November 30th, 2019
Behind the “B”
When Taos Ski Valley decided that our future lay in being better, not bigger, we knew we’d need some guidance to ensure we evolved as a business, and even more importantly, as a force for good in our community. This led us to B Labs, the non-profit agency responsible for overseeing B Corporation certification globally. In the process, we became North America’s first mountain resort to earn certified B Corp™ status, though it wasn’t quite as easy as that sounds.
“‘Rigorous’ is how I’d describe it,” laughs Dawn Boulware, Taos Ski Valley’s Chief Administrative Officer. “It’s not like you just sit down for a couple of hours and fly through the questions.” That’s because the assessment includes 200 questions, each intended to help the applicant take measure of their performance in five key areas: Community, customers, environment, governance, and workers. A corporation that scores at least 80 on a scale from 0-200 qualifies for B Corp certification (for context, businesses that have not incorporated B Corp™-friendly practices typically score around 50). There are currently just over 3,000 certified B Corps™ globally.
Taos Ski Valley first earned B Corp™ Certification in 2017, joining a growing list of companies - including Patagonia and Ben and Jerry’s - that have pledged themselves to work toward benefits (that’s what the “B” stands for: Benefit) greater than the fiscal bottom line. “These are businesses that are still for-profit, but have a deeper level of purpose and transparency,” explains Andy Fyfe, of B Labs’ community development team. “Certification is really intended to help lift up companies that are walking the walk, and want to do business in a way that recognizes that it’s possible to be for-profit and have a serious mission to do good for the environment and for their employees.”
At Taos Ski Valley, B Corp™ certification has ushered in a wide array of initiatives that improve equity across the workplace, support the environment, create new opportunities for numerous community groups, foster a vibrant local economy, reduce waste, and so much more (we’ll explore many of these projects in further posts).
Additionally, B Corp™ certification has helped foster an environment and ethos in which fresh thinking and new ideas aren’t merely encouraged, but actively cultivated, explains Boulware. “I can’t tell you how often someone comes to me and says ‘hey, maybe we could be doing this’ or ‘hey, have you heard about this other B Corp™ that does this really cool thing?’” It’s exactly this culture of thinking outside-the-box and willingness to always be learning and evolving that Boulware says is so valuable about B Corp™ Certification. “You know, we don’t have this all figured out. We’re not doing this perfectly. But now we have a compass to help guide us through this really complex business environment, and now we have this really transparent environment where everyone at Taos feels empowered to bring ideas to the table.”
Plus, explains Boulware, earning certification has immersed Taos in a community of B Corps™ that continually pushes one another to evolve. “It really helps to have this community of like-minded businesses supporting and pushing us in a positive direction. They’re influencing us, even as we hope to be influencing others. We’d really like to be part of building a movement in the ski industry.” And while Taos Ski Valley isn’t taking credit, it’s worth noting that one of the most recent companies to earn B Corp™ certification is none other than Burton Snowboards.
After nearly three years of certification, Taos Ski Valley is approaching its certification renewal date in February, 2020. For months. Boulware and her colleagues have been hard at work, in hopes of not only earning recertification, but improving on the resort’s assessment score, and thus demonstrating that Taos is meeting our goal of becoming better, not bigger. “I would love for people to understand that this is a process,” says Boulware. “There’s no finish line, no point at which we can sit back and say ‘you know what? We’re done.’ Our number one intention is to be a business that is always working as a force for good in this community. And I don’t think we can ever do too much of that.”