Another Step Toward Positive Impact: Mission North Is Now a Benefit Corporation

Mission North has taken a significant step in our journey to make a positive impact and use communications to advance solutions to the biggest challenges of our time: We are now a benefit corporation. This legal tool weaves corporate social responsibility into the fabric of our company and ensures that the work we do benefits our people, our community and our environment.

Benefit corporations make up only 3,000 U.S. companies— a tiny fraction of existing businesses. These companies are committed to creating a positive impact on society and the environment, in addition to making a profit. According to the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, benefit corporations are held to a higher standard of accountability and transparency than traditional for-profit businesses, and must report on their progress regularly.

Mission North has long been committed to social good through our E3thos program, which last year surpassed $1 million in donations, as well as through the work we choose to do and the way we treat our people.

To find out more about what being a benefit corporation means and the impact it has on our work, I sat down with Mission North Co-CEO Bill Bourdon. We discussed how we got here and why this is such a major milestone. Below is an edited version of our conversation:

What does being a benefit corporation mean to you?

I think our mission statement articulates this really well: We aim to make a positive impact through our work, culture and community investments. As a benefit corporation, we are committed to prioritizing profit, as any business needs to, but we also prioritize our people and our social purpose.

Why did Mission North choose to pursue this? What does this look like in practice?

This is a natural evolution for Mission North. From our early days, we’ve always prioritized making a positive social impact beyond just our bottom line. Being a benefit corporation now creates a legal platform to protect that mission long-term and ensure we remain committed to it.

Becoming a benefit corporation is not an endgame; it’s an important milestone in our journey to make a positive impact beyond profits. It doesn’t fundamentally change how we operate, because we’ve always been committed to this mission. The main impact is holding us more accountable to these goals.

I think it will also motivate us to continue to push ourselves. We’ll publish an annual report to document our impact, establish benchmarks to work against, and set goals to help us continually improve. As much as I’m proud of our impact so far, we’re still in the early stages of our journey.

<split-lines>"Becoming a benefit corporation is not an endgame; it’s an important milestone in our journey to make a positive impact beyond profits."<split-lines>

Are there any downsides in becoming a benefit corporation that's not solely focused on profit?

I don't think there are. We’ve always done this because it’s the responsible thing to do. As the company has matured, grown our talented team and gained more financial resources, we’re in a position to make an increasingly positive impact year over year. But it’s also good for the business. Companies don’t need to compromise their trajectory to do good in the world.

Our core assets are our people and our portfolio. Our mission allows us to attract talented people and retain them, and attract exciting, mission-driven clients that share our values. It’s a win-win. It makes our business more resilient and creates value for all our stakeholders.

<split-lines>"Our mission allows us to attract talented people and retain them, and attract exciting, mission-driven clients that share our values. It’s a win-win."<split-lines>

Does the focus on positive social and environmental impact tie back to the clients we choose to work with?

Yes, our mission guides the work we do and shapes the clients we choose to work with. We want to partner with companies that share our values and make a positive impact through their own products and services, or through their commitment to using their own tech to support causes.

For example, our Life Sciences and our Commerce and Supply Chain practices are focused on finding more sustainable ways to build, grow and move things. We’ve been working with Ginkgo Bioworks for six years on their journey to engineer biology by programming cells to produce new products and solve the world's most pressing problems.

Through our Future of Work practice, we work with companies like Gusto and Humu that are making work more equitable, fulfilling and rewarding for everyone. Many of our clients make socially oriented commitments; for instance, Canva’s co-founders have pledged most of their wealth to social causes and have built the company with a mission to do the most good in the world.

<split-lines>"We want to partner with companies that share our values and make a positive impact through their own products and services."<split-lines>

In what other ways does Mission North strive to make a positive impact?

We think about impact in a few different ways. One is the impact we have on our people. That comes down to our diversity, belonging and equity (DBE) commitments, the way we treat and compensate our employees, and the benefits we provide, from unlimited vacation time to flexible work schedules.

Then there’s the impact we have externally on our communities. Our E3thos program is a great manifestation of that. We started it as a corporate social responsibility program six years ago to support local nonprofits that work toward equity, empowerment and the environment. We also provide each of our employees with 40 hours of paid volunteer time each year to create space for them to support the organizations they care about.

Finally, there’s the impact we’re making on our planet. This represents the biggest area of opportunity and investment for us in the coming year. We’re launching a new Sustainability practice based on our work leading sustainability communications for leaders like Google, which will draw from our experience across all practices.

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