New Leaf Community Markets shoppers might be shocked to learn that one of the company’s board members sponsored a $12,500-a-plate benefit for Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush.
Stephen Babson, a Republican who put on the dinner to raise money for Bush’s Right to Rise super-PAC, is on the board of directors of New Seasons Market, which bought the local New Leaf chain from Santa Cruz liberal Democrat Scott Roseman. Babson’s employer Endeavour Capital became the major investor in the chain in 2009 and has guided its rapid growth.
Bush is the last green you might expect at New Leaf. The brother of former President George W. Bush has come out against the federal minimum wage. But it’s not a surprise to former owner Roseman, who is also on the board. He describes Babson as a liberal-leaning Republican, who might be considered a Democrat in some places.
“The fact that one individual in the organization has different political views than most of us, including me, does not mean that we have suddenly become a tool of the Koch brothers,” says Roseman. “But, more importantly, New Leaf’s values, as well as New Seasons’, have not changed. We are still the same two companies that became the first two grocery stores to achieve B Corp status, which recognizes us for, as the B Corp saying goes, ‘using business as a force for good.’
“We still give more than 10 percent of our profits to support our local community’s nonprofit organizations. We still share our profits with our employees, and even have a new plan that allows employees to use some or all of their profit-sharing dollars to invest in the company and gain potential future rewards. We still are committed to sustainability in both the way we do business and the products we sell. In particular, we still are committed to a local, organic, and non-GMO food system.”
Can one right-leaning member sway the board?
“Absolutely not,” says Roseman. “There are eight board members, I being one of them, and, as I wear my left-leaning liberal politics on my sleeve, I can tell you that. Moreover, Stephen Babson, the subject of this discussion, has been 150 percent behind what we are doing, as he has personally supported the organization to support non-GMO labeling initiatives in Oregon and California, he has personally supported the New Season’s public stance last year to support gay marriage, and he has been completely committed to all of our efforts to operate as the same progressive businesses that we have always been.”