Stephie Volo, Earth Animal’s Chief Impact Officer: Tell me a bit about your background and what brought you to Earth Animal.
My background was in human resources management – I had been in publishing and marketing for a long time and then I took some time off to be with and raise my kids when they were younger. And as they got older, I was doing some consulting and various other projects, but wanted to get back into the workforce full time. When I saw the opportunity to work not only for a local company, but one that was truly mission-driven and a force for good in the pet industry, I was excited and knew I couldn’t pass it up. It was a new role and one where I got to build a brand-new human resources program while fostering a culture of intention, purpose, and unity. It has been an amazing opportunity and journey!
Stephie: That is a great pathway that led you to us and we are lucky to have you!
I have been in ‘supply chain’ for about 20 years which is technically my second career. Before supply chain, I was working in entertainment – back and front of house for live theatres and concerts. I had been thinking about what I want to do next and looking for my new path and somebody said, “We need someone who knows absolutely nothing about purchasing.” I said, “Well I know a guy that can help you with that.” I, of course, did plenty of purchasing in the entertainment business, but I learned about structure and process and slowly built my career. Over time, my roles progressed from a transactional buyer to now being more strategic. I love what I do – it makes a lot of sense to me, and I like understanding the process from beginning to end; how things are made, where they come from, and how they eventually get into my customers hands and utilize it.
What led me to Earth Animal? I was happily employed at a great company and not actively looking. But I felt there was something missing. It wasn’t the work in my role necessarily. It was the lack of being socially connected to my communities where I grew up and live today. Prior to my last role, I had worked at Bigelow Tea for a long time, experienced the B Corp culture, and understood the belief system. I started to really get excited about what Earth Animal stood for, and before I knew it, I was interviewing and being offered a role in my community for a B Corp company.
Stephie: Elizabeth – had you heard of B Corp Certification before Earth Animal – even as a consumer?
I have been at Earth Animal for 4 years now and prior to working for Earth Animal, no, I had never heard of B Corp, Certified B Corporations or what they meant.
Stephie: That is so interesting and telling. It’s a great example of how B Corp Month helps build awareness on what using our “business to benefit all” really means and why consumers should care.
I notice in recruiting that people don’t fully understand as well – some do, and they recognize the B symbol. But they do not know what it fully means. They all know we are purpose-driven, and value animals, people, and the Earth mainly through our 1%. But the term ‘Certified B Corp,’ not as much. I know B Lab (the non-profit organization that certifies B Corps) is doing more to educate consumers globally. I’m excited about the opportunity to really explain what the B means in terms of “Benefitting All” and how Earth Animal and other B Corps go beyond the status quo for our employees.
Stephie: Thanks, Elizabeth – I am excited as well.
Peter – when did you first learn about Certified B Corps and what has been your experience working for them?
I would say that I was aware of B Corps somewhere around 2014-2015, before I joined my first B Corp Certified company in 2017. My supply chain role at that time had me interfacing with a lot of wood products where I first learned about the Forest Stewardship Council, the Strategic Forestry Initiative, as well as B Corp Certification. There was a lot of talk about stewardship in general and I learned how enormous that was. In addition, I learned a lot about the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and flexible packaging and the issues around recyclability. From there, I went to work at Thule which was considered a part of the automotive industry where I had specific goals to work with and purchase from disadvantaged, minority-owned women businesses as well as specific targets for social responsibility.
I was fortunate enough to be exposed to these different initiatives that truly did benefit all stakeholders and supported B Corp Certification. This is also when I realized my personal interest in working for companies that do in fact use their business as a force for good.
Stephie: Thank you, Peter. As the person who is responsible for driving Earth Animal’s sourcing strategy, this experience is going to be really beneficial. You mentioned that you started at Bigelow Tea, a fellow Certified B Corp in 2017. Were they B Corp Certified when you started?
No, they weren’t yet, but they were well into the process and working with a consultant to help them become certified. I was able to experience the initial certification process and go through recertification with them, as well. Once we became certified, we focused on all types of initiatives, mainly creating externally facing goals and initiatives for our communities and the environment.
That makes sense to me, Peter, because at Earth Animal, we initially focused on creating external impact initiatives for our communities and the environment. I started building an impact-driven, people agenda shortly thereafter and what B Corp Certification did for us was provide that holistic framework to look at every part of our business when building our impact strategy.
Stephie: Thank you both so much and, yes, Elizabeth, this framework ensures our commitment to creating a culture of health and happiness for our internal stakeholders as well as our external stakeholders.
Is it nap time, yet?
Elizabeth, as our Head of People, what has inspired you along the way?
The journey has been truly amazing. When I started, there wasn’t a formal people program in place, and I got to develop and lead that incredible effort. Our first major commitment to our employees was the healthcare benefit programs and covering our employees at 100% cost share.
Our second commitment was creating programs to benefit employees in terms of substantial PTO, parental leave, and volunteerism programs to ensure work/life integration and balance. We want our people to be able to have the autonomy and flexibility our team needs to be successful in both their professional position as well as life and do the things they love to do.
The thing that I think is great about our company is that we are empowered to try and experiment with different programs to build a better, more inclusive culture. There isn’t a lot of “red tape” – things work, things don’t work, but we are not afraid to take risks. I have certainly failed at a lot of things, but from that, we have also created some great and beneficial programs and policies.
For example, after the Supreme Court ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade and limited access to quality healthcare, we immediately went into action and changed our healthcare policy to include time off and reimbursement of travel expenses for an abortion or a gender-affirming procedure that is not available within 100 miles of an employee’s home. I am proud to be a part of that.
Stephie: That is so true, and I am happy you pointed that out, Elizabeth. Particularly for a small company like Earth Animal, the idea of taking risks can be scary, but they are critical as we grow to ensure we are providing a culture that helps our employees thrive.
Peter – would you encourage someone searching for a new role or looking to make a career change, etc. to look at and apply at Certified B Corps? If so, why?
Yes. Earth Animal being a Certified B Corp was certainly a powerful draw for me when I saw the job posting and when I accepted the position. As I said before, though, I do think I am more informed on Certified B Corps, what they are, and why they are important.
My hope is that through communications and activations like B Corp Month and other campaigns, B Corps will become more prevalent and a key driver for people looking for a new role. I do and will continue to encourage people to apply for Certified B Corps and to look for the B symbol as well as opportunities on the B Corp Job Board when they are looking for a new role. If I am ever a mentor for our internship program, I will also encourage mentees to look at and apply at Certified B Corps.
B Corp Certification is such an easy way to both qualify and quantify using business as a force for good and that is important for people in the workforce to know.
I totally agree. B Corp Certification means we have proven that as a company, we walk the walk and have been certified that we are committed to our employees, community, customers, and planet we all share.
We have proven to use our business to improve our peoples’ quality of life – their financial security, their professional development, and their happiness and well-being. But also, that as an employee, they are part of the solution to help their communities, customers, and partners also benefit from the work they are doing. I believe 100% that all potential employees should search out Certified B Corps because the people moving into the workforce more and more care about this way of doing business very much and working for a Certified B Corp proves they are a company of integrity and purpose.
Stephie: Elizabeth, as the Head of People at Earth Animal, how do you feel Earth Animal is going beyond when it comes to our Pack? And what are some of the goals you are working on?
I talked about how we invest in our team’s happiness and well-being with robust and supportive benefits. In addition to that, we also have a major tool in how we measure our employees’ happiness and well-being which is our Employee Engagement Survey that we do quarterly.
We launched this initiative with Emplify in May 2020, when we were all remote and feeling disconnected and uncertain. It took a little while for the team to fully understand how important this survey is and how critical their feedback is for us so that we can provide the best culture and place for them to thrive.
But once they experienced us “listening” and taking action; creating new policies, and making changes that reflected their feedback, they absolutely saw this is a value add for them. From this survey, we offered BetterHelp, and many more wellness initiatives and support to help us stay connected and feel safe during the pandemic.
Peter – we talked a little about this earlier, but throughout your career, what has inspired you the most to work for Certified B Corps?
I have been around socially responsible people all my life – my parents really instilled in me what it means to care for your communities and planet. So personally, this has been a big part of my life. And professionally, I think maybe at first even subconsciously, the more exposed I was to purpose-driven companies and their policies, and programs, the more I wanted to be a part of that.
What B Corp Certification does is provide that framework for a business to ensure they put people and the planet up there with profits and verify that a company is backing up their words with actions. I am inspired to work for Certified B Corps because they understand the importance of profits to a company, but not to benefit their shareholders, but instead benefit all their stakeholders. For Earth Animal, it is your drive to be better, to do better, for animals, people, and the Earth.
For both of you – what is the most important thing pet parents should know about Certified B Corps?
I am both a human parent and a pet parent. As I raise two kids in the world today and provide a safe environment for them and my dogs to thrive, for me it is the transparency and integrity of knowing where the ingredients in the products we consume or the materials the products are made with, come from. I like knowing that Certified B Corps are conscientious of their processes, they prioritize positive impact, and reduce their negative impact.
The other thing is the way Certified B Corps treat their employees and commit to building an inclusive, equitable, and safe culture for them to thrive in. Pet parents can depend on and trust Certified B Corps to use their business as a force for good.
I’m off to steal some pizza.
I echo Elizabeth’s comments wholeheartedly. In addition, pet parents need to know that we aren’t perfect. Certified B Corps are not perfect, but they are assessed and verified on being 100% committed to using their business for the betterment of and continuously improving their business for animals, people, and the Earth.
Stephie: Thank you both so much for sharing your thoughts and providing insight for pet parents on Certified B Corps from the employee and employer perspectives.