Management Faculty Helps Local Business Become B Corp Certified

The owners of a local green energy company needed help last year moving their business to a new location in early 2018. At the same time, this business was in the process of becoming B Corp-certified. The work required to become certified proved extremely challenging on top of their other goals.

One of the owners of Green Energy Options in Keene, Valerie Piedmont, attended a workshop on B Corp certification led by Taryn Fisher, Assistant Professor in the Management Department at Antioch University New England. Taryn represents Antioch University as a core member of the Global B Corp Academic Community.

“She’d gotten 99.9 percent of the assessment completed and didn’t have her certification,” said Taryn. “She reached a point where she didn’t know if she could do it.”

With Taryn’s support, Green Energy Options, a company that provides technical support, system design, installation and advice about energy-efficient home heating and solar energy, became the seventh B Corp-certified business in New Hampshire.

“B Corp certification is for for-profit companies who are very committed to ‘business as a force for good’,” said Taryn. “What that means is, traditionally, for-profit businesses are focused on the financial bottom line. Businesses are now looking to balance competing bottom lines. Companies are saying in addition to profit, we need to focus on people and the planet.”

In order to become B Corp-certified (“B” stands for benefit), a company needs to undergo an impact assessment, which is a survey of their business practices.

“It’s a difficult process for small companies,” said Taryn.

When Valerie and her husband and business partner, Pablo Fleischmann, began last fall moving their business from its Emerald Street location to a building on lower Roxbury Street, Taryn worked with them to make the transition as smooth as possible.

“They were at this interesting point in their history moving from being a very successful mom-and-pop to this next phase in their growth trajectory,” she said.

Their focus was to move inventory from a separate warehouse to a storage space at the new location.

“The building is challenging,” said Taryn. “There was a question of how to invest as little as possible while optimizing inventory and warehouse operations.”

She spent the following months creating a cost and benefit analysis of various configurations of the space.

“We talked about a lot of ‘what-ifs’,” said Taryn. “What if we optimize this dock door? What if we open a different dock door or install a lift?” She also helped refine ordering and inventory practices and other existing procedures and policies.

As part of the advanced course in Finance Taryn teaches, her Management students met with Valerie and Pablo at Green Energy Options.

“I’m always looking for an opportunity for students to get real-world experience,” she said.  “They heard from (Pablo and Valerie) about their mission, values and strategic priorities and they took a deep dive look at their B Corp impact assessment. They came back with a recommendation of how they could create an impact improvement plan based on that mission and those values based on what they’d learned about them from that impact assessment.”

Valerie called Taryn a strategic thinker.

“She’s an idea person whose personal goals are in line with our business goals, and she mapped out the future with our business in mind,” she said. “It frees us up so we can tackle our mission, which is to help the region function as independently-powered.”

In addition to her work with Antioch University, Taryn participates in the Ecovation Hub, a regional economic development initiative that focuses on supporting green businesses.

Also passionate about arts and culture, she has supported and provided mentoring for businesses such as Machina Arts, which offers creative event management, interior design and gallery curation.

“When I relocated to Keene in 2016, I thought arts and culture is important in economic development,” she said, “and an important aspect of quality of life.”

After nearly 20 years in industry as a supply chain executive for blue chip companies including Fidelity Investments, Procter & Gamble, and The Gillette Company, Taryn chose to change direction and pursue a career in academia.

“At some point during that corporate sector period I started to feel like I need to think deeply about aligning my own work with my own mission and vision and determining how to ensure I was really making the biggest impact that I could,” she said. “Antioch (University) had created a curriculum that provided a program for students who believe business has both an opportunity and an obligation to change the game.”

When she began teaching the MBA in sustainability program in 2013, she said Antioch was at the front of the wave.

“It’s a competitive space today,” she said. “But while many of the MBA programs out there are might have a concentration or a course or two that’s an elective, at Antioch every single course in the MBA program is built on the principles of sustainability.”

In addition to teaching the fundamentals of managerial and financial accounting operations, Taryn helps students integrate sustainability metrics.

“It’s a way to expand the capability of financial reporting to include sustainability reporting,” she said.

The MBA in sustainability program requires students work with B Corp-certified, mission-driven businesses like Green Energy Options by employing socially-responsible investment principles.

“I’ve knit together courses that leverage learning to be able to move the sustainability needle, have an impact and influence change in a very tangible way,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Monadnock Ledger Transcript

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