In our B Lab Voices series, we invite individual B Lab employees and leaders to share their experiences, inspiration, hopes, and challenges as they work toward a more inclusive and regenerative world. This edition of B Lab Voices features Kara Peck, who serves as a Senior Director of Strategy & Partnerships for B Lab U.S. & Canada, along with Stephen Massey, Managing Director, Health Action Alliance.
Every day, small businesses are hard at work rebuilding our economy. After shouldering a devastating economic burden during the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses have emerged as engines of American innovation that are reimagining Main Street for the future. The global community of B Corporations are leading the way, demonstrating that what’s good for people and the planet is also good for the economy.
But we can’t get back to business until many more Americans are vaccinated against COVID-19. The U.S. has dramatically expanded vaccination capacity, but demand has waned in recent weeks. The Biden administration has announced a shift in federal strategy away from large vaccination sites to more local settings — directing thousands of pharmacies to offer walk-in appointments, paired with more pop-up and mobile clinics. And, the White House has called on the businesses to help supercharge the country’s vaccine response, with a goal to reach at least 70% of adults with at least one vaccine shot by July 4.
Vaccines are highly safe and effective, and offer the protection we need to help our economy and our country reopen. That’s why businesses across the country are stepping up to encourage and empower their employees to get vaccinated. And many of the practices that support equitable access to vaccines are the same that support a general workplace culture of employee wellness, which often pays off in increased employee attraction, retention and engagement.
Building on their existing trusted relationship with their employees, small business owners can take big steps to help by encouraging their workers, customers, and all Americans to get vaccinated at their earliest opportunity. As a small business owner, here are five things you can do:
- Make a pledge to get vaccinated, and share why vaccines are important to you.
- Talk with your employees about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and make sure to support workers who may have unique questions or concerns.
- Make it easier for your workers to get vaccinated by offering paid time off, transportation credits, meal vouchers or other support for scheduling vaccine appointments. The American Rescue Plan includes tax credits to reimburse employers that offer paid leave for employee vaccinations and recovery.
- Proactively engage employees of color and other disproportionately impacted populations that may have questions or need extra support accessing vaccinations.
- Reach out to your local public health department or local health organization to offer volunteers, donated supplies or other support for community vaccination efforts.
Among the businesses taking action on promoting the COVID-19 vaccine, many Certified B Corporations have set the example for how to engage their internal team behind the scenes and advocate for vaccine access publicly.
Participate Learning, a B Corp focused on uniting the world through global learning, provided a range of resources for employees with the help of local nurse practitioners. Through a webinar, their team was able to learn the science behind why vaccines work, get common questions about the vaccine answered, and learn tips for scheduling vaccine appointments in their area. Prior to the webinar, employees could submit questions or concerns they had, and the nurse practitioners came prepared with answers. The webinar recording and additional resources were posted on Participate Learning’s internal communications platform and employees were invited to ask follow up questions in a thread or through a private form.
While B Corp insurance company Lemonade is not a small business, their approach to vaccination is worth mentioning. Lemonade set a goal among their employees for a 100% vaccination rate. This policy put trust in teams across the organization to ensure masks, plexiglass, and social distancing could be traded in for a work environment that’s 100% vaccinated. Additionally, Lemonade’s CEO called on other business leaders to do the same, noting that “employers are at liberty to ask employees to comply with safety-at-work rules” and that “vaccines only work if we get vaccinated.”
B Corps have also been addressing vaccine access through their core business. B Corp Northwest Permanente, the largest multi-specialty medical group in the Northwest U.S., partnered with other organizations to develop a mass vaccination site in their region, secured funding to ensure underserved and communities of color had equitable access to the vaccine, and continually kept their local communities informed through a vaccine education portal and on social media. And Fors Marsh Group, a B Corp research and consulting firm, partnered with the federal government to roll out a program around vaccine education.
The Health Action Alliance and B Lab U.S. & Canada are proud to partner to help small businesses encourage vaccination and improve public health, offering free tools and training to help small business owners support employees, communicate about vaccines and engage communities that may need extra help accessing or scheduling vaccinate appointments.
Now is the time for decisive action. Let’s work together to turn the tide against COVID-19, rebuild our economy and create a stronger, healthier future for everyone in America.
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