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A to Z earns designation as B Corporation

Wine business — Trying to be a 'better business,' certification encourages transparency, volunteerism


For some companies, it’s not enough to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. That’s where a B Certification comes in.

Standing for “Benefit Company,” the classification is new to Oregon — passed by the Legislature in May 2013.

“By voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability and performance, Certified B Corps are distinguishing themselves in a cluttered marketplace by offering a positive vision of a better way to do business,” according to B Lab, the nonprofit agency behind the certification process.

Joining only one other winery to receive the certification, in Argentina, A to Z Wine­works received its certification this month.

“We wanted something less specific to sustainability and more to being a better business,” said Katie Quinn, A to Z marketing manager. “Every­body thinks of big business and bad business; it’s a different way to use business for good.”

Receiving the certification is more than adding another letter to the company name, it requires legal changes to the company structure.

“There’s an actual change to the company. It’s more like a benefit corporation, so instead of having shareholder profits be your bottom line, our company is here to provide and do good in our community,” Quinn said.

Becoming a B Corp means eliminating shareholders and signing a “declaration of interdependence.” During the application process, companies are ranked on a variety of aspects including transparency, volunteerism, females in management and whether the company pays a living wage.

“Once you go through the process you can improve on (those aspects),” she said. “We scored higher than average (with 103 points compared to 80 median). But you just improve on those things and giving people here time to volunteer, encouraging that and paying a living salary.”

For example, this year many on staff helped build a Habitat for Humanity house in Newberg.

“It’s been sort of fun to discuss things, a different kind of track and what we can do with our business since we’re Oregon’s biggest winery,” Quinn said. “The B Corp community is really great. There are a lot of really neat companies apart of it.”

A to Z joins more than 1,000 companies worldwide in the effort to meet “rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.”

“A to Z Wineworks received high marks for having female management and owners, paying workers above living wage, and giving back to the community,” said Jay Coen Gilbert, co-founder of B Lab in a press release. “We’re proud to have them join the movement to redefine success in business.”

For more information about B Corps, visit www. bcorporation.net.

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