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Today there are 2,310 companies in over 50 countries and across 130 industries listed as Certified B Corps, including major corporations like Ben & Jerry’s, New Belgium, Patagonia, and Etsy. However, there are currently very few B Corp distilleries. Lyle Estill, CEO of FAIR GAME BEVERAGE COMPANY in Pittsboro, NC, says his distillery had B Corp certification written into the business plan before opening in 2012. “I’ve been active in the B Corp community for about as long as there has been a B Corp community,” he says, starting with his first company, Piedmont Biofuels in 2004. He even helped hone the assessment questions, largely through his complaints about them, he jokes. Fair Game is an environmentally friendly distillery that gets ingredients from nearby organic farms and has a 100kW solar array on site. As familiar as he is with the certification process, some aspects are daunting. “You have to have six months of revenue before [B Lab] will even talk to you, so we were one year in before we certified,” details Estill. Despite the lengthy process, it isn’t all encompassing. “You work on it and then you set it aside,” says Estill, “and then you work on in and then you set it aside, and then you fight about it, and then you agree up on it, get past that hurdle, and then set it aside. Then you throw the ball over to [B Lab] and they’re not exactly speed demons. I would say it was a six month process.” For Estill, Fair Game’s B Corp status is a huge opportunity. “It’s a sales tool because B Corps like to buy from other B Corps and therefore we have lots of direct relationships as a result. We have about 40 B Corps in our neck of the woods and we get together for parties and meetings. If I host a B Corp evening in my tasting room, 90 people to show up.” Estill says the biggest challenge to becoming and staying certified is “pushing it to the far corners of the company.” His goal is to make sure the entire workforce understands why Fair Game does what it does. “If the corner office people are sitting around talking about their carbon footprint, is that discussion making it to the truck driver that is using most of the carbon in the company?” Estill asks. “He’s the one who decides if he idles his engine or not.” Estill strongly recommends every business take the assessment. “The wonderful thing about doing the B Lab assessment is the self-discovery that goes along with that. Everybody should do it, whether they’re going to certify or not. It teaches you a lot about your company.” Distilleries are some of the most forward-thinking industries in the country using locally sourced ingredients and equipment, creating employee-owned corporations, and donating time, materials and profits into local communities. So why aren’t there more? Becoming a certified B Corp means being subjected to rigorous scrutiny and undergoing a lengthy investigative process that takes time and money, both precious commodities for distillers. Karen Hoskin of MONTANYA DISTILLERS in Crested Butte, Colorado, is currently in the certification process. She started in February of this year and hopes to have certification in November, WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM
Published on Dec 14, 2017