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Your Business Should be a Force for Good

This is an open letter written by the founders of B Lab to business leaders, Andrew Kassoy, Bart Houlahan, and Jay Coen Gilbert.

B Lab has spent the past ten years serving a community of credible leaders who are using business as a force for good. We want to live into the values expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and our B Corp values, which state:

That we must be the change we seek in the world,

That all business ought to be conducted as if people and place mattered,

That, through their products, practices, and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all,

To do so requires that we act with the understanding that we are each dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations.

Those values make the path forward clear to us. In the current environment of rising insecurity, fear, hate speech, and violence, and in the absence of trust in our economic system, all business leaders have an unprecedented responsibility and opportunity to build a more inclusive society.

We speak now not to one political party, or one niche group — our community of business leaders, our workers, our customers, and our investors span the political spectrum. This is a universal call to live into our values and to build a global movement of people using business as a force for good.
At this moment we call on all business leaders to do two things. First, in this chaotic moment, to stand up and to speak out, together and unequivocally, when we see injustice, hate, and the violence they produce. Second, to take concrete action in our own businesses to create an inclusive economy that is equitable and creates opportunity for all for the long term.

Stand for justice

When we speak with collective voice, business leaders have the power to stand in the way of injustice, to honor the inherent dignity of all people, and to make it possible for us to reach our full potential as human beings, as organizations, and as a global community. Our responsibility to stand for universal human rights and civil liberties is not simply a business imperative, but a moral imperative.

B Lab rejects discrimination, no matter where it comes from or who is targeted. All businesses, which benefit from our diverse society, have an obligation to do the same. We must stand with those civil society and social justice organizations fighting on the front lines to protect the most vulnerable. This means working against any forces that would divide and disenfranchise people based on their identity or circumstances at birth.

We do not want to sell this commitment short. This will be hard. It will require businesses to look beyond what regulation
demands. It may require business leaders to speak out against unjust laws, or to resist them in order to protect vulnerable workers or communities. It may require much more. It will always be worth it.

Take action to build an inclusive economy

As business leaders, we must also look to where we are most powerful. It will not be enough to call for justice in this particular moment; we must also create justice through our organizations.
Your business is an employer, a place where people spend their day and a source of salary and benefits for families. Your business has purchasing power that can support communities and causes you care about. Your business’s activities and products affect the global environment — and rely on it. And as a business leader, you have an influential voice in your community and with your elected officials.
Our businesses are powerful tools that we can use to create a more inclusive economy, and ultimately a more inclusive society. Doing that effectively will require listening to all those who are systemically disaffected and disenfranchised — whether through racism, misogyny, xenophobia, classism, ableism, homo- and transphobia, or other institutional and historic forms of oppression. People who have been marginalized and exploited by our current economic system exist across the political spectrum in rural and urban communities around the world. In order to restore trust in business, the business community needs to respond to those people’s legitimate desire for jobs with dignity. The business community also needs to make the case that economic justice for all is inextricably tied to, and dependent on, social and environmental justice.

It is clear that government alone cannot or will not solve the problems facing us right now. In their absence, business must play a leadership role in forging a path forward. Thankfully, there are businesses around the world that have been proving that profit can come with the pursuit of a higher purpose — that we can build an inclusive economy that works for all.
What does an inclusive economy look like in action? In Grand Rapids, Michigan, a plastics manufacturer called Cascade Engineering welcomes formerly-incarcerated returning citizens and offers on-site benefits that have helped hundreds of employees transition off of social support. In New York City, a worker-owned cooperative of home health care workers in the Bronx called CHCA provides exceptional care for patients while creating secure jobs and ownership for women of color. In the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country, The Stroopie Co employs recently-settled refugees and offers ESL classes to help them move into leadership roles. In Chicago, Method Products PBC is bringing high-quality manufacturing jobs back to the Midwest, including the South Side of Chicago.

An inclusive economy looks like a living wage for all workers. An inclusive economy looks like a boardroom and management team with the same demographics as the company’s factory floor. An inclusive economy looks like a world in which business creates opportunity for those who have been marginalized, instead of maintaining the status quo while lamenting the constraints of market forces. These ideas don’t require government regulation; they can be realized through the leadership and stewardship of the business community — if we choose to take action.
We are inspired by the leadership of 2,000 Certified B Corporations. They’ve proven that you can do well and do good, and they offer a path forward. But they can’t build an inclusive economy alone. We need everyone. We need you.

One way to begin is for every company to take concrete, measurable steps to build a more inclusive business. Every change your company makes has a real impact on real people.
Think about what matters to you. How can your company contribute? If you need a starting place, consider picking two or three of the practices and policies we have identified in our Inclusive Economy Metric Set. Make a public commitment to improving on those two or three. Hold yourself accountable, even (especially) when you fall short. Listen to your employees and your customers. Let us know what you are doing and what you learn along the way so that others can follow your lead.

Your business has the power to make the change you want to see in the world. If businesses like yours take action to build a more inclusive economy, we will improve the lives of millions of people that are touched by our businesses as workers, suppliers, customers, and local communities. We will rebuild an economic system worthy of people’s trust. We will create a more shared and durable prosperity for all. We will change our society — for good.

For more information about B Lab please go to https://www.bcorporation.net/what-are-b-corps/about-b-lab

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Season’s Greeting

This is the season for me to reflect on the past year and look forward to what 2017 will bring. I am now entering my 5th year as an independent CFO serving small businesses in the Puget Sound area. As I reflect on my journey, I am extremely grateful for each of you that are part of my extended network. I can honestly say that without your willingness to have coffee with me, connect with me on LinkedIn, and share your wisdom and experience with me, I would not have been successful in this business. So thank you, thank you, thank you!

2017 will be a year of bringing on several new clients. As part of this initiative to grow my business, I am using a new tool called Refer.com. This tool will help me track and organize referrals that you give me as well as help me do a better job of keeping in touch with many of you. Would you do me a favor? Would you be willing to take a short survey that rates me in several key categories? In addition, if have experienced my work or character, would you be willing to offer a brief testimonial? And finally, if you know of a business owner that could benefit from a conversation with me, please leave me the name and contact info at the end of the survey. Thank you again.

Please enter the survey at this link https://refer.com/ArtZylstra/survey/bqQb6t

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CFO Book Review – Drive by Daniel Pink

The Industrial Revolution gave the world a new found efficiency in production and distribution in business. This revolution had a profound impact on employees and how they were motivated to produce an ever increasing supply of goods. Our current business operating system, in many ways, remains unchanged from over a hundred years ago.

The primary approach to employee engagement over the years has been built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators. Science has long recognized that humans respond to rewards and punishments in our environment. However history suggests that this approach in business doesn’t usually work long-term and in many cases can actually do harm and become counter-productive.

Daniel Pink expands on the research of behavioral scientists of the last few decades that have discovered a different human drive. Motivation in the past has been fueled more by extrinsic desires than intrinsic ones. Motivational behavior was concerned more about external rewards to which an activity leads rather than the inherent satisfaction of the activity itself.

Daniel Pink suggests that business today needs to take a different approach. This new approach has three essential elements: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.

1. Give Employees Autonomy
By nature, humans want to be “autonomous and self-directed.” Pink suggests empowering employees to explore new ideas, allowing them to work flexible schedules, giving them a say in hiring new talent, and letting them decide how they want to tackle a problem.

2. Give Employees Mastery Opportunities.
Pink says “making progress in one’s work turns out to be the single most motivating aspect of many jobs.” You can help employees achieve a sense of progress by working closely with them to assign tasks that match their skill levels, so employees are neither anxious nor bored.

3. Give Employees a Sense of Purpose.
“Humans, by their nature, seek purpose—to make a contribution and be a part of a cause greater and more enduring than themselves,” says Pink. You can fulfill your employees’ sense of purpose by making community service part of your corporate culture. Try organizing in-office food drives, or inviting the team to spend a day volunteering.

This new motivational drive, if business owners understand and can tap into, will strengthen our companies, elevate our lives, and improve the world.

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