The CEO of Cabot Creamery on Beating Sustainability Benchmarks

A decade ago, when I first heard the term “B Corp”—a designation for companies that commit to pursuing not just profits but also purpose—I was skeptical. At the time, I was CFO of Cabot Creamery, one of the largest dairy cooperatives in the United States, and a great many questions ran through my head: Was this just another certification—like the Real milk seal and the Real Vermont seal that we’d already earned? Would the customers who bought our cheese and other products really care about this new label? What kind of burden would it place on our farmers, who, owing to our cooperative structure, were also our shareholders? How much work would it create for employees? How much would it cost us—up front and on an annual basis? And why on earth was it called a B Corp when it could be an A? That made the whole thing sound second-rate.

Roberta MacDonald, Cabot’s marketing chief, was the one who introduced me to the concept. She explained that becoming a B Corp meant serving not just shareholders but also the environment, one’s community, employees, and consumers. We would need to score above a certain level on a range of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) measures outlined by B Lab, a nonprofit founded in 2006 to promote the growth of mission-driven companies. For us, that would involve ensuring that our farms, factories, and distribution channels were low-waste and energy-efficient and that our animals were well treated; supporting the towns and cities in which we operated; providing a healthful workplace and fair benefits to our employees; and caring deeply about our products and customers.

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