“Standing up for our values is always a win”: RNL Design and the B Corp Inclusion Challenge
Earlier this year, B Lab launched the B Corp Inclusion Challenge and asked every B Corp to improve on three metrics related to inclusivity and diversity over the next year. Learn more about the Challenge.
RNL Design is an international architecture and planning firm with a focus on sustainability and offices in Denver, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Abu Dhabi. Korey White and Rachel Bannon-Godfrey told us why the B Corp Inclusion Challenge is so exciting for RNL Design.
When did you decide to participate in the Inclusion Challenge?
It was love at first sight! We both emailed each other as soon as we saw the first announcement. The two of us pre-screened the Inclusive Economy Metric Set and then reached out to the rest of our team to assemble a committee.
Why did it feel relevant to RNL Design?
Diversity and inclusion comes up often in the world of architecture. To work as an architect requires specific degrees, three years of internships, and seven exams, all of which you have to pay for. That means there are a lot of barriers to diversity. We want to address the source of that problem.
The Inclusion Challenge also hits to the core of who we pride ourselves on being at RNL Design. We’re always checking to see if we’re walking the talk. When we were honored for being Best for Workers, people here were really excited, so when the Inclusion Challenge came out, it was like, “Of course we have to do this.” This is the next incarnation of us being a B Corp.
How did you pick the metrics you’ll be focusing on for the Challenge?
We sent out an email to every single staff person with information on the Challenge, when we would first meet, and call-in information. We wanted to see who would show up! We have a dedicated team of people who participate in B Corp initiatives, who made up a big part of the attendees, but we also wanted to open it up to everybody, including newer staff members. Fourteen people in total attended, spread between our different offices and across all levels of the organization. We’ve now had two meetings, and we’re gonna start a B Inclusive channel on Slack that people can join in addition to our monthly meetings.
When we were picking the metrics we wanted to focus on, we thought about it this way:
- What can we actually achieve within twelve months?
- What are the responsibilities and opportunities for the staff people who are engaged?
- What is regionally appropriate for each office?
We landed on three metrics, two from the B Impact Assessment and one that we came up with ourselves.
The first is to hold a series of diversity and inclusion trainings for RNL employees.
The second is to update our vendor screening process. We bring in a lot of food and speakers at our Denver offices, and we want to make sure we’re working with a diverse set of companies that are minority- and women-led. Our DC office wants to focus on finding suppliers who create jobs for low-income people.
The third was addressing the professional pipeline for opportunities in architecture. Becoming an architect requires internships, and we tend to do our intern recruitment at the same universities every year. We want to create different recruitment pipelines for interns and post-graduation hires.
What are the benefits and challenges you see over the next year?
There’s a lot of momentum around this on our team, but we all do have day jobs and our own projects. Maintaining energy and making sure that we’re setting achievable timelines and goals will be key. We hope B Lab will be able to support us in that through resources and creating connections with other organizations.
There’s a lot of emotion in the room when talking about these issues, and another challenge will be matching that energy and passion. If we meet these metrics half-heartedly, that’s doing a disservice to how people are feeling right now. The biggest challenge is going to be making sure people feel like what we’re doing is truly impactful.
That emotional investment is also a benefit, though! We’ve created a safe place for people to have these conversations. The meetings we’ve had about the Inclusion Challenge have really provided an opportunity to have face-to-face conversations. People spend so much time behind a computer screen, and that’s so often where we get to express ourselves. Getting to share our fears and talk about why this is important in person is a great benefit.
A lack of diversity and inclusion is a problem in our profession. A number of architecture firms are looking into how to take action on this issue; we feel fortunate to have the Inclusion Challenge and the support of the B Corp community, to guide us. The concrete framework B Lab has provided through the Inclusion Challenge has given us a chance to be a leader in our industry. We have an opportunity to bring this issue to light with actual actions behind the rhetoric. This will benefit us in the long run both from a business standpoint but also from a hiring standpoint. Inclusion is on the minds of young people everywhere. Every time a firm can stand up for its own values, that’s a win.
Are you a B Corp who wants to get involved in the Inclusion Challenge? To follow RNL Design’s lead, download the Getting Started worksheet for the B Corp Inclusion Challenge or watch them speak on our Getting Started webinar.