Around the world, some 3,000 companies have committed to becoming B Corporations, including Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, Tom’s of Maine, Toms, and Danone—but only one ski resort carries that distinction. In February 2017, Taos Ski Valley became the first and only resort designated as a B Corp.
For those unfamiliar with the term, a B Corp merges standards for social and environmental performance with accountability and purpose, seemingly impossible traits to combine while increasing revenue, but Taos is doing just that.
“What got us going was that the Nature Conservancy of New Mexico identified the need to increase sustainability of the forest to protect water and decrease wildfires,” says Taos Ski Mountain CEO David Norden. “We collaborated with the Rio Grande Water Fund and the Nature Conservancy to thin out the forest to increase its health. Then, through a sister company that owns a sawmill in Colorado, we took the trimmed timbers there, where they were used for buildings, which also created jobs.”
The Blake at Taos Ski Valley hotel opened in Taos in February 2017 and is a LEED-certified building. Its geothermal-well field supplies heating and cooling, and you won’t find any plastic bottles on the ski mountain.
A colleague told Norden that what they were doing sounded like a B Corp. After some research, Norden went to the B Lab headquarters in Philadelphia, met with the founder, loved the story of it, and immediately embarked on the process to become certified.
“It’s an extensive process where they look at hiring, diversity, pay gaps between high and low, Norden says. “They ask for documentation in certain areas, and there’s an internal review.”
Norden says the impact on business was immediate. “The day we announced it, like all organizations, we checked online to see how our ticket sales were,” he says. “Without any special promotions, in the two days that followed the B-Corp announcement, we had done more in online sales than we had on any other day ever. We did additional research and learned that purpose-driven organizations outperform their peers on a consistent basis on an international level.”
Taos Ski Valley, now in its third year of being a B Corp, is among the world’s companies setting standards for social and environmental responsibility.
In addition to increased revenue, Norden points to staff improvements. When it comes to employee performance, satisfaction, and retention, he says their team is better than ever because they are attracting more people who specifically want to work for this kind of organization. Employees—not just CEOs and C-level executives—are a fundamental part of the B Corp ecosystem. For example, during the B-Corp evaluation process, companies are given additional points if staff is allowed to do volunteer work while on the clock.
“Today, we have 850 employees who work full time, and are also allowed to do volunteer work on the clock,” says Norden. “We encourage our employees to make an impact. For instance, ahead of opening for ski season, we get all of this new equipment, and no one was thinking about the amount of waste that comes with the packaging. One employee brought that up, and I encouraged her to reach out to the suppliers and find out how they deal with the environment, what their hiring practices were, what percentage are women-run business.”
They discovered that about one-third of the companies were excited to hear they were interested in those things; one-third had a plan and was working on addressing those concerns; and one-third had no idea there was an issue. Moving forward, Norden says they plan to partner with brands who are like-minded, increasing both awareness and business standards.
Indeed, networking and raising awareness is a significant part of becoming a B Corp. Now in its third year, happening each February, the Taos Ski Valley hosts a B-Corp Leadership Summit, strictly for its members’ CEOs and their sustainability executive officers.
“The first year was an open brainstorming session, trying to articulate what the next 10 years would look like, getting multinational brands on board, addressing the confusion in the marketplace about what a B Corp is,” Norden says. “In 2019, it was about digging in and solving an issue, mostly dealing with climate change. We’re not sure what 2020 will bring, but we’re looking forward to the dialogue.” skitaos.com