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Advocacy, activism, and ice cream

On September 16th, I joined hundreds of like-minded people in Los Angeles, California at the 2019 B Corp Champions Retreat to discuss how to equip business leaders to use business as a force for good. These people were like me — they worked for or started a B Corp. It was exciting to be in a room full of people who not only knew what B Corps were, but shared my passion and vision for creating opportunities for all people and taking sustainability to the next level. Here are a few themes that were prevalent throughout the week:

1. What you do to the land, you do to the people. And what you do to the people, you do to the land.

This was the phrase that repeatedly rang through the sweeping hotel ballroom as hundreds of people gathered to talk about the future of business. It was the idea that loomed over every conversation throughout the week — our planet is dying, we have to do something about it. Now. In our current social and political climate, it is no surprise that this was the baseline topic strung through every conversation. It’s been top of mind at Bullhorn as we’ve worked to track and reduce our environmental impact. It’s been top of mind as we’ve collaborated with companies that are rethinking how we treat our land. Really, this chant struck a chord. We, all of us, have to do something. And we believe that businesses can, and should, lead the way.

2. Brands have to navigate a new era of advocacy and activism. And that can be really intimidating.

We’ve all seen the Gillette and Nike ads. Brands are taking stances on major social and political issues. These stances are received by consumers and the public with mixed reviews. We are forced to ask ourselves questions like, “what role do companies play in commenting on issues?” and, “when do these efforts seem authentic vs. jumping on a bandwagon?” I attended a session lead by principal Latia Curry from Rally, an issue-driven communications firm that has worked with top brands to achieve a legacy of positive change. In this session, we talked about how brands can show, not tell, their beliefs, and the importance of being informed before entering into conversations.

We think a lot about how to help our clients take a stance, how to talk about themselves and the work that they’re doing. Brands have to look inward before taking an external stance, to make sure they’re walking the walk before they talk the talk. Consumers are increasingly motivated to spend their money on companies they align with. We work to make sure these organizations sound as authentic as possible.

3. There aren’t enough women in leadership. Not in the B Corp community, not in the world.

I attended a session about the #wethechange movement, started by a group of B Corp CEO women that came together to sign a declaration committing to economic, racial, environmental, and social justice. They are hoping to build a world where women are equally represented in positions of power and influence. No small feat.

The numbers within the B Corp community pretty much mirror the rest of the world, with only about 5% of CEOs identifying as women. In the creative field, fewer than 10% of creative directors are women. It’s an inherently sexist industry. At Bullhorn, we address this issue with open conversation, acknowledging that we have been part of the problem and intend to change it. We’ve got some work to do.

4. We are moving toward an inclusive and regenerative economy.

As business leaders, we have to do more. Much more. Doing less harm, or even no harm, is no longer enough. More than ever, we need an economy that works for everyone and restores the planet. As Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia, declared, “Capitalism needs to evolve, if humanity is to survive.” We, as businesses, have to be in the trenches of that evolution. We’re working with other companies and organizations who are in the trenches as well, doing our part to create the economy we want to see.

5. You can never have enough free, sustainable ice cream.

And finally, you may not know that both Jeni’s and Ben & Jerry’s are B Corps. You also may not know that I am a self-declared ice cream aficionado. It seemed as if everywhere I went, they were scooping and serving — my dream conference. And with the taste of cool, creamy sugar lingering in my buds, I boarded a plane back to Kentucky — on fire about all things B Corp and ready to take all of this (and more) back to my peers. Ready to get to work.

Jenny Cobb
Jenny Cobb

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