For three generations, Clover Sonoma, a family-owned and operated company, has championed a healthy, sustainable way of life for their producer dairy farms, precious land, and the animals entrusted to their care. Following their founder, Gene Benedetti’s example, the company places paramount importance on giving back to the community.
In 2016, Clover Sonoma took that commitment to the next level when it became a Certified B Corporation.
B Corporations are for-profit companies, certified by the nonprofit B Lab, who have met the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.
Clover Sonoma now joins a community of businesses, which includes 3,285 global companies, that are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.
Clover Sonoma CEO Marcus Benedetti said that the Sonoma County based company is proud to be balancing purpose with profit.
“Owning more than fifty percent of the branded dairy market in Northern California means we have a responsibility to do what’s best for consumers,” Benedetti said. “We’ve baked sustainability into our DNA and continue to look for ways to foster growth within our organization and aim to set the bar high for our community and other brands across our industry.”
Clover Sonoma’s Chief Revenue Officer, Kristel Corson, said that Benedetti was the leading voice driving Clover’s B Corp certification.
“For a company, like Clover Sonoma, which is so committed to community involvement and environmental stewardship, becoming a B Corp was a perfect call to action,” Corson said. “We are now formalizing components of what we have always done. The B Lab has helped with that framework and to further instill a growth mindset within the organization.”
With this new certification, Clover Sonoma joins a growing community of distinguished Certified B Corps from 50+ countries, and over 130 industries, working together to use the power of markets to solve social and environmental problems. This collective movement to redefine success in business has one unifying goal: to show that companies can operate as a force for good, and reflect a culture of durable prosperity for all.
Corson said that it has been beneficial to have access to a community of other B Corporations who work to support each other and that the B Lab helps communicate ways in which their companies are set apart from others.
“We are now a part of a great community of other B Corps whom we try to buy from and who share our belief that businesses have a responsibility to the planet, employees deserve more than the bare minimum and that companies should be transparent and open,” Corson said.
She said that such beliefs align with the foundational tenets upon which Clover was built.
In addition, to receive a B Corp certification, Clover Sonoma’s proud legacy as a leader in the dairy industry includes the distinction of being the first dairy in the United States to become American Humane Certified, the first dairy to hold its partnership of family-owned farms to a higher standard by developing its own unique Clover Promise of Excellence, and the first west of the Mississippi to say “no” to the growth hormone rBST in dairy cows.
Becoming a B Corp is the company’s latest step to further demonstrates its passion for excellence, and commitment to providing the cleanest, healthiest, freshest dairy products available to consumers.
However, Corson said that becoming B Corp Certified is no easy task.
“Initially, there was an education process within the company so that everyone could get on board and understand why we were undertaking this process,” Corson said. “It wasn’t necessarily a hurdle but was time-consuming and took a lot of communication.”
Certified B Corporations must achieve a minimum verified score on the B Impact Assessment—a rigorous assessment of a company’s impact on its workers, customers, community, and environment—and make their B Impact Report transparent on bcorporation.net. The scores they receive are based on the sum of five rated categories: community, environment, workers, governance, and customers.
There are a total of 200 points possible in the assessment, however, Corson said that no businesses receive such a high score. To be certified, a business must receive 80 points.
“Most companies who go through the process for the first time and average a score of 55 points,” Corson said. “We received 97 points when we first applied for certification.”
She said that only two other dairy companies worldwide scored higher than Clover Sonoma.
Once a company is certified, they have three years to maintain and improve before needing to recertify. Therefore, Clover works with an outside consultant who specializes in B Corporations to help them identify ways in which the company can improve.
“After you are certified, you start again with a score of zero,” Corson said. “Then you go to work for the next 3-year accreditation cycle. This helps us put together a road map about how to move forward to improve in the areas of transparency, environmental responsibility, and social responsibility.”
She said that the accreditation cycle has helped drive Clover Sonoma forward and prioritize strategic initiatives including the first renewable milk carton in the US, which they launched last year to improve the company’s sustainability.
“Our paper board carton is now made from fully renewable resources,” Corson said. “Typical milk cartons have a liner that is made from fossil fuels, but ours is now made from a sugarcane-based liner that is grown in renewable forests.”
Corson said that the company just performed an emission assessment and is looking at ways to offset, improve or gain credit for emissions.
“We have a strong focus now around packaging sustainability,” Corson said. “We do not use a plastic cap on our paper carton, which saves about 11 million water bottles or 200,000 lbs. of plastic from going into the ocean.”
John Bucher, of Bucher Dairy, has been shipping milk to Clover since 1999. He is working to continue a legacy of sustainability, stewardship, and animal care to create a high-quality product, that was established by his parents and also shared by the Benedetti family, which is why he works with Clover Sonoma.
“A business is about relationships and I gravitate towards companies to work with, whether it’s vendors, suppliers, or buyers, that are like-minded and share my values,” Bucher said.
When Clover became a B Corporation Bucher said that he wasn’t surprised because, over the decades that he has shipped milk to the Petaluma-based company, they have always worked on projects to support the environment and community.
“It’s great to work with Clover because they are always looking at the bigger picture, just like we are,” Bucher said. “We are all pulling together in the same direction. They expect a lot of us as a Clover shipper, but we have a shared goal and vision to do what we can for the greater good.”
In addition to sustainability initiatives, Clover Sonoma has been a longtime community supporter.
“It has always been important for us to give back to the communities that we serve,” Corson said. “Gene Benedetti’s motto was always, ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ We are known throughout the community—whether it is giving free ice cream out at the fair or helping nonprofits with donations— for community service, but once we became a B Corp, we realized that we needed to formalize the process to make it clearer.”
Therefore, the Clover Cares program was created. Now, Clover officially gives back at least 5 percent of profits each year towards nonprofit charities that elevate dairy, empower future generations, or support the community.
Given Clover Sonoma’s many efforts to embed the B Corp values into their company culture, it is no surprise that that when they recertified last year, the company earned an increased score of 100.5.
“Many companies are working towards the certification and every year it gets harder to obtain,” Corson said. “We are very proud and more determined than ever to continue with this momentum.”
The strong, regional California brand is now embarking on a new and exciting journey. Corson said that they are working to expand outside of California and just launched into the Pacific Northwest and are starting to move east to bring their dairy products and philosophy to more consumers in the U.S.
“We know that part of what will be interesting to new consumers outside of California is our farmers, sourcing, the way that we go about delivering our milk to consumers, our values, and our B Corporation Certification.”
She said that they will continue to follow the B Corp directive to use “business as a force for good” and positively elicit change for their environment, community, and company.