Hal Taussig’s UnTours, the B Corp Movement, and How to Help the Ripples Grow
Love comes in many forms. A mother’s unfailing love for a child, no matter the mischief they cause. The love many pet owners hold for their furry friends. And of course around Valentine’s Day, our focus is drawn to that mind-blowing, life-altering, insanely sweet feeling for a special person for whom we‘d do anything.
But there are a lot of other forms of love, some that are much less specific, expressed through the way one lives, and radiated toward a much larger number of people.
Hal Taussig did that kind of loving.
Hal started a travel company with his wife in Media, Pennsylvania. The company made millions, but Hal didn’t keep them for himself.
Instead he gave the profits, more than $5 million, away to a foundation he started that seeds investments to businesses serving the poor. He also donated his salary to the foundation, choosing instead to live on Social Security, ride his bike to work, shop at thrift shops, and resole his own shoes.
Paul Newman was so struck by Hal that he named Hal’s business, Untours, the “Most Generous Business in America” in 1999 and invited Hal to New York to accept the award. Hal balked at the ritzy New York hotels, opting instead to stay at a youth hostel before he collected the $250,000 in prize money — which he donated to his foundation.
“I try to make the poor into capitalists. If you give them a way to make a living, it’s like teaching them how to fish rather than giving them fish.” – Hal Taussig
When John Kennedy Jr., the ceremony’s co-chair, heard he was staying at a hostel, he pulled Hal aside and said, “I hear you’re staying at a youth hostel. You should be staying at a five-star hotel.’”
Hal responded, “If I believe what I said tonight, then nobody should stay at a five-star hotel until everybody has a roof over their heads.”
Hal, who mischievously referred to himself as a “Christian Marxist,” believed a better way of doing business was possible — and the companies his foundation supported with loans would prove it.
“I try to make the poor into capitalists,” Taussig said. “If you give them a way to make a living, it’s like teaching them how to fish rather than giving them fish.”
The companies the foundation seeded changed lives. Crafts made in Vietnam by people earning fair wages. Farmers in Brazil given an opportunity to buy their own land and reap their own harvest. Manufacturing jobs in Chester, Pennsylvania, and a laundry company in Philadelphia, powering cycles through bicycles.
Hal’s revolutionary way of doing business caught the attention of others.
The B Corp Movement
Jay Coen Gilbert called on Hal for inspiration and guidance as he worked with two co-founders, Bart Houlahan and Andrew Kassoy, to codify a business-as-a-force-for-good methodology and found B Lab in 2006. Untours became the first Certified B Corporation in 2007, and today there are more than2,300 B Corps in more than 50 countries, carrying on Hal’s legacy by creating pathways for people to escape poverty through sustainable employment.
Thanks to Hal, Jay, and many other early believers, the number of social enterprises is now exploding. More and more entrepreneurs are baking a social and environmental mission into their business models from the start.
Our goal at DoneGood is to make it easy for consumers to find these companies and their products through our Chrome extension and website. As part of B Corp month, we’re featuring a special selection of B Corp products. For those of us who believe in the business-as-a-force-for-good movement, there’s no better way to support that movement than putting our money where our beliefs are and supporting B Corps!
Hal died at age 91 in 2016, but his memory lives on — the highest award given at the B Corps Champions Retreat is the Hal Taussig award, given to companies that have lived the values of the B Corp community in their fullest expression.
And the expression of love Hal showed others will continue to ripple for generations. To Hal, that was a life well lived, summing it up like this: “I could live a very rich life on very little money. My life is richer than most rich people’s lives. I can really do something for humanity.”
Scott Jacobsen is co-founder of DoneGood. He first heard Hal’s story on a plane to the 2017 B Corp Champions Retreat in Toronto when he found himself sitting beside Hal’s nephew, Brian Taussig-Lux, President of Untours. This post originally appeared on B the Change.