Racial Equity Impact Improvement Program Prompts B Corp Action and Collaboration

May 1, 2024

Two B Corp Examples: Hiring and Ownership Updates for Racial Equity and Positive Impact

Certified B Corporations are putting racial equity lessons into practice. At Ocaquatics Swim School, that means restructuring the company as an employee-owned trust. At MaCher USA, it includes revamping hiring practices to remove barriers to employment and adding wealth-building programs for workers. 

The two B Corps were among 12 companies in the first cohort of B Lab U.S. & Canada’s Racial Equity Impact Improvement Program. The program launched in 2023 to connect B Corp leaders with partner organizations to explore ways to help bridge the racial wealth gap and create an economy that works for everyone.

Since completing the eight-week program in 2023, the B Corp participants continue to connect and collaborate, holding each other accountable on their racial equity journey of education, awareness, and action. The changes they are making also align with the proposed standards for B Corp Certification, which include Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion as a standalone impact topic.

The opportunity to connect and learn with other B Corp leaders in the program has a long-term payoff for the businesses and their stakeholders, said Miren Oca of Ocaquatics Swim School. “The generosity of our cohort in sharing their challenges and ideas made our participation in this Impact Improvement Program a smart investment in our team,” she said. 

Their experiences also helped inform updates for the second year of the Racial Equity Impact Improvement Program, which is now underway. Marielle Martin, Racial Equity Program Manager at B Lab U.S. & Canada, said the 2024 program will continue to focus on collaboration and shared learning. 

A survey of first-year participants found that they especially appreciated breakouts when they could dig deeper into topics with others in the cohort. The first-year participants also appreciated the historical context for discussion topics related to hiring and worker pay — two areas where the B Corps are already taking action.

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B Lab U.S. & Canada and the B Corp community seek to change a system that does not meet the needs of most. This downloadable guide shares resources and practices that can help drive economic systems change for the benefit of all.


Ocaquatics Swim School Empowers Team and Community Through Employee Ownership

Ocaquatics Swim School Founder Miren Oca said the Racial Equity Impact Improvement Program helped her learn new ways to use business as a force for good. “It explored topics like wealth-building and creating financial wellness benefits that level the playing field for all employees,” she said.

Providing employees with more than just a job lies at the heart of Ocaquatics Swim School, which Oca founded 30 years ago. Now, with a team of more than 160 people, the swim school’s emphasis on employees and community nurtured its culture and growth. She said that becoming a B Corp in 2022 helped embed purpose in the organization. 

After participating in the first year of the Racial Equity Improvement Program, Oca considered how she could preserve the company’s mission and purpose while also helping team members and the community. One result: Ocaquatics Swim School recently transitioned company ownership to a 100% employee-owned trust. “Employee ownership acknowledges the contributions our team members have made to the success of our business while empowering them to take responsibility for the continued impact and prosperity of our business for good,” Oca said. 

Oca says an employee-owned trust aligns with the current and future vision for Ocaquatics Swim School. “It’s a straightforward model that allows for the continuation of our current management system while ensuring employees share in the company’s profit,” she said. “This structure is important to keep our organization running efficiently and supporting our employees’ well-being and retirement security.”

Ocaquatics Swim School made the transition to an employee-owned trust to reinforce its core values and positively impact the financial future of longtime team members.

The first 50% of any profits the trust distributes each year is placed in each co-owner’s 401(k) plan. The other 50% is paid through payroll. “In this way, we are enhancing their current financial wellness and helping our co-owners build wealth,” Oca said.

Ocaquatics now has 50 co-owners. Of those, 78% identify as women, 94% identify as Hispanic or Black, and almost 70% were born in another country, an aspect that Oca celebrates as a member of an immigrant family. Ocaquatics Swim School stepped up its financial literacy education program for team members, expanded open-book management, and broadened its financial transparency to prepare for the transition to an employee-owned trust. 

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MaCher USA Fosters Fair Chance Hiring and Employee Supports

MaCher USA Founder Derek Hydon said the Racial Equity Impact Improvement Program helped the branded products company discover new ways to support current employees and connect with potential workers. MaCher has launched internal and external initiatives related to fair chance hiring practices, which aim to improve access to employment for people with criminal records.

That includes webinars presented with Honest Jobs, one of the presenting partner organizations in the Racial Equity Impact Improvement Program. Honest Jobs is a job marketplace for people affected by the criminal justice system and helps employers build fair chance hiring programs. “We saw an opportunity to help connect the dots — and tap into an incredible talent pool,” Hydon said. “The feedback from the participants was positive.”

A second webinar with Honest Jobs and the U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA) reached a bigger audience of companies ready to learn more about fair chance hiring. Hydon said MaCher partnered again with USTOA at its conference, where the B Corp sponsored one-on-one education sessions on fair chance hiring. 

To build diversity in the creative design industry, MaCher team members have been paired with students in a mentorship program run by the Creative Futures Collective. “That program inspired us to fund a scholarship for Indigenous community members to help them attend design school and gain exposure to the business world,” Hydon said. 

Internally, MaCher has launched several programs to support employee wealth-building and financial health. They include a same-day $1,000 loan program available to all employees and a 401(k) plan that invests with an environmental, social, and governance lens. 

MaCher’s latest impact report highlights its goals and progress for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Hydon said MaCher also revamped its hiring process to ensure more equitable hiring practices that align with the company’s hybrid work format. Interview questions were updated to balance subjective and objective evaluation better, providing a more transparent and efficient hiring process. The B Corp also adapted its background checks on applicants to limit the amount of information collected. 

Hydon said MaCher’s lessons continue since participating in the first year of the Racial Equity Impact Improvement Program. “Learning with others in a cohort group is so beneficial, and also creates mutual accountability and support,” he said. “I’m grateful for the ripples the training continues to provide.”

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