In celebration of ButcherBox becoming a Certified B Corporation™—we wanted to catch up with ButcherBox CEO, Mike Salguero, and ButcherBox’s Vice President of Social and Environmental Responsibility, Evadne Cokeh, to find out more about what being a Certified B Corp™ means.
What does the B Corp certification mean to you and to the company as a whole? What does it mean for ButcherBox members?
Evadne: Personally, I have always been attracted to the idea of businesses being a vehicle for positive change. I believe that good things don’t have to only live in the non-profit space or the government sector. B Corp certification has been a shining light for me on ways that businesses can operate with a purpose.
For ButcherBox and our members, I think it helps provide accountability and transparency for our business. It’s easy to say we’re mission-driven and we believe that businesses can push forward positive change—but becoming a B Corp is a great way to provide evidence. It also provides a great roadmap for how we want to improve or change in the areas of social and environmental responsibility.
Mike: To me, the most exciting and interesting thing about B Corp is that it’s freeing. It allows us to think of things aside from cranking shareholder value. The fact that we’ve infused this into corporate documents is really powerful.
As the leader of our company, I have a fiduciary duty to my shareholders to operate in their best interest all the time. In reality and in practice, if I choose to work with a different vendor because I think they are better for the environment, that’s actually at odds with my responsibility to drive shareholder value.
That is a dangerous incentive to put in front of people that run companies because it means decision making is based on, “pumping up the share price” rather than focusing on long term decisions. To combat this, we’ve infused into the DNA of our company the idea that decisions are not just for our shareholders, but also for our employees, the environment, our community, and societal factors as well.
Can you share the journey ButcherBox took to becoming a B Corp?
Mike: Being B Corp certified has been on my list of goals for the company since 2017. Up until now, it’s always been, “We’re not ready yet,” or, “We have too much to do,” but this year it felt like it was actually attainable.
Evadne: When thinking about our journey to becoming a B Corp, it’s important to understand the actual certification process. The questions in the assessment hit many different departments and it’s not possible for one person to sit down and answer all the questions. The process requires a ton of cross-functional work. When we started this process in 2019, I was in a different role at the company and thankfully, two employees—Camille Romney, our corporate giving manager, and Dena Domey, our vice president of finance—took the initiative and really started a rallying cry towards getting us certified. We would not be B Corp certified today without their efforts.
Mike: That’s a great point Evadne. While it was on my list, Camille really pushed me on pursuing it. It’s every business owner’s dream to have initiative like this come from within! She really convinced me that it was possible.
Do you see attaining B Corp certification as a milestone or the first day of a new era for ButcherBox?
Mike: I see B Corp as a door opener. It gives us a framework and structure to measure ourselves against and improve. It’s a milestone that we’ve gotten to a place where we can be considered for B Corp status and then get certified. But I’m most excited about opening that door open and the path we are now on moving forward.
Based on how ButcherBox scored on the B Corp Impact Assessment, what are you most proud of and what are some areas in which the business needs to improve?
Mike: We scored high on the workers and governance sections, which I was proud of and speaks volumes to our internal transparency and the work we’ve done with our ButcherBox employees. Also, I’m excited to use the learning from the B Corp process as guidance for thinking about and improving worker welfare across our entire supply chain.
We have a lot of work to do based on our scores in the environmental and community sections of the assessment. Thankfully, Evadne is dedicated to pushing our company in the right direction in both of those areas.
Evadne: In the governance section there are questions around accountability and transparency. I think Mike has done an incredible job speaking transparently to our employees, particularly on financials. We did well in that area of the assessment.
The community bucket covers a bunch of questions on DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), which we are very focused on right now. Our certification is reflective of our 2019 numbers, and as I reviewed the assessment, I was proud to notice we are already seeing changes and improvements in the diversity of our employees. In 2020, I started chairing an internal ButcherBox DEI committee, and one of the important things we worked on was eliminating bias in our hiring process to foster a more racially diverse employee base.
Our scores on the environmental bucket were low because we have not spent much time to date measuring our environmental impact. This is always the first step in discovering what you want to change and reduce. I am excited to start tracking this data because I think it’s going to be clear after we finish the research what next step we need to take to make the positive impact on the environment that has long been a goal.
Which companies made you aware of B Corp, and what else played a role in tying to get certified?
Mike: I heard the CEO of Warby Parker talk about being B Corp certified at a conference on Nantucket. He and another founder were comparing scores—competing almost—and I thought, “Oh that is an interesting approach to building a company.” I talk about this often, but I believe you can disrupt an industry by building a purpose-driven and profitable company versus disrupting an industry through starting a nonprofit to go against the industry. B Corp certification is a path to achieving that vision.
Evadne: I was an MBA intern at Greyston Bakery which is also a B Corp, which is where I saw what it means from the inside for the first time. Seeing their certification process and reading about Patagonia’s B Corp journey made me realize how each company has its own mission-driven focus that helps get them certified.
Patagonia has focused on the environment and you can really see it in their score. At Greyston, the focus is on employment opportunities for those who face employment barriers—so they score well in the community bucket. Everyone has their own mission, but B Corp helps you realize where you can improve across all areas.
How do you see ButcherBox in this community of brands like Patagonia, Ben & Jerrys, etc.?
Evadne: A B Corp certification in the food industry is particularly interesting to me because there is currently a lot of incentive and structure in this industry that rewards short term behavior over long-term behavior. B Corp could have an impact by incentivizing responsible long-term thinking focused on how we raise, grow, and distribute food.
Mike: I think the fact that there are large B Corp certified companies like Ben & Jerrys and Patagonia proves you can take this “doing well by doing good approach,” and build a lasting company. It’s comforting to me to know that we can still build a sizable company with a big impact and care about all these components. This confirms my suspicion that we can hold both our aggressive desires to grow and our aggressive desires to do good.
Why should people buy meat from a B Corp certified brand?
Evadne: The meat industry currently has a poor environmental reputation. As we dive deeper into thinking about ButcherBox’s environmental impact, I’m excited about helping to provide a meat product that can help change that reputation.
Mike: When we started this company, we thought it was solely a drive to find grass-fed beef we could feel good about. As we’ve gotten further into the world of meat, we’ve discovered the same issues and challenges we find in the beef industry occur with other proteins as well. As a conscious consumer, I have always cared about these impacts—but third-party B Corp verification gives credibility to the impact we are truly trying to achieve.
I want to get the point where if a consumer decides they are going to eat meat, that ButcherBox is the best way to do it.