supply and demand, protecting frontline workers, and more — the virtual gathering offered the community a time to reflect and regroup before the calendar turns to 2021.
Thank You, B Corps
As members of a business community founded on the power of connections, B Corps have an opportunity to lead the way toward a more resilient and inclusive economy that works for all people and protects the future of the planet — stepping up to meet the moment.
Emcees and B Corp community members Lynn Johnson and Julie Fahnestock opened the event with personal stories of love and vulnerability from 2020 before asking attendees to create a chat box “waterfall” by sharing a word or phrase describing how love had shown up for them this year. That feeling of appreciation and love continued with remarks and the presentation of community awards by several B Lab U.S. & Canada leaders.
Building the B Corp Community
When the COVID-19 pandemic led to stay-at-home orders that shuttered many businesses, jostled supply chains, and shifted many workers to remote offices, B Corps stepped up to the challenge, said Ben Anderson, co-CEO of B Lab U.S. & Canada.
“This has been our most challenging year as a community,” he said. “And on the flip side… we’ve had some of our greatest successes and had this opportunity to accelerate the system change work that we’re doing together. Both the challenge and this opportunity have forged a deeper bond.”
The pandemic also further revealed the strength found in the interdependence of the B Corp community, Anderson said.
“When we surveyed those B Corps that were facing financial crisis themselves, the vast majority also wanted to be helping other B Corps in this really difficult time,” he said. “That is what makes community, and that’s what makes us more resilient.”
The solid foundation found in the B Corp stakeholder model is attracting attention from more companies and individuals looking to build better for the future in the face of the climate crisis and other global challenges, he said.
“Who would have guessed in the middle of a pandemic that companies would still want to go through the rigorous process of certifying,” he said, noting that demand more than doubled after the first couple of weeks of March. “One one hand we were surprised, but as you step back, it shouldn’t be surprising that this is where the world is turning.”
By offering support and adapting their business models in the face of 2020’s challenges, Anderson said B Corps demonstrated how a shift to stakeholder capitalism can strengthen businesses, ensure the health of our planet, and create an economy that works for all people.
Addressing Systemic Imbalances
The events of 2020 revealed new lessons about leadership and the B Corp community’s individual and collective roles of using business as a force for good, said Jess Friesen, senior director of community at B Lab U.S. & Canada. That includes rebalancing systems so the burdens of crises like the COVID-19 pandemic and climate emergency don’t fall heaviest on the least fortunate among us.
“Over the last year, we’ve seen how this labor imbalance based on identity is even so much broader than just equity and inclusion work,” said Friesen, pointing to data that show more than 860,000 women dropped out of the U.S. workforce in September compared to 200,000 men. The percentage of American women in the workforce is the lowest since 1988, Friesen said, reflecting the additional burden that women generally carry for child care and household responsibilities and the need for policies and practices to ease that load.
She said B Corp leaders — everyone on the webinar — must step up to build the companies and communities that they want to see. That means addressing the inequities found in social and economic systems rooted in white supremacy, colonialism, and patriarchy that drew renewed focus this year amid violence against Black people, including the police killing of George Floyd in May, and subsequent rallies for racial justice.
Finding Our Voice, Valuing Our Well-Being
Those events and others motivated Anthea Kelsick, co-CEO of B Lab U.S. & Canada, to write a letter in June calling on the B Corp community and the private sector to show up and be accountable as a anti-racist business leaders.
“I wrote that letter, finding myself in the days following George Floyd’s murder really angry and really scared. My initial response was a sense of powerlessness,” she said. “But with the support of so many people in the B Corp community who reached out… I was able to tap into my courage in that moment and really show up as my full self.
“2020 has been this horrific crucible of crises around health, racial injustice, unprecedented political upheaval, and on a personal front, the fallout of all of those things on each of our personal lives. 2020 has also been a year of transformation. I consider that experience of finding my voice one of the greatest gifts of 2020.”
Kelsick said this year’s events also have reinforced the B Corp value of considering the well-being of all people, including ourselves. With that guidance and a desire to balance her personal capacity and wellness, Kelsick said she has decided to transition to a new role as a board member for B Lab U.S. & Canada and work with the B Corp community in a governance capacity to build an organization where all are welcome.
“So I’m very grateful for the craziness of this year, I suppose, to force some of that inquiry, and also truly grateful for an opportunity to transition into something that will allow me to find more balance for myself in 2021,” she said. “When the load gets too heavy, it’s OK to put it down for a little while. When you’re part of a community like this, there’s always going to be someone next to you who’s going to pick it up and carry it forward until you’ve refilled your own reservoir and are ready to come back.”
In further realizing the value of community this year, Kelsick encouraged the B Corp community to dig deeper into collaboration and conversation by bringing more voices into the conversation.
“None of us is as strong as all of us,” she said. “When we move together, we move farther, potentially faster. … We actually are also able to look out for each other and to ensure that we’re also taken care of along the way.”
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