Cameron Madill is CEO at Pixelspoke, a worker-owned coop that focuses on websites and digital marketing for social impact organizations. Based in Portland, Oregon (like Rick Turoczy), Cameron is not only IN one of the U.S.’ centers of purpose-driven businesses – he has been instrumental in building it over the last four years!
“Portland first got on the map thanks to the show Portlandia which is a satire but certainly has a kernel of truth to it. I think people make Portland home largely because we value community and work-life balance. We live by a different belief set than what you’ll find in many metropolitan areas on the West Coast. Cost of living and real estate prices, while on the rise, are still manageable compared to larger cities along the coast.”
Business as a force for good
The city of Portland, Oregon, has a population of merely 647,000 (Metropolitan area counts 2.75 million people) and yet is home to over 100 B Corps. For comparison, Seattle, WA, is three hours north and slightly bigger than Portland, yet only counts 20 B Corps.
“When we first certified as a B Corp four years ago, there was a ton of energy around using business as a force for good and the certification itself. I kept asking “Who is organizing this?” only to be met with a shoulder shrug. Many companies brought lots of energy but no-one had thought about the benefits of having a steering committee to combine and guide our forces. With a colleague, Emily Goetz, we co-founded a Board with four other members. We hosted regular lunches, recruited new B Corps and put a lot of thought and effort into the B Corp journey. We thought about everything from initial interest to supporting them through the certification all the way to “How do we welcome them once they’re certified?”
Since its inception, the B Local PDX community has tripled and shows one of the lowest churn rates (B Corps that don’t recertify).. 450 people showed up for their annual all-volunteer conference BLD (B Corp Leadership Development).
“Our number one priority are employees of local B Corps, founders as well as staff. Training and equipping them with the knowledge and tools to run successful B Corps is key to us. Secondly, we want to help build the B Economy by collaborating with other mission-aligned businesses, government, nonprofits, job seekers etc. Our third tier of impact is geared toward the consuming public by raising awareness of local B Corps, their products and services.”
B Corp Certification
A quick note about B Corp Certification to everyone who is unfamiliar with the terminology: In 2008, Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan, and Andrew Kassoy founded B Lab, the non-profit that administers the certification. They set out to create a movement of companies committed to using business as a force for good. Companies undergo the so-called B Impact Assessment in which they report on their impact on workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment. With a minimum score of 80 points, businesses can get certified as a B Corp and join the movement. Famous B Corps include Patagonia, The Bodyshop and Ben & Jerry’s. Learn more about the certification at BCorporation.net.
I wish people knew that it’s not that hard. It’s not easy. But it’s not that hard.
“People get all caught up in how tricky the assessment is and how much they’ll have to change. You don’t have to be Patagonia to become certified. What counts in the internal commitment of your company’s leadership and staff to constantly improve your performance. Once you get over the hurdle of the assessment, the value keeps coming back to the business.”
From a local movement to a national network
“Two years into my journey of rallying the troops locally, I realized there were all these leaders around North America trying to do the same. We were reinventing the wheel.
When left to our own devices, 100 people come up with 100 different ways to do the same thing.
I wanted to help us share best practices and work together. So, tied to the annual B Corp Champions retreat, we had a one-day Champions summit for local B Corp organizers like myself. Today we have about 100 B Local leaders across 20 B Local communities in the U.S. We know that about 70% of all B Corps in North America are in a location that has a B Local.
I’m darn effective at the early stages where something amazing is happening and it needs a bit of a push.
Going forward, I will be acting as a liaison between the B Local communities and B Lab to facilitate more efficient communication and expand our best practices. I’m excited to see how the B Local communities are evolving!”
And your own company?
“What always confused me about business is the notion that business is amoral. I don’t think that’s true. The amorality bothered me. I founded PixelSpoke in 2003 and in January 2020, we transitioned from a single-member LLC to a worker-owned coop. I felt it aligned better with my ideas and values of worker participation, equality, employee engagement, long-term sustainability and continuous evolution of our company and its culture (read all about it here). With a team of 13, I think a lot about how to build mission into our coop model while ensuring balance. Let me explain: We obviously place a high value on the worker experience, but without the client experience, there is NO worker experience. – we need to balance all impact areas and build it into the model to ensure we are sustainable in the long run.”
How can we support you in your efforts?
“If you’re interested in B Corps, see if you can volunteer or support in any way locally. Even if there is no B Local, maybe you can find two or three people who care about this with you to start one. It is a very small dedicated team that is driving these B Local efforts.”
Portland, OR, US
B Local Big Dog. CEO, founder & community builder. Co-operator.