Last week, Travis and I had the great privilege of attending the 2017 Champions Retreat, an annual “meeting of the minds” of Certified B Corp businesses. This year, for the first year ever, it was held outside of the U.S., in Toronto, Canada (my home country)! The theme of the retreat was “Interdependence”, the definition being the quality or condition of being interdependent, or mutually reliant on each other. As we became certified less than a year ago, it was our first opportunity to attend this elite event, and we weren’t sure what to expect. And if we were expecting a bunch of “codger-y” old business owners sitting around patting themselves and each other on the back for their shared awesomeness, well, we were sure in for a surprise!
The decision to attend the #ChampionsRetreat2017
We weren’t actually sure we would attend, and delayed registering until the last possible date. It seemed like a great deal of effort to travel that far, and a lot of resources for a small business to invest. However, a few weeks beforehand, we were unexpectedly notified that we were honored with the “Best for the World” designation, something that businesses who score in the top 10% in a particular section of the Impact Evaluation. So we thought, “hey, we should invest a little bit of effort into this, see what we learn, and what connections we make”. The B Corp movement (and community that drives it) has always seemed like a good fit for Bodhi — a business that we started not to become rich or glamorous, but rather to make a positive difference in our world.
We decided to send myself and Travis to represent Bodhi. I traveled from Mexico and met Travis, who had come up from Costa Rica, in the most populous city in Canada — and its epicenter of business, finance, arts, and culture. We launched right into what would be three jam-packed days of activities and opportunities to meet some truly amazing individuals. And not just the “codger-y old businesses owners” that I may have been envisioning, but people from all ages, walks of life, and from around the world, in a wide range of industries, and with a huge scope of different backgrounds. It was so cool. The energy was electric with hope and optimism. And when I say the schedule was jam-packed, I mean jam-packed. Other than a few hours of sleep a night, we ran around the city (sometimes literally) from event to event. It was exhausting, yes, but so very worth it because of how enlightening it was and how uplifted it made us. It gave us all the feels. We had found our tribe.
Main takeaways from the #ChampionsRetreat2017
Probably the biggest takeaway for Travis and I after attending the retreat was that this is a movement that we (on behalf of Bodhi Surf + Yoga) want to be a part of and to contribute to, in any and every way we can. Some may think it a lofty idea — that business, and capitalism by an extension — can be a force for good. I know that I was in that camp myself prior to co-founding Bodhi Surf + Yoga with my husband and two friends, due to in large part to my liberal-bordering-on-socialist paradigm that I honestly still possess to date, (something I wrote more extensively about this on the Bodhi blog in a personal essay called “What I’ve Learned about Business”). However, we at Bodhi don’t think that it’s a lofty idea at all, not after seeing with our own eyes what conscious, responsible business can achieve; more importantly, these 2200+ businesses, affiliated organizations, and individuals certainly don’t think it’s a lofty idea. As Margaret Mead’s quote goes, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
One thing that struck me was how ambitious the individual participant businesses are. While it was three men who founded B Lab (the nonprofit responsible for certifying B Corp businesses) over a decade ago, what they have really done is build a space for a community of self-driving and highly motivated individuals and organizations to thrive. They have essentially created a monster (the best kind of monster) which is now doing some serious damage on its own (the best kind of damage). I was blown away by how active individual participants are — they do so much more than just trying to make their own businesses better, they work to make their respective industries better, and business as a whole. That may manifest in different forms — lifting up competitors, dedicating precious resources to projects that don’t yield direct profit, being a champion for the historically disenfranchised. The sum total is truly incredible, individuals, organizations, and businesses, all working together, and moving towards a common goal.
B Corp Declaration of Interdependence
We envision a global economy that uses business as a force for good. This economy is comprised of a new type of corporation — the B Corporation — which is purpose-driven and creates benefit for all stakeholders, not just shareholders.
As B Corporations and leaders of this emerging economy, we believe:
That we must be the change we seek in the world.
That all business ought to be conducted as if people and place mattered.
That, through their products, practices, and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all.
To do so requires that we act with the understanding that we are each dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations.
Hey! We made it into the “Celebrating 10 years of B Corps!” video!
A reminder that movements like B Corp are more important than ever
Halfway through the retreat, we were inundated by messages that the entire country of Costa Rica was under a red alert (the highest possible) due to Tropical Storm Nate, which was passing over it and causing torrential rains, flooding, and landslides. It was a tense few days, and we felt thankful that our business and our community were spared; however, there was widespread devastation all around us, from which our neighboring communities are still reeling. It was a stark reminder that we are in a pivotal time in human history. We face a whole host of seemingly insurmountable issues: violence, poverty, inequality, inequitable resource distribution, and nuclear war. This year has also shown us without a doubt that global instability is a very real threat, due in large part to environmental factors: climate change, pollution, resource scarcity. This has always been the case, but this fact will never be more true than it is today: that now more than ever, we need to start working together and coming up with concrete solutions to these issues lest they spiral completely out of our control. Business has a unique opportunity to be a force for good and acknowledge some of these very issues — the B Corp movement recognized this a decade ago, and has been working ever since to make that a reality.
I think we are reaching a point in human history where we have a choice to make; we have reached that figurative fork in the road. We can be naysayers, pessimists, or simply indifferent — it’s honestly hard not to be, sometimes. We can say “oh, that’ll never work” about everything. Or, we can just commit to something, to making the effort, to doing better; to thinking beyond just the bottom line, or our personal comfort; to going outside of our zones of comfort or what we’ve always been told is “the way”. That’s what pushes society forward — groups of people who challenge the status quo, and also do the hard work to make that change last. We feel honored to be a part of this group of committed “bodhisattvas”, and look forward to amplifying our efforts with the help, and in the company, of our new tribe.