Decades from now, when future generations ask what you devoted your time to in the 2020s, what do you want your response to be? For many employees at Commerce Architects, we want our answer to be that we were embracing and encouraging corporate environmental stewardship in our daily lives. We want to tell those who come after us that we were doing our best to ensure we passed on a better planet than the one we received. So this year, Commerce Architects decided to tackle this challenge head-on: defining what it would mean for our business to be a responsible steward of the future, evaluating what long-standing practices would need to change for us to get there, and then implementing those changes.
Unfortunately for society, phrases like sustainability, stewardship and responsibility are too often ill-defined, overused, and not based on actions. That doesn’t make them improper; it just means that the task of defining what it means for our business to be considered this way is of great importance. This includes aligning on what we value and how we want to focus our efforts to support the environment, our employees, and our community.
To help guide us through this important exercise, Commerce Architects recruited the help of the social impact consultant Measure Meant. They specialize in assisting companies in pursuing one of the most effective strategies for businesses to accomplish these goals: B Corp Certification. After an initial discussion with Measure Meant, Commerce Architects set out to discover what it would take to achieve B Corp status.
To align on the best methods to get there, Measure Meant facilitated a conversation with our leadership team to discuss what sustainability meant to us and what we thought as a business was achievable. What came out of that conversation was a clear list of goals that we could focus on and begin to strategize around. Those goals were to:
Reduce business environmental impacts, working towards carbon neutrality
Engage with and support our local community
Become known for best in class company culture
Work with clients who also emphasize corporate stewardship in their business practices
Let’s look at these goals and discuss how Commerce Architects intends to achieve them.
Measuring & Reducing Our Environmental Impacts
To achieve carbon neutrality, we first need a method to measure our business-related emissions to reduce this environmental impact. Measure Meant helped us identify the primary sources of emissions for our business as airline flights for business travel, with energy and water use at our office space as a secondary impact.
Commerce Architects utilized its CA Labs program to build its in-house tool for recording business flights taken and energy and water used for day-to-day operations. We recently completed designing and implementing the Dashboard for Energy and Water (DEW), which is a simple dashboard application for employees to record this information. This solution will export that information into an easily accessible format for business leaders to act on. Details on how this dashboard will work will come in a future blog post.
The best method for us to achieve carbon neutrality is to reduce these activities that contribute to our carbon footprint as much as possible while still avoiding causing irreparable harm to the business. For these reasons, Commerce Architects reviews and discusses all business travel proposals on a case-by-case basis, ensuring that we refrain from frivolous travel and only do so when it is essential to our business.
When reducing is no longer an option, and we must carry out activities that grow our environmental footprint, Commerce Architects will purchase carbon & water offsets to contribute to projects that work to restore ecosystems and support sustainable energy. Rather than digging into definitions of offsets, I’m going to assume you understand how those work and their role in a sustainability program.
Let’s be clear as we dive into this next section; I am not someone who subscribes to the idea that an offset truly accomplishes what its name implies. The actual cost of air pollution or water overuse is impossible to measure, and it is certainly not covered by the average price of offsets in 2022. That said, I believe that they are a net good for society to adopt and routinely use as a tool. They get us one step closer to realizing the actual cost of our environmental pollution by putting a price on those activities.
So when Commerce Architects can collect data on its environmental footprint, we will have a method to pay the price for these operations and offer some financial support for work being done to mitigate the damage of environmental pollution and resource use.
Engage With The Local Community And Develop A Thriving Company Culture
Commerce Architects is no stranger to community engagement. In the past, we have participated in various community activities such as;
tree planting with the Lands Council,
cleaning up trash with the Spokane RiverKeeper, and
helping to sort clothes with Global Neighborhood.
The work that all of these organizations are doing is building a stronger Spokane community. In addition to benefitting our community, these activities provided great opportunities for employees to get to know each other and engage in teamwork beyond the keyboard.
As we advance, we envision continuing and broadening these volunteer programs to engage with as many community organizations as possible and ensure that we support our local community and build a company culture that we can be proud of.
Work With Clients Who Practice Corporate Stewardship
Finding the right clients isn’t always easy, and finding ones that align with your values is an even more daunting task. That won’t stop us from trying, and we hope that by taking the time to invest in our corporate responsibility, we will have the opportunity to meet and work with other companies who hold the same values. Not every potential client who may be able to afford our skills deserves our efforts. We would like to have the ability to weigh a company’s business practices when choosing the projects that we are working on.
Similarly, one can assume that if these companies are genuinely devoted to corporate sustainability, they may feel the same way and hope to work with companies like ours, who consider this to be of great importance. Yet another benefit of B-Corp certification is that like-minded companies have a way to identify each other and thus choose partners who have a common goal of making the world a better place for future generations.
B Corp Certification Provides Measurable Tasks That Help Achieve Immeasurable Goals
Many of the goals we’ve discussed and set for our company are challenging to measure tangibly, which is where the B Corp certification process has helped us. It identified ways to achieve our goals incrementally and measurable changes that we can make in our business practices. For example, we may be asking ourselves, if one of our goals is to engage with our local community, what are the ways that we can do that beyond what we are already doing? Well, the B Corp Certification questions ask you about a variety of ways that businesses can support their community, which helped highlight opportunities for us to do just that.
It identifies the potential missed opportunities for us to support our local community, reduce our environmental impact, and improve the lives of our employees. By simply working to carry out some of the suggested tasks the B Corp evaluation puts before us, we can take significant strides towards achieving our goals.
Our efforts to become an example of corporate environmental stewardship are only beginning. We have a long way to go, and we recognize that not every step will be a step forward. However, we have a set of achievable goals and tools available that will help us measure our progress towards those goals. We have milestones to aim for, and many within our organization are looking forward to the day we can proudly proclaim that we are a B Corp certified company. Where we go from here is up to us. We know that not every decision we make will be easy, and there will be costs associated with making these changes. That is the price of passing on a habitable planet to future generations, and it is a price we are willing to pay.