During a time when businesses are evaluating how to create positive change, Certified B Corporations®, or B Corps™, have a unique advantage: transparency, accountability and a commitment to do better for their communities and the environment are built into their DNA. While the requirements to become a B Corp™ are rigorous, an increasing number of food businesses, and even restaurants, are taking on the challenge. Chances are, you’re familiar with some of these companies already – like Ben & Jerry’s and King Arthur Flour. The reasons why companies choose to take on the challenge vary, but they all have one thing in common – they’re looking to redefine success in business through 5 impact areas: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers. Hog Island Oyster Company became a B Corp™ in 2015. A major part of that decision was creating clear channels for employees to communicate with management, which led to reduced turnover. Developing more actionable mission statements and stronger communication channels as part of the B Corp™ journey is a pathway for building a healthier culture internally and across the food industry.
B Corps™ also have a responsibility to go beyond improving their own operations. As the world’s largest B Corp™, Danone North America manifests its mission to bring health through food to as many people as possible using practices that protect the environment and serve society. For example, all the electricity used at their own manufacturing plants comes from renewable energy sources, and they also have two facilities that have achieved zero waste to landfill status—meaning more than 99% of their waste is recycled or reused. Through community partnerships, Danone North America has also donated over 24 million meals to those in need since 2006.
For B Corps™, every aspect of their business plays an integral role in sustaining their missions. Danone North America’s Away From Home division is focused on responsibly providing recipes and tools to the food service industry. In addition, the division’s individual brands have their own ways to contribute to the deeper mission. For instance:
- Silk planted 25 miles of native, naturally drought-resistant plants in the California almond groves they source from as a way to support pollinators like bees and butterflies.
- Horizon Organic, the largest USDA certified organic dairy brand in the world, has committed to become carbon positive–across its full supply chain–by 2025.
- So Delicious Dairy Free is working to improve the well-being of its partner farmers through a new, long-term project in the Philippines to help increase farmer profitability, sustainable agriculture practices and ingredient traceability across the value chain.
- As part of Two Good’s journey to fight food insecurity and reduce food waste, it donated $100,000 from its profits during Earth Week 2020 to food recovery organizations.
- STŌK believes in coffee beans grown and harvested in a more responsible way. They pay a premium for their coffee to support initiatives for healthy soil, saving water and lifting up communities.
While these actions directly benefit the communities where the Danone North America Away From Home business engages, they are also reflective of a larger shift taking place in the culture of American corporations. In 2019, the annual letter sent to America’s corporate leadership by BlackRock’s CEO Larry Fink made the bold statement that “profits and purpose are inextricably linked,” and asserted that serving a company’s stakeholders includes “not only shareholders but also employees, customers, and communities.” Alongside B Lab, the nonprofit, certifying body for B Corps™, Danone North America strives to be at the forefront of this shift from “shareholder capitalism” to “stakeholder capitalism.” Emmanuel Faber, CEO Of Danone globally, noted that “employees, consumers, customers, partners, governments and shareholders now see the critical importance of a balanced multi-stakeholder approach to value creation and sharing.”
For now, being a B Corp™ remains a relative rarity. With only about 3,400 certified companies in the world, half of which are in the U.S., Danone North America’s B Corp™ status and leadership in the movement constitute a unique selling point for the Away From Home business. In addition to offering high-quality products, restaurants can be proud to partner with B Corps™ which are using their business as a force for good toward a greater social and environmental purpose. As restaurants face an uphill battle to stay afloat and demonstrate their importance to communities’ social fabric, we may see a rise in culinary establishments applying for B Corp™ status, or at least the use of this certification as a tool to guide future partnerships.