As certifications and claims flood the industry, it can be difficult for a retailer to know how to differentiate. Instead of adding to the white noise, Emily Kanter, second generation owner-in-training at Massachusetts-based Cambridge Naturals, decided to put her store’s mission of serving both stakeholders and society to the test. Today, after a rigorous assessment and acceptance process, Cambridge Naturals is proud to be a B Corp.
NFM: What motivated your store to become a B Corp?
Emily Kanter: Becoming a B Corp seemed like a lengthy and expensive process, and we were initially skeptical of the value. Ultimately, the selling point for us was the fact that we would gain access to a network of B Corps and become part of a new community with a lot of momentum. We’d get the opportunity to benchmark ourselves alongside other businesses in our local community, our industry and across the globe—and that was invaluable.
NFM: What was the assessment process like?
EK: It was a rigorous and very holistic process that took us about two weeks on an accelerated plan—if we weren’t accelerated, I imagine it could take a few months. The first step, a 200-question survey, tasked us with examining every aspect of our business from governance and ownership to how we treat our employees, the kinds of products we sell, the types of energy we use and beyond. We have more than 17,000 products, so going through each one, as well as determining which suppliers and products are themselves certified in some way, was a big challenge. It’s one thing to have a relationship with our brands, but it’s quite another to delve this deep. In the end, though, this step helped us understand our products better than we ever have before. The process also includes a phone interview as well as a follow-up questionnaire in which you need to provide proof for each answer. Instead of scaring us off, this actually appealed to us because we wanted to be part of a group that was really doing the due diligence.
NFM: How does being a B Corp help your natural products store?
EK: Especially in this industry, we’re faced with significant competition that uses the word “local” or claims such as “doing business the right way.” There’s also a lot of greenwashing going on. Becoming a B Corp was a way for us to differentiate ourselves and say we are willing to have a third party come in and prove we are doing things the right way. It confirms we are honoring our quadruple bottom line of people, planet, purpose and profit—it makes the statement that we are not just here to make a profit, but to actually improve our community and the world. Going forward, certification will help keep Cambridge Naturals on track. When we became a Certified B Corp, we added into our bylaws that our business will always hold the purpose of “doing good” at the core of its mission. As ownership transitions to my generation—the second generation—and beyond, this ensures the store will never stray from the model we’ve created.