By Julia Marchand
It’s Monday morning and I’ve just arrived at work. With hot coffee in my mug, I rush to make progress on my daily task list. Snatching a sturdy catalog from the corner of my desk, I dial a number quickly, eager to place this body care order for the independently-owned natural food store I help to manage. As the line rings, my mind jumps ahead to the list of items that are depleting from our shelves.
But instead of a customer service representative, my dialing sends me to a recording: “We’re sorry to have missed you,” the cheerful voice on the line tells me, “but the Badger headquarters is currently closed so our team can pick up roadside litter.”
That’s when it really struck me that this family business was different. I have always loved the company for their organic, aromatic balms, lotions and soaps and for years their Headache Balm has been a staple in my purse and a friendly little badger illustration has smiled up at me every time I put on sunscreen. But until this moment, the depth of their benevolence hadn’t really sunk in.
W.S. Badger, a more than 70 person B Corporation nestled into my home state of New Hampshire, is truly using business as a force for good. As a B Corp (an already high-standard network of companies), Badger placed on the “Best for the World—Environment” list in 2015 because of the environmental score they earned during the B Impact Assessment, which placed them in the top 10 percent of over 1,600 Certified B Corps.
We believe that a healthy business is like a well-tended garden. Our business, which began as a seed, has been nourished over the years with good intentions. To us, money is a fuel not a goal, just as sunlight is the fuel that allows a garden to grow and flourish but is not the purpose of the garden … And just as a garden is rooted to the earth, our business is connected to the natural world around us.
But what does that root system look like in quantifiable business terms?
To start, nearly all products are made in New Hampshire with the rest being made in other nature-focused facilities within the U.S. and Canada. Badger regularly looks at their supply chain under a microscope to zero in on the overall sustainability and social good of their products. Their exceptional ingredients—right down the hand-picked blossoms that become their Organic Rose Oil—are carefully selected from the purest sources on Earth. Almost all of their ingredients are certified organic which contributes to the natural health of air, soil, water and the people involved in planting, tending and harvesting. The lifecycle of their packaging is equally considered.
Beyond their products, Badger is consistently looking to improve their sustainability by harnessing the power of technology to reduce wastefulness. Here are some ways that Badger does just that:
- Technology has allowed for the efficient formulation of dense-packed cellulose derived from recycled newspapers, which serves to insulate the walls of the “Badger Mines” Headquarters. This sustainable facility was built to LEED standards in 2010. Even the countertops in the kitchen and labs are made from PaperStone™, another nontoxic product created by recycling paper.
- A new computer system brings a thin-client monitor to the desks of most employees instead of using typical PCs. This significantly reduces the overall power usage on top of allowing for easier file sharing and storage.
- Instead of relying on plane travel (which emits a striking amount of greenhouse gases) to transport employees for trainings, Badger makes use of Internet broadcasts and telephone technologies for long-distance trainings.
In the customer service department, staff utilizes double monitors at their computers so orders can be processed and filled without being printed.
- 15.3 percent of purchased electricity comes from renewable resources, which are efficiently harvested thanks to our society’s technological advances.
- To cut down on water waste, all toilets and showers in the Badger Mines utilize low-flow mechanics.
These are all methods for reducing waste materials and saving energy through the advantages that technology allows, but their efforts still don’t stop there. From staff-tended bee hives (an environmental-stewardship initiative) to the organic gardens on site that grow fresh produce for staff lunches and the composting of all food waste, Badger’s ethos is clear and consistent.
Perhaps the most significant environmental accomplishment, though, has been Badger’s investment in and creation of a customized EMS (Environmental Management System) which includes Scope 1 and 2 Greenhouse Gas Assessments (GHG), a waste audit, qualitative evaluation and recommendations for areas of improvement. This system, which is tracked in Excel, can be updated as frequently as desired to recalculate results and offer a clear and measurable picture of their overall impact.
Although it doesn’t sound like much, this technology is an effective data management tool that enables the company to identify specific areas that are in need of improvement, thus empowering Badger to become even more sustainable as time passes. Last year’s findings from the EMS’s waste audit showed that 10 to 11 percent of their waste was in brown paper (paper towels and napkins), a waste source that can sometimes be easily overlooked. A Sustainability Committee was then specifically designed to target this and other areas in need of improvement. Since their last waste audit, Badger has installed hand dryers to eliminate paper towel disposal.
The Sustainability Committee, which includes employees from every department, also furthered their waste reduction last year by extending their recycling program to capture the whole plastics stream, now diverting numbers 1–7 from landfills. Being in rural New England, it isn’t surprising that another finding from the EMS emissions audit identified the employees’ commute to work as a major offender so carpooling (which, by their standards, includes bicycling, too) incentives have since been established to reward employees for greening their daily travel to and from the Badger Mines.
More transparent improvements such as these will be identified and accomplished going forward as a result of the EMS. “We’re all part of a global community,” says Jess Baum, a Marketing Badger with a Master’s in Environmental Education who helped develop the tracking program. She and the rest of the team feel that every person and business has a responsibility to use their knowledge and resources to do what is right for the planet.
We’re living in a strange era. Technology evolves at a rate so rapid that new electronics are introduced into the mainstream every day. Although this market in general contributes an unimaginable amount of pollution and waste to our environment, it can also, when used consciously to measure, assess and manage data and business operations, be a catalyst for incredible ecological improvement.
W.S. Badger’s job is to formulate products to heal people, but through their carefully considered operating principles, the mission-based business also seeks to heal the Earth. Although I had been aware of Badger’s products since childhood, it was only as I sat there at my desk that Monday morning, stunned and pleased at the message I had just heard, that I realized the power of business for great change.
It became truly evident to me then that environmental stewardship is really about awareness; awareness of the percentages of waste that a business is sending to the landfills, awareness of the emissions we create and—yes, even awareness of the litter on the side of the road, because, as Baum says, there is a global community and we are all a part of it.