What is a B Corporation?
In August 2022, Magnolia Consulting joined a global movement of like-minded organizations—B Corporations—that take responsibility for their social and environmental impacts and manage their operations to benefit the collective “we,” not the individual “me.” B Corps are on a mission to transform the role of business in society by being the solution to societal and environmental problems rather than the cause of them. We prioritize people and the planet above profit. B Corp certification shows that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to serving underrepresented and marginalized populations.
Why did Magnolia become a B Corp?
Becoming a B Corp was a natural extension of Magnolia’s core values, which are rooted in heart-centered service to others. After reflecting on Magnolia’s impact over the past 20 years and envisioning our future, I wanted not only to stretch myself as a leader but also to expand the difference we make for each other, those we serve, and the environment. In essence, I wanted to elevate what it means to be a values-lived organization.
How has becoming a B Corp impacted Magnolia?
The process of becoming a B Corp involved completing a lengthy and comprehensive organizational assessment that required extensive documentation and third-party review to verify our self-ratings. The assessment process alone catalyzed change, as it opened our eyes to immediate improvements we could make. These included defining principles of practice around justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion; expanding our charitable giving; enhancing employee benefits; and identifying our environmental impact.
Defining JEDI principles and strategies. The B Corp certification process motivated us to deeply consider what the principles of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) mean for us as an organization specializing in education research and evaluation. We wanted to go beyond composing a JEDI statement that sits on a website. Rather, we took this as an opportunity to not only define what we mean by justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion but to articulate what these principles look like in action. Consequently, our team drafted strategies for enacting JEDI principles both internally as an organization and externally through our research and evaluation services. We also created and delivered an employee JEDI training to build collective understanding and efficacy around these principles. Furthermore, we updated job descriptions and performance reviews to include elements of our JEDI principles, added a statement to all our job postings about our commitment to JEDI, and expanded our employee recruitment platforms to include Diversity.com and Expanding the Bench. We also developed and launched an internship program with outreach to regional Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to support a more diverse pipeline of evaluators. The majority of our position and internship applicants cite our JEDI principles and core values as a top reason why they applied to Magnolia.
Expanding charitable giving. Although Magnolia has made monetary contributions to charities and provided pro bono work over the years, we didn’t have an established annual giving goal. Now Magnolia pledges to dedicate 1% of gross annual revenue to charitable giving. B Corps emphasize local community impact, so as a virtual company with team members located in several states across the country, we saw local contributions as one way to expand our giving. We now do this by offering team members up to 8 hours of volunteer time off (VTO) annually to contribute their time supporting a local, mission-aligned, nonprofit organization of their choice. We also invite team members to select one mission-aligned, nonprofit organization in their local community to receive an annual monetary donation from Magnolia. We continue to provide pro bono work, donate technology equipment (e.g., used laptops, monitors, printers) to local community organizations, and donate time as a group to a charitable organization during in-person staff retreats. By systematically tracking our charitable giving, we can now verify that we have met—and exceeded—our annual giving goal and expanded our support to our local communities.
Enhancing employee benefits. The B Corp certification process affirmed our established employee benefits such as generous paid time off, annual bonuses, and a flexible schedule, while also illuminating ways we could enhance our offerings. Immediate enhancements included offering part-time workers eligibility at the time of hire for health insurance coverage and retirement, even if they work less than 20 hours a week. We also now offer 529 education plan accounts for employees’ family members.
Identifying our environmental impact. As a virtual company with remote employees across the country, we relished the invitation to consider our environmental impact. When we delved into how we could minimize our environmental impact, we identified actions related to recycling, waste management, water use, paper use, and energy conservation. We also reviewed our purchasing habits to ensure we work with local vendors and companies that also share a commitment to the environment. We drafted Magnolia’s Environmental Stewardship Guidelines and continue to revisit them to fortify our practices.
How does being a B Corp inspire us to accomplish new goals?
During the B Corp certification process, we identified longer-term goals to help us achieve our social and environmental objectives. We are creating more feedback loops internally and externally to inform our decision-making, including a client feedback survey and an organizational culture survey to measure how well we are enacting our JEDI principles and achieving our B Corp goals. We will conduct an analysis of our job descriptions to ensure the language is inclusive and equitable. Based on our recent salary comparison study, we will add salary bands to our job descriptions to promote transparency. Related to our environmental impact, we will screen significant suppliers for their social and environmental commitments and provide employees with a list of preferred vendors and resources regarding environmental stewardship in home offices (e.g., energy efficiency).
Magnolia’s B Corp certification gives us a greater sense of why we’re doing what we are doing. It reminds us that we must be the change we seek in the world—and that change begins in small ways and small actions. It also requires that we act with respect and understanding of our interdependency—that the choices we make today affect what we cultivate for each other, those we serve, and future generations.