The Synergy Company has been making organic wellness supplements in the Moab area since the 1990s. This summer, the company obtained a B Corporation certification, a designation that indicates a business’s high standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
“We’ve always prioritized community, customers, employees and the environment from the very beginning,” said Synergy CEO Thatcher Vagts in an Oct. 5 press release from the company.
The B Corp certification was the brainchild of three friends who left careers in business and private equity in 2006 to form a nonprofit organization that would make it easier for companies to protect and improve their positive impacts, according to the B Corp website, bcorporation.net. The organization maintains nonprofit analysis labs in Pennsylvania, New York, and Amsterdam, where “standards analysts” evaluate businesses applying for the B Corp certification. The website says there now are over 3,500 certified B Corporations, spread across more than 70 countries; The Synergy Company is the only one listed in Moab, though there are eight in Utah. Well-known brands that have earned B Corps status include Patagonia and Ben&Jerry’s.
“B Corps are a great way to formalize a company’s commitment to a purpose beyond profit maximization,” said Grand County Economic Development Director August Granath, explaining that the designation “creates legal accountability for a company’s social and environmental goals and requires transparent reporting of actual impacts.”
To become a B Corp, a company must complete a B Impact Assessment, a questionnaire with about 200 questions about the company’s impact on its workers, community, environment, and customers, as well as about its governance structure and accountability. Questions include: “Separate from a mission statement, what has your company done to legally ensure that its social or environmental performance is a part of its decision-making over time, regardless of company ownership?” and “Does your company monitor, record, or report its energy usage?” A company must score at least 80 points out of a possible 200 to qualify for B Corp certification. The standards for qualification are developed by a council of independent experts in business and academia, according to the B Corp website. The Synergy Company scores 93.8; most companies score between 40 and 100 points, according to the B Impact Assessment website.
Analysts review B Impact Assessment answers and request documents from the company for verification. Analysts may also conduct background checks on companies, reviewing things like public records, news sources, and other relevant items.
“The certification process was hard and at times nerve-racking,” says The Synergy Company’s website. “Genuinely and authentically facing oneself in the mirror can be tough, and it was for us too.”
Certified B Corporations must be legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their stakeholders, and putting this into practice sometimes requires a restructuring for some companies.
The Synergy Company fulfills the legal requirement by being a benefit corporation, which is similar to the B Corp certification. A benefit corporation is legally empowered to pursue positive stakeholder impact alongside profit. In contrast, a traditional C corporation is bound to operate for the best interest of the corporation, which is usually interpreted to mean, for the most profit. The Synergy Company converted from a limited liability company to a benefit limited liability company at the beginning of this year.
The Synergy Company has pursued high environmental standards prior to the B Corp designation, including offsetting more than 100% of its electricity consumption with wind and solar power, according to the press release. Even with the progress made, company officials say there’s room to improve.
“While our company has always tried to live its values and move toward our vision of perfection, we also acknowledge that our business represents a long journey,” says the Synergy website, describing the B Impact Assessment process. “Pulling back the window shades on all aspects of our business performance was enlightening. Not only did it reveal a lot of opportunity for improvement, but it also gave us great confidence in celebrating how far we’ve come as a small business.”
Zacharia Levine, director of corporate development and social responsibility for The Synergy Company, outlined some of those opportunities for improvement revealed by the assessment in an email to the Moab Sun News. For example, Levine said,
“There were many areas of social and environmental performance that we had long committed significant resources towards but were not collecting data to report on them. The [B Impact Assessment] was very helpful in pushing us to measure what matters.” Using qualitative measures for things like greenhouse gas emissions and waste production, or community donations, “makes as much sense as measuring sales and revenue,” Levine wrote.
The assessment also helped The Synergy Company in codifying guidelines for corporate governance to reflect its core values, and “greatly informed our current conversations about achieving one of The Synergy Company’s main business pillars – offering meaningful work experiences and supporting the holistic well-being of our most important assets,” Levine said.
Granath praised the company’s direction, saying, “Synergy has been a leading example of corporate social responsibility in our community… I hope that Synergy’s B Corp certification is an inspiration, and can become a source of education, to other like minded businesses and entrepreneurs in the area.”
Vagts said The Synergy Company will continue to evolve and maintain community, worker, and environmental benefit as part of its mission. The B Corp certification requires that the company reassess every three years, and the B Corp standards will be updated to reflect the latest technologies and practices.
“This is what The Synergy Company has been for 28 years. We want to continue being a powerful player in the world of organic manufacturing, as well as a force for good,” said Vagts.