2020 has been a year to forget, and to remember. It has tested us, tested our health, tested our beliefs, tested our families, tested our businesses, tested our livelihoods, tested our nation and tested our planet.
At first, COVID-19 forced us to pause– forced us to drive less, fly less, move less. The toxic 24/7 lifestyle was no longer “in style” or acceptable. It also forced our planet to pause. As a result, birds chirped more and fish swam in clearer waters. NASA images revealed clearer skies and cleaner air in many of the world’s most polluted cities. The silver lining. As chaotic as the world became with sirens echoing through the streets of cities and towns, we also became a nation in a state of meditation. A state of reflection. A state of renewal.
The death of George Floyd was certainly not the first death of an unarmed person of color in the United States this year, but the message was somehow clearer this time as we all had the time to pause and to see and hear him suffer and die.We listened more carefully to the words “I cannot breathe” and heard his pain as he called out to his dead mother. Why did we listen this time? Was it due to the fact that we had cleared our minds of lesser priorities and had the time and space to listen? Like the skies over New Delhi that now reveal the beautiful mountains in the horizon, had we cleared our minds just enough of the clutter and nonsense and were able to hear his words, like we are now able to hear the chirping of the birds and the buzzing of the bees? The sight and cries of pain from George Floyd echoed more powerfully in our minds and in our souls this time, and urged us to do more. To change. To listen. To make a difference. To make a better tomorrow for our children and their children. For everyone’s children.
Just as our planet has cried from years of misuse and abuse, the cries of George Floyd made us stop to look at our past and current sins as a nation and the inequity we had created. The death of George Floyd became “the moment”; the moment we woke up and realized that life was precious and his pain became our pain as a nation. Enough. Enough is enough.
How can we evolve? How can we change the systemic inequities in our nation? How can we learn how to treat each other and the planet equitably and how all deserve to be treated? Where has The Golden Rule gone? Can it be recaptured? To indoctrinate and legitimize all that we desire for this world and this nation? The connection between the environment and social justice is inherent and intertwined. Why is it that the sewage treatment plants end up in our most underserved communities and then we ask why the health issues are more pervasive and why more people of color and people in poverty are dying at a higher rate of COVID-19? How is it that our most in need end up with the worst healthcare coverage? How is it that the largest percentage of individuals affected by COVID-19 come from our most underserved populations? How is it that community youth programs are cut where they are most needed and, in those same communities, incarcerations of people of color are at their highest? Why are these connections not seen, or if they are seen, they are ignored? Why do folks turn a blind eye to this endemic racism and mistreatment of individuals who are brothers, sons, fathers, daughters, sisters and mothers? Why are we afraid to face these vulnerabilities of our nation? The dis-ease of our planet is reflected in the poor health of the most vulnerable among us. Our mistreatment of our planet has had direct reflection in the disease of our people through COVID-19 and through the dis-ease of racial and economic inequity. Our planet, along with George Floyd and so many more, are screaming “I cannot breathe.”
How can we make the most of this time of reflection, pause and make a difference? We can take time to assess our own beliefs, our family’s beliefs. As they are so intertwined, what changes can we make to treat the planet and others with more respect? How can we tackle it all?
Coincidentally, I began a new position as a consultant for Impact Growth Partners in February 2020, just before COVID-19 hit and just before the world turned upside down. Fortunately, this position is inherently virtual, so Zoom became my friend well before it befriended the entire world. As a consultant helping companies achieve B Corp status, all of my interests and beliefs seemed to come together and I actually began to feel like I could make a difference in this world and for our planet. Since B Corp certification requires a sincere commitment to and reevaluation of both environmental and social issues and demands proof of such through documentation and policies, it is not easy to achieve nor should be. It is not a greenwashing or an empty promise. It felt good to be doing something real, and it still does. In my humble opinion, I cannot think of a better (and more tangible and concrete) way to take a stand. To commit to ending social injustice in hiring. To commit to diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. To commit to nourishing the earth instead of depleting it. To look at all stakeholders, not just the traditional shareholders. Once and for all, realizing that profits are not the sole reason to exist. That money can’t buy happiness. That we are in this for the long haul and immediate satisfaction is yet temporary. We need to hear and to listen. Listen to the earth that hasn’t been breathing for years and is now feeling its lungs. And, listen to all of the George Floyds who have not been able to breathe for years, and to those who have had their lives ended in such a violent manner.
If there were a personal assessment we could each take that would allow us to see how we are doing with our life plan, it should look like a B Corp assessment. It would ask us 200-300 questions about our lives. How are we treating ourselves? Our families? Our neighbors? Our fellow citizens? Our global neighbors? Our world? Our planet? How would we score? How would you score?
In the meantime, the B Corp assessment helps companies of all sizes do this. How do we treat ourselves? Our staff? Our staff’s families? Our surrounding communities? Our less fortunate? The underserved? Our environment? Our world? How do we choose our suppliers? Are they equally committed to treating others equitably and taking care of the environment?
Profit in a business becomes irrelevant should all of the above not be nurtured. COVID-19 and the recent awakening regarding racial inequality have both been wake up calls for our generation. What role will we play in the future of this planet? Are we, as individuals, going to be on the sidelines or are we going to be participants in the solutions? The same can be said of businesses. Are we going to watch our world be destroyed, and be a witness to future inequities or are we going to create policies and procedures that are catalysts for change? Joining the B Corp movement helps create the structure and community needed to make a difference across all areas of change that are needed. If all companies were to strive to achieve these goals, this world would be in a very different place.
The actual process of going through the assessment forces the CEO/Founder/senior management to really stop and reassess the company’s purpose, mission, and goals. This pause strengthens a company. Policies are reevaluated, adjusted and communicated with the staff, suppliers and customers. As these relationships become stronger, they remain that way (or even improve) during more trying times. Customers, staff and suppliers remain loyal and support the company during these challenges. A B Corp certified company is secure in its mission and clearer in its goals. It is more apt to weather the storms that we are confronting today. The leaders feel more confident steering the ship through the storm, so to speak.
Formerly, a project like achieving B Corp Certification could easily be put on the back burner, to be dealt with when “there is time.” There is no more time to waste, and no more time to wait. Join the movement. Whether as an individual, family, business, community, or world.
Pause. Listen. Act. Make a difference. Stand up for the environment. Let it breathe. Lift your knee and let George Floyd and his future generations breathe and live–fully. Give our future a chance to thrive and let the skies clear for all on this planet. Once and for all. Now is the time.