An inspiring idea emerged from the annual B Corp Champions Retreat I attended last week.

The event brought together more than 1,000 representatives from B Corps from around the globe like Teak for three fun and educational days.  Together we celebrated being part of companies that use business as a force for good and we set new goals for the coming year.

The event brought together more than 1,000 representatives from B Corps from around the globe like Teak for three fun and educational days.  Together we celebrated being part of companies that use business as a force for good and we set new goals for the coming year.

B Lab leaders gave us a challenge. In order for B Corp companies to be not only the best in the world, but the best for the world, we need to follow an inclusive economy business model, which goes beyond improving inclusive business practices like hiring with diversity in mind or paying fair wages.

b-corp-550x413The challenge encourages us to tie our companies’ purposes to driving inclusion, so that as our companies grow, so will the inclusive economy. Why does an inclusive economy matter? Because we should all have the opportunity to contribute to the world and earn a good living, and because creativity and solutions come from people of different backgrounds and experiences. So really, in addition to being right, inclusion is a way for our companies to grow and be more successful. Yet many groups have not traditionally had equal access to economic opportunities because of discrimination or other social barriers that include race, gender, ethnicity, sexual-orientation, disabilities or low-income status.

At first, I was perplexed about how my boutique-sized company could increase our hiring practices to be more inclusive. I mean, we don’t hire that many new people each year, so how could we make an impact? Then I learned more. Being a part of an inclusive economy also means helping other companies as they increase employment opportunities to those who have been marginalized. Great! Teak does that.

Our work with College Bound Dorchester, for example, is all about getting mostly black or Hispanic, sometimes previously incarcerated people into community college so they can earn degrees and go on to gainful employment at higher paying jobs. We work with the Massachusetts Association of 766 Approved Private Schools, which (among many other things) provides job training programs for physically or mentally disabled students and helps them get jobs.  Without really knowing it, Teak has been implementing an inclusive business model. Still, we can and will do more.

While at the conference, I met Preston Aitken, the COO of HireUP, a company based in Toronto that works to get employment opportunities for youth who have experienced homelessness. I was inspired to learn that his organization exists. Talk about working for an inclusive economy! His company is ALL about providing opportunities to those who are typically underserved or have faced discrimination. Connecting youth, who’d already experienced more challenges than many, to meaningful and stable work, work that could launch the rest of their lives, is so important not just for the individuals themselves, but for generations to come.  Learning about HireUP made my day.

I’m so fueled by the idea of companies being a force for good and making real social change. It’s so motivating to know we, as a society, are not overly relying on the government or nonprofits to fix colossal social problems and inequities. Instead, we have B Corps, which operate with people, the planet, and profitability in mind. Teak is forever proud to be a member of this very inclusive club.

What do you think companies can do to make the workforce more inclusive? Let us know in the comments below.