Vermont: Fertile Ground for Innovative Businesses, Under Any Circumstance

May 27, 2020 at 01:05pm

Since 1981, Vermont has been home for Rhino Foods. Throughout forty years of challenges, pivots, innovations, changing consumers and shifting products, one thing hasn’t changed: location location location. “If our purpose is to positively impact the manner in which business is done, Vermont is the right place to be,” says Ted Castle, Founder of Rhino Foods.

There’s a lot to love about Vermont: artisanal cheese and craft beer, chunky ice cream and smooth maple creemees, slopes and swimming holes, Worthy Burgers and Mad Tacos. But beneath that tasty surface lies the vibrant essence of Vermont – our values. Work ethic, social responsibility, and investment in sustainable growth—rather than hyper-growth—unite us.

Maple Creemee on Lake Champlain

2020 has proven to be a world-wide shock to the system, exposing glaring inequalities and unacceptable workplace practices. There have also been silver linings, and we’ve witnessed brave businesses use their resources for good.

Before the current crisis, the B Corp community has led this charge, modeling the duty and power of business to be a force for good.

Vermont’s size provides a springboard for businesses to join the B Corp movement. According to Ted Castle, “The B Corp community thrives in Vermont. We go to B Corp retreats and people can’t help but notice how many Vermont businesses show up, and have a strong voice. In many ways, Vermont embodies the B Corp movement. It’s only natural that we’d call it home.”

Inspiring innovation, sharing resources, and emphasizing social responsibility is central to Vermont’s business community. Organizations like VBSR unite businesses to impact public policy, educate to advance responsible businesses practices, and create networking opportunities, all with an emphasis on sustainable growth. “You can come up with an idea like the Income Advance Program, share it with a few people, and suddenly 50 businesses are implementing it,” noted Ted. Employees and employers share a work ethic that allows initiatives like the Employee Exchange Program to take root and thrive.

Rhino Foods’ Production Staff

Our shared spirit is one of adaptability and fierce determination, with community and social responsibility at the core. Amidst economic uncertainty, companies like Skinny Pancake joined forces with the Vermont Food Bank to deliver meals to address the increasing level of food insecurity, magnified by this global crisis. Burton Snowboards, our B Corp neighbor just across the street, has donated 500,000 masks to healthcare workers across New England and New York, stopped manufacturing boards to produce face shields, and delivered over 1,300 Anon Goggles to Goggles for Docs, an effort to get goggles into the hands of doctors on the front-line fighting COVID-19. Without fanfare or solicitation, Vermont companies adapt and innovate in order to employ, serve, and give back.

These efforts embody the B Corp movement: “Society’s most challenging problems cannot be solved by government and nonprofits alone. By harnessing the power of business, B Corps use profits and growth as a means to a greater end: positive impact for their employees, communities, and the environment” – B Corporation.

Physical distancing isn’t such a departure for Vermonters – we seek open space, care for our natural environment and find wellness in our big backyard. But social connection is a drum that never skips a beat. Although the details of how we do business will shift with time, our mentality remains the same. With a business philosophy anchored by community— Vermont and the global B Corp movement, we’ve proven that our foundation doesn’t crumble when the world gets turned upside down.

This is the essence of Vermont. B Corp is a movement and Vermont a vehicle to use business as a force for good. This is what excites and inspires us, and we will continue to nurture this spirit in the place we love to call home.