For the third year in a row, I had the great privilege of visiting a prominent North American city to attend the B Corp Champions Retreat. This year, the annual gathering of mission-driven leaders of the B Corp community was held in Los Angeles, California. It was the 12th year in a row that this retreat had been held, though the amount of people in attendance has gone up — no great surprise, as the movement is ostensibly growing. In 2007 when the B Corp movement started, there were a mere 42 companies that signed the original “Declaration of Interdependence”. When we certified in late 2016, there were 1,966 companies in 50 countries. At the time of writing this, there are 3,067 companies in 65 countries. It feels as though the B Corp movement is at a tipping point, and that it will truly become global both in geography and impact, and this year’s event spoke to that. Here were some of the high points for me from the 2019 B Corp Champions retreat.
B Corp Leaders in the City of Angels
Following the tradition of the past few years, I participated in an opening day event that had the theme of “clean-up”. This year, I helped to do a cleanup of Venice Beach hosted by Surfrider LA and sponsored by a few B Corp companies in the area. The megacity of Los Angeles is right on the Pacific Ocean so there are obvious issues with ocean pollution (plastic pollution, trash, runoff, etc.). The several dozen participants scoured the beach and found a lot of single-use plastic food and drink containers of all types, as well as an absurd amount of cigarette butts. After a few hours of cleaning, we separated the trash into its different categories, and helped count specific items such as plastic bottle caps, plastic utensils, and cigarette butts. Surfrider LA frequently lobbies politically and uses the data collected at events like these to backup any legislation to ban these kinds of items. Surfrider as an organization has had 618 campaigns become victories since 2006 touching on different themes:
Plastic Pollution: 39
Ocean Protection: 14
Beach Access: 10
Clean Water: 22
Coastal Preservation: 34
B Corp movement declares climate emergency and system failure
Last year, the undercurrent of the Champions’ Retreat was very strongly on social justice and inclusion. This year, the urgency of looming environmental catastrophe was front and center — nearly every speaker addressed it, and a large portion of the breakout sessions were specifically about the environment, climate change, and the B Corp movement’s next steps in this regard. It has been so interesting to see how (and how quickly) the B Corp movement is adjusting its response based on recent developments (the IPCC’s dire warning issued at the end of 2018, the school strike movement, citizen-led protests worldwide, etc.).
I attended a breakout session entitled “Climate Emergency to Climate Action: Unleashing the Power of the B”, which updated those of us in attendance about how the B Corp movement is responding to climate change. First, a movement called the B Corp Climate Collective has formed within the B Corp network as of earlier this year and has the participation of a number of the community’s business leaders. The aim of this group is to use “advocacy, cross-sector collaboration, corporate action, and the capital markets to stop emissions and drawdown carbon”. Second, a Global Climate Task Force has also emerged from B Lab Global Partnering (the governing body which includes B Lab entities from around the globe), and has been commissioned to determine how the B Corp community will respond to the climate emergency, which they are boldly saying is in part due to “system failure” in reference to the prevailing global economic system — capitalism.
B Corp to take bold steps to mitigate climate change
Excitingly, we also learned the Gonzalo Muñoz (Sistema B co-founder) will be attending the COP25 (2019 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) on behalf of the B Corp movement in Chile this December. His goal for attending is to bringing the business sector closer to the discussions of climate change action, and his attendance at this important global event will likely usher a series of changes to the B Corp movement.
There was talk that B Lab may decide to make going carbon neutral/achieving net zero emissions a prerequisite to becoming a B Corp by 2030, if not sooner. The business leaders in attendance at this meeting all filmed ourselves committing to achieving “net zero emissions” by 2030 for a video that will be compiled and shown at the COP25, illustrating how B Corp companies are willingly doing their part. I was happy to be representing Bodhi Surf + Yoga at this meeting, and to report that we had already achieved carbon neutrality in 2019.
The B Corp movement goes global
The end of the retreat culminated in an announcement that speakers throughout the week had been alluding to: that the next Champions Retreat (which will be 2021) will be held in Mexico City, and will mark a merging of sorts of Sistema B and B Lab, and will hail the beginning of a “B Corp: Americas” movement. Ever since I have been tuned into the goings on of the B Corp movement, there has been a push to do more, go bigger, amplify the impact, and incorporate everyone into the mix. This move seems like a natural next step, when you consider that the greatest threats to humankind and the survival of our planet are caused by (and will subsequently need solutions from) humans as a collective.
The B Corp movement is also taking strong steps to address the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, established in 2015. From B Lab: “From poverty and hunger to climate and social justice, the SDGs touch on issues that require companies to rethink their approaches to value generation. In this context, B Lab is working with the UN Global Compact to develop a tool for launch in 2020 to help companies chart their next decade of progress on the SDGs.” On behalf of Bodhi Surf + Yoga, I made the commitment that we would take actions to address the following SDGs in 2020:
- SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
- SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
- SDG 13: Climate Action
- SDG 14: Life Below Water
- SDG 15: Life on Land
This will be a continuation of the work we are already doing, but we look forward to growing our impact in those realms and officially reporting on it.
Bodhi Surf + Yoga co-leading the B Corp Tourism + Travel group
The final exciting thing I would like to report from the 2019 B Corp Champions Retreat is the work of the B Corp Travel + Tourism working group that I have been co-leading over the past year. At the 2018 Champions Retreat, I helped organize a meeting of several B Corp company leaders from the travel, tourism, and hospitality sector. We decided that we wanted to continue meeting, collaborating, and advancing the agenda of encouraging responsible tourism via promoting the B Corp movement in our industry.
Going forward, we will be meeting monthly and working on how the B Corp movement is relevant to the travel and tourism industry, and to do so with concrete data. Some of the sub goals are to grow the number of travel and tourism companies that are B Corp certified (and inspire our peers to at the very least start incorporating responsible tourism practices), to educate consumers about the importance of choosing where their tourism and travel dollars go, create best practices guides, tell the compelling stories told about those who are walking the talk. We are also very interested in individually and collectively showing how B Corp travel and tourism companies address the UN SDGs.
So there you have it. I recognize that it is a great privilege that I am afforded with to be able to attend an event like this, not once but three times, and I am excited to be a part of a company that continuously strives to do better and inspire others to do the same.