Amid Larger Challenges, Small Mindset Shifts Could Create Lasting Change
Coronavirus. COVID-19. Novel coronavirus. Whatever name you use for it, it’s having a huge impact on people, businesses and economies the world over. Whilst the dangers and damages of a pandemic are far-reaching, I wonder if there might be some opportunities to come out of it, and specifically from the point of view of Certified B Corporations.
In recent weeks, there have been bright spots of coverage: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern demonstrating the “East Coast Wave” as an alternative to more traditional physical greetings is a particular highlight. I’ve seen stories and videos on my social media feeds of Venice canals running clear for the first time in a long time, and most of us have seen the stories about lower air pollution in China due to the massive quarantines implemented by authorities. It remains to be seen how long this will last once quarantines are lifted.
These large-scale benefits are a positive to come from these uncertain and, for some, devastating times. But what about on a smaller scale? What does being a B Corp have to do with all this? Let’s start by looking at the pillars, or key stakeholders, of B Corps.
I work for Redvespa, a B Corp certified organisation in New Zealand that has care for people at its core. I have an opportunity to work flexibly if needed and I am provided with the tools I need to do so, whether this be an enforced period of working from home or a situation when I or a member of my family gets sick.
By placing people at the core of a business, you attract people to that business with similar values. So I know that whilst Redvespa will do its utmost to care for me or any of my colleagues who might be affected, I’m also keen to look out for my colleagues and do what I can to help them should they need it. Redvespa also has a large number of employees from overseas (myself included), and for us, our colleagues often become something of a surrogate family. There is a sense of community amongst the workforce of a B Corp that often isn’t seen in other workplaces. The world is going to need as much of this as it can get over the coming months.
At Redvespa, we actively choose to work with organisations whose values align with our own, and we’re not afraid to have tough conversations when something happens to contradict that. Like many other B Corps, we also put a lot of effort into keeping the lines of communication open.
During an unprecedented time such as the one we’re facing now, clear communication is key—and we’ve all seen how damaging misinformation can be. (Note that toilet roll will NOT be your saviour if you catch COVID-19 and you do NOT need to stockpile.) Our sales team members have been doing a magnificent job of speaking with our clients and sharing our plans with them but also taking advice when a client’s plan may differ from our own.
We need to be willing to listen to others, regardless of who they are, and share any relevant information we have that may be useful.
As I mentioned above, there have been several “good” news stories across the world of reduced levels of pollution. But to continue this trend, it might be worth following the lead of the B Corp community, where environmental sustainability is key.
Around the world, businesses are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint and create a more sustainable future in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals. Many of these businesses, Redvespa included, also committed to becoming Net Zero by 2030 at the UN Climate Change Conference in 2019.
As a community and as leaders, we could take note of what these organisations are doing, find parts that are relevant for us, and put them into action.
We don’t have to make huge changes to our lives to have a big impact on the planet, but if everyone made a few small shifts it could add up to big changes in the atmosphere.
We could always follow the lead of Arnold Schwarzenegger and get on our bikes.
There has been lots of talk recently about how people need to come together for their communities, and this is definitely an area where B Corps lead the way. Keeping up the spirits of people in self-isolation, spending money at your locally owned eatery, and checking in on your aging neighbours (if you have them) are all crucial actions that could make a world of difference to someone.
All prospective B Corps are assessed on their contributions to their local community. This could be via making charitable donations, establishing purchasing policies that emphasize local suppliers, or employing people from disadvantaged communities. By focusing on our local community, we may very well be saving a small business owner from going under or preventing someone from suffering mental health issues after being forced into self-isolation.
I saw a fantastic example of this very recently. My 96-year-old grandmother lives in a care home in the UK. They put a notice on their Facebook page offering anyone who had lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic the opportunity to apply for temporary work. The jobs were basic and the pay was only slightly above the national minimum wage, but they were offering much more: an opportunity for work in uncertain times, flexibility in hours, and a connection to staff and residents that might not otherwise be possible. It’s a wonderful example of how communities can support one another in tough times.
Opportunities for Positive Change
There are certain events in life, including times of conflict or war, that create a shift in society, and there’s no reason that COVID-19 can’t be one of them.
This event is occurring on a global scale, and it does not discriminate. Coronavirus doesn’t care what colour you are, what gender, whether you’re rich or poor. It’s often these situations that cause a change in our attitudes and lead to a positive change across societies.
Examples of opera singers and communities singing from balconies, fitness instructors leading mass balcony exercise classes, and communities applauding emergency service workers show that we do still remember how to come together, and perhaps the reminder of these values might influence our decision-making in the future.
Perhaps someone will see the positive environmental impact and decide in the future to travel by bike rather than car wherever possible. They might decide to buy that bike secondhand or from their local independent bike shop.
Maybe someone will see the multitude of small local businesses (including much of the B Corp community) that have offered free delivery or other gestures to those affected by the pandemic and decide to shop there in future, potentially saving someone’s job or even livelihood.
We may decide to donate, if possible, to other causes that we might not have considered before.
I hope, once all this is done and normal service has resumed, that we see this community spirit continue to shine. The world will be a far better place with it than without.
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.
What the World Could Learn from B Corps in the Age of COVID-19 was originally published in B The Change on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.