A senior at Colby College, Georgia Dettmann has been working on her senior thesis, looking at sustainability certifications for the cannabis industry. She reached out to ReVision Energy in the fall to ask us about our B Corp status – how we got it, what it means for our communities, and why we value it. Now, she’s almost wrapped up her project so we got back in touch to see what she’s developed as a “B Corp” equivalent. 

A B Corp Certification for the Cannabis Industry?

by Georgia Dettmann, Colby College Class of 2022

My name is Georgia Dettmann, and I am from Baltimore, Maryland. I am currently a senior at Colby College studying environmental policy and economics. Outside of the classroom, I love to travel, explore the outdoors, and play volleyball. During my senior year at Colby, I have been working on a thesis where I am researching sustainability within the recreational cannabis industry in Maine. Ultimately, I am hoping to develop a sustainability certification, similar to the B Corp Certification, that different retailers could hypothetically take to show their sustainable practices.

Developing the Thesis

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Through my coursework at Colby, we were given the opportunity to explore statewide policies and how they played a role in environmental policy nationwide. I came across an article that looked into new cannabis growth policies in Illinois and immediately was hooked – there is so much about the industry that is unknown because of how politicized it has become and how federal legalization dominates the conversation about cannabis.

I began to explore the environmental impacts of cannabis growth and learned a lot about the plant itself. A few years later, I was still thinking about the industry, so I decided to dig a little deeper and expand my research into all kinds of sustainability: environmental, economic, social, etc. Maine’s cannabis laws and practices are a great place to learn more about the plant, its regulation, and its sustainability, which is why I centered my studies around the industry in Maine!

Right now, my title is a placeholder: “The Sustainability of Recreational Cannabis Production in Maine.” Throughout my research, I have discovered that many of the academic journal articles about the industry have some great puns included in the title – I am working towards finding one that hasn’t been done yet – that might be the hardest part of this whole project!

B Corp Certification as the Gold Standard

Photo Credit: ReVision Energy

Because I am ultimately developing a certification for cannabis retailers, I wanted to look into pre-existing sustainability certifications. I was familiar with the B Corp Certification because it has been mentioned in a few of my classes and I often see the B Corp logo on a lot of products in the grocery store. I looked into exactly what types of questions were asked on these certifications and talked to a few local businesses, like ReVision, that were B Corp certified. I like how the certification varies among industries, so a company in the agriculture industry isn’t asked the same questions as a company in the manufacturing industry, per se. There’s more than one way to achieve sustainability, and differentiating the certification between industries shows that.

I also appreciate how the certification isn’t just about environmental benefits; it asks several questions about ethical treatment of employees, civic engagement from the company, and overall economic impact from the company itself. This was a large source of inspiration for my certification, as the term “sustainability” is not just about the environment – it’s about the long-term wellbeing of employees, the cycle of money back into the local community, the ethical treatment of consumers, and many more things. I wanted to make sure that this was highlighted in my certification as well.

A Similar Certification for the Cannabis Industry

The cultivation of cannabis is a complex, multi-layered industry. I have learned that there are more sustainable ways to cultivate, package, and sell cannabis recreationally, and it would be great if everyone engaged in these practices. The recreational industry is still emerging, so introducing the importance of sustainability at this stage would be really helpful, but it can also be tricky because there is still a lot to learn about accessibility.

Photo Credit: Richard T | The CBD

I ultimately envision a certification focusing on the packaging that different cannabis products come in, as well as the treatment and benefits that employees receive. Social justice is another topic that is heavily intertwined with the industry, so it’s important to highlight that as well.

Something that I want to emphasize in both my thesis and my certification is that not everyone can snap their fingers and be more sustainable – sustainability can be expensive! I would hope that if this certification could be implemented into the industry, different retailers could receive tax breaks or some type of government funding to reward them for their practices.