Hal Taussig, a Life Well Lived
Hal Taussig, my inspiration for the B Corp movement, died last week at the age of 91, leaving us all an example of a life well lived.
I know of no higher aspiration and no more difficult task than to live one's values. No one, including Hal, can do that perfectly all the time. But Hal lived in alignment more consistently than anyone I have ever met. For that North Star, I am deeply grateful.
To remind us of that North Star, each year at our annual global gathering of B Corps, we award our community's highest honor to the person in the B Corp community who, over a lifetime, has lived the values of the B Corp community in their fullest expression - it's called the Hal Taussig B the Change Award. Past recipients include Fred Keller from Cascade Engineering, Mandy Cabot from Dansko, Roberta MacDonald from Cabot Creamery, Bryan Welch from Ogden Publications, and Danny Almagor and Berry Lieberman from Small Giants in Australia.
As a result of Hal's mischievous prodding, around 2004 we started down a path together that led to founding the nonprofit B Lab and the B Corp movement in 2006. Fittingly, Hal's company Untours became the very first B Corp in the world in 2007. For years, before his health would not allow, Hal spoke with students at the Westtown School class I co-teach called Business & Society -- and every year in the students' class evaluations, Hal was the highlight of the semester. Our class is an applied religion class in a Quaker school whose central tenet is that we must strive to put our faith into practice. Hal did that. And that he was honest about his many failures in doing so, made his example more powerful. That he didn't 'discover' his calling and start Untours until he was 50 made his example even more so, and was comforting to young people already anxious that they hadn't yet 'found their passion'.
Hal with some Westtown students wearing his famous Swiss sweater
Hal turned a $5k start-up loan from a friend into more than $5mm of loans to help people create pathways out of poverty from Chester, Pennsylvania to Hanoi, Vietnam and Chiapas, Mexico. Hal didn't take any salary, living with his home-bound wife Norma, on social security, knowing they had enough to live a fulfilling life, preferring that money be used for the micro-finance and small business loans from the Untours Foundation.
Hal was a social entrepreneur and an impact investor before those terms were created. Before people named it and talked about it, Hal did it.
Hal rode his bike to work every day for decades because it was
more enjoyable - and knew he looked cool in those black socks :)
All of us in the B Corp community ride on inspired by Hal's example that a life well lived is a life of service, and that business can be a powerful tool for service in creating a more inclusive economy that works for all.
Thank you Hal. We are in your debt.
Jay and the entire team at B Lab