B Corporation Conference Recap

Written by Land Developer, Rachel Clar

In early October, 550 members of the mission-based business movement gathered in Toronto for our guiding organization’s annual conference.   We are united in the belief that business can be used as a force for social good – to paraphrase Ghandi, that we must be the change that we want to see in the world.  

This year’s theme was Inclusivity, as B-Lab is encouraging its worldwide membership to take on a specific call to action called The Inclusive Economy Challenge.   This challenge is defined by a voluntary commitment to work toward improving scoring on metrics to more deeply engage those who may feel disenfranchised, both within our company and within the community at large.  The goal is a world where people of all backgrounds and identities can live in dignity and support their families with a prosperity that is both durable and equitable.       

As part of a global movement, it was so encouraging to collaborate with leaders from as far as away as Nairobi and Japan.   We harvested specific ideas how to make our company more inclusive, ranging from examining our recruitment, exploring non-traditional hiring channels, blind recruitment, partnering with local institutions, and listening more deeply to affected communities.  And the knowledge sharing extended to areas where we can improve internally, too, such as unconscious bias training and tasking an employee with taking the lead on specific initiatives to make sure we are as welcoming as possible.  Although it is a small token, since the retreat, our bathroom signs which previously read, “Men” and “Women,” now state, “Whichever.”  It’s a small token, but it’s a step in the right direction.     

As our company is growing so quickly, helping Western New York and Vermont go solar, we also sought ideas of how other companies tackle the task of overseeing our sustainability efforts.  Some have a dedicated staff person to handle this work, often housed within Human Resources (here at SunCommon: the People Department).   Some have a working committee, often comprised of employees whose normal day job does not touch most of the policies the B-corp assessment encourages.  A solar peer of ours from Colorado has a “distributed leadership model,” which embraces this effort and harnesses their staff’s passion.  We are discussing internally how to accomplish this.

Last but not least, I also must reveal that we also had FUN! Though some of us have been to nearby Toronto (relative to Rochester, NY where we are located) many times, it was such a pleasure to be there with a large sustainability-focused group and to see local efforts underway to push the envelope in the progressive city of Toronto.  We toured a formerly abandoned factory which, thanks to a wide-ranging public-private partnership, now houses organizations ranging from sourcing local, clean food to a startup focusing on aquaculture done in stacked shipping containers. A curator showed us some of the highlights of Toronto’s famous Royal Ontario Museum, showing us the art through a social justice lens. We stuffed our bag with sustainably-sourced souvenirs for our loved ones and, of course, ourselves.  We may have arrived there with our hearts a bit hardened, but we returned home open, inspired, refreshed and eager to somehow make our amazing company an even better exemplar of being the change.  


Photo credit: Mike Gifford, October 4, 2017, https://flic.kr/p/Z8h1kR


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