We are beyond excited to announce that Grain, our tiny studio in the woods, has joined the community of 4,000+ visionary businesses across 75+ countries to legally commit to balancing purpose and profit as a certified Benefit Corporation. This community of B Corps is driving the global movement of business as a force of good and we are deeply humbled to have our efforts working towards this common goal.
We cannot overstate how much this commitment means to us. When we founded our studio in 2008 in our island home and garage shop, we weren’t 100% sure what we would be making, but we knew that it needed to center around social and environmental responsibility.
We learned about B Corp’s through Patagonia - a business that we’ve always looked up to for its vision and commitment to sustainability. We read everything we could and used the B Corp assessment as a kind of road map to help us think about our business in the most holistic way we had ever imagined. We realized early on that we were doing many things that added up in certain areas - such as environmental impact - but had so many things to learn when it came to our governance and how we supported our employees. Many things had to be Googled.
It took us two years of research, a set of newly defined goals, and incremental steps towards reaching them before we even thought about a formal application. When Governor Jay Inslee announced our shut down in March 2020 we put up a post-it on the wall of our new home-based office that said “B Corp” and made it our goal over what became our work-from-home-with-preschoolers year to take the final steps to get there.
In January of 2021, we applied and we were not alone. When our application was received we learned that B Corp received over 4,000 applications in 2020. To put that into context, they received more applications in one year than they had in 15 years of building this community.
Our hearts burst with this news, knowing that something had fundamentally shifted. Businesses across our planet are seeking to do things differently and to change our economic system from within. They are volunteering to put themselves through this rigorous assessment to learn best practices, hold themselves accountable and lock arms to create a movement of cultural change.
How does one become a B Corp? Anyone can go to the B Corp site and take a confidential and free assessment to see how their business measures up to other companies in the following categories: governance, workers, community, environment, and customers. To be eligible to become a B Corp, you need to get to a score of 80. We scored 89.1 and though we scored higher than the average B Corp’s in our country, sector, and size range in every category - especially in the environmental section - there is the potential to reach a score of 200 so we now know what aspirations to work towards as we grow.
Being a B Corp is a living commitment as every three years all certified businesses are required to go through the assessment process again. These assessments are refined over time to reflect global best practices. As proud as we are to have reached our goal of certification, we see this as a starting point on a journey of continuous measurement, reflection, and growth.
Here are some areas of opportunity that we are looking at in the future:
Since we learned about the living wage calculator (from our first B Corp assessment), all of our employees have been paid a living wage for Kitsap County, Washington. That said, we would like to work towards a place where all of our employees are earning a living wage for a family as well.
In 2021 we began to offer all of our employees a health care benefit in the form of a reimbursement each pay period to apply towards healthcare costs. In terms of benefits, it is a future goal to be able to also offer our employees a retirement savings benefit.
Through our assessment process, we learned that there are ways for us to have a deeper impact by diversifying our supply chain. We have developed a supplier screen where we can now access all of our vendors and collaborators through the same lens as we measure ourselves.
We have always valued working with local vendors whenever we can and will continue to look for options within a 200-mile radius of our studio. As we look into the future we are also curious about ownership. Is this business owned by someone who identifies as a woman, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, veteran, or as a person with a disability? We will also be asking if employees in this business are paid a living wage for their location.
Our environmental footprint has always been front of mind for our studio. This starts with the belief that we are building work that is thoughtfully designed to last as well as crafted from natural materials and finishes that are safe for your home and family.
We work with domestic hardwoods that are Forest Standard Certified (FSC). This third-party certification ensures that the wood we source is being managed in a way that preserves biodiversity while creating sustainable economic opportunities for timber workers and the local communities that surround these managed forests. We do this because current laws do not do enough to protect wildlife habitats, waterways, old-growth forests, and the rights of Indigenous people around the world from the devastating effects of traditional forestry.
To bring more choice to our clients and to deepen our stewardship as we look into the future, we plan to integrate additional ways of sourcing lumber within our local community and have begun working with a local mill that can process forest free urban and rural salvage as well as reclaimed wood from architectural projects. A good example of this is our limited edition run of Dish Side Tables made from twice reclaimed Douglas Fir.
In 2020, we also became Climate Neutral certified which means that we offset all of our annual emissions by purchasing carbon credits to fund climate solutions as well as committing to reduce our future emissions through annual reduction goals. For 2022 and beyond, we plan to bring all of our production, outside of our textiles, rugs, glass and metal parts, in-house to reduce vendor shipping and transportation. We also plan to increase our use of carbon neutral materials, such as cork, as a percentage of our sales.
If anyone reading this is interested in learning more about becoming a B Corp, we are happy to share what we have learned. This process is not about perfection, it is about a transparent and accountable way to measure social environmental responsibility. It is an effort done in community to benefit community and we are here to support anyone who is curious.