How does a business define its success? For Facilities Management Services (FMS), a new partner of New Roots and the Fresh Stop Markets, the concept of success is a bit more nuanced than just turning a profit. FMS, “Kentuckiana’s contract cleaning company,” is no ordinary corporation, you see. It is a B Corp Corporation, which means that it is “certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”
Scott Kolom, FMS CEO is the mover and shaker behind this new way of incorporating your business in the Commonwealth, and introduced the B Corp idea to state lawmakers. A bill was passed by the Kentucky General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin this past July, legally recognizing public benefit corporations.
“We went a little further by going after B Lab certification,” Kolom said. “It’s a stamp of approval by an outside certifying organization, which helps with transparency.”
There are more than 2,000 such companies worldwide that are certified by the nonprofit B Lab, including Ben and Jerry’s, Patagonia and Etsy. FMS is one of four in Kentucky. This year, Kolom, not satisfied with just moving his own company in this direction, recently organized the very first Public Benefit Corporation Alliance in the country, made up of for-profit, nonprofits and other interested parties.
So what does social accountability mean? One form of this accountability is seen in how a corporation treats its frontline workers. According to company leaders, “FMS operates from the belief that good, properly trained, and appreciated people lead to happy customers and long-term success.”
Soon after receiving B Corps designation, FMS set out to understand what it means for their people to feel appreciated and what they felt were their most pressing needs. After a survey of their employees showed that access to fresh food and good health were at the top of the list, FMS approached the veggie-obsessed leaders at New Roots for ideas. They agreed on a pilot program to get more fresh, local food into the hands of their hourly workers who relied on a slightly altered version of a Fresh Stop Market.
The food was delivered to the Shawnee Presbyterian Fresh Stop Market on Thursdays, picked up there by FMS, and then displayed the next morning at their beautiful mini-market stand in the lobby. Workers were able to pick up their checks and their shares at the same time. In line with their commitment to employee happiness, FMS committed to paying 80 percent of the cost of a $25 share for every employee who was interested. The $5 is deducted each two-week pay period from the employees checks.
Scott had originally committed to offer the shares to the first 20 families who showed interest. However, after New Roots showed up to do a fabulous cooking demo in the lobby of the FMS, the response was so overwhelming he upped that number to 30.
“The pilot turned out to be extremely popular with our employees,” said FMS’ Jen Hurley. “As the weeks went by, deep discussions amongst the FMS employees about fresh veggies (how did you cook that delicate squash?!) became commonplace and could be heard throughout the headquarters on Portland Avenue, and at the work sites. Lunch boxes were filled with sautéed kale.”
This confirmed to both companies that they had the numbers, passion and interest needed to create a Portland Fresh Stop Market for the 2018 season.
What is New Roots reaction to this new partnership? “We had never seriously considered a close partnership with a for profit company, having relied on nonprofit and church partnerships for so long,” said New Roots’ Director Karyn Moskowitz. “However, working with Scott, Jen and others at FMS has been fun and satisfying. They have stepped up to do everything they’ve planned, providing us 30 families who love the food, leaders who are engaged in the process, and a great, new location for a long-awaited Portland Fresh Stop Market. We’ve also decided to become founding nonprofit members of the Alliance so we can meet more partners like FMS. We are ready to chard ahead in 2018.”