A property development and hospitality leader explains the rationale behind 'doing well by doing good.'
As the buying power of millennials and Generation Z increases, buzzwords like “conscious capitalism” and “triple bottom line” — people, planet, profits — have begun to shape business strategy for many companies.
Mindful of younger consumers’ desire to support brands that go the extra mile to do good deeds for society and not just make money, some companies have sought certification as B Corporations. The B Corp movement aims to create a global business community made of firms that equate profit with purpose. B Corporation certification is a private certification issued to for-profit companies by B Lab, a global nonprofit organization.
"The marketplace has shifted … the younger generations have a demand for this type of business.” Jared Meyers, founder of Salt Palm Development and Legacy Vacation Resorts
Nearly 2,700 companies — including household names such as Ben & Jerry’s and outdoor clothing maker Patagonia Inc. — spanning 150 industries and 60 countries have tweaked their business practices to conform to B Corp standards, which promote causes like carbon neutrality and a living wage for all workers.
Locally, Salt Palm Development and Legacy Vacation Club, both owned and operated by Jared Meyers, are joining the ranks of B Corporations. About four years ago, when he got into real estate development, “I started thinking about how I could use my business to make a positive impact on society,” Meyers says.
As he became more educated about the B Corp movement, Meyers realized it made sense from a purely business perspective. “It isn’t just a feel-good thing,” he says. “It causes your business to thrive, because the marketplace has shifted … the younger generations have a demand for this type of business.”
So how did he convert his companies to B Corporations and continue to succeed with them?
First of all, there’s an impact assessment that requires companies to rate various parts of their operation in accordance with a scale set forth by B Lab. As a hospitality company with many minimum-wage workers and staff members who rely on tips, Legacy Vacation Club, which operates family resorts in Florida, Colorado, New Jersey and Nevada, didn’t score well in the living-wage category, so Meyers spent about $300,000 on employee raises to meet B Lab’s standard.
That sounds like a big self-inflicted wound, but Meyers sees it differently — and plans to exploit it as a marketing strategy.
“I very much believe that we will see revenue growth; we will see a new class of traveler that we don’t currently get at our properties — the traveler who cares about social responsibility and environmental responsibility. Others that we trust within the B Corp and conscious capitalism community have said this works.”
Salt Palm Development, which created the high-tech Sabal Smart Homes townhouse development in downtown St. Petersburg, is proof that B Corp status can pay off. At nearly $4 million in gross revenue, 2018 was the company’s best year to date, and Meyers says he already has sales on the books for 2019 that amount to 60% of last year’s total. B Corp status, he says, “comes up in sales conversations, and people say, ‘I love it; it’s great.’”
B Corp certification also requires payment of annual dues that can range from $500 to more than $50,000, depending on gross annual revenue and company structure. There’s also a recertification audit process that occurs every three years, and B Corporations are required to submit an annual report that’s available to the public.
“The more you are willing to divulge, the more it will help your score,” Meyers says. “And you’ll do better as a business because we’re in a world today where people really want and expect more transparency. The Internet's done a great job of that.”