East Fork Is A Certified B Corporation
We join nearly 4,000 mission-driven companies here in the United States and around the world that have made a commitment to making decisions that lead to positive impacts on their employees, customers, suppliers, community and the environment.
East Fork has become a certified B Corporation, joining nearly 4,000 mission-driven companies here in the United States and around the world that have made a commitment to making decisions that lead to positive impacts on their employees, customers, suppliers, community and the environment.
East Fork has been a values-centered business since day one. Paying our employees a living wage so that they build a foundation of financial stability, partnering with nonprofit and grassroots organizations to help raise awareness and funds for their liberation and equity work, along with measuring, reducing and offsetting our operations’ carbon footprint are some of the commitments we’ve made to be more than just a business that makes pottery and money.
After a two-year evaluation process, East Fork has become a certified B Corporation, joining nearly 4,000 mission-driven companies here in the United States and around the world that have made a commitment to making decisions that lead to positive impacts on their employees, customers, suppliers, community and the environment. You’ll likely recognize the names of other B Corp Certified brands like Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, New Belgium, Stumptown, Veja, Cabot, and you can search the directory to find a great many others, across industries and around the world. We are proud to be in their company and eager to learn from them and their efforts because B Corp Certification is no finish line. In fact, this process has given us a roadmap that will keep us innovating.
A nonprofit organization called B Lab administers B Corp certification from its offices in Berwyn, Pennsylvania, New York and Amsterdam. B Lab uses a free, confidential platform to assess a company’s operations and its business model. The standards are rigorous: of more than 100,000 businesses that have used the BCorp Impact Assessment test as a tool to help guide their business decisions, only 4,000 of those companies have actually scored well enough on the test to get certified. During East Fork’s assessment, the evaluators considered everything from the materials we use to make our pottery to our supply chain, from our charitable efforts to our employee benefits.
We found this process invaluable. We were finally able to quantify East Fork’s efforts to contribute to the greater good. Completing the assessment asked us questions that got us thinking about more initiatives we could undertake. And we got the great gift of discipline, knowing that every three years, B Lab will assess us again to measure our ongoing progress. This certification isn’t a laurel for resting upon, it’s a pledge to keep working for the betterment of everyone and everything our business touches.
To become B Corp Certified, businesses need to score at least 80 on the B Impact Assessment. We scored an 80.2. Barely made it! But in the time between submitting our assessment and receiving the score, we completed two new initiatives, which we’ll tell you about below. Next time around, our score may be higher because of them, but we have no plans to settle for that. Read on to learn what we’ve put in place and where we may focus our energy next.
Since its earliest days, East Fork’s wages have kept pace with the increasing cost of living in Buncombe County, North Carolina. We’ve long aspired to pay our employees more than merely adequately, though it took until mid-2020 for the company to turn even a modest profit. Now that we’ve had a few profitable quarters, we knew the time had come to increase our company-wide minimum wage to $20 and adjusted pay grades accordingly. This change will add an estimated $1.2 million to our annual expenses.
The B Corp assessment helped us see the fuller spectrum of the sustainability of that decision. We were asked to show the percentage of our employees who learn a living wage, which we felt good about. But we were also asked to show the percentage who earn a family living wage. This number was significantly lower. This got us thinking more critically about the other side of sustainability: not what increases to our payroll expenses do to the company’s bottom line, but what it means to each employee as they contemplate major life decisions like purchasing a home or cover the costs of taking care of other people.
B Lab shared with us a tool to help determine what a living wage is for a family here in our county: $22.20 per hour. That is where we are headed next.
Update: In 2022, we raised our starting wage to $22 per hour.
Down The Road
While completing our B Corp assessment, we also amended our company's legal documents to make it a requirement in perpetuity that whoever leads East Fork consider a wider group of stakeholders, including the environment and the community, in company decision-making. In so doing, we have found a path forward that will deepen our positive impact as we grow for decades to come.
B Lab’s comprehensive approach to evaluating the capacity of any company to contribute more to the social good of its employees, customers, community and the environment has given us far more to consider as we continue to operate East Fork. The assessment indicates that we’ve got room to improve in lots of areas: we don't have an employee ownership structure in place currently, nor do we offer short or long term disability coverage with our health insurance. Our ownership is 100% white. We don't bank with a mission-driven, independently or cooperatively owned financial institution, or hold all of our suppliers accountable to a code of conduct, nor do we buy 100% renewable energy. And we’ve got greenhouse gas emissions to reduce. The list goes on. The path that we take towards our next recertification will be guided by our internal B Corp committee, and we'll update you along the way as we choose what incremental steps to take next.