B Corps and the importance of kindness

Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year the theme is kindness. The focus could not be more apt, given the times that we are living through.

We have all been touched by tales of brilliant, selfless people doing astonishing things to help others, often putting themselves at risk so the rest of us can be safe and secure.

Stories telling of brave key workers, on the front line of the crisis, have rightly been clapped, shared and celebrated. In the face of fear and uncertainty, kindness has prevailed.  

Businesses are also doing their bit, showing that they care. In particular, we’ve been heartened by the efforts of our community of certified B Corporations who have risen to the challenge over the last two months, pivoting business models and mobilising networks in order to get help where it’s needed most.

One example is high street retailer COOK, who were acutely aware that many people would be in need of nourishing meals at this time, but not necessarily able to cook for themselves.

In response, the family-run company overhauled its operations, prioritising deliveries for vulnerable customers and NHS staff, providing contact-free collections in store, and recruiting extra staff at their Kent HQ to meet the surge in demand.

They began giving away free meals to customers that were shopping for vulnerable relatives or neighbours, which quickly evolved into a ‘kindness fund’, donating 100,000 hot meals and treats to care homes, hospitals and isolated families. 

Ed Perry, CEO of COOK, commented: “When the Covid crisis started, it was obvious that we were fortunate enough, through dumb luck, to have a product that people needed at this time. We set up a kindness fund to give away 100,000 meals to those who need them most. It’s our customers and local charities who know where the need is greatest, so we have worked in partnership with them to distribute these meals. It’s been a lovely thing to be part of during a terrible time for so many.”

COOK is best known for its home cooked ready meals, prepared by hand at its kitchen in Kent and sold via its website and network of 90 shops and 600 concessions. But using business as a force for good has been baked into COOK’s DNA since its inception in 1997.

Ed added: “We were one of the first companies in the UK to become a B Corp back in 2013. Although it’s only seven years ago, the organising idea of the B Corp movement, that business should be a force for good, seemed slightly novel back then. I don’t think that is the case now. People of every age are recognising that if we want to live in a better and fairer society, then the way business behaves will be central to making that a reality.

And COOK is not the only B Corp to have embodied the ‘force for good’ mantra during this crisis. 

Usually focused on developing its range of natural, sustainable beauty products, Beauty Kitchen pivoted its operations to create 50,000 units of hand sanitiser for the Scottish Government to supply to the NHS and other front-line services.

Founder Jo Chidley explained:“As a certified B Corp, sustainability and giving back are at the core of everything we do. When the Scottish Government asked if we could help with critical supplies for the NHS, we worked double time to make it happen. Not only have we provided an effective solution, it’s also a sustainable one, with the bottles part of our Return, Refill, Repeat programme.”

The team didn’t stop there, donating over 230,000 Beauty Kitchen products to the NHS and London Ambulance Service. 

Jo added: “I am hoping that by the time we come out the other end of this crisis, we will have a far more positive society. Sometimes it takes a really big event for everyone to pull together and work towards a common goal.”

Vegan milk brand Rebel Kitchen also joined the relief effort, donating 14,000 dairy-free milkshakes and inviting its customers to help connect them to hospitals and food banks who would benefit from extra supplies.

Adam Draper, Managing Director of Nurture Brands, Rebel Kitchen’s parent company, commented: “Despite being a small business, we wanted to be true to our values and act like Rebels, setting an example and supporting those most in need.”

The Body Shop UK is donating nearly 400,000 of its products, including soaps and hemp hand protectors, to NHS staff and volunteers fighting the effects of Covid-19. Describing the generous donations as a “little act of kindness”, the company said they hoped the products would “help provide these wonderful people even the smallest amount of time to care for themselves when they are spending so much time caring for others, and to know that we really do appreciate the amazing work they are doing for us all.

They also launched their #TimeToCare initiative, offering tips and advice on how to look after your mind and body during times of stress, commenting that “self-care has never been so important, because it’s easier to be kinder to others when you are kind to yourself.”

Kindness can have a transformative effect on our communities, workplaces, schools and families. Together, we can shape a society that puts people first, and values our collective health and wellbeing.

The Mental Health Foundation is asking everyone to reflect on an act of kindness to mark Mental Health Awareness Week. Share your stories and pictures of kindness on social media and tag #KindnessMatters and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. But, most importantly, be kind to yourself and others.

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