by Jill Sanford, Moonshine Ink
“There are just so many different ways to keep bettering your business,” says Maiya Holliday, founder and CEO of Mangrove Web Development, a Truckee-headquartered but internationally staffed business. “The more businesses that think that way here, the better.”
Holliday is referring to more than just her company’s bottom line. To her, better doesn’t just mean making more money, but also tackling the company’s social and environmental impact — sometimes even before its profit margin.
Mangrove is one of three certified B Corps in the Truckee/North Tahoe region, joined by Truckee’s resident hat brand, bigtruck, and Incline Village’s Brand Geek, an intellectual property rights firm spearheaded by attorney Lara Pearson. B Corps, short for benefit corporations, are for-profit companies that put purpose above profit. Brand Geek became certified in February 2008, just months after nonprofit B Lab launched the certification. Mangrove incorporated as a B Corp in 2017, and bigtruck followed suit in 2018. Accreditation is achieved through B Lab, which evaluates an organization’s social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.
“There are so many positive impacts that come out of more people just understanding a more conscious way of doing business,” says Holliday, who encourages all businesses in the area to take B Lab’s assessment to better understand their company’s strengths and weaknesses. Holliday also offers herself as a resource and mentor for any other company interested in learning more about the process.
The B Lab evaluation looks at an organization’s supply chain and production standards, charitable donations, and employee wages and benefits — business practices that have a ripple effect on the broader community. Some companies might be stronger in one category than another, but the standards to achieve certification are rigorous.
In order to become a B Corp, companies must achieve a deceptively difficult score of 80 out of 200 total possible points. To do this, companies like Mangrove might have to make sweeping changes, like moving their finances to a B Corp bank, or smaller ones, like writing an employee handbook or recycling policy that aligns with B Lab’s ethics. Holliday also donates to charitable organizations not just in Truckee, but throughout the world in places where her remote employees live and work.
“I appreciate that it’s a challenging process, because when I see another B Corp, I know what they have committed and the efforts they have gone through to actually be certified. They’re not just dishing these out,” says Holliday.
The other two Truckee/North Tahoe B Corps agree, preferring to work with other B Corps and purpose-driven organizations whenever possible to not just check another box on the B Lab assessment tool, but because they share the same values.
“I do think the area needs more B Corps, and I think there’s a growing momentum in Truckee/Tahoe,” says Pearson of Brand Geek. “Most of us moved here because of the outdoors and we have a shared value system. This area is perfect for people who want to do right by the planet not just in their personal lives, but in a professional capacity as well.”
As awareness of what exactly a B Corp is grows, purpose-driven organizations can learn and grow from one another, creating a ripple effect in which all businesses in the area start to pay more attention to their impact on the environment as well as the local community, according to both Pearson and Holliday.
Take bigtruck, for example. In the process of becoming a B Corp, they committed to upholding a certain quality of life and adequate financial compensation for their workers.
“By becoming a B Corp, we are able to stay focused on core values that span far beyond product and making money,” says Emily Deane, bigtruck’s marketing manager. “By creating meaningful job opportunities, we are able to offer careers that allow our employees to work towards buying their first home while still enjoying being able to play in the mountains. Finding full-time, year-round work with a competitive salary in our area can be extremely difficult and we hope to continue to provide more of these opportunities as we grow.”
Mangrove, Brand Geek, and bigtruck will soon be joined by at least two startups in Truckee that have already incorporated as benefit corporations (a legal status separate from B Lab’s certification but a requirement for all B Corps in states that offer this). They are Conscious Container, which will soon collect, clean, and refill glass bottles, and Landing, a company that matches vacation-home owners in Truckee with locals looking for housing. Both companies plan to earn B Corp certification within the next year.
For Conscious Container founder and CEO Caren McNamara, who is still fundraising and conducting collection pilots throughout North Tahoe (in partnership with Truckee Tahoe Sierra Disposal) and at northern Nevada breweries like Great Basin, incorporating as a benefit corporation from the get-go was a no brainer.
She credits the Truckee/North Tahoe area, with its collective interest in social and environmental progress, as a supportive place to take risks, especially for companies that are ready to take that first step in learning more about their impact.
“It seems sometimes that people think, ‘oh, I am just too small of a business, and the effort it would take to become a B Corp and what we would get out of it, or what the output would be maybe wouldn’t be worth it,’” says McNamara. “Go out and look at what it takes not only to be B Corp certified, but what you can do to just take small steps towards doing business more consciously.”