For many companies, their primary goal, and perhaps their only goal, is to do well by their stockholders. This often translates into a single-minded focus on profits as the measure of success.
Other companies may have multiple goals, all relatively equal. Such goals might include creating an organization that treats its employees, customers, vendors, and investors fairly, that is concerned about the environment and its local community, that is accountable to all its stakeholders, and is transparent in its corporate matters and financial reporting. Some might lump all of this under the umbrella of corporate social responsibility.
While many companies might claim to be engaged in such activities, it wasn’t until 2006 when three friends left careers in business and private equity and created an organization dedicated to making it easier for mission-driven companies to protect and improve their positive impact over time.
This was the birth of B Lab, a nonprofit that serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good. From the B Lab web site:
A historic global culture shift is underway to harness the power of business to help address society’s greatest challenges. B Lab’s goal is to accelerate this culture shift and make it meaningful and lasting. Our vision is that one day all companies will compete to be not just best in the world but also best for the world, and as a result society will enjoy a more shared and durable prosperity. The business community can be part of the solution to global problems like wealth inequality, climate change, and social unrest. Through our network of global partner organizations and interrelated initiatives, B Lab works to create viable alternatives to an economic system that is failing to create these solutions. B Lab pursues this goal by verifying credible leaders in the business community, creating supportive infrastructure and incentives for others to follow their lead, and engaging the major institutions with the power to transform our economy.
One of B Lab’s primary initiatives includes B Corp Certification. Again, from the B Lab web site:
Certifying as a B Corporation goes beyond product- or service-level certification. B Corp Certification is the only certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance. The B Impact Assessment evaluates how your company’s operations and business model impact your workers, community, environment, and customers. From your supply chain and input materials to your charitable giving and employee benefits, B Corp Certification proves your business is meeting the highest standards of verified performance. Positive impact is supported by transparency and accountability requirements. B Corp Certification doesn’t just prove where your company excels now—it commits you to consider stakeholder impact for the long term by building it into your company’s legal structure.
Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. The B Corp community works toward reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high quality jobs with dignity and purpose. By harnessing the power of business, B Corps use profits and growth as a means to a greater end: positive impact for their employees, communities, and the environment. B Corps form a community of leaders and drive a global movement of people using business as a force for good. The values and aspirations of the B Corp community are embedded in the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence.
Here is that Declaration:
We envision a global economy that uses business as a force for good.
This economy is comprised of a new type of corporation – the B Corporation –
Which is purpose-driven and creates benefit for all stakeholders, not just shareholders.
As B Corporations and leaders of this emerging economy, we believe:
- That we must be the change we seek in the world.
- That all business ought to be conducted as if people and place mattered.
- That, through their products, practices, and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all.
- To do so requires that we act with the understanding that we are dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations.
In other words, B Corps are companies that are not only doing well from a profitability standpoint, they are also doing good on behalf of its many stakeholders (customers, employees, vendors, local community).
There are currently over 2,500 companies that are certified, in over 60 countries. And among those 2,500 companies are some that are well-known: Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, and Danone.
It’s great to see so many companies behaving not only in a way that earns them the certification, but actually pursuing the certification. Doing so offers both an independent verification of the fact that your company is doing good, but may encourage other companies to follow suit.
At this point, there are no “big” companies on the list. But my hope is that as the B Corp certification grows in awareness and prestige, more companies, and more big companies (I’m thinking of your Apple, and Amazon, and Google, and Facebook, and Twitter) will opt to go through the certification process.
While it may require a significant amount of time and commitment to complete the certification, my sense is that the companies feel that it was well worth it.
Here’s a brief video overview: