Oliver Russell Takes New Orleans

Oct 12, 2018



By Brian Millar, Intern PR Strategist

What happens when you get 400 of the best and brightest minds in social enterprise in the same room? The B Corp Champions Retreat!

As a Certified B Corp and legal benefit corporation, Oliver Russell was honored to be among B Lab’s “Best for the World” honorees in the Workers and Governance categories for 2018! We’re always striving to improve how we “walk the talk” when it comes to making positive changes in the world through business, which is why we invested the time (and money) to send six Oliver Russell employees to New Orleans for the Champions Retreat!


Bayou or Bust

On September 25, founder and president Russ Stoddard joined employees, Adie Bartron, Raylene Brent, Jenai Jasper, Ashley Ridgway, and Brandon Stoker plane bound for Louisiana. New Orleans offers a host of many cultural experiences: mardi gras, jambalaya, Bourbon Street. While they had some time to themselves to enjoy the vibrancy of all things “Big Easy,” their minds were locked in on this year’s retreat theme: “Building the B Economy.” 

According to B Lab, there are three reasons that we all go to work each day: to build something meaningful, to strengthen community ties, and to provide a good life for our loved ones. These ideas trickled down throughout the conference, into breakout sessions with topics such as strategic activism, mindfulness, and recycling. While there were so many sessions to choose from, the group rounded up a few key takeaways that may be most beneficial for you, regardless of whether you work at a B Corp or not. 

Unleashing Your Mindful Self

In a culture of constant stimulation and ever-present distractions, we may not be fully present in every moment. Moderators Adrianna Chandra-Huff, of Bodhi Surf & Yoga, and Seleyne DeYarus, of At the Epicenter, spoke of purpose, passion, and connection in our daily tasks. In order to break through the distractions and anchor ourselves in the moment, when we have time to ourselves, we need to take that time to practice introspection. Rather than “divorce ourselves” to our phones, we need to focus our attention on ourselves. 

“I learned how important it is that each of us take care of ourselves individually so we can bring our best selves to the rest of the team,” said Bartron, a producer. “For example, we need to take advantage of the resources that are available to us, like our health and wellness benefit.” 

Jenai Jasper resonated with another mindful message—this one spoke to the power of being uncomfortable. “I am used to hearing coaches at CrossFit say that being uncomfortable is good, as it means I’m getting better, but hearing that same concept at the retreat really put it in perspective that it doesn’t just apply solely to CrossFit, but to all the different situations in life,” said Jasper, our agency’s finance manager. “For example, having an uncomfortable conversation is sometimes extremely necessary and can help a person or company grow to be better.”


Engage Your Employees

Engaging employees was another hot topic at the retreat. Rob Michalak of Ben & Jerry’s, Lindsay Dahl of Beautycounter, and Darcy Shiber of Dr. Bronners, discussed finding ways to help staff engagement align with an organization’s overall goal. Whether that’s through brand activism, or education about issues related to a company’s core purpose or product (for example, if you make compostable packaging, your employees need to understand the environmental crisis of plastic pollution). Regularly surveying employees can also help fine tune engagement strategies.

Is Recycling A Myth?

Plastic is a big deal, people! Those close to Oliver Russell may be aware that we are creating a community-based plastic recycling factory here in Boise that will be fully operational by early November, taking the water bottles and clam shell containers we can’t recycle anymore due to changes in global markets.

“The most impactful, eye-opening session was the one regarding plastics,” said Stoker, one of our kick-ass graphic designers. “Humanity is pretty late to the game when it comes to worrying about how big of an issue plastics are to our environment, and society is kind of focusing on the wrong things. For example, straws make up .03% of the plastic in the oceans, so yes, freak out over plastic straws, but there is so much more to be freaking out about too! It was and is scary and I’m really glad Oliver Russell is taking this seriously.”

Because of our involvement in launching PlasticWorks (website coming soon), our whole team was psyched to learn more about plastic’s direct impact on human health and the health of our ecosystems. While no one solution exists right now, the B Corp movement can take on the following tasks to ensure a better future for plastic consumption:

  • Achieve ZERO waste. It’s better to not use at all than to recycle.
  • It’s hard to track recyclable plastic, and it’s cheaper for companies to use virgin plastic than recycled. That’s an economic problem…is there a market solution?
  • Find ways to implement policies that will encourage people to be more likely to participate. For example, people were more likely to participate if they had to pay for each bag, rather than if they received a discount.

Bonding and Beignets

Bonding over beignets and all of the impactful lessons our team learned from this incredible experience, helped us return to Boise recharged and eager to continue to forge ahead and weave purpose into every aspect of our work. As we move ahead with PlasticWorks and prepare for another major announcement involving Russ and his German business partner, Markus Kessler, we’ll continue to push social purpose to its creative limits, as well as what it means to be an advertising agency in 2018. Stay tuned.