NORWICH, VT—Call centers are not, typically, very happy places—especially around the holidays. Workers have quotas to make, and often sit in bleak cubicles, headsets on, plowing through calls from stressed shoppers, as they count down the minutes until lunch.
But the employees in this call center in Vermont are rosy-cheeked and—can it be?—smiling. They field calls about misplaced packages and gluten-free dough, while surrounded by orange and red Thanksgiving decorations and a wall lined with baking gear that they’re allowed to borrow. They still have quotas—10 calls per hour, per agent—but they know they won’t get fired if they spend 45 minutes talking to a woman with cancer about baking, as one agent recently did.
“People just really care about each other and look out for each other,” said Julie Porter, a call center employee. “This is the company where somebody left a dollar bill on the floor, and sent around an email being like, ‘I found your dollar bill in the hallway if you’re looking for it.’”
Welcome to King Arthur Flour, a 225-year-old company that prides itself on treating its employees well. It’s not just lip service: King Arthur is one of a growing number of companies that has incorporated as a new type of business called a benefit corporation, which means its mission is to consider the needs of society and the environment, in addition to profit. There are 27 states that have passed legislation allowing companies to incorporate as benefit corporations since Maryland passed the first such law in 2010. Delaware’s governor signed a benefit corporation law last year, opening up the designation to the thousands of businesses incorporated there, which include nearly half of all publicly-traded companies.