Neil Kelly Company’s (NKC) first formal efforts towards sustainability began in the 1980s with their “Recycling” team. According to Julia Spence, NKC’s VP of Human Resources, they did “dinky” stuff like “telling us to turn off lights and recycle paper”. It may seem dinky now, but NKC was and has been on the cutting edge of integrating sustainability efforts into its business.
Through collaboration with First Unitarian Church and Northwest Earth Institute, in 1993 Julia was invited to participate in a discussion course called Deep Ecology. Today she describes this experience as “a way to talk about personal values and the environment”.
In the years that followed, NKC leadership asked, “How do we continue to move our sustainable business practices forward in a way that reflects our company values and adds value to our customers?”
One of the answers was to bring NWEI discussion courses to NKC employees. In addition, the management team was trained in The Natural Step framework. The process of connecting, reflecting, and acting created a common language and a common framework in which teams could make strategic business decisions and hold each other accountable.
A Green Team was formed, more classes were taken, internal training was conducted across the company and years later, NKC decided to take the TNS’s 10 Year Eco Challenge.
This effort led NKC to become a B Corporation on January 1, 2014, formally changing the bylaws to allow for corporate accountability beyond maximizing shareholder value.
Today Neil Kelly Company benefits from being part of a national community of like-minded businesses and people and is continuing to find successful ways to leverage its B Corp status including recruiting and retaining employees and differentiating its services in a highly competitive market.