B Corp Champions Retreat

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Inclusiveness won North Carolina the global B Corp Champions Retreat. HB2 lost it. 

Yesterday, the Pennsylvania-based nonprofit that certifies businesses based on social and environmental impact announced it would halt plans to hold its four-day retreat for B Corps and their employees in the Triangle this October. B Lab had expected 550 people to visit the region from around the world, and to host a street fair and showcase of local B Corps for the broader community.

But what got B Lab to choose our region for the event—Durham's Black Wall Street heritage and commitment to minority inclusion, the work of Self Help to create access to capital and the commitment of businesses to revitalization and development without government support—wasn't enough to overcome a law that B Lab believes is against its values and mission of supporting business practices that create positive impact. 

B Corp festival
The B Corps Champions Retreat typically includes a street festival to showcase local B Corps. Credit: B Lab
In fact, this year's retreat was themed around inclusion, "what we need to bridge across different individuals in order to create what we hope is going to be a truly shared and durable prosperity," says Vale Jokisch, director of services for B Lab.

"We saw a lot of that and continue to see a lot of that reflected in the community of North Carolina," she added. But B Lab views the law as unfriendly to the LGBT community, stripping the civil rights of people to file anti-discrimination lawsuits and eliminating the right of cities to support living wages. 

Still, the decision was not made in haste, says Vokisch, who has worked with about 60 local representatives to coordinate the retreat. Those people, many who are owners and employees of North Carolina's 36 B Corps or the 180 companies interested in or working through the certification, rallied for 18 months to get the Champions Retreat in North Carolina. 

The Triangle demonstrates to B Labs why it should host the 2016 B Champions Retreat; Video Credit: NC B Corps
B Lab surveyed its global community of nearly 1700 certified B Corps and got feedback from more than 300 of them that the event should be withdrawn but that they should rally to support North Carolina B Corps in getting their voices heard by the North Carolina Legislature.

Then, a Global Governance Council convened over the weekend with the B Lab Board of Directors to make a decision. According to a statement circulated yesterday, the B Corp community's "engagement is as important as its withdrawal." 

It's the first time the organization has taken a stance on a political matter that doesn't involve getting benefit corporation recognized by state governments as a corporate structure.

"We have an unbelievably engaged community and nowhere has that been more evident than in the response for global input on what to do about North Carolina," Vokisch says. "That group wants to lean in and support the North Carolina B Corps in bridging this issue which we think is going to be critical to creating inclusivity."

Engagement will happen in a variety of ways. B Lab will support local B Corps in communicating with legislators—Bull City Burger & Brewery had quick contact with Durham Mayor Bill Bell, who led his council to oppose the bill and call for its repeal. It may also send representatives to the legislature when it reconvenes April 25. And members are likely to support the efforts of other businesses, arts and sports organizations against the bill. 

"We are looking to determine the best path forward with the advice of the local B Corp community", Vokisch says. 

If they and others are successful in getting HB2 repealed by June 30, the Champions Retreat is back on. But new plans are already taking shape for regional conferences or another city, if not.