B-corporations are rapidly growing in Lancaster, PA as some companies are committing to high standards that evaluate their social and environmental performances.
by Shaakirah Tate
Do you have a taste for a delicious yogurt parfait with house-made baked oatmeal and fresh berries? Check out the Prince Street Cafe!
Do you suffer from anxiety, sleep problems, or excruciating headaches? Hempfield Botanicals creates natural, eco-friendly CBD products that can help you find some relief!
Lancaster is rich with a wide range of unique companies, whether brick and mortar or strictly online. Whatever you need, Lancaster has you covered. While the area has thousands of local companies, a small portion of them, including the Prince Street Cafe and Hempfield Botanicals, share one unprecedented commonality.
The city is home to twenty-two certified b-corporations. Overall, fifty-six are located throughout Pennsylvania, but twenty-five percent are established in the Lancaster area.
What is a b-corporation?
Over the last two decades, Lancaster has financially grown, but some residents still struggle to make ends meet. In fact, thirty percent of residents are living in poverty, hinting at system failure. To fight against the growing issue, some companies have made a promise to meet the highest standards of performance while making sure their business models positively impact their workers, community, environment, and customers. They have decided to become b-corporations, which is often known as b-corps for short.
Before earning their credentials to become b-corps, companies must complete an assessment and questionnaire. B Lab, the Philadelphia-based nonprofit organization, reviews their morals and operations for effective practices that provide solutions to end social and environmental issues. The free and confidential assessment is two-hundred questions total and available online.
The companies spent dozens of hours on the assessment, providing enough evidence to show B Lab that they are committed to procedures that helps others around them. For example, those who offer their employees paid time off for volunteering or create written policies for prioritizing local vendors adhere to B Lab’s promising mission.
Once their assessments and questionnaires are submitted, the companies go through a multiple-step verification process where their answers are vetted by B Lab’s Standard Advisory Council. They must score eighty points out of the two-hundred to become certified b-corps.
When the companies are officially certified, they must align their values with B Lab’s pronouncement and work towards a global economy that creates benefits for stakeholders, not just wealthy shareholders:
- Companies must be the change they seek in the world.
- Companies must be conducted as if people and place matter.
- Through the companies’ products, practices, and profits, they should not cause any harm and benefit all.
- Companies must understand that they need to be dependent and responsible for one another and future generations to come.
Companies are required to pay annual certification fees once they become certified. The fees vary by region and are determined based on the company’s size and annual sales. However, discounts are available for companies with more than fifty percent of ownership from underrepresented backgrounds. They use the following chart to determine their annual fees:
|Annual sales:||Annual certification fee:|
|$0 – $149,000||$500|
|$150,000 – $1.9 M||$1,000|
|$2 M – $4.9 M||$1,500|
|$5 M – $9.9 M||$2,500|
|$10 M – $19.9 M||$5,000|
|$20 M – $49.9 M||$10,000|
|$50 M – $74.9 M||$15,000|
|$75 M – $99.9 M||$20,000|
|$100 M – $249.9 M||$25,000|
|$250 M – $499.9 M||$30,000|
|$500 M – $749.9 M||$37,500|
|$750 M – $999.9 M||$45,000|
|$1 B +||$50,000 +|
Table by Shaakirah Tate. Information comes from B Lab’s certification requirements, https://bcorporation.net/certification.
Every three years, companies must upgrade their assessments and provide additional documentation to verify their answers. They are reevaluated by B Lab and need to earn eighty points out of two-hundred to keep their certifications. The process keeps them motivated while reminding them to consider their stakeholders as their revenue grows or changes.
Where are the b-corps located in Lancaster?
In December 2017, only four companies in Lancaster were certified b-corps. Two years later, twenty-two have agreed with B Lab’s mission to eliminate the city’s growing social and environmental issues. Looking at the map below, most are located around downtown Lancaster while one stands alone in Mountville, PA. I strongly encourage you to walk around the city and check out what they have to offer. You never know…you might find something that’ll catch your eye and spark your interest!
Jonathan and Jennie Groff
Jonathan and Jennie Groff have been married for almost twenty years and have four wonderful children together. In 2010, the couple created another beautiful memory with one another when they both became part owners of the Lancaster Stroopies Company.
The Groffs are known around Lancaster for their yummy stroopwafels, a Dutch cinnamon waffle cookie that’s stuffed with homemade caramel. The delicious treat pairs well with warm beverages and vanilla ice cream. Currently, they are made daily at the Lancaster Sweet Shoppe and their production line can make three hundred an hour!
For the last ten years, Jonathan and Jennie have been employing resettled refugee women from all around the world. They strongly believe that God has chosen them to guide the refugee women, to help them learn business management skills that will advance their own careers while exposing them to the English language.
You can purchase their stroopwafels at multiple locations throughout Lancaster. The couple opened their latest spot over the summer at the Lancaster Marketplace on Fruitville Pike.
When Crystal Weaver graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary with a certificate in family counseling, she thought that she would spend her life helping loved ones work through problems and learn better communication skills. She was completely wrong.
Today, she’s the proud owner of five successful b-corporations in Lancaster — Blue Line, Passenger Coffee, the Prince Street Cafe, Merrymaker Catering, and the Commissary of Lancaster. Crystal loves creating comfortable spaces for her customers that will leave an everlasting impact.
While she was born and raised on a farm in Millersville, she has lived in downtown Lancaster for more than a decade and enjoys the city life. When she has some free time, she likes to read, hang out with her niece and nephews, and volunteer at local organizations.
Etsy’s rise and fall as a b-corporation
When Etsy announced their plans to become a b-corporation, the company was excited to use their large platform to make a positive change and find solutions to social and environmental issues. Different from most, they had a higher social purpose that wasn’t focused on profit.
Etsy offered their employees an array of great benefits:
- Meditation and yoga sessions throughout the busy workday.
- Paid parental leave for new mothers and fathers.
- Shared non-binary bathrooms for everyone.
- Hired local small food businesses that used in-season ingredients in their meals.
However, when Etsy went public and their revenue grew tremendously, they started to care more about their reputation and profitability. Once a work environment where employees could express their feelings openly, most were now afraid to voice their concerns. In 2017, the company lost their status as a certified b-corporation.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for Ben and Jerry’s ice cream!
Did you know that Ben and Jerry’s is a certified b-corporation? Since September 2012, the ice cream company has aligned their values with B Lab’s mission, making the ultimate promise to be economically sustainable while creating positive social change.
Founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield operate their company through a “linked prosperity” business model as they are able to consider all stakeholders that are connected to them. They care about everyone, including the farmers who produce their ingredients, the employees who create their famous ice cream, and the communities that surround them.
However, they have been called out for not following B Lab’s protocols and treating their employees unreasonably. In 2015, more than one hundred activists protested outside their Burlington flagship store, demanding better work conditions for migrant workers on their suppliers’ dairy farms.
Ben and Jerry’s super-premium ice cream is distributed nationwide so head to your local supermarket and buy a few pints! Treat yourself! My personal favorite is the cinnamon bun flavor with caramel ice cream and real chunks of cinnamon bun dough!
“About.” The Commons Company of Lancaster, LLC, https://commonscompany.com/pages/about. Accessed 12 Dec. 2019.
“About B Corps.” B Lab, https://bcorporation.net/about-b-corps. Accessed 23 Nov. 2019.
“Ben & Jerry’s Joins the B Corp Movement!” Ben & Jerry’s, https://www.benjerry.com/about-us/b-corp. Accessed 13 Dec. 2019.
“B Corp Certification Fees Outside the United States and Canada.” B Lab, 2019. PDF File.
“B Impact Report — Ben & Jerry’s.” B Lab, https://bcorporation.net/directory/ben-and-jerrys. Accessed 13 Dec. 2019.
“Certification.” B Lab, https://bcorporation.net/certification. Accessed 21 Nov. 2019.
“Crystal Weaver.” Lancaster Chamber. PDF File.
Gelles, David. “How the Social Mission of Ben & Jerry’s Survived Being Gobbled Up.” The New York Times, 21 Aug. 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/23/business/how-ben-jerrys-social-mission-survived-being-gobbled-up.html. Accessed 13 Dec. 2019.
Gelles, David. “Inside the Revolution at Etsy.” The New York Times, 25 Nov. 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/25/business/etsy-josh-silverman.html. Accessed 12 Dec. 2019.
“Increased Scrutiny Seen to Benefit B Corps.” ASSETS, 8 Dec. 2019, https://assetspa.org/increased-scrutiny-seen-to-benefit-b-corps/. Accessed 22 Nov. 2019.
“Lancaster Marketplace Standholder Spotlight: The Lancaster Stroopie Co.” Lancaster Marketplace, 12 Jun. 2019, https://www.lancastermarketplace.org/news/2019/6/6/lancaster-marketplace-standholder-spotlight-the-lancaster-stroopie-co. Accessed 9 Dec. 2019.
Lusby, Gretchen. “Celebrate B Corp Month This March.” ASSETS, 7 Mar. 2019, https://assetspa.org/celebrate-b-corp-month-this-march/. Accessed 21 Nov. 2019.
“Overview.” Lancaster Works at ASSETS, LLC., https://lancaster.works/. Accessed 23 Nov. 2019.
“The Stroopie Story.” The Lancaster Stroopie Company, https://www.stroopies.com/about-hayden. Accessed 9 Dec. 2019.
Traub, Michelle. “Etsy Joins the B Corporation Movement.” Etsy, 9 May 2012, https://blog.etsy.com/news/2012/etsy-joins-the-b-corporation-movement/. Accessed 12 Dec 2019.
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