When we started Sir Kensington’s, we didn’t know much about food or business, but there were two things we did know. First, we knew there was an opportunity to make better condiments for America, and second, we knew that we wanted to run a company that behaved in line with our values. From that beginning, the more we learned about food and business, the more the inherent tension between these two worlds revealed itself. As we grew the team, articulated our purpose, and did more business, with more products, for more customers, these two founding truths became only more true. Our goal became to both do good business, and business that does good.
Today, these two truths once again intersect with an announcement: Sir Kensington’s has become a Certified B Corporation.
Never heard of that, or not sure what it means? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In short, B Corporations represent a global movement of people using business as a force for good. B Corps meet higher standards of social and environmental impact, transparency, and accountability to stakeholders, rather than just shareholders. You can think of it like certification for an entire business, what Fair Trade is to a cup of coffee, or USDA Organic is to a carton of almond milk.
At the core of the B Corporation Certification process is the B Impact Assessment, an extensive scorecard of our impact on all stakeholders of a business other than shareholders. In our case, that’s everyone from farmworkers to eaters, including the environment, employees, and local communities. The more value we provide to stakeholders, the higher we score on the assessment.The final assessment provides transparency in our policies for everyone to see. In that spirit, our assessment results will soon be available publicly for anyone who’s interested.
Who do businesses work for?
One of the questions I get most often is whether we’re even allowed as a company to make tradeoffs that favor stakeholders over shareholders. The short answer is yes. B Corps lock their mission and stakeholder priorities into their company by laws, allowing the company to make decisions that have a material positive impact on society, even if it doesn’t explicitly benefit shareholders. However, there is a bigger point here to be made for any business, even ones without stakeholder clauses in their corporate bylaws. The question about shareholder value vs stakeholder value assumes a zero sum game. On the contrary, our strategy is to create more shareholder value in the long term by investing in stakeholder impact today.
“Our strategy is to create more shareholder value in the long term by investing in stakeholder impact today.”
The B Corp movement is about responsibility, but it’s not about altruism. That’s a good thing, because it creates benefits for stakeholders with a business imperative to scale. The future of doing good business combines impact model with business model, rather than seeing social benefit as a philanthropic afterthought to make good on harm done by the business.
Here’s an example: If we were to suddenly switch to using less expensive commodity eggs rather than Certified Humane, free-range eggs in our mayo, would our business improve because our margins are higher? No. Our customers would no longer have a reason to pay a premium, the product wouldn’t taste as good, and we’d sell less. Even if we were to then drop our prices, we still wouldn’t be able to rise above the myriad other conventional brands to win customers. In doing better for animal welfare, we do better for the customers, and better for our business. As a part of this movement, companies must challenge themselves to create distinctions that can benefit customers, stakeholders, and their own long term fortune.
What we care about
So, what are our positive contributions? Our mission is to reimagine ordinary and overlooked foods with fearless integrity and charm. At the most fundamental level, it’s protecting the integrity of food. Building on this are our product values, especially “if it’s not food, it doesn’t belong in our food.”
“If it’s not food, it doesn’t belong in our food.”
Sir Kensington's Product Value 01
From the ingredients we choose to include through to the way we source them, process them, and communicate them, we think rigorously about integrity. This integrity is important for our customers, but it’s also important for the environment and the communities where the food comes from. As a commitment to biodiversity, transparency, and environmental toxin reduction, all of our condiments are certified non-GMO. The eggs in our mayonnaise are Certified Humane, laid by free range chickens, ensuring that even our stakeholders from the animal kingdom are treated with integrity.
As part of the community of New York City, we also think about our contribution to organizations working in justice for people in extraordinary and overlooked communities, specifically as it relates to food. We contribute 1% of our revenue as a company to leading and emerging non-profits and social enterprises using food to create economic opportunity in these communities. On top of this financial support, we also pledge 2% of our talented employees’ valuable working hours to these organizations for both traditional service days, as well as opportunities for them to share their professional gifts. For instance, one of our partners is the High School for Food and Finance, the only culinary public high school in NYC, where 80% of the student body is comprised of teenagers from disadvantaged backgrounds. Sir Kensington’s supported their pop-up cafe project financially, but also provided additional value in volunteering our team’s talents. There, our finance team taught students how to build an income statement for their business, and our marketing team coached them on branding and outreach, and even helped the students’ vision come to life by helping them design a logo. By devoting these specialized professional skills, and not just donations or physical labor, we’re able to provide the very same gifts that our team gives to make Sir Kensington’s successful. As an added bonus, it also provides opportunities for our team to work on hard and different challenges that develop their analytical, creative, and leadership abilities which can be brought back to their jobs at Sir Kensington’s.
This team that makes Sir Kensington’s successful is also a key stakeholder group that we consider ourselves responsible to. Our first core value as a company is “Our Secret Ingredient is People” and we start with our own team members. We consider our management style to be one of servant leadership, and define the role of a leader at Sir Kensington’s as being able to support and develop their team, and eliminate barriers so they can reach their goals. As part of this ethos, we provide compensation and benefits in the top quartile of companies, as well as and bonus programs for all employees, and are proud to have strong representation of women across the company and in leadership roles. We’re transparent with our business decisions and results, sharing monthly financials with our team. We believe in gender equity and work-life balance, offering three months of both maternity and paternity leave. These practices make Sir Kensington’s a preferred place to work, provide more rewarding career opportunities for our team, and create superior results for customers.
Food: Where nature meets culture
You may be wondering what difference a single company can even make. With our growing scale, we both influence and rely on a vast and interconnected food system. Food is the centerpiece of culture, defining our identity, creating connection between people, and nourishing us.
Food was the impetus behind human civilization, with the agricultural revolution transitioning us from a nomadic to a sedentary species. It drove the invention of the first writing systems, developed in Mesopotamia to keep track of who sold grain to whom. Yes, the first written document was probably a grocery receipt.
Flash forward 10,000 years, and the food system has grown to gargantuan proportions, with gargantuan impact. It has a big impact on people, representing an $8.1 trillion dollar global industry employing 1 billion people in agriculture alone. Yet in America, according to the USDA, for every dollar that a consumer spends on food, only 7.8 cents actually goes to the farmer growing it. This vast food system accounts for one third of greenhouse gas emissions and the five largest food processing companies emit more carbon than the biggest oil companies.
We’re not here to vilify the “food system” as if it is the evil empire, or cast anyone, including ourselves, as hero or villain. It is not that Sir Kensington’s is “good” in its very nature, but instead, like all companies, we are defined by a collection of actions, each with an impact. Our goal is to increase the good behaviors, good actions, and good commitments which improve our impact.
The positive decisions we’ve made didn’t happen because we thought of ourselves as an altruistic company. What started us on our path was taste. We’ve always prioritized taste in our products, because if our products didn’t taste good, they’d never sell. That led us to learn about ingredients. Of course it was the clean, natural ingredients that gave our condiments the best taste. Back when we launched our Mayonnaise, it was our retail customers, like Whole Foods, that pushed us to use Certified Humane free range eggs and to become the country’s first mayonnaise to be Non-GMO Verified. That led to true market differentiation, and practices we’re now committed to. It was all of you customers that led us to educate ourselves, certify as a B Corp, and continue encouraging us to do even more. A company doesn’t have to be founded on a social mission to do good, and more important than labeling yourself as a good, bad, or amoral business, think about what action you can take to be the change you want to see.
A Growth Mindset
Churchill said that democracy is the worst possible system of government, except for every other system ever proposed. Similarly, capitalism has ushered in unprecedented human development, improving quality of life tremendously over the last three centuries, but it’s also brought unprecedented inequality and environmental degradation. Now, the world around us is shaped primarily by the activities of business, and so we must consciously shape business. Capitalism is an unstoppable force, and rather than fight it, we can hijack it. It’s up to us, to you, and anyone with the power of choice to use it for good.
Now, the world around us is shaped primarily by the activities of business, and so we must consciously shape business.
Taking the B Corp assessment first sparked an awakening in us, illuminating ways to consider the impact we make and who our stakeholders are. We didn’t achieve a certifiable score when we first assessed ourselves, but team worked for over a year to better understand and improve our impact on society. Even after earning the certification, we still have a long way to achieve our potential. In particular, we’ve learned that we need to make improvements in our packaging and reducing post-consumer waste. We have a long way to go in diversity and inclusion. We’ve learned Sir Kensington’s has an opportunity to better understand our carbon and water use through the lifecycle of our products. We’ve also learned that as we hatch new products lines, we have the opportunity to bake in positive impact and shared value for extraordinary and overlooked communities by producing the product itself. We don’t see ourselves as experts in conscious capitalism, though we’ve joined the movement and are committed to moving forward. Crucial to the entrepreneurial process is a growth mindset, or thinking in terms of possibility rather than limitations. That’s the spirit of the B Corp movement, and it’s in that theme that we give our parting words to you. It’s more important to start walking down the path you wish to take, than be concerned about how far away your destination is.
So, are you with us? If you’ve made it this far, I’m guessing yes. Other than writing your own manifesto and launching a company, how can you be a part of the movement? Here are some opportunities:
- If you work at a company that has an interest in benefitting society, share the B Impact Assessment with your leadership.
- If you’re an entrepreneur, CEO, or senior leader, learn about the B Corp community, and take the assessment. If you’re looking for a starting place for thinking about how your personal and professional purpose align, we recommend Do: Purpose, a quick read to get you thinking.
- If you don’t work at a company that’s interested in contributing to society, but you want to, check out B Work, the job board open to B Corps.
- If you shop online (which, unless you’ve time traveled from 1997 to read this post, is probably everyone), consider DoneGood, a browser plugin to help you shop with your values and vote with your dollars. You can also browse the list of B Corps to see what other brands you may have heard of. Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s. Seventh Generation, and New Belgium Brewery (maker of Fat Tire Ale) all make great products and do great work.
- If you’re a B Corp, hit us up on Twitter — we want to learn more about you!
- Finally, if you love food, and want to be part of the positive impact it can make, it starts with simply following your curiosity and creativity. Read ingredient labels, learn where your food is coming from, shop at farmers markets, cook as often as possible, try new foods whenever you come across them, and live by Michael Pollan’s famous manifesto: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
— Scott, Mark, and the team at Sir Kensington's