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Visiting Speaker Highlights Vermont's 'Cause-Oriented' Businesses

Vermont business leaders held an annual networking breakfast in Burlington Friday morning. The event was presented by the Vermont Business Roundtable, and this year featured consultant and author Jackie Freiberg.

Freiberg has written about cause-oriented companies and the benefits of operating a firm in which socially-driven goals are part of the business strategy.  

She has a Vermont connection through a book she wrote about Montpelier-based National Life Group, a company she writes “was cause-oriented before cause was cool.”

According to Freiberg, there are many other examples in Vermont.

“You guys are iconic for your socially responsible businesses,” she says.

Freiberg singled out employee-owned King Arthur Flour.

“That’s a company that’s led by three CEOs. Two CEOs co-leading an organization is already stretch! They’ve been doing a tremendous job of making in impact in Vermont and beyond," Freiberg says.

King Arthur is one of about 1,900 B Corporations worldwide, which are for-profit companies that must meet certain social, environmental and transparency standards to be certified. Frieberg says B Corporations are one approach to social responsibility in business, but there are more modest models as well.  

“When I say making the world better, I’m not talking about having a global impact. Eventually, maybe you will. I’m just saying look around and say, ‘Is there a greener way to do this? Is there a more cost-effective way to do this? Is there an opportunity to give back and contribute something?'” she says.

Despite recent high-profile examples of companies that that have breached ethical standards and broken laws, Freiberg says the idea of businesses finding purpose in addition to being profitable is becoming increasingly popular.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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