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Gilsum company working for profit — and the environment

Union Leader Correspondent

July 06. 2014 10:03PM
W.S. Badger Co. in Gilsum has several programs that make life easier for employees, like offering an organic lunch five days a week and a bring your baby to work program to help mother's with infants. Employee Sara Yager holds a co-workers baby during lunch at the company. (MEGHAN PIERCE/Union Leader Correspondent)

GILSUM — W.S. Badger Co. hopes to become a “benefit corporation,” under a new state distinction for companies that have a proven commitment to environmental and social initiatives.

The new distinction would allow companies to be held to state regulations set out for a “benefit corporation,” which fit somewhere between state regulations for nonprofits and for-profit companies, said Rebecca Hamilton, Badger director of product development.

Under current regulations, a business has to maximize profits or be held accountable to shareholders, Hamilton said.

Being a benefit corporation allows a business to follow its own social and environmental goals, while still working for profit.

“We’re not just returning earnings to shareholders and maximizing profits, we have another mission,” Hamilton said. “It’s basically a social and environmental benefit beyond the legal purpose of a business, which is to maximize profits and returning earnings to shareholders. It ensures the business adheres to a triple bottom line.”

Hamilton is the daughter of owners Bill Whyte and Katie Schwerin-Whyte. The 19-year-old family owned company has strived to make life better for its employees, by creating a family-friendly business culture, she said.

Five days a week, employees are invited to share in an organic lunch prepared on campus for them.

The company also offers subsidized childcare and a babies-at-work policy that allows employees with a child under 6-months-old to work from home or bring their baby to work.

“We do have a big focus on children. We do, as a company, believe that children are the responsibility of the community and not just the parents and a business should be a pillar in the community,” Hamilton said.

Being held to benefit corporation standards also means that the next generation in the family business can’t shift a company’s focus from its mission, Hamilton said.

New Hampshire is just one of many states that have already or are considering adopting a benefit corporation law.

A few years ago, Badger was audited by the Pennsylvania-based nonprofit B Lab and, after meeting several social and environmental, accountability and transparency standards, earned the title certified B Corp.

This certification can serve to verify its benefit corporation status to the state once the New Hampshire law passes, Hamilton said.

B Lab’s goal is to redefine business and establish a standard by which these businesses can be held accountable. B Lab currently has more than 1,000 certified B Corpsin 33 countries, in more than 60 industries.

“B Corp is to business what fair trade certification is to coffee or USDA organic certification is to milk,” according to B Lab.

B Lab keeps track of the businesses and lets consumers know how the company scores on the different standards.

“Right now, a lot of people feel confused in the marketplace. There’s a lot of green washing,” Hamilton said.

“It helps to give companies a really authentic standing, ‘We are doing what we say we are doing.’” Badger hopes to be able to apply for benefit corporation status in the coming months.

“Sen. Molly Kelly has really taken this on. The New Hampshire State Senate passed it, and the House of Representatives passed it. We’re just waiting for the governor’s signature.”

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