Today there are more than 2,700 B Corps across more than 150 industries and 60 countries, unified by one common goal: to redefine success in business. - B Corporation Communications
B Corps are a hot topic lately, but most people and businesses still don’t know a lot about them. We wanted to share our experience of becoming a B Corporation and what it means to us here at bambu®.
What is a Certified B Corporation?
B Corporations Defined: “Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet among the world’s highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”
So, what does that really mean?
It means that B Corps, like bambu®, are doing business better. Better for our employees, better for the communities we work within, better for the environment, and better for our customers. So, when you purchase from a B Corp you can feel good purchasing from us.
As a business we have a responsibility to each of these parties:
For our employees, we provide a safe, clean, enjoyable workspace and create an environment where everyone feels supported and every voice is heard. bambu® is woman-majority owned and employs 90% women across our two offices in Portland and in China. We believe in fair opportunities for everyone who works for us.
For the communities we work in, we have to be aware of our impact in the communities we work. We have over 16 years of strong, well-established working relationships with our producer groups providing economic opportunity and steady income to the people. The owners of bambu®, Rachel and Jeff, spend at least half the year in China, working directly with our producers. We believe to really make positive change you need to know your supply chain backward and forwards, end-to-end. For many of us, its too important to outsource to brokers, and faceless trading companies.
For the environment, we believe in preserving Mother Nature for generations to come. This is core to our business, from working with abundant, and renewable resources to minimizing our water consumption and reusing the waste from our production process. And that also includes our packaging material. We are working to eliminate completely all plastic from our process by 2020. Everything we do at bambu® circles back to minimizing our impact.
bambu® only works with abundant renewable resources like hemp and bamboo, using the excess material to make functional products, or putting the waste back into our circular production process. We have a clean and direct supply chain and continue to find ways to improve our process.
And for our customers, being a better business means that each of us can vote with our dollars and support companies who do good. We wouldn’t recommend our products to you and your families unless we used them ourselves. We believe in our products. The products you use with food should be as clean and safe as the food you eat.
There are a lot more options in the bamboo and disposable dinnerware category then when we started 16 years ago. Over the years, we have never wavered in our focus of making the best quality sustainable products backed by testing and certification. Not all bamboo is the same. Cheaper commodity products use inferior materials and mask them in lacquer. We never have, and we never will. Becoming a B Corp validates how we do business.
Our customers are one of the most important reasons why we want to do business better. And a big part of that is constantly improving and being rigorous in our own processes. Even on the small things you might not notice right away! An example of this is eliminating plastic in our packaging, something we are still striving towards. We won’t stop working towards a plastic-free future.
Anticipating customer needs is just the start, we are listening directly from our customers on what they want from us as a company. Recently, the question of diversity came up from a customer who asked why we didn’t have more people of color in our marketing materials. It was a good question! While we are well represented with Chinese and women, we can absolutely do a better job representing people of color. Something we are thinking about and will be incorporating into our plans. Thank you for the push!
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
DEI is a big part of becoming a B Corp. This acronym stands for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion which are some of the main principles of how a B Corp is run internally. Are your employees comfortable voicing their opinions? Is your leadership team empowered to make key decisions? Are employees taught how to file complaints?
How do you become a Certified B Corp?
If you already have a sustainable company with established core values you are probably on your way to becoming a B Corp without even realizing it. That is what happened to us.
“Becoming a B Corp business was a goal of ours before B Corps even existed. Back in 2002, we were developing our business idea and value statements. Our core values of sustainability, accountability, and respect (for people and environment) mirrored the B Corp principles for the first certified businesses in 2007.” - Rachel Speth, Co-owner of bambu®
If you think you are on your way to becoming a B Corp already or want to see how far you are, we recommend using their online B Impact Assessment tool: https://bimpactassessment.net/
The B Impact Assessment is an online tool that examines a company's impact on its workers, community, environment, and customers. Some of the standards are pretty straight-forward, for example, meeting domestic regulations or not dealing in illegal activities. Others are related to how you operate your company, treat your employees, manage your impact on the environment, etc.
After you complete the assessment tool you will receive a score, and every few years you will need to resubmit the information to keep your B Corp status up-to-date.
Becoming a B Corporation is just the beginning, there is always room to improve and make better choices. These are some of the areas we are focusing on.
- Advocating for people to exercise their rights and freedom as consumers to learn, and be informed about the products they buy.
- Promoting the idea of getting back to nature. Choosing to eat simply and seasonally, and more locally. When we do this we feel better and more connected to our overall ecosystem.
- Improving the product process. Making utilitarian goods, that can be purchased for their practical and functional uses that answer people’s needs.
What does B Corp mean to bambu®?
Being a Certified B Corp means our business is on the right track. And it is great to be represented with so many other sustainable and socially responsible companies who are also B Corps. We’re part of redefining what success looks like for businesses to come. We are proud to be part of a movement, inspiring other companies to think differently about their business practices, and environmental and social impact. Exciting stuff!
“We started bambu over 16 years ago with the idea of providing better, eco-friendly products made from renewable materials as an alternative to plastic. A small idea that together with others, is creating a movement.” - Jeff Delkin, Co-Owner of bambu®
What does being a B Corp mean for our business both stateside and abroad?
We love this quote from the B Corp communications team: “Businesses and consumers are taking matters into their own hands. Through their operations and workdays, Certified B Corporations and their workers use their actions and voices to tackle tough issues and create positive change rather than wait for it to happen.”
This is really central to being a B Corp company. We need to be the change and set an example for others. In China, there is a buzz about B Corp businesses and the growing B Corp community. We’ve been involved in Shanghai helping to promote better choices, and as an example to other businesses and startups in China. You don’t have to be a huge company to make a big impact and set high standards for yourself and the people you work with.
And in Portland, B Corp Leadership Development Conference Pacific Northwest (BLD PNW) is happening this summer at The Redd in Portland on June 13th. This B Corp Leadership Development Conference is themed around Building the B-Ecosystem. Leaders will share stories, ideas, and experiences of collaborating around shared values and working toward inclusivity in the B Corp community.
What can you do to learn more about B Corps?
Vote Every Day is a global communications campaign directed to people to raise awareness for B Corp and inspire people to make informed decisions and buy from B Corp companies. Learn more about how to become involved here: https://bthechange.com/tagged/vote-every-day
Follow bambu on our journey to making better choices. Subscribe to our Youtube page to see upcoming videos, or follow bambuLiving on Instagram.
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