The Power of Connections: How Businesses Can Be a Force for Good and Better Serve Their Stakeholders
September 23, 2020
B Corps Show How Doing Good Is Good for Business Through Services Focused on Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
As a community of companies that realize how business can be a force for good, Certified B Corporations see interdependence as a strength. By creating and strengthening connections — in their community, their workforce, or their industry — B Corps create a safety net for people who often fall between the systemic cracks.
Whether it’s improving housing while fighting climate change, developing workplace skills, or enhancing community health, the B Corps highlighted below are making an effort to reach out to people who often are overlooked in our society and economy. It may be part of a justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion program (JEDI) or just inherent in the policy and practice.
Through their inclusive programs and services, these three businesses and the people who power them demonstrate how doing good is good for business and how the B Corp community is reshaping capitalism by focusing on social and environmental benefit as well as the bottom line.
Fighting Urban Narratives and Climate Change
A love for her environment — both natural and built — drives Daphany Sanchez in her daily work at Kinetic Communities Consulting (KC³). At the New York City-based Certified B Corporation, Sanchez works at the convergence of energy efficiency and affordable housing, connecting residents with resources to improve their well-being. While she didn’t plan to become a business owner, Sanchez has combined her background as a third-generation NYC resident raised in public housing with her work at nonprofit, government, and for-profit organizations to provide a unique service.
The major turning point occurred after her parents bought the first family home in 2011. Less than a year later, Hurricane Sandy hit in October 2012, and the family had to be rescued by boat. As a student studying sustainability at the time, Sanchez had a front-row seat to the consequences of policy and climate change.
“My parents fought so hard to fight the narrative that they live in public housing because they’re lazy. They ended up back in square one because of something that’s completely out of their control,” says Sanchez. “As we and others in New York went to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy, for resilience and sustainability, we asked ‘What can we do to prevent this going forward?’”
With guidance from her university, Sanchez worked with nonprofits to connect residents with programs to help them rebuild and served as a “translator” of sorts, breaking down the technical jargon so Sandy victims could better understand and access the technical support available to them. Sanchez realized the local inefficiencies were part of a larger systemic problem.
Since then, Sanchez has continued her efforts to help others counter these external factors that influence well-being and income, also known as social determinants of health, through energy-efficient programs and outreach to NYC communities with residents who primarily are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color or lower-income. She also gained the motivation to start her own business.
“I wondered, ‘How are programs being designed when no one who lives in those areas are participating?’ If we’re doing work in climate change and really want to turn the dial, we need to start from within, set an example, and work with people in the community,” she says. “I realized the need for a more creative response to climate action.”
At KC³, Sanchez aims to improve access to funding and programs that improve energy efficiency in housing by breaking down barriers, such as applications provided only in English, streamlining grant opportunities for residents with limited resources, and assistance offered only during work hours. Sanchez also elevates women and minority contractors, helping them gain certification to install energy-efficient heat pumps and connecting them with small business services and resources. Launching her business with a benefit corporation structure and gaining B Corp Certification have provided a framework for the long-term vision she has for KC³ and its role in elevating people who often are overlooked in the economic system.
“It’s a perfect balance of external work and my internal integrity,” she says. “We need a visible presence of people of the global majority leading the change.”
Easing Communications at Work and Beyond
With a focus on sustaining the local seafood economy in Maine, Luke’s Lobster looks to empower the fishermen who provide its lobsters and other seafood, as well as the employees at the B Corp’s restaurants and processing and distribution facility. Co-founder and Chief Brand Officer Ben Conniff says the Maine production facility has employees from many countries in Africa and Latin America, as well as a large Cambodian contingent, so teammates speak Khmer, Lingala, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and more. But many don’t speak English, he says.
The B Corp recently started individualized online training in English as a Second Language (ESL) for some team members. This will enable more frequent and productive team conversations that don’t require translators, he says, and make it easier for employees to provide feedback on working conditions, suggest system improvements, and better communicate during performance reviews and other human resources conversations.
“It will also help them achieve growth opportunities,” Conniff says. “The inability to fill out quality assurance paperwork can be a barrier to promotion, but with English language skills, they’re able to take on these tasks, add to their skill set, and increase their compensation.”
The initial group has fewer than 10 employees at the production facility who are focusing on ESL as part of their career development, and eventually that number could grow to around 25 employees. Conniff says Luke’s Lobster expects this initial investment to pay off for its operations through reduced turnover, enhanced professional development, more effective workplace communication, and a stronger company culture. “These are things that benefit the company financially and intangibly,” Conniff says. “And most importantly, we think this is a critical action to proactively provide better opportunities to [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] BIPOC members of our team to grow their careers at Luke’s and advance our mission of diversity, inclusion, and equity.”
A More Inclusive Health System
As a health insurance provider in Oregon, AllCare Health serves more than 50,000 diverse members in large and small communities. “Our supply chain is a little different than the typical organization,” says Stick Crosby, director of health equity for AllCare Health. “To be successful in our interventions we must reach out to the community and serve diverse stakeholders.”
In the last five years, AllCare has focused on building community engagement with clients who are Black, Indigneous, or People of Color, members of LGBTQ+ communities, or who have limited English proficiency.
To better serve patients with limited English proficiency by providing certified medical interpreters, AllCare created a Language Access Program. It includes licensed interpreter training offered twice a year in southern Oregon — the state’s only testing site outside Portland — and allows providers to bill for certified or qualified interpreters directly through the AllCare claims system. These changes have produced results: In the period from 2016 through the end of 2019, AllCare saw a 29% decrease in monthly cost per member and a 25% increase in visits to a primary care provider among Spanish-speaking patients.
Crosby says interpreters are just one component of a broader effort to address the cultural and linguistic needs of patients with limited English abilities and meet the “triple aim” of health care: to enhance patient experience of care, improve patient health, and reduce per-patient costs.
“Until the number of providers who speak or sign the language of individuals is adequate for community needs, interpreters bridge that gap,” Crosby says. He points to other components that have produced positive results: AllCare now requires bilingual providers to demonstrate language proficiency during their credentialing process, and audit systems identify when a patient with limited English proficiency is seeing an English-speaking provider and an interpreter is not present.
AllCare also has evaluated its own hiring practices to enhance diversity and ensure the B Corp represents and reflects the communities it serves. “The most effective communication to our members comes from their own community members,” Crosby says.
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