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Stakeholder-Driven Frameworks for Companies to Support Employees — All the Time
Pandemic-Time Practices for Human-Centric Leadership
The tenuous financial lives of the majority of people working in the United States have come under a public magnifying glass amid the economic realities of sheltering in place, shuttering businesses, and taking other measures to stem the spread of COVID-19. Even in more typical economic times, an estimated 138 million American workers — 57% of the population — are plagued by financial insecurity, and 39% of Americans would not be able to cover a $400 emergency expense without selling something or borrowing money.
These statistics become even more critical in times like we are currently experiencing. As many businesses close and economic uncertainty increases, it is often the more vulnerable workers who suffer first and the most.
We believe businesses have a responsibility to support their employees’ financial (and physical!) health as much as they are able. That starts with a stakeholder business model, where a company’s impact on the community, environment, and its workers are prioritized alongside profits. And as a proud Certified B Corporation, The Builders Fund looks for holistic business approaches to ensure employees at our portfolio companies are supported, in good times and in bad.
A few examples of employee-first practices and policies from our portfolio companies:
- Fair compensation: 100% of businesses in our portfolio pay a living wage.
- Quality job distribution: More than 250 LMI jobs — and over 1,400 new jobs total — created since our initial investments across five companies.
- Equity distribution: In each of our investments, we work to create options to share equity incentives with management teams and employees at these companies. This pool serves to share economic value for those who are so integral to its success.
We are not currently in “normal” times, where standard employee-focused policies and practices suffice. We believe the foundational principles on which a business is built pave the way for how it handles booms and busts — that at times like these, we learn which companies are talking the talk but not walking the walk. And for the future of our economy and communities, the difference is crucial.
Expanding Support Systems
Several B Corps have already taken big steps to do what they can to take care of their workers and those in health care: School-lunch provider Revolution Foods is providing kids with healthy meals during school closures. Allbirds is also providing free shoes to the doctors and nurses who are on the front lines of the crisis. Danone Canada launched an emergency fund for food-insecure families. And we have been inspired by the ways we’ve seen our portfolio companies showing up, living their employee-supporting policies in tough times, and expanding their support systems to help those who would otherwise face greater hardship.
For some, like MPOWERD, it was the early decision to let all employees work remotely, keeping the company’s online operations open. While not all businesses are able to do this, MPOWERD is in the fortunate position to be able to operate with a flexible, remote setup. The experience of the business in disaster-relief work primed the leadership to make this decision early.
“As a B Corp who has been involved in disaster-relief initiatives worldwide, we know very well the devastating effects communities endure during life-changing events. It’s our duty to promote public health and safety. … The best way to beat this pandemic is to avoid contact with others, but most important, we must do it together,” shared the MPOWERD team in a message to their customers and community.
Stepping up for Community Health
Another company in our portfolio, MIXT, is a chain of fast-casual restaurants that creates quick, clean, healthy, plant-based meals with fresh, local, organic ingredients. MIXT, also a B Corp, has centered its business around the health and well-being of its customers and employees. In 2018, for example, the company served more than 1.8 million healthy meals to customers nationwide in addition to providing more than 100,000 free shift meals (employees get a meal each time they work). They also provide health care coverage for all employees in an industry where even a living wage is a rarity.
Restaurants in particular are struggling as “shelter at home” orders are put in place in cities and counties across the country, limiting company’s options to takeout or delivery to try to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. For MIXT, it has become an opportunity to step up its ongoing commitment to employees and community. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the company’s leadership made a statement that included the following updates, building on its existing community- and employee-supporting practices and policies:
We are ready to assist each team member who needs access to health care in the event of illness. In line with our core beliefs, MIXT sponsors health insurance and One Medical benefits for all employees. Over 70% of our team members elected health insurance coverage through our plan, which gives them access to the Aetna network.
Additionally, we want to be a resource for our community and for those who are in need.
wegotyou25 for 25% off
wegotyou50 for 50% off
wegotyou100 for a free meal
Please help us spread the word and share this with anyone you know who could use a little help or a healthy meal.
And if you are looking for a way to give, you can now pay it forward by paying for someone’s next meal on mixt.com or spliteats.com. Click “Order Online,” add “Help Feed Someone a Healthy Meal” worth $15 to your order before proceeding to checkout. Even if you are not ordering for yourself, you can still support this initiative. This will help keep our efforts going for as long as possible.
These discount codes were so well received that the company added the ability to do this on its site and, as of this week, partnered with UCSF to help support health care workers that are working tirelessly to take care of the community in San Francisco, where MIXT is based. Now anyone can buy a meal for UCSF health care workers who are on the front lines every day.
We know these practices are not possible for every business — but pivoting to be more flexible, supportive, and community-oriented in times of crisis is done more easily and more effectively when a company already has a stakeholder-focused foundation. As we support each other through this pandemic and through the economic struggles that result from it, we hope more people and business leaders recognize the value and importance of using business as a force to bolster the financial health and general well-being of the critical people who show up and work every day.
B the Change gathers and shares the voices from within the movement of people using business as a force for good and the community of Certified B Corporations. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the nonprofit B Lab.
Stakeholder-Driven Frameworks for Companies to Support Employees — All the Time was originally published in B The Change on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.