B Corps Center Racial Equity to Remove Employment Barriers and Bridge Wealth Gaps
With racial equity, climate justice, and a stakeholder economy as three pillars in its Theory of Change, B Lab U.S. & Canada and Certified B Corporations are working to build a world where people who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color have equal opportunities for quality employment and generational wealth-building. At the recent Champions Retreat 2022, B Corp leaders shared the ways their businesses are reimagining and collaborating on how to advance racial equity and create an economy that works for all.
As part of the Centering Racial Equity plenary, Hugues Sygney Jr., Senior Program Manager of Racial Equity at B Lab U.S. & Canada, noted that racial equity is an integral part of the other two pillars in the community’s Theory of Change. “Racial equity is at the center of everything we do,” he said. “We cannot move as a collective without centering racial equity.”
To help advance racial equity, Sygney said B Lab U.S. & Canada identified four components for its racial equity strategy: learning journeys, storytelling, moving beyond JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) statements, and redistributing power. The latter two — moving beyond JEDI statements and redistributing power — were among the highlights of a panel discussion that Sygney led. The panel featured three B Corp leaders whose businesses are advancing racial equity through collaborative practices that remove barriers to employment and help bridge the racial wealth gap:
- Olayinka Credle, DEIB & Olayinka Wealth Equity Strategist, a B Corp with a focus on community wealth and racial and economic justice.
- Joseph Kenner, President, CEO, Greyston Bakery, a B Corp that created an open hiring policy that removes barriers to employment.
- Margo Walsh, Founder, MaineWorks, a B Corp that connects people in recovery with employment and social support.
Find highlights from their discussion below and watch the full conversation on YouTube.
B Lab U.S. & Canada’s Racial Equity and Climate Justice teams are developing a Learning Journey of trainings that will allow the B Corp community to strengthen its knowledge of racially equitable, inclusive, and climate justice-centered business practices. The first learning journey cohort, Racial Equity and Climate Justice 101, will launch in February 2023 through a partnership between B Lab U.S. & Canada and Be More With Anu.
Moving Beyond JEDI Statements to Bridge the Wealth Gap and Advance Racial Equity
“The racial wealth gap affects everybody. You have a responsibility to dismantle the system.” — Olayinka Credle
Credle incorporates her personal experience with inequities in her consulting work at Olayinka Wealth Equity Strategists, where she provides training and education rooted in empathy and action to bridge the racial wealth gap. “I decided I wanted to solve a problem. That’s how I got my start,” she said. “We kept hitting walls, and it came back to that systemic oppression facing me. That’s when it got real for me.”
Bridging the racial wealth gap is an enormous economic opportunity for the United States, she said, citing research that found the GDP would have seen $22.9 trillion in gains from 1990 to 2019 if People of Color had equal opportunities for employment and education. The economic benefits of employment also help build stronger communities and more sustainable lifestyles for People of Color, she said. “We know there is economic gain to be made by closing the racial wealth gap,” she said. “But do they have autonomy? Do they have belonging? Do they have safety? … You can talk about data, numbers. But you need to talk about it in terms of the community members who are experiencing it.”
The B Corp community has a responsibility to lead in racial equity work, she said, and to encourage others to use their wealth, power, and access to make decisions that dismantle systemic barriers. “The racial wealth gap affects everybody,” she said. “You have a responsibility to dismantle the system.”
Redistributing Power Through Open Hiring and Workforce Development Practices
“We don’t want people on the sidelines who want to work.” — Joseph Kenner
B Corp Greyston Bakery is an innovator in advancing racial equity by removing traditional barriers to employment. Through its open hiring policy established in 1982, Greyston Bakery hires anyone who applies for a job, no questions asked. Over the last 40 years Greyston has worked with partner companies, including fellow B Corp The Body Shop and multinational furniture retailer IKEA, to adopt open hiring practices and related workforce development programs.
“We don’t want people to be on the sidelines who want to work. There should be an opportunity provided to them. Let’s get rid of the barriers to entry, let’s get people into jobs, because that’s how we create wealth,” Kenner said. “It’s actually our own biases that prevented good people from entering our organizations. This is also a pipeline. These are the future managers, the future leaders, the supervisors — people building their path, their career, and their wealth.”
Through open hiring, Greyston has provided bakery jobs to more than 2,000 people and witnessed the life-changing benefits of inclusion and equity. Inclusive policies like open hiring can help employers connect with people who want to work, Kenner said, and builds a more diverse workforce. “When you look at our partners, you see 60% of the folks are People of Color, 60% are female. At Greyston, 98% of our bakers are People of Color,” he said. “It involves a reallocation of resources. We stopped making investments in keeping people out of our organizations and think about keeping people in our organizations.”
With a vision to fill 40,000 jobs by the year 2030 through inclusive practices like open hiring, Greyston Bakery looks to build on partnerships and demonstrate how a business product — like the company’s signature brownies — can be a tool for personal and community transformation. “Anybody can have an open hiring job, an inclusive hiring job. … You have it within your power as a leader to do that, so just get started,” Kenner said. “That’s all bottom line benefit — this is just a better way to do business, a smarter way to do business. That’s the world we want to see.”
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.
Advancing Racial Equity Through Employment and Social Supports
“Here’s a job, and how can we help you? It’s pretty basic.” — Margo Walsh
Like Greyston Bakery, B Corp MaineWorks has a mission to connect people with employment. Walsh founded the staffing agency to link people in recovery from substance abuse and re-entry from jail or prison with construction companies. “You [have] to be a felon to work at my company,” she said. “Everybody’s coming from scarcity; everybody’s coming from a crisis.”
In addition to connecting people with employment, MaineWorks partners with a 501(c)3 nonprofit called the Maine Recovery Fund, which provides support services such as housing assistance, free transportation, and access to dental and health care. These wraparound supports help remove barriers to stable employment and create strong connections between workers and employers. “We fund their way forward,” Walsh said. “The least of your workforce paradoxically will become the future of your workforce. .. It’s that engagement from the top to the bottom. The top doesn’t need the answers; the bottom needs the answers.”
By taking a holistic view of workers, MaineWorks and its partner companies help tackle the racial wealth gap by helping people maintain steady employment and stabilize their well-being. “We have to understand how disruptive it is to be incarcerated,” she said. “Create a supportive environment: ‘Here’s a job, and how can we help you?’ It’s pretty basic. … The job is the catalyst to economic viability.”
Watch Centering Racial Equity
Black-Led Investing Funds and Firms Look to Bridge Racial Wealth GapRead More
From Words to Action: B Corps Add Products and Programs with Black Creators to Build a More Inclusive EconomyRead More
Creating a Business Climate Action Plan Centered in JusticeRead More
Tackling Racism As Accountable Business LeadersRead More
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