By Jess Baum, Marketing Project Coordinator, W.S. Badger
Since the first time I read this quote as a teenager, these beautiful words by Gandhi have been a connective thread throughout my life, helping to guide me in my pursuit to be of service to the change that I believe is so necessary to fix a broken system that exploits the people and the planet on which it depends. I spent my 20’s searching for significance: I taught environmental education, traveled, and worked on farms. I studied permaculture and lived as a member of an intentional community. Eventually, my path as an environmentalist seeking social change led me to pursue an M.S. in Environmental Education at Antioch University New England in Keene, New Hampshire. The program, which has an environmental and social justice mission, synthesized so much of what I’d been seeking.
One night, I had a few of my new classmates over for dinner and one of them noticed my Seventh Generation dish soap. A lively discussion ensued about consumer power, the growing tide of businesses engaging in corporate social responsibility, and how mindfully purchasing from these companies (rather than their conventional counterparts) is an act of rebellion against the status quo, activism that can elicit great change. That day, I had a light bulb moment. I had always thought I would pursue a career in higher education, but I began to see an alternate career path working for a value- and mission-driven company in the realm of sustainability, employee engagement, and consumer empowerment. That was then.
Today, I work for one of those companies: Badger, the family-owned, family-friendly maker of 100% natural and certified organic personal care products.
Here’s how it happened: Badger has always been an environmentally and socially conscious business, the sort my friends and I had excitedly discussed while washing dishes. In 2011, Badger became a certified B Corp to codify and measure their commitment to positive environmental and social practices in a transparent way that incorporates continual improvement. In early 2015, the company completed its third impact assessment, earning a total score of 138, 58 points above the minimum needed for recertification. For an environmental score of 57, Badger was honored on B Corp’s “Best for the Environment” list, which recognizes businesses that score in the top 10% of B Corps for environmental performance. While this accomplishment was thrilling, the results of the impact assessment highlighted some clear and definitive ways that the company could markedly improve its impact. Namely, while they have always engaged in positive environmental action and sought to do good in with world with every choice they made, they didn’t have a comprehensive and quantifiable way to measure their environmental impact, compare it to previous years, and then set goals for future improvements. Though positive actions were coming from an authentic place of mission alignment, Badger began to see the benefit of creating a clear system and measurable processes through which such actions could flow. It became clear to Badger’s leadership that the company needed a tailor-made Environmental Management System (EMS) to accomplish these goals.
Antioch’s Environmental Studies department offers students several capstone opportunities, from the research-based thesis option to the opportunity to work on a semester-long group collaborative project with an external client. Badger’s proposal to create an EMS that was in step with B Corp standards was one of the few proposals selected from the more than thirty received by Antioch. Five of us excitedly committed to the project and prepared to dig in! We toured the Badger facility multiple times and interviewed each department to understand how things worked. We conducted a waste audit and a greenhouse gas assessment, created tools for monitoring Badger’s environmental impact in future years, and made suggestions for improvement. In the end, we spent six months, and countless hours, learning valuable lessons about sustainability and how to work collaboratively, as well as what it means to be a mission-driven business seeking continual improvement.
After graduating from Antioch, I began working at Badger, full of hope, inspiration, and excitement. I now work in Marketing and have continued the sustainability work started by my team’s project. As a member of the Sustainability Committee, I collaborate with colleagues to engage employees as stakeholders through initiatives that connect them to overarching issues and themes. Recently, we conducted our second-ever waste audit with awesome results (check out our blog to learn more! http://www.badgerbalm.com/blog/talking-trash-waste-audits-badger/2016/). We also launched a yearlong campaign to engage and educate employees on sustainable sourcing, starting with a week of activities leading up to Earth Day to promote awareness.
As a grad student, I had a meaningful conversation with a colleague that really stuck with me. She said that sometimes, being a part of a work culture that is aligned with your values is more important than the actual day-to-day work you’re doing. I took that advice to heart, and am so glad I did! I am now part of a company that sees the world as it could be, not how it is, and strives to get closer to a communal vision for a healthier world. I have been working for this remarkable company for just over a year now, and I am both impressed and inspired by all that I have seen. It’s amazing what’s possible when a mission-driven company brings like-minded people together and empowers them to dream big and take action.
I’ve come a long way since that day in my kitchen talking with friends over dish soap about making meaningful purchases. Likewise, Badger continues to look for ways to improve as a company, doing what I most wanted to be a part of, being the change we want to see in the world.
Photos: 1) Graduation from Antioch with my parents; 2) gardens at Badger; 3) Sustainability Committee at Badger; 4) Waste audit in action