The Way Companies Should ‘B’

Maine’s Certified B Corps are shining examples of businesses striving to be a force for good.

Ever taken a test that seemed designed to prevent anyone from earning a perfect score? The nonprofit B Lab’s B Impact Assessment is like that: It’s the most challenging, rigorous measure available of a company’s positive social and environmental impact. Only 5,470 companies in the world — 1,991 of them in the U.S. — have earned B Corp Certification. Meet three in Maine that are thriving and growing while also continuously improving in ways that benefit people, communities, and the planet.

Wicked Joe Organic Coffees

Strengthening communities — in Maine and around the world.

Wicked Joe Organic Coffees, a Maine B Corp, sources its Sumatran coffee beans from a cooperative in Indonesia founded, led, and managed by women. These quality-driven farmers invest a portion of their Fair Trade Premiums back into the operation while also funding initiatives that improve their community’s health, education, and infrastructure

When Bob and Carmen Garver started roasting coffee in 1992, they had no idea their products would one day be distributed across the United States. “We self-identified as a little company,” Bob says. Over the years, though, their Maine-based business has expanded dramatically, and so has how they think about expansion. “With every additional pound or bag of coffee, we’re having more impact across our stakeholders,” Bob explains. The positive effects ripple out to employees, the local community, and Wicked Joe Organic Coffee’s growers in Central America, Ethiopia, Indonesia, and elsewhere.

Over the years, the company has built relationships with far-flung growers that go far beyond supply and demand, collaborating with one to decide which variety of coffee beans to cultivate, for instance, and lending another funds to purchase land at higher elevation, where superior-quality beans are grown. The company purchases coffee from Fair Trade Certified and organic farms, ensuring that growers are paid a premium for their products and quality is preserved. Wicked Joe team members have seen the outcome of these investments firsthand — one visit, getting to know the challenges of a particular community, then returning the next year to see improved roads, a new school, an electrified village: all thanks to funding from thriving farmers’ cooperatives.

The roastery is energy-efficient and state-of-the-art, but it is the people who set Wicked Joe apart and whose efforts have earned the company Best of the World honors, for impact on the community, for the fifth straight year

This focus on community-building, near and far, also underpins Wicked Joe’s decision to pursue B Corp Certification, which the company has held since 2016. Bob says he was attracted to the idea of getting a formal “report card” on the company’s operations and impact — a way to check whether “we’re really doing as good a job as we think we are.” All signs point to yes: Earlier this year, Wicked Joe was recognized as a Best for the World B Corp in the community category — an honor afforded to just the top 5 percent of B Corps.

From the seed of her idea, Beth Harrington and her Wicked Joe colleagues have grown the Wicked Garden so large it now helps feed the community

The Wicked Garden, an employee-driven project, is among the many efforts that reflect the community-based values that are core to the foundation of the company’s culture. About five years ago, Beth Harrington, Wicked Joe’s shipping and receiving lead, proposed that the company plant an organic garden at its Topsham headquarters so employees could get their hands in the dirt during breaks and eventually take home the harvest. Today, the garden has grown to 12 beds. Excess fruits and veggies are donated to Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, and Harrington and her colleagues are planning a food drive and fundraiser to support people facing food insecurity. “We’re proudest of our people, and this kind of initiative is why,” Garver says. “As an organization, we’re always asking: How can we be better? Can we do more?”

Cornerstone Financial Planning

B Corp values and the inspiring example of the firm’s founders guide a new generation of women business owners.

Founders Susan Veligor and Jill Boynton began preparing Mackenzie Arsenault and Christina Traurig to acquire, run, and grow Cornerstone Financial Planning from the moment the new owners joined the firm: Arsenault in 2014 and Traurig in 2017

Selling a business can be bittersweet. As Cornerstone Financial Planning founders Jill Boynton and Susan Veligor completed a thoughtfully planned-for transition to ambitious, like-minded employees Mackenzie Arsenault and Christina Traurig last summer, though, excitement was the prevailing mood. “It’s almost magical,” says Veligor, “finding two women who not only want to own a company but also who have the same ability to engage with one another so respectfully.”

The timing coincided with Cornerstone’s pursuit of B Corp recertification. Values-driven B Corps undergo a rigorous process every three years that demands they demonstrate continuous improvement. Traurig, who oversees the filing, explains that this measure of social and environmental good has become such a part of company culture that every employee routinely contributes ideas “to make us a better B Corp.”

For Boynton and Veligor, who continue as employees through the end of the year, B Corp certification helps solidify and perpetuate the ideals on which they established their business back in 2004. Arsenault says of this twist in their roles: “Because we are a B Corp, even the owners shifting to being employees will not be that big of a change because we treat everyone so equally and give everyone a seat at the table.”

For the second straight year, Cornerstone has received B Lab’s Best for the World recognition in the Workers category for its employee-friendly practices, which include providing career-related development opportunities that also enhance employees’ personal lives, such as empathy training. Transparency is also a B Corp hallmark, and team members have been continuously apprised of the company’s succession plan.

Clients have, as well. Boynton shares that she and Veligor have had meetings, over an extended time, “to really allow clients and their new planners to get to know each other.” Some relationships even pre-date the founders’ decision to launch a rare, female-led financial-planning firm. Arsenault, who praises the mentorship the two have provided, says what sets Cornerstone apart is its focus on deeply understanding far more than a client’s net worth. “We tie your personal values to your finances, and I think that makes such an impact on the client,” she says.

“If I had to say we modeled anything, it’s kindness, honesty, transparency, and maybe a little play,” says Veligor. “You don’t have to be a B Corp to have those values, but being a B Corp is certainly part of our soul.”

That spirit, and the founders’ drive, have been more than embraced by Arsenault and Traurig. Seeing a new generation build upon the cornerstone they laid gives the founders a sense of pride and accomplishment they only now have time to reflect upon. The limits for women business owners have diminished, says Veligor: “It was the ceiling for us; for them, it’s the sky.”

Conscious Revolution

Guiding business leaders on a path toward greater passion and purpose.

Elise Allyn, associate consultant & lead analyst (left), and Tara Jenkins, principal consultant & founder (right), share ideas over tea on the balcony of the New England Ocean Cluster, in Portland, where Conscious Revolution has its office. Photo by Molly Haley

More than 20 years into her human resources career, Tara Jenkins had a realization: Once leaving the profit-maximizing corporate world, she met many people who felt deeply inspired by their work. The work they performed every day added up to something meaningful that gave them a sense of fulfillment and purpose. For Jenkins, similar feelings had only occurred in passing. The substance of her days seemed inconsequential.

“Our lifetime is really precious,” she says. “When I think about how I spent some of my time, it was not as conscious, as clear, nor as aligned as I wish it had been.”

In 2019, with the launch of Conscious Revolution, Jenkins set her life on a different trajectory. Her consulting firm provides business leaders with the tools to operate not only effectively and efficiently but also with a higher purpose. After all, Jenkins says, many founders start out with a vision that encompasses more than just financial returns: They spot a problem they feel uniquely qualified to solve, or they address a niche that others have overlooked. “But sometimes that gets a little lost along the way, as systems, structures, outside demands, and business criteria are overlaid,” she says. “So we help the business discover” — or rediscover — “the original inspiration. Why are we doing what we’re doing?”

For many of Conscious Revolution’s clients in Maine and beyond, answering that question prompts the pursuit of formal certifications or structural changes. About half come to the firm looking for help assessing whether certification as a B Corp is the right fit. If so, Conscious Revolution — a Certified B Corp itself — can advise them throughout the complex, rigorous process. Others are interested in creating an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) or becoming a Benefit Corporation, which involves a public commitment to add value to all stakeholders. Others need help identifying organizational values or the best organizational design to fulfill their purpose. Regardless of the mechanism a given client chooses to pursue, Jenkins’s starting point is the same: articulating the business’s purpose, then ensuring the business is designed to fulfill that purpose.

It’s important to note, Jenkins says, that running a purpose-driven business doesn’t mean forgoing profits. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. “You can make the most money possible by running a conscious business — there’s data to support that,” she says. As she shares this message with business owners and changemakers, Jenkins has found and embraced her own purpose. “As a consultant to many businesses, my team and I help leaders determine how to have inspiration in their lives through their work, which in turn inspires our own lives and work.”