How to Be a Force for Good During Crisis: B Corps Focus on Community

March 25, 2020

Even in Times of Economic Trouble, Businesses Can Help Keep Others Afloat

Right now, those of us who are able are staying home to protect our health — and the health of others. Through seclusion, we each are strengthening our community. It’s an individual act for collective good. We’re also grateful for those who are working amid the COVID-19 pandemic, providing crucial health care and keeping essential services available.

The impact of the pandemic on the economy has also been in the news and on minds across the country and around the globe. Whether times are tough or “normal,” Certified B Corporations follow business practices that benefit not only their bottom line but also boost the well-being of their communities. By working toward a more inclusive and sustainable economy — with the future of workers, customers, and environment in mind — B Corps can act locally and think globally.

As public health officials are urging people to stay home and slow the spread of COVID-19, many businesses and workers are feeling the effects of a suddenly stalled economy and wondering what the future may bring. B The Change reached out on the B Hive, an online community for B Corps, to gather ideas from businesses working to be a force for good, even during this crisis.

B Corps Are Caring for Community During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Several B Corps in small towns and big cities are stepping up in ways large and small to help others in their communities. Here are just a few examples:

  • B Corp The Body Shop is donating 30,000 units of hand soap and body bar soap to local shelters. In Austin, Texas, store manager Tamara Cossey selected Hope Alliance, a women’s shelter, as the recipient of 100 donated items. “The smiles on their faces were unexplainable,” Cossey says.
  • To help students who are home from school — and their parents looking for educational options — New England-based B Corp ReVision Energy is offering free online webinars aimed at grade-schoolers once a week that include lessons on renewable energy and sustainability.
  • Like many others in the restaurant industry, B Corp Luke’s Lobster faces big challenges and an uncertain long-term future. But, as co-founder Ben Conniff says, “We’re also in a unique position to turn our bad fortune into a benefit for those in need.” Luke’s Lobster donated food to the Broward Outreach Center in Florida, Project FIND in New York City, and a series of hospitals in Portland, Maine, and New York City, and the B Corp launched a program in its still-open markets to donate food to front-line hospital workers (customers also have the option to donate meals). “It’s been brutal to have to furlough so much of our team and see much of what we’ve built for 10 years be shuttered so quickly,” Conniff says. “But it’s also inspiring to be working in the trenches with the folks we have left and doing what we can to help the community and stay alive to hopefully rebuild our team and keep our fishermen fishing.”
Banyan Botanicals recently purchased a farm in Southern Oregon and will be supplying the local community with herbs and produce at farmers’ markets and through a CSA.
Banyan Botanicals recently purchased a farm in Southern Oregon and will be supplying the local community with herbs and produce at farmers’ markets and through a CSA.

Commitments to Community Are Even More Valuable in Times of Crisis

In addition to the assistance provided in times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, B Corps prioritize their communities in their everyday operations. One example of this is demonstrated by B Corp Banyan Botanicals, which has operated with community health and well-being at its core for more than 24 years. Through its Ayurvedic herbs and products, Banyan helps individuals enhance their health — and in the last year the B Corp added a program that supports community organizations with outreach to underserved populations.

This addition is the latest growth that Erin Douglas has seen since starting work at Banyan in 2013. Through the years, she has served in several roles as the company added employees and initiatives. In her current job as corporate social responsibility manager, Douglas helped champion the company’s process to earn B Corp certification in 2019.

“We have these great values: sanctity of nature, treating everyone with honesty, dignity and respect,” she says. “As an employee, I wondered how that translated into our community. At a lot of purpose-driven companies, it’s important to ask: What more could we be doing? One of the reasons we became a B Corp was to deepen our commitment to our values.”

Banyan Community Grant Fund

Douglas also helped Banyan launch its community grant fund last year to support organizations and projects that serve their communities by making Ayurveda and wellness more accessible to all people.

“The Banyan Community Grant fund was an idea I had many years ago, and once we became B Corp Certified, it gave us the motivation to launch the program,” Douglas says. And, in times of crisis like we are currently experiencing, such support of community wellness organizations are even more critical.

The 2019 grantees are:

  • Alandi Ayurveda Sliding Scale Clinic, which provides Ayurvedic health care and herbal medicine to low-income people in the Colorado Front Range and neighboring states.
  • Awakened Sobriety Community Initiative, a support program that integrates principles of Ayurveda and yoga with addiction treatment.
  • The Yoga Seed Collective, which offers classes on a sliding scale payment option at its Sacramento studio and leads community outreach programs, including trauma-informed classes. More than half of its students live at or below the poverty level.
  • Wellness Program for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness, supporting the well-being of individuals experiencing homelessness by educating and sharing the tools of yoga and Ayurveda.

Caring for the health of communities is a natural fit for the nurturing nature of Banyan’s business. Banyan CEO Kevin Casey often says: “As a business, we are blessed and challenged by an abundance of opportunities to serve.”

Another outlet for education and outreach in local communities is Banyan’s ambassador program. “We consider our ambassadors family, and our ‘arms and legs’ out in the communities they touch,” Douglas says. “They share the B Corp message and values, which are inherently aligned with Ayurveda and the notion of conscious consumerism — wanting to heal each other and the planet.”

While Banyan is nearing its first anniversary as a B Corp, Douglas says certification already has helped the company set new goals for continuous improvement and reinforce its focus on community.

“Our values are really brought to life because of B Corp,” she says. “We are making a bigger difference in the world, and that inspires our employees, ambassadors and customers.”

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