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Why Would a Meat Company Become a B Corp?

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Vermont Smoke & Cure® has been driven by our mission to improve the meat business since 2000. When B Corps launched as a certifying organization in 2007, though, I have to admit I was a skeptic.

What’s a B Corp? The “B” stands for Beneficial and indicates that the certified organization voluntarily meets certain standards of transparency, accountability, sustainability, and performance. The aim is to create value for society as a whole, not only for shareholders.

Put another way, certified B Corp companies aim to be not “Best in the world” at something regardless of the impacts, but aim to be “Best for the world” considering the impacts on a broader set of stakeholders.  “Stakeholders” are those involved or impacted by the creation or consumption of a product, such as employees, communities, suppliers and environment, rather than the traditionally limited scope of owner and customer.

My first thought was, how could anyone both fairly and rigorously, create a tool to assess how companies of so many different types, operate across these many topics? B Corps has done it. Depending on the type of company (e.g., manufacturer, service provider, sole practitioner), B Corps awards points for carrying out best practices appropriate for each type of business.  And they haven’t stopped improving.  B Corps each year has impressed me with their thinking and ability to listen and adjust as they improve the B Corps assessment.

Now as the team will tell you, I’m a raving fan.  B Corps can be a powerful tool for citizens and consumers to promote business in their crucial role to shape the world we want.

Some of the more than 2,000 B Corps worldwide:

B-Corp Certified Brands

So, despite all that, why would Vermont Smoke & Cure® volunteer to go through a root canal of a certification process?

First, we sought to join a group of companies that share our goals to continually improve how we do business.  Check.

Second, we wanted to join other companies to help customers find us, the companies that are already walking their talk, who are verifying that our business practices are what we portray in the assessment.  That is, we want to separate the “green washers” from the businesses who are putting traction to real efforts. Check.

Third, we wanted to codify and protect our mission to make Better Meat For All®.  What does that mean?  It means that we exist to engage in the meat supply chain, from farm to table, to improve everything from livestock handling and feeding, to market access for small farmers, to energy efficiency in a meat production plant.  Our goal is for Vermont Smoke & Cure® to forever make delicious meats our families can trust that are both healthy to eat and healthy to produce.  Check?

Having seen Ben and Jerry’s go through a sale with significant uncertainty as to how its mission would fare under new ownership, we wanted to protect our purpose to the greatest extent possible. Ultimately, it is the consumers who decide whether a company succeeds at what it does:  and so we wanted a big signal to our customers that says that our purpose is alive and well. Maintaining a B Corp certification, and the related Benefit Corporation legal designation is that signal.

It took Vermont Smoke & Cure® eight years after B Corps launched to grow and improve some aspects of our business to pass the certification, and then dozens of hours by members of our team to work through the certification process itself.  At the end of May 2016, we cleared the high bar that is B Corp certification.

“So, what” you may (or maybe should!) be asking?  What has B Corps done for (or to?) Vermont Smoke & Cure®?  Is Vermont Smoke & Cure® doing anything differently than it would have otherwise?

Here are a couple of examples of where the B Corp certification process has made a difference at Vermont Smoke & Cure®:

  • We were already taking measures to limit our water use, but as a small company with limited time, staring at a screen that asked us about our water conservation efforts, “do you have written plans, and are you achieving them?” kicked us in the pants to buckle down. As a result, we’ve put measures in place that reduced our water use per lb. of product by 40%; and we expect our water efficiency to continue to improve.
  • We were able to increase our starting wages to 7-14% above Vermont’s Livable Wage.

So, B Corps is making a real difference at Vermont Smoke & Cure®.

To continue to develop an economy that builds long-term financial, physical, social and resource health for everyone participating, we can’t rely on politics and public policy; nor can we rely on the nonprofit sector.  The most important thing each of us can do is to recognize each of our purchases is a vote for what we want to happen in the world.

B Corps does the crucial legwork to make it easy for us as time-pinched customers to choose well.

I encourage you to look for the (B) logo, on packaging, web sites and on retail shelves. This is how we win, together, for the long term.

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