After an intensive and rigorous, yearlong process, I’m thrilled to say that ME to WE is now a Certified B Corporation—the 150th Certified B Corp in Canada!
Joyce Sou, Director of B Lab Canada, told us: “We are seeing an unprecedented amount of interest in this movement from Canadian companies as the global community continues to grow. ME to WE is a great Canadian example of an innovative business model for positive social change.”
Certified B Corporations meet higher standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability than other businesses. So to be at the top of that impressive group is well, humbling.
B Corporation certification is to business what Fair Trade is to coffee or LEED is to a building.
Let’s just say it was an extensive and long process, but we loved the outcome.
Over more than a year, the B Lab, which conducts the certification, required more than 25 documents from us. In some cases, we had to create new processes, tracking systems and templates to fulfill these requests. But we were determined to meet and master their processes.
Our amazing team had to solicit answers and documents from all departments, including human resources, consumer engagement, the leadership team, facilities team, accounting and finance, which had to answer upwards of 50 questions each to complete the B Lab’s application.
It was darn hard and something we should be proud of. In one case, we had to provide a list of suppliers to show how much of our cost of goods (COGS) sold went to artisans versus other suppliers. This was reporting we’d never done before but incredibly fulfilling when we realized the impact our manufacturing standards have.
In the end, we were gratified to find out 76 percent of costs of goods sold (COGS) went to artisans. Seventy-six percent of ME to WE’s Cost of Goods Sold is spent on providing opportunity and paying fair wages to small-scale, independent suppliers in “low-income, poor or very poor markets.”
This is extremely high. It is interesting in that ME to WE donates its profit to Free The Children, but it also makes an impact through its costs and expenses (which are subtracted to determine profit).
Being a B Corp requires a different mindset and process, rigour and discipline and ensuring you are actually doing things better.
I want to highlight some of the areas where ME to WE received a flawless score, meaning 100 percent of available points in a category. B Lab found that ME to WE:
- Pays the artisans that supply handmade accessories 2.2 times more than what is considered a fair wage by the B Lab. (The B Lab uses a fair wage calculator http://fairwageguide.org/ to determine whether employees or suppliers receive a fair wage based on the regions where they live)
- Receives full marks from the B Lab for the training and development it provides to its artisans and the tangible impact it has on efficiency and productivity
- Has extremely high levels of women in its workforce (referring to the Toronto office), as well as women in management, and receives full marks on training and development for employees and managers
- Produces financials that are verified annually by an independent source through an audit or review
- Attains its mission and purpose—which is donating at least 50 percent of its net revenues to charity partner, Free The Children. (In 2014, ME to WE donated $2 million in cash and in-kind donations to Free The Children)
- Tracks the impact of its work with small-scale suppliers, such as the mamas who make handmade accessories
- Measures the impact and outcomes that its product and services achieve.
- Through its leadership programs, reaches underserved and high risk youth including those in Aboriginal communities or youth who have a history of relational aggressive behavior or who have been identified as “bullies.”
- Defines the outcomes (separate from the outputs) that it seeks through our products/services and these outcomes are based on measurable factors, such as changes in household income, improved quality of life, ancillary benefits for customers/clients, etc.)
- Has direct research on its products/services confirming that a desired outcome has been achieved
- Has key performance indicators (KPIs) or metrics that it tracks on at least an annual basis to determine if it meets its social or environmental objectives.
- has a relatively small spread between a coordinator salary and the highest paid executive (between 1-5X)
ME to WE is in impressive company. The Canada B Corp community includes companies such as the Vancouver-based tech company HootSuite, Business Development Bank of Canada, and Ontario craft brewery, Beau’s Beer.
We can now compare ourselves to other socially and environmentally impactful organizations—and we compare very well.
– Russ McLeod, Chief Operations Director, ME to WE