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Sarah Lozanova headshot

B Corps Stepped Up Big Time During the Pandemic

By Sarah Lozanova
B Corps

Many companies across the globe are using business as a vehicle for good. In particular, Certified B Corps meet rigorous criteria for social and environmental standards. Each year, B Lab honors the top-performing B Corps across the globe that use business to have a positive impact, and it recently released the 2021 Best for the World list.

This year, B Lab explored how companies responded to the global COVID-19 crisis to have a positive impact on their communities, customers, governance, workers and the environment. It recognized 767 B Corps across 50 countries, with companies ranging vastly in size and industry. Let’s explore a few of the best of the best and how they stepped up in a time of crisis.

A dozen roses for one of the leading B Corps

Hoja Verde: Located on the equator, Ecuador has many hours of sunlight, and the Andean highlands have warm days and cool nights, ideal for rose production. Hoja Verde, which means “green leaf,” cultivates over 120 varieties of roses (as in the ones pictured above) for export. The company sells its flowers to Europe and North America, and it is the leading supplier for Whole Foods.

Although the rose is a popular symbol of love, commercial rose cultivation can often lead to unsafe working conditions and environmental contamination from agricultural chemicals. By contrast, Hoja Verde is dedicated to using biological pest control systems and organic fertilizers. It even provides housing, educational support, pediatric services and low-interest loans to its workers.

In Ecuador, food shortages have caused price increases. Since the lockdown, many Ecuadorians have struggled with food security and meeting their basic nutritional needs, especially in remote villages. Hoja Verde has applied its skills and knowledge to better the local community to address these issues. Its experts lead community gardens and have training programs in self-sufficiency, skills that could have been priceless anywhere during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hoja Verde has been recognized as a "Best for Community" honoree in 2019 and 2021. In addition, its roses are fair trade-certified.

This Minnesota-based CDFI stands tall

Sunrise Bank: Headquartered in Saint Paul, MN, Sunrise bank calls itself “the world’s most socially responsible bank.” It is certified by the U.S. Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), a designation held by only about 100 banks in the U.S. This means that Sunrise works to create economic growth opportunities in some of the most distressed communities across the country.

The banking industry is often associated with social ills, such as promoting racial inequality and promoting the concentration of wealth – while the industry’s practices have been among the reasons why many people of color have not been able to benefit from accumulating intergenerational wealth. Further, the crushing economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis has had the harshest impact on communities of color.

Financial institutions can help promote equality and economic vitality by helping to eradicate racial disparities. As lenders, they can make capital available to customers, promoting equality. As influencers, they can help hold companies accountable with fair business practices. Finally, as employers, they can help promote inclusion and diversity.

Sunrise is dedicated to transparent corporate governance and is a mission-driven organization. One example is TrueConnect, a free workplace lending program that seeks to avoid the cycle of debt through payday loans from lenders that often use predatory or unfair practices. The TrueConnect program connects employees with affordable loans that are repaid through payroll deductions.

Sunrise was recognized among B Corps as a "Best for Customers and a Best for Governance" honoree in 2021 and has been a “Best for the World” honoree since 2013.

Raise your glasses for how this company looked out for its workers and communities

New Belgium Brewing Company: What had started in a small basement in Fort Collins, CO, has grown to become the fourth-largest craft brewing company in the U.S. Before selling to Little Lion World Beverages in 2019, New Belgium was 100 percent employee-owned, which significantly shaped how the company was managed. It has been among the ranks of certified B Corps since 2013.

Its flagship products include Fat Tire Amber Ale and Voodoo Ranger IPA, and they were the first brewery to join 1% for the Planet. To date, the brewer has donated more than $29 million through grants and giving programs.

The New Belgium Coworker Assistance Fund is a non-profit organization that assists its workers in times of need after a catastrophic disaster or personal hardship. The fund was created after the High Park Fire in 2012, when 14 employees were evacuated for extended periods and two of them lost their homes. Funding is confidential and is a gift; thus, it doesn’t need to be repaid. Such initiatives help create employee resiliency in times of need and can promote employee morale and retention.

The New Belgium Bar and Restaurant Relief Fund was created to help the food and beverage communities of Ashville, NC and Fort Collins, CO, recuperate from the fallout resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The brewing company provided seed money, matched donations, and ultimately helped 880 bar and restaurant workers. Working as a force for good in the community, it helped bring people together during a very trying time.

One of the leading B Corps within the beverage sector, New Belgium was recognized as a Best for Workers and a Best for Environment honoree in 2021 and has been a Best for the World honoree since 2013.

Image credit: Hoja Verde

Sarah Lozanova headshot

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.

Read more stories by Sarah Lozanova