In the "Year of P," It's Paramount to Pivot, Position and Pioneer

08/14/20

The letter P seems to have taken center stage in 2020: Pandemic, The Great Pause, Personal Protective equipment, Paycheck Protection Program, Police brutality and Protests. As the business community reacts and responds to these larger-than-life Protagonists, companies that understand the importance of engagement (always but especially in times of crisis) are Pivoting, Positioning and Pioneering – to Persevere during this unrelenting epoch.

In fact, as it turns out, the companies emerging from the wings with the greatest P skills are those flying the flag of a different letter: B, as in B Corps.

According to B Lab, the oversight organization that certifies B Corps, “The B Corp community works toward reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high quality jobs with dignity and purpose.” Profit is still a goal in a B Corp, but only in balance with meeting standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability.

As a certified B Corp, Milepost has kept up with our fellow B Corps to see how they have managed to maintain engagement and thrive in their respective industries throughout the Pandemic. With 3,469 B Corps across 150 different industries and 74 countries, you might think it would be difficult to find commonalities amongst the methods they have used to keep customers engaged and businesses thriving. Think again. The Year of P has amplified the one unified goal of all B Corps – to build a global economy that uses business as a force for good. In this time of hardship, a few organizations have particularly inspired us – and we hope they may inspire you, dear reader, to find your Path through the Year of P.

Pivoting the Business Model to Respond to Changing Circumstances

Looptworks re-purposes and upcycles abandoned, pre-consumer and post-consumer materials into limited edition products. The company intercepts scrap materials on their way to landfills or incinerators and reforms them into new products, such as:

  • turning old leather seat covers from decommissioned Alaska Airlines airplanes into wallets and luggage
  • converting used Patagonia fly fishing waders into insulated food and drink carriers
  • repurposing used wetsuits as laptop and tablet sleeves

In March, when COVID-19 was declared a U.S. national emergency and the shortage of PPE dominated the headlines, Looptworks immediately pivoted to help scale up production. Before the end of March, the company was manufacturing reusable, washable, CDC-compliant facemasks from existing materials for front-line essential workers. As the efficacy of mask wearing among the public has become abundantly clear, Looptworks pivoted yet again, scaling up production to sell masks at an affordable price to anyone who wants one.

Positioning the Organization as a Trusted Resource

Through the lens of equity, Provoc is a minority-owned B Corp that helps clients who believe in social, economic and racial justice translate their goals into measurable impact. Provoc’s client list includes the Smithsonian, AARP, Habitat for Humanity and many other national brands. In a year defined and rocked by the exposure of systemic racism in America, Provoc has showcased its work with several cities and the Government Alliance on Race and Equity and the national campaign it developed, Racial Equity Here. When a movement such as Black Lives Matters re-enters the spotlight with such cause, force and attention, firms like Provoc are stepping up to offer their experience and provide valuable facilitation. In telling the stories of their work, Provoc is engaging with those ready to take the next step on their anti-racism journey.

Pioneering Innovative Solutions to Address Tough Problems

In a year of wave after wave of catastrophic loss, the impact to mental health has been significant. “Sometimes when you are caught in a terrific storm, you feel like the only one who has ever been there before,” blogs Jeni Britton Bauer, founder of B Corp Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. “What we often hear are people sharing their ‘I came out of this’ story. But sometimes you’re IN it and it feels like you’ll never make it through. And that’s normal. And how many of us feel right now.”

To call attention to Mental Health Awareness Month, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams partnered with the Depressed Cake Shop (whose origins include only baked goods coated with gray icing) to create a new ice cream flavor: Sunshine. But, writes Jeni in her blog announcing the flavor, “It’s a trick: It looks the opposite of how it tastes—gray in color but tastes like a ray of sunshine on your tongue. It’s a play on the mind (because we eat with our eyes first) and a pleasant reminder that things aren’t always as they seem.”

Our society is evolving in our relationship with mental health from a position of denial, secrecy and shame, to full, stigma-free acceptance. Where we are on that spectrum is debatable, but there’s no denying that there is work to be done. It’s both refreshing and pioneering for ice creameries and bakeries – typically businesses that trade only in joy and happiness – to take on the important work of normalizing mental illness.

And Now, Back to You

You don’t have to be a “B” in order to develop your “P” skills – but for a wealth of examples on how to pivot, position and pioneer, you can’t find a better trove to start with than the nearly 3,500 companies that have achieved B Corporation Certification. Companies that have gone through the exceptionally rigorous process of certification have a much clearer view of how to effectively keep stakeholders meaningfully engaged even when chaos is swirling all around. For more examples, visit bthechange.com.

Virginia Barry
Virginia Barry