While the holidays are behind us, it’s always the season of giving, not just with loved ones but those less fortunate. We serve at soup kitchens, drop coins in the Red Kettle and join in Giving Tuesday projects through our employers. For some Pittsburgh companies, however, the concept of giving back is not so much a time or season as a state of mind—ingrained in their mission, vision and culture.
In fact, six ‘Burgh-based businesses are helping to lead a global movement to redefine success in business by becoming Certified B Corporations. The premise is that government and nonprofits are necessary but insufficient to address society’s greatest challenges, and that the corporate sector must step up to create value not just for shareholders, but for their communities and the country.
By voluntarily meeting rigorous standards of transparency and accountability for social and environmental performance, Certified B Corps distinguish themselves by offering a positive vision of a better way to do business.
The movement is gaining a collective voice. About 1,200 companies have already become B Corp certified from 60-plus industries and 34 countries. (Recently, the first publicly traded company received certification.) As momentum gathers, their influence is becoming an increasingly powerful change agent—passing laws, driving capital, creating meaningful jobs and improving the quality of life in neighborhoods locally and across the country.
Here’s a profile of Pittsburgh’s six Certified B Corporations:
SEEDS Green Printing and Design
As its name implies, SEEDS is a nature-based solution for design, printing and packaging. Using vintage as well as state-of-the-art equipment and supplies like tree-free stocks, 100% recycled materials, non-toxic vegetable-based inks and water-based coatings, SEEDS helps companies of all sizes with every aspect of any printing project—from concept to delivery and distribution. Its staff of graphic and web designers, editors, marketing specialists and fulfillment overseers are continually upping the ante on their goal to be the most sustainable, conscious and socially responsible design and printing company around. This commitment to sustainability has earned SEEDS the prestigious [B Corps] title “Best for the World” and “Best for the Environment” for the last two years.
In eco-friendly fashion, they sought B Corporation status to be “better able to broadcast our commitment to the values advanced by [B Corps] and hopefully set an example of social and environmental responsibility in our community and globally within the printing industry.”
SEEDS is growing. Its next offshoot will be to create a cooperative green printing facility in the United States that is completely off the grid. In 2015, SEEDS hopes to have three green plants: one each in the western, eastern and central parts of the country. “We are committed to having everyone—especially those who are already environmentally conscious—use only 100% eco-friendly production for all their green printing and packaging, and to have each project we do be as cost-effective, creative and beautiful as possible,” says owner/founder Jeffrery Shaw.
Over in the Friendship neighborhood, the architecture and planning firm evolveEA is leading its mission to advance environmentally sustainable systems and solutions through design and thought leadership. The company’s B Corp certification is “a validation of our mission statement,” says communications designer Daniel Klein, who advocated and prepared documentation for the firm’s B Corp certification.
evolveEA’s team of designers, architects, environmental scientists and sustainable business experts “look through three lenses of sustainability—People, Process and Place—to create thought-provoking buildings and landscapes, experiences and objects that contribute to more livable places, systems and economies.”
Walking their talk, the firm maintains an award-winning green workplace, introducing new green policies as opportunities arise. By publishing its Greenhouse Gas Report, evolveEA has helped other organizations understand how to achieve carbon-neutrality. By participating in local programs such as the Green Schools Academy and Pittsburgh Bike Friendly Employers, the firm has contributed to efforts benefitting the broader community.
“We’ve had a big year,” Klein conveys. Its Community Visioning project for Upper Lawrence was recently recognized with Honors Awards from the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), as well as AIA Pittsburgh. “Since completing it in 2013, significant steps were taken by the community to implement their vision,” Klein says. “New businesses have opened. A neighborhood park was redesigned. People are sprucing up their real estate. The community got together to launch a fresh food marketing campaign.”
In October, several evolveEA consultants presented at the Green Build Conference in New Orleans, the biggest green conference in the world. “That presentation was tied into community work that we do,” Klein explains. “It was an interactive workshop for green building professionals, and it offered community engagement strategies that people can use when doing design projects or neighborhood planning.”