With refugees making up more than 30% of their workforce and a commitment to improving social and environmental conditions, Rhino Foods doesn’t just aim to bring about positive social change, it’s doing it.
Our Social Impact Scholars recently met with the B-Corp’s President to learn more about the company’s mission-driven practices.
Champlain’s Social Impact Scholars program aims to give students the opportunity to make an impact on the world while they work toward their college degree. Students are taught how to use the skills they learn in their professional majors to create positive social change and transform their fields for the better. Each semester, Social Impact Scholars explore different aspects of their local community to see social justice in action. In December and January, they checked out local businesses like Skinny Pancake and Rhino Foods that are baking positive social impact right into their missions.
Plus, we can’t forget about Ben & Jerry’s. Who doesn’t love their Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream? The beloved flavor’s not-so-secret ingredient is made right here in Burlington by Rhino Foods.
When Ted Castle, Rhino’s President, met with Champlain’s Social Impact Scholars and Stiller School of Business faculty, he discussed the mission he’s been fine-tuning over the last thirty years: Find ways to create positive social change through business.
“There’s a lot of power in business,” says Castle. “Many people think doing business as a force for good will cost you money, but it has been proven that it can save you money. If we have low employee turnover because of our livable wages and positive workplace practices, it will save us a lot of money in the end.” Castle says his aim has always been to do right because it’s the right thing to do, emphasizing long-term financial health in order to invest in his customers, employees, and community.
Rhino Foods recently joined businesses that are balancing purpose and profit, like Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, and Burton Snowboards, to become Certified B-Corporations. To be certified, companies are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.
“Rhino Foods seeks out refugees, is willing to hire previously incarcerated people, and creates great opportunities for those who might be struggling to get by,” says John McCarthy ’22, an Environmental Studies & Policy major. “Castle’s focus on his employees and his commitment to building community are what resonated with me most. He asks questions all businesses should be asking themselves so they can do better. By treating people as people—something that seems so simple—we can help reform society and change mindsets.”
Some of Rhino Foods’s progressive initiatives include its Income Advance Program, through which employees are guaranteed same day access to $1,000 for emergency or unplanned needs; their Employee Exchange Program, which helps companies with opposing seasonal business cycles avoid seasonal layoffs; and their on-site English classes.
The Social Impact Scholars aren’t the only ones at Champlain dedicated to making positive social change. The Champlain community is known for giving back in hundreds of ways, not only here in Vermont but around the world. In fact, Champlain’s Stiller School of Business emphasizes social responsibility and positive organizational development right in its mission.
“Rhino Foods really embodies the Stiller School of Business approach of making the world a better place through business,” says Dr. Cyrus Patten, an Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship with a background in social work. “The Social Impact Scholars were so clearly interested in seeing what business for good looks like in the real world. Rhino is an exceptional example of a company demonstrating a better way to do business—and it’s right here in Burlington.”