14 B Corp, Green Blushing, Conscious Consumerism. This is the Critical Decade with Kristy O’Leary & Brianna Brown from Decade Impact
In today’s episode, we chat with Brianna Brown and Kristy O’Leary from Decade Impact. We learn what led each of them to work with purpose-based business, We learn why our actions in the next decade are so critical to the future of our planet, we hear all about what Bcorp is, why businesses become benefit corporations, why green blushing can be as big of an issue as greenwashing, and what to look out for if you are a consumer looking to create impact. By supporting brands committed to social, environmental, and economic change.
If you want to learn more about Kristy, Brianna and how they are helping brands create a better world with Decade impact visit https://www.decadeimpact.com/Looking to learn more about how they can support your impact business with future-focused design thinking, or interested in the Getting to 80 program that uses the Bcorp framework? You can connect with them on Instagram at decadeimpactLook for Brianna and Kristy on Linked In where they are actively contributing to the conversation surrounding how brands can create impact.
About the Host
I'm Jennifer Myers Chua. The Host and Producer of the Cost Of Goods Sold podcast. I'm an entrepreneur, a creative, a cookbook fanatic, mother. I have always been interested in hearing people's stories and I've been determined to change the world for as long as I can remember.
You'll find me at home in Toronto deconstructing recipes, listening to podcasts, enjoying time with friends or wandering alone through a big city. I'm excited to have you here. Let's do better, together.
Jennifer Chua: Our actions in the next decade will determine the future of life on this planet. This is true for all of us, whether we’re business owners or not, but for people in the impact space, it’s a particularly interesting time as companies and corporations are being called to create a new economy, capable of solving our most complex problems. And creating impact beyond profit. The world is in chaos. There’s mass disruption, economic free fall. Division. And on the heels of all of that climate change, we have no choice, but to seize this moment and create a new world.
I’ve been working with Kristy and Brianna from decade impact for my own business. We’ve been working on purpose design and B Corp readiness. My conversations with them always leave me both nervous. We all should be nervous. But also incredibly inspired.
Because they believe that every company can leave the world better than they found it. Every person deserves to feel the delight of change-making and that absolutely anything is possible. They’re experts in B Corp, we’ll get into what that is in just a bit, and the United Nations, sustainable development goals, which is something you may want to look up if you’re interested in this work.
Kristy and Brianna originally met on Skype. This was in the pre-ZOOM days. And in this post COVID world, video chats are becoming more of a thing. Decade conducts most of their business online now. But at that point, it was harder to form real connections with people you’ve met only virtually. Kristy was hosting a workshop and Brianna was an attendee. But after this workshop, the two formed a bond that would lead them to start decade impact less than two years later.
Brianna had recently graduated from business school with a degree in political science and economics. And she had studied the language of business and had come to understand how those in business think. But Brianna became more and more interested in the social and environmental issues. But the social sector, those trying to make a difference. They were not using the language of business when talking to business. So Brianna saw an opportunity to help break that communication barrier down. But really, Brianna says, she saw how broken the world was and was looking for a way to respond meaningfully.
Brianna Brown: And I don’t know what little voice came into my head, but something came into my head. That business was the best way to solve social and environmental challenges, which seems a little bit counter-intuitive. But when you start to dig down into what the problems are and where the solutions. Business really becomes that place.
Jennifer Chua: So she started out working with social purpose startups, was introduced to B-Corp, 1% for the planet. Moved on to a traditional consulting firm role. And it was during this time that she had that Skype with Kristy. See Kristy was already in it. She was doing the work that Brianna was interested in. Consulting with businesses on social and environmental interests. But this meeting for Brianna was kind of like an aha moment.
Brianna Brown: so I was really grateful too, to find somebody, first of all, who I could just point my finger at and be like, I want that. And then that she was, she took a chance on me and brought me into that circle.
Jennifer Chua: Kristy’s career has been really non-linear. Topsy turvy is the word she uses, but she’s always been interested in business. Having grown up with entrepreneur parents. No, she didn’t go to business school. She has a fine arts degree with a focus on multimedia. But growing up in her family’s businesses, she learned a lot about how small business really operates. She followed her gut and took opportunities to work on projects in a variety of industries, social license campaigning, supply chain, whatever interested her at the time. But when Kristy ended up in advertising, she realized how a business could use messaging to create change.
And she started asking herself, how do you sell things that are better? How do we get people to change their behaviors through art and creativity and campaigning? And she was attracting the kind of companies that she wanted to work with. Those creating a net benefit. And here she was following her gut again, because she didn’t really have a way to screen those companies at the time.
Kristy O’Leary: You know, there are a lot of gut checks. And so I tend to be pretty stubborn. And so I just stubbornly kept focusing in this space and, and the market shifted and now we’re here.
There weren’t a lot of people to look to that were doing this. And when I, I stepped forward and said like, I’m gonna do impact consulting. I didn’t really have a blueprint for how to do that. And so I used the B Corp certification as that blueprint. I found B Corp and around 2011, 20 12 and thought, Okay. this is answering a lot of my questions.
Jennifer Chua: Why is all of this personally so important to you? Like why is environmental responsibility or social impact, diversity equity, inclusion, any of those? Was there an event that you can remember any moment in your life that has shaped how you see the world this way?
Brianna Brown: I always have such a hard time answering that question. Because I don’t think it was a single event for me. And I always think of that question. Why do you think that way? Why do you think that way? And I, my immediate responses, how can I not think that way? So I’m so stuck in this moment of this is how I see the world. And this is, for a while, how I have seen the world that I find it hard to conceptualize how you could not want to make a bigger purpose through your company than profit. I think that there’s, nothing wrong with making profit if it’s good profit. But there’s it’s a little bit boring to just be in pursuit of profit when there’s so many other things you can do, there’s so much other creativity. So I always try to draw back. I’m like, what are the moments? And I think one of the things that I’ve been thinking about recently, and I don’t know how defining this was, but I mentioned that. Undergrad was in political science and economics. And again like we’re in this time where we’re an unprecedented change.
And so we always think that it’s a very unique and singular moment. But when I was starting at a university, , it was during the occupy movement. And I was studying economics and learning about all of this stuff about how the economy works from this ivory tower of how it works. I was in school in Montreal, so there was a lot of activity on the streets there related to occupy and also all of these other social issues. The economic frameworks that I was being taught just don’t work. And I know that this is a very academic response to your question that this is very theoretical response.
And I’m sure Kristy is laughing, cause that’s just who I am. But that just ignited this huge curiosity in, in, well, what does work and how do we make it work? And if this is broken, how do we fix it? And so I think that there is like an intellectual curiosity behind it. I know that another big driver for me is, I grew up in the outdoors. I grew up in the mountains. I grew up in the forests. So there is that, that gutteral sense when we’re closer to nature, like we want to protect it. But it’s more of a how can we not for me then why do I have this weird focus on impact?
Kristy O’Leary: I think the biggest defining moment for me, I was in either a political science or an economics class. Maybe it was 98, but I was kind of like in my early university and a professor, an old curmudgeon, I believe his name was Elliot Tupper. And he asked us if we understood what the GDP was and we’re like all these kind of younguns and Yeah. we get it. He’s like, no, you don’t know anything. Which I, I kinda love, I feel like that’s why we go to university is to have like old learned people, tell us how it is.
And he said, no, none of, you know what it is, you know, who contributes the most to the GDP. It is a white man in his, in his mid fifties who is going through a divorce. Who just got a buy out from his company and has terminal cancer. That is the person that contributes the most to the GDP. And, I had a moment. I was like, 20 or 21, my father had cancer. Our family business was getting run out of town by Walmart. It was one of those like vertigo moments, like kind of earth shaking, thinking, all the suffering that this time in my family, all the suffering we’re going through and our business is failing. And all these things that were happening were stimulus. This was considered like we’re increasing the GDP. And that was that was a big, like, fuck this. Like, I don’t want to be a part of that system, but then I had no idea how to not be in the system.
And then the other defining moment, I was really lucky after I went to art school, I got to go to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia and talk to centenarians hundred year old folks about climate change. I want a residency to spend a couple of years there. Talking to folks about they’re creating an oral history of climate change and all of the conversations. It was just like, it just kept feeling like a broken record all these hundred year old or 90 year old ladies telling me, cause it was always ladies that wanted to talk you know, what are you going to do? This is real and we’re in trouble and I’m too old to do anything, but you’re young and you can do something. And that was a big defining moment, was having all of those conversations and then releasing that work and nobody paying any attention. And I just thought all these voices are lost. There’s all these. The writing is on the wall. It’s 2006 and the writing is on the wall and why isn’t anyone doing anything?
The environment is changing, but I think my, my kind of passion for environmental action really began through those conversations. Like I was interested in it because I wanted to do that project, but that was just one of those, those kind of realizations that nobody’s gonna, nobody’s gonna do this for us. We have to do it for ourselves. And again, not knowing how to do that, but the GDP and talking to a bunch of old dames about the way the world used to be and the way it can be in the future, where those were the moments. I think for me.
Jennifer Chua: Your business is called decade impact, presumably because we’re focusing on the change that we can create within the next decade. I’d like to talk a little bit more about what impact consulting is and why we should care all of us about creating impact.
Brianna Brown: You’re bang on with why we named ourselves decade impact. I’m glad that you were able to pick up on that. We started the business very late 2019, really launched in 2020 January 1st, or maybe January 3rd, which was the first Monday of the year launched decade impact. And a lot of the, the thinking behind that was exactly what you said. What change can we create in this decade? This is the decade that matters. This is Like many decades will be to come, hopefully. The last decade that we have to really turn the ship around and hopefully we turn it or enough around that, the 2030s are also, we can turn the ship around. We can turn the ship around and we can turn the ship around. But it also pairs with a lot of the sustainability frameworks that were coming out. The United nations, sustainable development goals, are 17 global goals that the signatories the United nations countries signed onto as these are imperative development initiatives. We need to get right by the year 2030. We have the climate crisis and I can talk about the climate crisis for a long time, but I’m just going to say. We need to turn the ship around and there’s a lot of commitments to both 2050, but more and more to 2030. What do we need to do by 2030 to make sure that we are as close to possible on track to a 1.5 degree world and making sure that we’re definitely under two degree temperature rise in line with the climate science.
So there’s these global imperatives. And then there’s also the business imperatives of at least progressive businesses. And I don’t mean progressive in just a, a social or environmental stage, but, but great companies for a century or more, do make 10 year plans and do make these 10 year declarations of what they want to accomplish. So it kind of fit in from both a corporate and science and development lens. We started january, 2020. We did not know what was going to happen. The climate crisis by the end of 2019 was like the word. Well, it, climate emergency was the word of the year. At the end of 2019 Gretta was everybody’s icon. We saw all of this momentum and then we started thinking that this momentum was just going to continue.
Kristy O’Leary: Brianna, you cracked me up. You’re awesome. And you are so academic in your responses that I’m, I’m always impressed. I just think like we are in the most important decade in human history. And if we don’t change our ways, we’re in serious, serious trouble. The old lady said it, they all said it like the, the, the writing’s on the wall and we’re in very deep shit if we don’t change our ways. And that’s just how it is. And looking at that, and the reality of we have tons of work to do. I think it’s actually really exciting and empowering. I don’t look at it like all is lost. I love an underdog story, and I think we’re all kind of underdogs Right. now. And so the idea that we can all have this montage and be these kinds of superheroes and like dorky accountants, not all accountants are dorky. Some of you are, I’m a dork too. But we’re the ones that can really change the world. And so you don’t need a Cape, you need, a credit card and a business. Those are ways to make a lot of change. And as Brianna said, we have always had lofty ideas. We did not envision a global pandemic coming our way.
Brianna Brown: That was not in our business.
Kristy O’Leary: It wasn’t in our business plan, but our business is perfect for a pandemic. And I know that it’s been really hard on so many folks, and I’m thankful every day that, that the pandemic created the opportunity for us to work hard enough to thrive because it didn’t happen by accident. It happened because we worked really hard. But this kind of shock to the system, I think is exactly what we needed. And it has created this build back better movement. Now how impact consulting plays into that? I think, we’re perfectly positioned because now we know that we can change the world really quickly. We can turn the global economy off and turn it back on in a matter of weeks. And so what are we going to turn on? How are we going to, where are we going to focus our energy? And I think that this all bets are off existence we have, like reality we live in, is the perfect foundation for, for the work we do. Because we are very future-focused and we’re not thinking about like, let’s make some incremental change. We’re focused on how do we become regenerative businesses. And so, although the pandemic has been really painful it’s also extremely motivating and has created this, this foundation for folks to really change the way they think about their agency and what they’re capable of achieving.
Sometimes as, as business people, we have to do things sometimes that we don’t love to do. That’s a part of the, the, our lives. But if we can just change the way people look at their businesses, it’s not only a process that can help help us thrive as a community and work to save the environment and, and fight social injustice. I think the results we deliver, we deliver a personal experience that folks are having. They’re not just thinking about their business, I think. and Jen, as, as being someone that has worked with us in the past, I like to think that the work goes home. It’s one of those things. People are really happy to take home because it’s helping to reframe a lot of the, the things, the questions, the decisions we make every single day.
Brianna Brown: And impact consulting. There’s a few different dimensions to it. I think it’s most similar to strategy consulting. So, management consulting and strategy consulting and setting a strategy then going out and implementing it. But it’s focused on the social and environmental change that you can create as a business. What decade does is we help firms define, measure, manage, and communicate their impact. The defined piece, I think, is the critical foundation to this work. What are you in business to do? And we sometimes define this as corporate imagination which is Kristy-O-Learyism corporate imagination of creating that space to be a little bit more expansive and creative and giving ourselves permission to say the stuff that we wouldn’t naturally say about business. Because we compartmentalize in our own minds about what business can and should do.
That limits us as entrepreneurs. That limits us as an economy, that limits us as a society. When we can open up our minds about what a business can and should be. We’re getting ourselves more in touch with who we are as individuals. Kristy and I are not going in and saying, you should do this new thing that is completely unrelated to your business that you’ve never thought about before. We’re often giving the space for those little ideas that an entrepreneur or founder or leader has had in the back of their head. And maybe maybe had another internal voice saying, well no. Business, doesn’t do that. Or you’re not going to succeed in the market with that. That’s not where you should go.
And we create the space to say, well, how might we, what would that look like if we were able to go out there and do that. Ignite this This, collective response, all of our stakeholders getting on board and saying, this is where I want to go to. That’s where we start to see these like lasting legacy businesses. The example everyone goes to, and it’s a great example is Patagonia. That’s why people like Patagonia. Because they put that vision out there and they go after it and they’re authentic towards it. So that’s that defined piece and that’s the foundational piece. And then we help firms measure and manage their impact.
So they’re not just talking about what they’d like to do. We’re saying, well, what can you do to get a roadmap together, to go out there? We use a few different tools to get to that point. The B Corp assessment is the dominant tool that we’re using as this way of linking all aspects of your operations with social and environmental consideration.
I heard. B court being described as ESG plus purpose. I don’t know who originally coined that, but I’m going to give the credit to Carla Heim at the BDC, the senior advisor of social entrepreneurship, and really leader of the B Corp movement here in Canada. That’s the first time I heard that term is ESG, which is environmental, social, and governance plus purpose.
So metrics, and then the purpose of, of going a little bit broader. And then finally after we measure and manage, we’re looking at well, how do we make this matter going to communication? And I love that Kristy talked about her communication background at the beginning because it kind of goes full circle we’re not starting with communication. We’re not starting with spinning a better story. We’re starting with being a better company, but once you’ve done that work shout it loud.
Jennifer Chua: Can you chat a little bit about how you talk about green blushing? Cause I think this is tied in a lot.
Kristy O’Leary: Everybody’s familiar with greenwashing presenting yourself as an environmentally or socially progressive company and just not doing the work. And I think less often folks are familiar with the concept of green blushing and green blushing. It’s happening all the time. It’s all around us. To me, I think it’s a really insidious problem. We really, really need companies to step forward and communicate what they’re doing. And so green blushers are those folks that are doing the work. They’re not communicating it because they haven’t achieved. Perfect. You know, hot tip, perfect. Doesn’t exist. It’s not real. Perfect. As a showstopper, as we say. And so really green blushing is the challenge. I think getting over green blushing is a huge challenge for social purpose companies. Getting past yourself and past perfection and communicating what you’re doing.
I think actually the antidote to, to green blushing is this idea that I’ve been thinking about a lot. I’m talking with folks a lot about becoming a documentary brand. Rather than you do a campaign, you have a tagline, these kind of disconnected pieces. If you look at a brand like Brianna had mentioned Patagonia they are, they are not green blushing. They are talking, they’re telling every, every one of those stakeholders, what they’re up to how they’re doing it and when they fail. We because we really need to communicate those failures. Or those course corrections rather than failures.
In my mind, I envision a perfect world as a world full of documentary brands that are focused on that tenure, the long game, rather than looking for these tiny little sustainability wins that they can slap on a truck and go to town. This is a totally different mindset. This is integrating impact into the business, communicating all elements of, of what a company is doing. And then really being in there for the long haul. I, I often mentioned game of Thrones. People waited 10 years to see the finale. Our society. We are storytellers. We are, we are we are mainlining stories all the time. That brings us as humans, joy it’s in our DNA. Those green blushers just need to become those documentary brands, communicate those small pieces of progress, those little wins and always in line with that grand vision of a really audacious goal that that companies are trying to achieve.
Jennifer Chua: Conscious consumerism is a term that’s become very popular in this space. And to me, conscious consumerism is about buying from businesses that share my values and that are here to support the change that I’d like to see in the world, for example. But I’d love to hear your thoughts on conscious consumerism. Like is it possible and how do we identify what brands we can trust?
Kristy O’Leary: I’m going to say conscious consumerism is possible. I do it. Brianna does it. You do it. And really it’s just being more intentional and more mindful and kind of developing your own impact strategy as an individual. What are my values? Do I wanna buy from BIPOC businesses? Do I wanna buy from businesses that are really leaning in on environment? Like you define your own, what matters to you? And then shop based on those criteria, green blushers are causing a problem for conscious consumers, because if consumers don’t know what you’re up to, then they can’t support you. And so I think that the green blushing challenge it’s not just a challenge for those companies, it’s a huge challenge for consumers that really want to take action and just don’t know how. So I think looking for the B Corp logo, looking for a 1% logo, organic, non GMO, there’s all kinds of certifications.
I’ve been very pleased to see Uber and Lyft step forward in Texas saying they’re going to cover the legal costs for any of their drivers. I was really excited to see Bumble give a ton of money to planned parenthood. And then actually Tinder went even further with their commitment to supporting women’s reproductive rights in their approach. These are the kind of vignettes we see in the news that I think people should be really paying attention to.
Brianna Brown: One of the things I’d like to add on, on green blushing before also talking a little bit more about conscious consumerism is Kristy and I went to a talk a couple of months ago by Dr. Katherine Wilkinson, who was one of the editors of project drawdown the most amazing resource for mapping and solutions to the climate crisis. Really encourage your listeners to look at drawdown as well as her new initiative. All we can save, which is highlighting women and BIPOC leaders of the climate crisis and, and highlighting those voices. So just a really amazing leader. And she talked about this concept of raising the bar and setting the pace of what it means to be a pace setter. And I think that’s really, really critical in, in this conversation about putting your voice out there and taking a stance. When Lyft is putting their voice out there and saying this is an unjust law. We’re going to take a stand. They create that space for, this is what you need to do to be in this space.
And then Uber will come along and say, I’m going to compete with you on this. And I’m going to compete with you on this and they’re like competing on, on the best commitments, which is where I want to see competition. I want to see people raising that bar and raising that bar and saying, oh, you’re doing this well, we’ll look how much I’m giving back to community and look how much I’m giving back to community.
You know, Lyft and Uber are not perfect companies. But on this topic, they’re looking at how do they raise the bar? And I’m sure that the people who are making that decision had a little bit of uncertainty from a business perspective, what would this do as a business when they make this huge, very quote unquote political? Cause I don’t think it should be political to allow women a choice. But this very political decision that makes you scared as a business owner, but that is following values and doing the right thing. It feels risky as a business, but it’s not. It’s risky to not follow those values and to not do the right thing.
Kristy O’Leary: And I think for all businesses, anybody listening to the podcast, if you’re about to step forward with some messaging and you feel confident and you are sleeping easy. You’re probably not going far enough. If you’re not sweating a little bit over your commitments and the stand you’re about to take, then you probably haven’t tried hard enough. Growth is uncomfortable. One thing that I feel is clear when we’re dealing with our clients and our participants in our programs is that discomfort is just, it’s the name of the game. And, that’s that space that, that uncomfortable space provides all kinds of opportunity for growth and innovation.
Brianna Brown: It’s also uncomfortable to not change. Like it feels more immediately uncomfortable to, to change and put yourself out there. I, I kind of think about the image of the ostrich with the head in the sand, that might feel safe while your head is in the sand, but that is a very uncomfortable and vulnerable position to be. And when you take your head out, you’re going to see that it’s an uncomfortable space. It kind of goes back to another word that Kristy brought up earlier, agency. And we can be uncomfortable and have agency and direction about where we’re going and really exercise that choice. Or we can be uncomfortable and not have agency. We’re kind of at a place now where it’s an uncomfortable world, but we can lean into that discomfort and shape a better world. And that’s something that really inspires me and gets me going, because we have the amazing honor to be working with clients all the time who are stepping into that hopeful future. So I very much live in a bubble where I see solutions all the time. And so solutions are outthere. Sometimes they’re not super obvious, but solutions, are everywhere. Once you start looking.
Kristy O’Leary: it’s, where’s Waldo. It’s just, where’s Waldo. Like once you know what he looks like and you see that little hat you’re going to find Waldo. And so now I feel like that’s what, that’s one of the outcomes of the work we do is. It’s like, we give them like the, like the Rosetta stone of impact and they can start to see it in all its forms and how it’s showing up and they can connect the dots. They can see through the matrix, like there’s this richness that they get to have a richer experience as business owners, as consumers. I, and I just think it’s all really exciting. I think that the, the truth is the world’s going to get more uncomfortable. Do you want to be a leaf in the river? Do you want to be the river? Like there’s these choices we have to make. And I hope everybody gets excited about leaving it better than they found it, and we don’t need everybody to change. We just need that 10% of people. That are going to change. That are going to drive policy change and really lead. We don’t need everybody to agree with us, which is incredible.
Jennifer Chua: All of us at some point have come across the B Corp logo on a brand’s packaging or on a website and as conscious business owners, maybe we’ve heard about B Corp within our entrepreneurship communities, but as consumers, I find that I still get asked a lot. When I’m speaking about B Corp certification, what B Corp is or what it stands for. What is B Corp exactly? Because I think a lot of people still don’t understand
Brianna Brown: B Corp is a certification that applies to the business. So there’s a lot of certifications, maybe organic or fair trade or non-GMO that are for a specific product or production process. That’s looking at just how one ingredient or one product is made. B Corp is similar to that, but it’s looking at the entire way your business operates. It’s an assessment that looks at your governance, how you’re set up, your workers, how you protect the health of your employees and your team, how you contribute to your community, your environment, and your customers. So it’s looking holistically at all operations at all parts of, of your business. How are you considering people and planet?
So that’s sort of like what the assessment does. The tagline, which I think is really, really true is using business as a force for good. So it’s looking at all of these different ways that we can use our business as a force for good. And I think that that is part of the reason why it’s a little bit confusing is because organic looks at one thing, fair trade looks at one thing. B Corp, because it’s looking at all of these different things. It can be hard to say what exactly it means for you. Cause there’s different paths to the summit. There’s different ways to be an impactful company.
Sometimes it’s through workers, sometimes it’s through community. Sometimes through environment, B Corps asks you questions on every single element of that. And then you have to obtain 80 points. It’s a scored assessment. So 80 points is the, the bar you have to meet to become a B Corp. A traditional company might score around 40 points in the assessment, a company that has a CSR corporate social responsibility might be around 60 points. So 80 is a, is a really high bar, but it’s hard to see that it’s hard to communicate that. So I understand when there’s a little bit of uncertainty about what it means because it’s holistic and it’s looking at, at the entire business.
Kristy O’Leary: I kind of get excited when folks don’t know anything about B Corp, because you get to share like the best kept secret. Guess what? There’s a way that you, as a consumer. Can really reclaim your citizenship through how you spend. I think that’s one of those, one of those opportunities to tell a great story to kind of start to change their, their understanding or their personal narrative about how they buy. Cause like really so many folks, I hear it all the time. They’re like, oh, corporations are evil. I had this conversation just about a week ago. All of a sudden someone said something about capitalism. And then there was this pile on about how companies are bad and that’s all there is to it. And I was like, whoa, but what if they do good things? And it just ignited this whole conversation I got to share with a bunch of really intelligent folks that like, there is a better way. And so when people don’t know about it, don’t be discouraged. Just feel like you get to be that person that opened their mind to this movement.
Brianna Brown: I also like to add the companies might be evil. Companies might be good. Companies are our vehicle, but companies are made out of people. And those people behind them have values people behind them are people like you, Jen and Kristy and myself and all of the listeners. We’re all people behind those companies. And when we can allow companies, which is some of the work we do, we allow companies to get closer in touch with their humanity. What can our businesses achieve?
Jennifer Chua: If you do stumble across a business that has a B Corp logo, you can be somewhat sure, really, that this company is committed to, Jedi principles. They are committed to treating their communities well, they’re giving back, they’re maybe making better decisions in terms of environmental impacts. I’m wondering how stringent the certification is. Like how difficult is it for brands to go through that process? How do we know that this is legit? Like how difficult is this for the brand to actually get that certification and put it there on their product?
Brianna Brown: the B Corp movement is poweredourby a questionnaire called the B impact assessment. There have been well over a hundred thousand users of that tool. There are 4,000 certified B Corp’s. Of all the people taking this assessment. 3 to 4% become B Corp certified. Now not every single person who opens up the assessment ultimately is seeking certification, but that is a pretty significant piece. Another stat , that we heard about more recently is once you go through the assessment, you say, I’ve, self-assessed myself. I have above 80 points. I’m going to submit this, of all the submissions, 2/3, get their points knocked down when the third party is looking for that verification and are not above 80 points at that time. And I found that shocking when we heard that, because all of the companies that we’re working with when they submit they’re kind of prepared and they’re getting certified at the end because we’ve done really deep work with them. So I found that shocking, but even after people submit the difference between their self assessment and that third-party assessment, only about a third of those are actually going through to certification. So I think that those two numbers there, that 3% number, three to 4% ultimately getting certified. And then that only a third after you submit for certification, this is a big deal. And I also want to say there’s immense value to going through that assessment, even if you’re not at the point where you’re ultimately going to be able to certify, because you can’t like when you go through those questions, when you get to places that are a little uncomfortable, maybe you’re in the worker section. You’re like our workers practice actually aren’t that great. It forces you to ask those questions and you could just say, no, you could just be like, oh, I don’t have that. I don’t have that. But most people say, Hmm, kind of want to improve? What would it look like to improve.
It’s really valuable if you’re at a place where you’re ready to certify when you have all of those practices in place, but it’s also valuable as a roadmap to start to make that first step towards being a better company. And maybe in, maybe you’re going to be ready to certify today. Maybe you’re going to be ready to certify in 10 years, but either way there’s these opportunities you can do to build better practices into your business progress over perfection. We don’t need everybody to be a B Corp. We do need more people thinking about how they can be better businesses.
Jennifer Chua: so in the next decade, do you think that we’re going to find registered B Corp’s on every shelf in every home? Like, do you think that this movement has that kind of momentum?
Kristy O’Leary: absolutely,
Brianna Brown: I bet you already have some on your shelf,
Kristy O’Leary: for sure. Every everybody, but honestly, so many people do and they don’t know it. I think that when a consumer encounters that B corp symbol, that logo they can rest assured that a company has gone through an extremely uncomfortable process. And even though that company is not perfect because nobody is, no company is, they’ve asked themselves really challenging questions. And so you may not know the details as a consumer, but you could rest assured that they have gone through the most rigorous business certification in the world. At least from an environmental and social perspective from that ESG plus purpose perspective. And so I hope if consumers want to dig in and really understand how the assessment works, there’s lots of resources to do that. But life is busy. You have to go grocery shopping, you have an aging parent. There’s a, you know, that little thing called a pandemic, there’s a lot going on. And so I think that the B Corp logo is a way to make it really easy for consumers. Okay. They ask the questions they’re trying harder. And just that act of awareness is as revolutionary for companies. So I know a lot of B Corp’s wouldn’t communicate what they do as revolutionary necessarily, but that going through that process of voluntarily going through that process is revolutionary
Jennifer Chua: Maybe you do own a business, but maybe you don’t and you still want to support companies that have this vision for the future that is placing people in planet over profit. So what is the best way that either group can affect change?
Brianna Brown: When you don’t own a business, I’ve always been curious about the multiple identities we hold. So we hold an identity as a citizen where we can go out and vote and we can call our elected officials to account. There is a vote coming up. We’re not gonna, we won’t talk about it too much, but going out and voting for your values, that’s something you can do as a citizen. As a consumer, we talked about conscious consumerism and looking for those logos and also asking questions. When you’re in the position to ask questions of your grocery store or at the farmer’s market or where you are about, where did this come from? You might have an identity as an investor where you’re looking at where your investments are, where your money is what bank you bank with. You might be having an identity. As a worker asking your employer, what they’re doing driving change from within. Change doesn’t come overnight. Change comes because somebody has been asked that one extra time what are you doing for community? What are you doing for environment?
In all of those identities being asked that question, and then for some of us, we have an identity as a business owner where we have this opportunity to, to build all of these practices into our business. But I think it’s just helpful to think of ourselves with all of our different conflicting identities, maybe we’re in a parents group or community group where we’re talking with our like-minded parents about what we’re thinking about and all of these conversations, they seem really small and they are small. But they build into something really big when we have all of these people talking and asking questions and sharing what they’re interested in and sharing what their values are.
Kristy O’Leary: For consumers, I think build your personal screening, build your economic screen. How can you exercise your values when every time you, you spend money and make it easy, make yourself a cheat sheet, right. And actually stick to it. And it’s really hard because sometimes I want to buy jeans that I know aren’t waterless or this or that. You know what I mean? We all have to make, make our own decisions, but just kind of have a talk with yourself and decide what you want to invest in every time you spend a dollar. and I think from a company perspective, I really think open up the B Corp assessment. It’s a big task, but just approach it one question at a time and start asking yourself those questions.
And inevitably, every entrepreneur opens it and they’re like, oh no, we don’t know. Okay. Oh, no, we don’t do that. And just turn every know into a how and a why. Well, why would we do this? Why does it make sense for our business? And then how would we implement it? And how can that take shape in our business? And I think that act of asking yourself voluntarily asking yourself these challenging questions. It may not feel like you’re Rocky running up those stairs, but that’s kind of what you’re doing. Put on a montage, get some, some power ballads in the background and start thinking about what your superpower is going to be.
Brianna Brown: Also think about decade. Not the company, the concept. Or you can think about the company. Who do you want to be in 2030? Who do you want to be in 10 years? Who do you want to be in 2050? Who do you want to be in 30 years? Really just sit in that space of what might my business look like in 10 years? And what do I want it to look like? Get a little bit uncomfortable about the darkness, but also spend a lot of time just, just dreaming about how good might we be. How could we contribute to something bigger than ourselves? How can we think about people? How can we think about planet? And I think just bringing those questions and who do we want to be in 10 years? 10 years is a great timeframe because we’re freed from the everyday constraints that are telling us. No, no, no. We get to just sit in that space and say, what could we be and give yourself that space. That’s what entrepreneurs are always missing is time and space, but carve out a couple hours, carve out one hour and just think about who do I want to be in 2030? Share with your team. Share with your team, what you thought about. And you’re going to find people who are stoked about that vision and want to help you get there.
Jennifer Chua: Or your friends, family, or members of your social circle as well, because maybe they have some ideas and had to do something with you. Has working in this space, have you come across anything that’s been really surprising? Like, has there been a piece of knowledge that you’ve learned from working with someone or an experience that has been really surprising or has changed how you see the world in some way?
Brianna Brown: almost every day Kristy will sometimes bring up a great Disney quote. It’s kind of fun to do the impossible. And when you start talking with people about those big questions that I just mentioned, you’re starting to get into impossible territory. And then people will say stuff all the time that are just like, I want to do this. I want to go after this. I’m going to solve like the housing crisis or I’m going to solve food insecurity issues in my, in my little area. And then they start doing it. And although I’ve been working in this space for a while, and although that’s exactly the result that I want to happen and I know can happen, it surprises and delights me every single time.
And I know we talked about a lot of dark things in this podcast. Or we started getting into a lot of the uncertainty and, and discomfort. But you can see with Kristy and I were so excited, we just get, we get to see people start to do the impossible and go after it and see what happens. And that, that delights me every single time.
Kristy O’Leary: I am really excited when I think about the future. I think we have a lot of work to do. Yeah, I think we have a lot of work to do. I also think that we can find that kind of blissful productivity. And we have an opportunity right now, to really all of us to feel this deep purpose. Because it’s not just one issue. It’s not just about the environment. It’s everything all at once. Everything is coming down at once. And so we really sit at the precipice of building a new economy and, and adjusted inclusive society. And so I understand that the reality of making that happen is, is, is a lot of work.
Brianna Brown: We believe every business can leave the world better than they found it. Every person deserves to feel the delight of change-making and absolutely anything is possible.
Kristy O’Leary: And I think that’s it. We have to all accept, or the two and a half percent of people that we need to change the world have to accept that this is on us and not be angry and not be upset with those that aren’t walking that path. Right? Like, don’t be divisive. Folks are too busy. Their mom has cancer. They have stuff going on. They don’t have the emotional capacity to do this work. We do. And there’s lots of other people that are, and, and I just think it’s incredibly exciting. Again, I always bring it back to like the montage. It’s kind of fun and Disney, it’s kind of fun to do the impossible. So I don’t know what the future holds. I know what I’m going to do. I know what Brianna and I are doing, and I hope that other entrepreneurs and consumers in their own way, join us either by working with us by building that personal screening as a consumer. Yeah, I think that the future is exactly what we decide it’s going to be
Jennifer Chua: So I’ve worked with you with my business, hip mommies, and gone through the getting to 80 program. So if anyone who’s listening to this episode right now wants to hear more about my experience. I invite you to reach out to me and I will give you kind of the inside scoop. If you are a business and you are interested in exploring B Corp, how can decade impact, how can the two of you best support a business owner who is looking for that next step?
Kristy O’Leary: I think it all starts with an initial conversation. We talked to almost every person that does our program before the program starts. Our getting to 80 program, which is a cohort program, which we have cohorts launching on the 28th of September and the 5th of October for Canadian companies this year. It all starts with that conversation because every case is so different. Every business is you are all unique snowflakes. And every business is different and really understand what your needs are and, and what your capacity is and where you’re at in that journey. Are you gonna, are you going to jump off the cliff with us or you want to stick your toes in the water? And once we understand what you’re ready to do, then we can build an approach. We can help you build an approach. I think we’re always happy to talk to folks regardless of where they are in their journey, it takes all kinds.
Brianna Brown: And there’s two main ways that we work with companies with lots of flexibility in each one, we have the getting to 80 program, which is really designed for small businesses. It’s a B Corp readiness and purpose exploration program, six sessions that you’re doing together with other small business owners. So you’re in a cohort with other small business owners going through the nuts and bolts of the B Corp assessment, as well as making it meaningful to you. The other way that we work with businesses is one-on-one. So doing deep dives into your business what we like doing is team-based workshops. So we’re creating Eureka moments as a team, creating the momentum within your company, creating this shared literacy. Where you’re going and how you can get there. There’s many paths to the summit. So we’re very flexible with that approach.
Jennifer Chua: If you want to learn more about Kristy, Brianna, and how they’re helping brands create a better world with Decade impact. Visit decadeimpact.com. Looking to learn more about how they can support your impact business with future focused design thinking. Or if you’re interested in the getting to 80 program that uses the B Corp framework, you can connect with them on Instagram @decadeimpact. Look for Brianna and Kristy on LinkedIn, where they’re actively contributing to the conversation surrounding how brands can do better.