How Becoming a B Corporation Helped Etsy Further Align their Social and Environmental Ethos

By Mariana Souza BardMBA ’16

Etsy1A group of Bard MBA students and friends toured Etsy HQ in Dumbo, Brooklyn, and learned how being certified as a B Corp helped Etsy become even more socially and environmentally conscious.

Etsy’s mission is to reimagine commerce in ways that build a more lasting and fulfilling world. As of January 2014, Etsy has 40 million members and over 1 million active shops in 200 countries. In 2013, their sellers grossed more than $1.35 billion in sales.

Etsy did not launch with an explicit mission statement – the founders shared a similar ethos and could agree if a business decision felt “etsy” or not. As the business grew, thought leaders including E.F. Schumacher and Bill McKibben helped the business begin to verbalize and clarify the source of those intuitive responses. The Etsy team continued to refine their mission to support more durable and human-scale economies and chose to pursue a B Corp Certification in 2012.

The B Corp Certification requires companies to complete an online assessment for social and environmental performance and integrate B Lab commitments into governing documents. Companies who commit to B Corp certifications are applauded for committing to serving a purpose higher than financial return, and, perhaps most notably, a willingness to be transparent with their stakeholders about how values are driving action. The third-party certification also provides a network of other B Corps to share learnings.

BardMBA students and staff meeting with Etsy's VP of Values and Impact, Matt Stinchcomb

BardMBA students and staff meeting with Etsy’s VP of Values and Impact, Matt Stinchcomb

The Etsy ethos and mission had already led to the development of socially and environmentally responsible practices which aligned with the Etsy culture, including bike-lending, supporting local small food businesses, composting, and beginning to track energy consumption.

On our tour, we learned how the B Corp assessment proved to be an invaluable toolkit in systematically assessing existing practices and identifying gaps and opportunities for new initiatives. Companies are given a publicly available score if they qualify to be a B Corp – a metric that incentivizes companies to continue improving.

For B Corp nerds, Etsy scored 80 points on the B Corp 200-point scale for their first assessment, the minimum score for consideration. In 2013, they had jumped by a whopping 25 points to a score of 105. The tour of Etsy offices in Brooklyn provided an illustration of the substantial commitment to working within the B Corp framework. In addition to leadership-driven changes, Etsy hosted a staff-wide B Corp Hack Day after the first assessment. Employees were invited to spend an entire day learning about the assessment and developing initiative and program ideas to improve the score. The engagement of the staff was astounding and final presentations lasted for hours.

Here are just a few of the ways Etsy leadership and employees improved their work environment and business using the B Corp assessment framework:

  • Entryway was lined with a wall of hanging plants
  • Floors are made from recycled tires
  • Dog-friendly office. In fact, a pug joined us on our tour
  • Tackled waste by reducing the number of waste bins around the office, creating a central trash location with clearly labeled Recycling, Compost and Landfill bins. Etsy also weighs all of their trash and automates analytics and tracking.
  • Partnered with local coffee shops for employees who bring in reusable Etsy-branded coffee thermoses.
  • Hired Office Hackers whose sole responsibility is to improve the office environment for all employees.
  • Much of the décor and furniture is sourced from Etsy sellers.
  • Easty – bi-monthly catered lunches for the entire staff operates as an incubator for new local chefs and caterers.
  • Staff eats in the Greenhouse, a lunch area with lots of natural light and a whole wall of plants and fresh herbs.

Etsy as a service and brand resonates with millions of people – it was refreshing and exhilarating to feel the ethos of the website reflected in the employees and physical space they occupy.

Mariana Souza is a first-year student of the Bard MBA. She is passionate about the intersections of sustainability, tech and open data. Mariana is a graduate of Boston College with a BS in Environmental Geosciences.

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