Making Authentic Commitments to Business Climate Action
April 13, 2022
How B Corps Are Embedding Climate Action in Their Everyday Work and Partnering for Climate Justice in Their Communities
Businesses looking to build effective and authentic work against climate change can look to the communities around them for opportunities that connect with their mission and resonate with workers. It’s a stakeholder-minded approach that Certified B Corporations are incorporating to ensure they are making authentic commitments to business climate action.
In the accelerating climate crisis, leaders of businesses of all sizes, and in varied industries, are realizing the need to evaluate their company practices and step up their environmental work. As a community of companies committed to create fair solutions that benefit all people and the planet, B Corps are embedding business climate action in their everyday activities — from reducing greenhouse gas emissions to advocating for fair climate policy to addressing the social injustices caused or made worse by climate change. They also are calling on other business leaders to join them — and amplify their work with partner organizations — to advocate for communities most affected by climate change and shift policy and practices to create a more just and inclusive economy.
The examples that follow provide a peek at two smaller B Corps that are partnering with community organizations to advance climate action and justice.
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The Value of Authentic Commitments and Climate Certifications
This approach is especially helpful for smaller companies looking to maximize the positive impact of their environmental work, says Eric Cárdenas, Chief Operating Officer at LOACOM, a Santa Barbara-based B Corp that supports community and environmental changemakers. He recently moderated a panel discussion on “Move Beyond Platitudes: Implementing an Authentic Commitment” at the 1% for the Planet Global Summit that included leaders from B Corps Verdical Group and Avocado Green Mattress, as well as OXO.
The overarching theme of that discussion was to begin close to home. “Look to your community as a really easy place to start. Take little steps,” Cárdenas says. “There’s no reason to try to do it all at one time. Identify the companies, nonprofits, or other organizations that are doing the work that you feel really good about, and that is truly aligned to your authentic commitments.”
Identifying and partnering with local organizations that align with your company’s DNA also makes the collaboration more impactful and meaningful for employees, he says. That’s one reason why LOACOM recently started providing pro bono consulting to a local racial justice organization, Healing Justice SB. This work lines up with their goal of becoming an anti-racist company.
“We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do.” he says. “It’s valuable to them, yes, but also to us. Giving in this way helps us grow and learn as a team — there is a kind of reciprocity in the relationship.” Focusing on local organizations also provides an opportunity for smaller businesses to have a tangible impact, he says. “Small companies that say, ‘Oh, we don’t have all the resources,’ that’s probably true,” he says. “Just start small, look around you, and identify those things that matter to you. At the end of the day, it’s all about action.”
That action can mean small and or big steps forward in the journey for business climate action, Cárdenas says. “Everybody’s on their own part of their journey, and everybody’s journey looks different. That means each company’s approach to climate action also should be different.”
For some businesses, reinforcing the commitments can include becoming a B Corp, a member of 1% for the Planet, or Climate Neutral Certified. “The certification piece was one thing that was really important to all of these brands, including LOACOM. These are trustmarks that are becoming more and more recognized,” Cárdenas says. “Now, we’re all doing our best to make sure customers and clients are aware of what they mean and how they really speak to our fundamental commitments.”
As more consumers become aware of the meaning behind these trustmarks, they serve as an external signal of a company’s commitment to the environment. “For LOACOM, we’re proud of our B Corp Certification because we know that inside, as a company, we’re meeting these very important requirements and expectations of us as a socially responsible business,” Cárdenas says. “Together, you’re really saying, ‘Here’s our commitment.’”
The Climate Justice Playbook for Business
This practical guide from B Lab features information to help business leaders understand the intersection of climate action and social justice and advance a justice-centered approach to climate action.
Partnering with Community Organizations to Advance Climate Justice
At Portland, Oregon-based B Corp Grapevine Outdoor, owners and founders Abe Tannenbaum and Russell Davis-Cohen are using their business services for two local projects that support Black and Indigenous people. In 2015, they started Grapevine Outdoor, a B Corp that provides outdoor advertising such as for billboards, wallscapes, advertising trucks and trikes, and indoor mall signage. They collaborate with other B Corps in Portland, stay involved and connected with the community, and support those who have also long called it home.
One is with the Columbia Riverkeeper organization and its campaign advocating for removal of four dams on the Lower Snake River because of concerns about salmon and orca survival. The dams, as well as recent summer heat waves, are threatening salmon populations, which are crucial for the survival of orca whales in the Puget Sound area and elsewhere.
It’s a chain of events that can be prevented, Tannenbaum says, and Grapevine Outdoor billboards will depict how the survival of salmon is crucial for the region and its residents. “Indigenous tribes in the Pacific Northwest are calling for this,” he says. “If that’s their position, then I’m all for it and want to help. They have been fishing and stewarding these rivers for many generations, and that should continue for many generations to come. The salmon and the orca have a right to survive and thrive.”
Another Grapevine Outdoor project with social and environmental impact is in support of Taking Ownership PDX, an organization founded to help Black homeowners in Portland with maintenance and remodeling projects, in an effort to fight gentrification, help them age in place and avoid legal complaints, fines and predatory investors and realtors. The project strikes close to home for Tannenbaum and Davis-Cohen, who both grew up in northeast Portland and have witnessed the negative effects of gentrification through the years.
“People are getting pushed out through rising home prices, predatory lending, and other tactics to take over their homes,” Tannenbaum says. “I’ve seen the drastic change in my lifetime, so it’s personal for me.”
In addition to collaborating on Grapevine Outdoor billboards with Taking Ownership PDX to raise awareness of its services, the Grapevine team has connected the organization’s founder, Randal Wyatt, with other local businesses for campaigns and advocacy. They are also trying to help Wyatt and other People of Color in the community create generational wealth by sharing commercial real estate and business opportunities with them.
“It’s great to have more People of Color who are business owners in the commercial and retail space, but it’s even better if they have ownership in the property because that can help build generational wealth,” Tannenbaum says. “There are different ways to use billboard space and connect dots with the community and business network we have that can lead to bigger and more valuable opportunities. We want to do what we can to help the situation by sharing our ad space and sharing opportunities that arise.”
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