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120 Companies Win 'Best for the World' Ranking

Business

While many businesses get a bad reputation for putting profit above everything, including the survival of the planet, others are starting to think differently. B Lab is a nonprofit organization that encourages businesses to consider the welfare of their employees, their communities and the environment as well as their bottom line, certifying businesses as "B Corporations."

B Lab honors the top-performing companies among its certified "B Corporations," all of whom are striving to be socially and environmentally responsible. Photo Credit: B Lab

"These companies use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems and have met rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency," B Lab says. It describes itself as the equivalent of Fair Trade for coffee or USDA Organic certification for milk, separating companies that are merely marketing themselves as socially and environmentally friendly from those that are doing the actual work.

One of the ways it encourages its member companies to maintain these high standards is through its annual Best for the World awards, now in their fourth year. The awards recognize the companies that had the most positive social and economic impact in the past year. The list honored 120 of its 1,200 member B Corporations in the overall category as well as in categories for worker, community and environmental impact, citing a total of 350 companies among the various categories. They represent the top 10 percent of B Corporations for each category.

In the Best for the Environment category, 116 companies were cited, up from 84 last year. They ranged from sole proprietorships and micro-enterprises (one to nine employees) to mid-sized businesses (more than 50 employees) like California's Falcon Waterfree Technologies and Method Products, and Vermont's Seventh Generation. Though most were in the U.S., they also came from countries such as Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Colombia, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Kenya and China. And while many are involved directly in sustainability services and products such as renewable energy or waste management, the list also include companies whose business is travel, apparel, personal care, IT, sporting goods, travel, and food and beverage, but who see a connection between environmental sustainability and the core business.

Among the companies honored in the environment category was Fort Collins, Colorado's New Belgium Brewing Company, the third largest craft brewery in the U.S. The employee-owned, mid-sized business has been on the Best for the Environment list for the past three years, thanks to what B Lab describes as its "near-obsession with waste reduction, energy savings and water usage." Both its original Colorado brewery and the one it's building in Asheville, North Carolina are reclaimed brownfield sites.

“We have an additional program where we tax ourselves for all the additional, non-renewable energy we buy,” said New Belgium's assistant director of sustainability Katie Wallace. “We put the money toward our future renewable energy projects. We actually opened up a portion of that tax fund and are inviting our coworkers to submit their ideas for how to use that money. Many of our best ideas come from our coworkers in the brewery and warehouse," said Wallace. "By committing to involving them, we get so much more than we would if it were just a few of us up here at our desks.”

Wallace pointed out that New Belgium operates with an awareness that conserving and protecting environmental resources has a direct impact on the future and sustainability of its business model and its profitability.

“From a business perspective, we see that our resources that provide our livelihood, like water, are drastically affected by things like climate change and drought and mismanagement," she said. "Half of our water comes from the Colorado River, and there’s a business risk to being dependent on that. By reducing the water we consume, we’re also reducing our risk.”

The business with the highest environmental score was Maine's Atayne, a high-performance sportswear and outdoor apparel company. All its clothes are made with 100 percent recycled or organic materials, what it describes as "athlete gear made from trash."

"We became a B Corp because we didn't like the story that was being written by most of the business community," says company founder Jeremy Litchfield. "It was an easy decision to join the movement to write a new one."

“Today's honorees inspire all companies to compete not only to be best in the world, but best for the world," said B-Lab co-founder Jay Coen Gilbert. "We hope many will take the first step by using the B Impact Assessment to measure and manage their impact with as much rigor as their profit."

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.

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