While the business world is becoming more centered on sustainability and positive impacts, it is still incredibly hard to know how to do good every day. With no hard and fast rules, no black and white standards, navigating the world of business impact is difficult and confusing. However, this week, the CESR team had the opportunity to speak with Sarah Reice. Reice is a Leeds alumna and Social Responsibility and Ethics Certificate graduate whose job at B Lab, a nonprofit that supports the movement of people using business as a force for good, forces her to contemplate the questions surrounding business impacts every day.
The SRE Certificate’s Impact
Reice graduated from the Leeds School of Business with a degree in Finance and an SRE Certificate in May 2018 and credits this combination with giving her education meaning and a mission in life. “Without the SRE Certificate, I feel like I would have settled with being good at math and working in finance and I probably would have never felt like there was any passion behind that,” she said.
“The SRE Certificate opened my eyes to the ways business can be utilized in different capacities to reflect what your passion is. For example, it showed me that there are a lot of different ways to incorporate numbers into something that is better for the world, rather than the common perception that finance is a greedy industry,” Reice said.
After graduation, Reice began working at Fidelity Investments, but she soon realized that she wasn’t happy because she felt she wasn’t achieving the impact she wanted. She began looking into jobs on LinkedIn, where she has gotten every single job she’s ever had, and searched buzzwords related to what she had learned in CESR, such as impact investing and social responsibility. In her searches, Reice came across a posting for B Lab, an organization she was familiar with due to her experience filling out the B Impact Assessment when she was in BCOR Applied Semester Experience, a Leeds course. By an act of fate or coincidence, Reice’s final interview was conducted by Matt Nabhan, her now manager and fellow Leeds alum and SRE graduate
As a Standards Analyst at B Lab, Reice’s job is centered around the B Impact Assessment, which measures a company’s impact on its customers, employees, community, and the environment. Using these metrics, Reice is able to show companies how they compare with others, and diagnose areas where they can improve to better their impact. After taking this assessment, companies can pursue B Corporation Certification, which proves the business is meeting the highest standards, considering impacts on all stakeholders when making decisions, and building these objectives into its legal structure. Reice’s favorite part of her job is that she is always questioning how to make something better - whether it be considering how best to reflect industries in the B Impact Assessment or if they would certify businesses coming from certain industries. She feels she is able to learn, grow, and improve in this process of constant questioning, which she feels positively affects both her work and her expertise.
B Lab’s Impact
B Lab’s movement, called the B Economy, is about creating an economy that is the best for the world, the people living in it, and the natural environment.
“I’m fully realizing that to be a part of the B Economy means to be accepting of all people that are trying to make a change,” Reice said. “We try to bring anyone and everyone that has some part of their business model reflect sustainability into our community. The B Economy is about being inclusive and that no impact is too small or ignored.”
B Lab is also working to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in its own operations and across the B Economy through the Inclusive Economy Challenge. This Challenge invites B Corps to set ambitious goals related to improving inclusion in their own operations, and supports the companies that are participating.
“My education at Leeds taught me some valuable lessons, like being confident not only in what I know, but being confident in what I don’t know, as well,” she said. By having professors who make students feel okay with not knowing everything, students are able to accept that they’re not experts in all realms. “When you’re at your job and someone asks you something you don’t know, it is far better to tell them that you don’t know, rather than misleading them with false information, because you’ll lose your credibility and their trust.”
Reice also emphasized the importance of using peers and asking for help, something that is heavily promoted at Leeds. Along with this collaboration, Reice advises students to always be accepting and open to new ideas and people. “You never know what someone could bring to the table that could create a new solution to a problem,” she said.
“Keep your passion,” she advised those trying to work in the B Economy. “Even though you won’t have those traditional paths and internships like you see in finance or accounting, remember that it will all fall into place.”
Like most alumni, Reice advised building your network. “People will remember you and try to help, especially when you’re invested and passionate. And even though they might seem busy, all the professors, mentors, speakers, and recruiters at Leeds want to help and aren’t too busy to do so,” she said.
“Keep in mind that you vote with your dollar when you buy a product,” Reice said. “Every time you make a purchase or you engage in a service, you are putting your vote in for that practice. You are saying that you support that business and its practices.” This is how every person can contribute to the B Economy. “For example, if I go to Starbucks every day and buy a plastic cup and coffee, that means I am making a vote to further the plastic industry because I am supporting them monetarily. But, if I go to Starbucks with my own reusable cup, that prevents my dollars, and thus my vote, from going into the plastics industry.”
Reice said she wants us to understand that our everyday actions hold a great deal of power and responsibility and that we must look into the businesses and we purchase from and their practices to see if they uphold our values.
Learn more about CESR’s connection with B Lab by reading up on the SDG Navigator. This impactful research project will form the basis of a new tool that will make it easier for companies to see how their actions are helping to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.