Business is not just about the bottom line for Eagle Protect, South Shore’s only B Corporation — it’s about the triple bottom line.
New Zealand’s first B Corporation — a certification by nonprofit B Lab for rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency — expanded its operations stateside this year.
Eagle Protect, which operates out of Tahoe Mountain Lab, is the only B Corporation in South Lake Tahoe, according to B Lab.
“B Corp focuses on the triple bottom line: people, planet, profit. So anything from how you work with your suppliers, to your staff, to what you do with your profits,” said Lynda Ronaldson, who runs Eagle Protect with her partner Steve Ardagh.
“We didn’t want to set up a business just to make money. We wanted to do something better.”
Eagle Protect first became certified in 2012. There are now more than 1,700 B Corporations in over 130 industries and 50 countries, including notable U.S. companies like Patagonia and Method Products.
“The B Corp movement is one of the most important of our lifetime, built on the simple fact that business impacts and serves more than just shareholders — it has equal responsibility to the community and to the planet,” said Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia.
Eagle Protect imports and distributes disposables, like single-use gloves, for the food and medical industries — a business that, according to Ardagh, can be considered “dirty” because the products end up in a landfill.
“There is no other option at the moment, either environmentally or economically viable, to change that. So we help all our customers reduce the usage,” said Ardagh.
“We help give them better products to use, better choices for particular situations and we can typically reduce the amount of gloves a larger food processor uses by 30 percent, just by being smart on what they are using.”
Annually, there are 3.6 billion disposable gloves used in the U.S. alone.
“We’re not saying we’re perfect as a company — far from it — but we try and identify areas that we can improve upon, so everyone enjoys going to work, the staff are well looked after, and their productivity goes up,” added Ronaldson.
“We’re sourcing from good suppliers. We’re doing it because it’s best for the world.”
Prior to starting Eagle Protect in 2006, Ardagh visited a glove factory in Malaysia while working for another company — and the experience would drastically shape his method of business going forward.
“This packing room was a roof with no walls, and it stunk of acid and chlorine … you could hardly breathe because it was [over 100 degrees] and humid. Just terrible conditions,” recalled Ardagh.
“There were ladies around a table packing gloves, and it was one guy’s job to walk around to these piles of gloves and wipe off the cockroaches and the flies before they are packed. Then they put them in boxes that say ‘Medical Examination Grade.’”
These were conditions that Eagle Protect would not stand for.
“At our major factory in Thailand, [the operator] has a walking path for his staff around a big pond that he’s built. He stocks it with fish, and the local village is invited once a month to come fish. He has free medical clinics. He has housing for staff,” explained Ardagh.
“We went around finding these factories and borrowed the code of conduct for supplies from Patagonia and adapted it to our own use.”
This transparent, clean supply chain is essential, noted Ronaldson — as is taking care of employees and giving back to your community.
Employees of Eagle Protect in New Zealand and the U.S. get four weeks of vacation per year, flexibility when it comes to working hours to balance family life, and one paid day off each year for volunteering.
Eagle Protect is currently searching for nonprofit organizations in South Lake Tahoe to help support.
These measures also help the company earn points in its B Corp certification, which requires a minimum score of 80 out of 200 points earned by implementing practices that positively impact its employees, the community and the environment.
“One of the questions, for example, is what’s the ratio of the highest salary to the lowest salary? The closer it is, the more points you get toward your certification,” explained Ardagh.
Because of the point system, the B Corp certification is viable for all types of companies, said Ardagh. While a company may struggle with its environmental impact, it can make up points by focusing on fostering a healthy work environment for employees.
“It’s a way to hold yourself accountable for the things you want to accomplish outside of a profit,” added Ronaldson.