by Edwina Dueñas
Washington, DC is filled with do-gooders and change makers across all industries, from grassroots organizations to startup social enterprises. What’s more, a recent study by Halcyon Incubator named DC the top city for social entrepreneurs in the country. It’s safe to say the District is a hub of social impact and innovation.
A key part of that “hub” is the community of fifteen certified B Corps headquartered in DC. B Corps – also known as benefit corporations – are for-profit companies using business as a force for good. By meeting a rigorous set of standards in transparency, sustainability, and performance, businesses become certified B Corps. B Lab is the nonprofit behind these certifications. Since 2007, B Lab has certified 1,929 businesses in over 50 countries across 130 industries. Companies pursue certification on a voluntary basis, and maintain it by meeting B Lab’s standards. As stated by B Lab, “B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk.” The roster of certified B Corps includes companies like Ben & Jerry’s, Warby Parker, Kickstarter, Patagonia and more.
While the B Corp community is global, these companies make a social, environmental, and economic impact in the cities they’re based in. Below is a look into how three DC-based B Corps do good by doing business.
Founded in 1999 and a B Corp since 2015, Threespot helps nonprofits, foundations, and organizations achieve their missions more effectively. A digital agency, Threespot specializes in areas such as communications strategy, user experience, and visual design. The company combines its expertise with passion for positive change to help clients mobilize their missions. While Threespot has worked with a range of clients, by 2013, the company unequivocally decided to become specialists in the social good space.
For founder Bill Barbot, pursuing B Corp certification was a way of planting a flag for what he believed in – both personally and professionally.
“My interest is in running a company that I am absolutely proud of running,” says Bill. “[Being a] B Corp is a great tool for our prospective clients and employees [to show] who we are and what we stand for as a company.”
Threespot works with organizations such as the Smithsonian Institution, The USO, National Parks Conservation Association, and The Hilton Foundation. Learn more about Threespot’s work and ongoing projects.
Arcadia Power is a renewable energy company founded with one simple mission in mind: to make our world better by changing the way we power our homes and businesses, from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy.
The company has been a B Corp since 2014 and was honored on B the Change Media’s Best for the World list in 2015 and 2016. Honorees are leaders in demonstrating how businesses can be a force for good in the world.
“Our goal to make clean energy, specifically wind and solar, available to any American in all 50 states aligns with B Corp’s philosophy for community improvement and environmental performance,” notes Elise Contas, Business Development Associate at Arcadia Power. “We’re striving to make clean energy more inclusive, and want to improve our communities so that they’re cleaner and healthier for future generations.”
Arcadia Power collaborates with leaders in sustainability to inform Americans on their energy options. Partners include the Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, and Daily Kos. Furthermore, the company actively carries out its mission in the local community. Arcadia Power is currently building 10 rooftop solar projects in DC at zero upfront cost to the homeowner.
Union Kitchen builds community by creating a food system that propels local businesses to succeed. The company – founded in 2012 and certified as a B Corp in 2014 – provides kitchen space to entrepreneurs who want to kick start or accelerate their food business. Since launching, Union Kitchen has helped favorite DC eateries such as Takorean, Dog Tag Bakery, Chaia, and Jrink grow as businesses. It also operates a distribution company that distributes nearly 400 products to nearly 200 retailers in the Mid-Atlantic region. Union Kitchen works with both businesses that are Members of the kitchen incubator and other local/regional food companies. Union Kitchen’s distribution business enables businesses to get their products on the shelves of local retailers and regional and national stores like Whole Foods and Yes! Organic.
Operating on a triple bottom line to “make it, move it, sell it,” accessibility and community impact have become central to Union Kitchen’s mission.
“We are focused on building successful food businesses through our operations in a thoughtful, conscientious manner,” shares Kelly McPharlin, Marketing Manager at Union Kitchen. “We define our success not just by the revenues and profits we create, but by the businesses we grow, the jobs we create, the economic impact we have, and the employment training we deliver.”
Union Kitchen partners with organizations like DC Central Kitchen and Project Empowerment to provide hiring opportunities, job placement, and training for those interested in culinary careers. Additionally, an important focus of the company is to lower the barrier of entry for minority and women-owned businesses in the food space.
Alongside membership and distribution resources, the company operates a grocery store selling products from member businesses. At Union Kitchen Grocery, you can purchase a variety of locally made products, in turn helping businesses create, contribute, and prosper in DC and beyond. Union Kitchen Grocery is located in Capitol Hill, with a second location opening in Shaw in 2017.
B Corps as Drivers for Change
In a report by The Brookings Institution, “[B Corps] set the gold standard for ‘good’ business and are driving behavior change in the businesses around them.” Threespot, Arcadia Power, and Union Kitchen are companies doing just that. To learn more about the B Corp movement and to discover businesses like the ones mentioned in this article, visit https://www.bcorporation.net.
Edwina Dueñas is a full-time student in Georgetown University’s Public Relations and Corporate Communications (PR/CC) master’s program. A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Edwina began her career at Care2, an online advocacy B Corp based in Silicon Valley. She then worked in the nonprofit sector, executing digital communications for TechWomen, an exchange initiative by the U.S. Department of State. As a PR/CC student, she hopes to work with a social enterprise for her culminating Capstone project. Prior to Georgetown, Edwina earned a bachelor’s in English from UC Davis. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.