Food Service & Agriculture, Retail, and Sustainability

Restaurant group earns B Corp status

February 3, 2016
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Bistro Bella Vita in downtown Grand Rapids is a local pioneer in serving farm-to-table fare.

A local restaurant group has joined a global movement of people using “business as a force for good.”

Grand Rapids-based Essence Restaurant Group — owner of Bistro Bella Vita, The Green Well Gastro Pub and Grove — said this week that it has met social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency standards to become a Certified B Corporation by the nonprofit B Lab.

The certification

The B Corp, or “Benefit Corporation,” designation is awarded to companies aspiring to use their business to solve social and environmental problems, consistently meet high standards of public transparency and legal accountability and that have earned at least a score of 80 out of 200 points of the B Impact Assessment.

With an overall B score of 89, Essence Restaurant Group has become one of the few restaurant companies in the nation to receive the B Corp certification.

The B Impact Report measures a company’s environmental performance, assesses the corporation’s relationship with its workforce, the impact on customers and the community and its overall governance.

James Berg, managing partner at Essence Restaurant Group, said the company believes responsible business is a vehicle for improving the economic, social and environmental health of the communities it serves.

“Achieving B Corp certification not only solidifies this belief, it serves as evidence of our unwavering commitment to designing, building and living green — and of using the power of business to make the world a better place,” Berg said.

B Corp community

With the certification, Essence Restaurant Group has joined a growing worldwide community of more than 1,400 Certified B Corps across 42 countries and 120 industries.

The restaurant group also joins the ranks of local West Michigan companies: Cascade Engineering, Gazelle Sports, Brewery Vivant, Bazzani, Catalyst Partners, Better Way Imports, The Gluten Free Bar and others.

Elissa Hillary, executive director of nonprofit Local First, said the organization is thrilled to welcome Essence as its eighth B Corp.

“They are a testament to the type of business that this community is proud to support,” Hillary said.

Local First is the West Michigan liaison for B Lab, which administers the B Corp Certification and has a vision to re-define business success as not only competing to be the best in the world.

Sustainable restaurant group

Essence Restaurant Group runs several sustainability initiatives: using local chemical-free produce, using LEED-certified facilities, supporting sustainable farming, using energy-efficient equipment and recycling all waste.

Lauren Jaenicke, sustainability director at Essence Restaurant Group, said the company’s sustainable business practices and carefully chosen locations add value to the neighborhoods where it does business.

“We were on the ground floor of the local food movement in Grand Rapids, and we have become the local experts for healthy, farm-to-plate food, so achieving B Corp status was the right thing to do,” Jaenicke said. 

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