Best for the World 2022 for Workers: Cream City Conservation Helps Build a More Inclusive Conservation Workforce
Certified B Corporations are pursuing a new economic system — a stakeholder economy — where business decisions benefit all people and the planet. To gauge their social and environmental impact and measure their progress, B Corps complete the B Impact Assessment every three years. This comprehensive series of questions across five categories — governance, workers, community, the environment, and customers — helps B Corps identify areas for improvement and learn best practices while providing a third-party evaluation of their positive impact.
The B Impact Assessment also sets apart the Best for the World B Corps: those B Corps that rank in the top 5% of all companies in their size group for the five categories. This article is one in a series featuring Best for the World 2022 B Corps that exemplify ways to bring a stakeholder economy to life.
Since its start in 2016, Cream City Conservation has embraced and deepened its two-prong mission to help environmental and community organizations attract diverse candidate pools while cultivating the next generation of environmentalists. The Certified B Corporation maximizes its impact by operating with what CEO and Founder August Ball calls “an abundance mindset” through its youth corps program that develops and encourages young talent.
“We provide diversity and equity consulting to environmental organizations looking to attract and retain a dynamic workforce that is representative of the communities that they work within,” Ball says. “We take the profits from that work and provide paid training and employment opportunities to young adults in Milwaukee to provide hands-on service to public lands.”
Through its two programs, Cream City Conservation earned Best for the World workers recognition for 2022, its first full year as a B Corp. Cream City Conservation also is one of the inaugural participants in Level, a B Lab U.S. & Canada program intended to test and build additional models of engagement and support for businesses led by women who are People of Color. Through Level, Cream City Conservation was able to access resources from B Corp consulting firms Decade and Impact Growth Partners for measuring impact as part of the process to become a B Corp.
Ball says completing the B Impact Assessment and achieving B Corp Certification appealed to her as a sociologist and a business leader. “The beauty of the B Impact Assessment is I was able to measure the magic, so to speak, that we were having with not only our young adults who were working in our program but also with our clients,” she says. “It’s important to me that we actually have the data to back up what we say we’re doing.”
Doing the Work to Create and Sustain Inclusive Workplaces
What sets apart Cream City Conservation as a Best for the World honoree? Ball points to several practices and beliefs that reinforce the organization’s mission to change the face of conservation and address issues around climate change:
- Investing in personal and professional development: “We wholeheartedly believe in investing in our staff, and that means not only from a professional skill and certification level but also from a personal development standpoint. We know that when our employees come through our doors, they don’t leave parts of themselves behind. Ideally, that is the experience for everyone — that everyone can bring their full selves to work.”
- Seeking “constructive dissent”: “Inviting your staff to tell you what’s working for them, what’s not working, where things are falling short perhaps of where they could be. Create an environment where it’s safe to fail, where’s it safe to ask questions. Involve your team in key decision-making, to practice making decisions so they’re as invested in your organization just as much as you are.”
- Promoting an abundance mindset on talent: “As employers it’s our job to think of our workforce as abundant and know that we don’t have to clutch on to people. That doesn’t mean we don’t support our team members. But know that as the staff that comes through our doors create value for your company, create value around your mission, as they decide to move along to bigger and greater things, we have to trust that there will be additional talent coming through our doors.”
- Taking a holistic view of success: “For those just starting, especially in our youth corps, which is 15 to 19, they may decide that they don’t want to go into a conservation-related career. But we know from following up with them that they are people who we would want as our neighbors. They are individuals who do care about their impact on the world. They do care about protecting public green spaces and water waste regeneration to come, regardless of where they end up professionally. And again for us that is a win.”
Stakeholder Capitalism: The Systemic Change Our Economy Needs
A new impact economy is being built, one where businesses prioritize and consider their impact on all the stakeholders they impact — including communities, workers, customers, and the environment. Download this free report to learn how the stakeholder model as practiced by B Corps is gaining global traction and validation
Building Community and Collaborating for Positive Change
When Ball created Cream City Conservation, she had the B Corp model in mind. “It has always been my dream to become B Corp Certified, and the Level initiative is helping me and my small team make that a reality,” she says. “We are Wisconsin’s first Black-owned B Corp, and I don’t take that lightly. I certainly hope we are not the last. My hope is that we encourage our clients to also embody these principles.”
The Level program also provided Ball with a network of business leaders who are building companies with value for people and the planet as well as the bottom line. “It was so wonderful to meet other social entrepreneurs as well who were very like-minded. For me, that’s one of the best benefits,” she says. “Entrepreneurship can be very lonely, so to know there are other organizations and companies that believe they can use business for good also is extremely affirming and exciting.”
She is channeling that energy into Cream City Conservation’s current projects, including a Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion program that includes an assessment of client organizations’ culture to determine whether staff or participants have differing experiences. “Then we provide a six-week education series to bring everyone on the same page of learning and understanding,” Ball says. “When we get to the final phase, which is our roadmap, the organizations and members within it understand why we are making shifts to certain policies, why we are incorporating certain practices.”
Twice a year, Cream City Conservation invites five to 10 organizations from across the country to participate in this cohort model. “This allows for intersectional and interorganizational collaboration,” Ball says. “Many of our environmental organizations are fairly racially homogenous so they don’t have the ability to support some of their staff who have more marginalized identities. This creates a space for those staff to be in community with others of similar identity to them.”
Current projects on the youth corps side include a green infrastructure and water reclamation program done through a partnership with multiple organizations in Milwaukee. “The infrastructure is aging,” Ball says. “This is an opportunity to engage underemployed individuals or young adults to consider a career that will help mitigate climate change.”
Best for the World
Announcing the 2022 Best for the World B CorpsRead More
Best for the World
2022 Best for the World Workers: B Corps Build Strong Businesses for and with EmployeesRead More
Best for the World
2022 Best for the World Environment: B Corps Lead the Way Toward a Sustainable, Regenerative EconomyRead More
Best for the World
2022 Best for the World Customers: B Corps Add Value to Customers’ LivesRead More
Sign Up for our B The Change Newsletter
Read stories on the B Corp Movement and people using business as a force for good. The B The Change Newsletter is sent weekly on Fridays.