Since our founding in 1997, Sustainable Harvest has focused on doing business in a way that positively impacts people and the environment, guided by our mission to improve the livelihoods of farmers across the globe. But balancing mission and business was nearly unknown at that time. When our CEO founder, David Griswold, learned about B Corp, he recognized it as an important asset: a third-party standard to provide guidance to pursue our mission through business and a community of like-minded companies to support achieving even greater impact. We officially became a certified B Corporation in 2008, joining, at the time, a relatively small group of companies that would grow to become the community of thousands it is today.
As a B Corporation, we are reviewed and recertified every 3 years through a lengthy and detailed impact assessment. At the close of 2021, we completed recertification and are proud to share that we have reached our highest B Impact score ever. On a scale of 50-200, where 50 can be thought of as a traditional business model, and 80 is the required minimum to earn B Corp certification, our score is 151.4, placing us among the highest-scoring B Corporations across all industries! To mark the occasion, and recognize that the lessons we have learned throughout our B Corp journey may be valuable to other mission-driven businesses, we sat down to explore our role as a B Corp with insights from Kellem Emanuele, our Chief Impact Officer, and David Griswold, our Founder and CEO.
What does it mean to be a B Corp?
It is easy to get lost among sustainability and impact-focused acronyms and certifications, especially in the coffee industry. More than anything, think of B Corp as an independent, third-party framework that outlines what needs to be done to use business as a force for good. It is very easy to get lost or wrestle competing opinions on how businesses can have an impact. "The B Corp certification removes a lot of subjectivity," Kellem says. "It provides a framework and performance measurement that helps us know where to shoot for across five different areas: governance, workers, community, environment, and customers."
B Corp uses the following summary definitions for each of these areas:
- Governance: policies and practices related to a company's mission, ethics, accountability, and transparency.
- Workers: how a company contributes to its employees' financial, physical, professional, and social well-being.
- Community: a company's contributions to the economic and social well-being of the communities in which it operates
- Environment: how a company delivers overall environmental stewardship.
- Customers: how a company creates value for its direct customers and end consumers of its products and services
B Corp certification or even a high score isn't a finish line. We see the certification as a tool to support accountability and continuous improvement in our commitment to business as a force for good.
How do companies get started?
B Corp certification is a private certification intended for for-profit companies. B Lab, the non-profit organization that oversees the overall B Corp certification, offers the B Impact Assessment as a free and confidential tool for any company to understand its impact across the five dimensions listed above. The Impact Assessment is designed to be accessible - you do not need to be a technical expert to get started. In fact, B Lab reports that more than 100,000 businesses are using it, much larger than the approximate 4,000 certified B Corps worldwide. Even if you are unsure whether making the commitment to become a B Corp is the right fit for your company, the assessment is:
- Step 1: Assess
- Step 2 Compare with Other Businesses
- Step 3 Improve
Our B Corp Journey
Like so many aspects of being a mission-driven company, we know that our work as a B Corp is a journey. And it's one we are proud and fortunate to have been able to partner with others to learn together and achieve greater impact. We have enjoyed partnering with other coffee industry B Corps, such as Equator Coffees, Daterra Coffee, Ben and Jerry's, and New Belgium Brewing Company. With our New Belgium partnership, we even had the opportunity to create a new product - a craft beer using coffee from Hacienda La Esmeralda in Panama.
“Since the start of Sustainable Harvest, we’ve been firm in our commitment to a better, more equitable coffee supply chain, and achieving that through a model built on transparent relationships,” says David Griswold. “I’m proud of our sustained efforts in reaching the 25-year milestone, but I’m especially heartened that our impact is as meaningful as it’s ever been, as seen by our recent B Corp score. The B Corp Model pushes us to be even better in carrying out our model, through its impact assessment.”
In addition to calculating an overall impact score, the recertification identifies a company's score in each of the five areas. In addition to our mission, since day 1 we have been committed to our Relationship Coffee Model, which prioritizes transparency, collaboration, and shared success in our work as a coffee importer. This model, combined with our Origin Teams' longstanding relationships across the communities we source from, contributed significantly to our earning Best for the World: Community for six years in a row. Best for the World companies are recognized for scoring in the top 5% of their size group for their efforts in the community, and this is an area especially important to our success through Relationship Coffee.
As our journey continues, we also value the alignment provided by the B Corp Impact assessment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is especially helpful to identify how what we are doing contributes to the global goals we all share and to identify areas that we may not currently be addressing, but are within our reach as a coffee importer. And as Kellem emphasized, "having tools and a framework that is bigger than your own day-to-day perspective is absolutely critical to innovate, continuously improve, and achieve meaningful impact." So whether you're just getting started on your impact goals or have made progress and want to address the bigger picture, B Corp provides opportunities to do more. "You can always revise what you're doing as a company and tackle bigger goals," Kellem says.
We feel incredibly proud to be a B Corp, but we know there is much work to be done. Whether your journey to using business as a force for good involves investigating the initial assessment and 3 step process, progressive improvements to your B Corp score, or comprehensive alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the upcoming Re: Co and Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Expo can be a great opportunity to collaborate with others also on this journey.
Please join us and share your thoughts and questions at any of the sessions hosted by our CEO and Founder, Dave Griswold, or either of the two networking socials we will host on Saturday.
And if you have any questions for us, please don’t hesitate to reach out!