This type of business structure legally formalizes corporate social responsibility in for-profit organizations. Being a Benefit Corporation codifies a company’s commitment to all stakeholders, including employees, customers, vendors and distributors. The legally defined goal of a Benefit Corporation is to use the business for a general public benefit and to have a positive impact on the environment and society.
The mission and vision of family-owned Bigelow Tea, that today employs more than 400 people, made it an ideal candidate for incorporation as a Benefit Corporation, now authorized in 33 states and the District of Columbia.
“Our purpose has always been about much more than making profits and making tea, so the more I learned about Benefit Corporations, the more I knew this was something I truly felt captured the spirit of our company -- a company that is inspired by more than just making a profit,” Cindi Bigelow, third generation President & CEO said. “Clearly, we need to maintain strong profitability, but we should never lose sight of the fact that we also need to focus on doing good things with the power we hold inside this company.”
Bigelow Tea has long prided itself on its environmental, sustainability and community programs, including charitable initiatives centered around the Bigelow Tea Community Challenge, an annual road race that has contributed $1.5 million to local non-profits over the past 30 years.
“Ever since my grandmother Ruth Campbell Bigelow began our family company 75 years ago, social responsibility has been part of our DNA,” Bigelow said. “We have always believed that ethical leadership isn’t about just what we do every day. It’s about taking Corporate Social Responsibility seriously. We’re committed to good citizenship, ethical business practices, protecting the environment, sustainability, and supporting our communities.”
To qualify as a Benefit Corporation, Bigelow Tea leadership completed an extensive assessment report that required hundreds of hours of research and documentation, showing how the company met the established objectives in five specific areas: governance, employees, environment, community and customers.
“What was so exciting to uncover was that, by doing the very things that had been written into our mission statement over 30 years ago, we were already meeting the requirements,” Bigelow said. “In fact, our score exceeded the benchmarks.”
The Board of Directors amended Bigelow Tea’s Articles of Incorporation to include a statement reflecting the unanimous desire to become a Benefit Corporation and ensure that in addition to profit-making, Bigelow Tea leadership will pursue goals that benefit the community in tangible ways.
“To me, ethical leadership has always been about more than what we do every day, it also means thinking about the long term and ensuring we are doing the right thing for our future,” Bigelow said. “It means constantly working on creating an environment where we all feel motivated to be the best we can possibly be. Becoming a Benefit Corporation redoubles our long-standing efforts and helps everyone understand that we need to take corporate responsibility extremely seriously.”
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