There’s a new sort of caring sharing change-making company, that’s gathering momentum, worldwide.
Dedicated to achieving a higher purpose and striving to be the best for, not in the world, the B Corporation movement is working to redefine business success – as a force for good.
Certified B (or Benefit) Corporations are for-profit companies that seek to find a better way to do business. To pass the rigorous certification process – managed and re-certified every two years by the non-profit B Lab – these values-aligned brands have met rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency, and they work with a single-minded conviction to achieve things greater than themselves.
Their dedication not only serves their beliefs, but the certification badge also sends clear signals to customers, future and present employees and investors that they have a commitment, far beyond mere words, to being a good corporate citizen.
Beliefs over profit
Rather than maximising their profit at all costs, B Corps only pursue a certain type of profit – they call it good profit – while making a genuine, purposeful contribution to society. They work to bring benefit and superior value to their customers, society, partners and every employee, while always consuming fewer resources and acting lawfully and with integrity.
Since 2006, the B Corps movement has spread far and wide and is now thriving across 130 industries in 50 countries, including Australia, Bulgaria, Ghana and Taiwan. At present, most B Corps are small to mid-sized privately-held companies, but bigger firms are showing interest and there are several globally recognised brands that are certified B Corps: ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s, online glasses retailer Warby Parker, outdoor clothing maker Patagonia and the online bazaar of handcrafted goods, Etsy.
In 2015, Bellroy, an Australian based leather wallet and digital case maker became a B Corp. Inspired by Cradle-To-Cradle principles, their B Corp environmental goals have had far-reaching effects on their manufacturing process and their belief in being a force for good has unified their team in their common purpose. “Seeing our crew’s passion translate into change feels amazing” Bellroy founder & CEO, Andy Fallshaw, said in an interview with Forbes Magazine.
A lifetime commitment
For those profit-making companies that wish to make a more lasting commitment to their mission driven direction, private and public companies can now legally become “benefit corporations.” This is a new class of corporation – currently legislated in Italy, 32 US states and recommended in the UK – that requires a corporation to not only serve shareholders, but also workers and consumers as part of their legal charter. This requires that they more seriously weigh the impact of their decisions and also gives perpetual protection to the founding beliefs of those smaller values driven business, that are taken over or bought by larger corporations.
When Patagonia registered in 2012 as the first Californian Benefit Corporation, the founder Yvon Chouinard, wrote: “Patagonia is trying to build a company that could last one hundred years. Benefit corporation legislation creates the legal framework to enable mission-driven companies like Patagonia to stay mission driven through succession, capital raises, and even changes in ownership, by institutionalizing the values, culture, processes, and high standards put in place by founding entrepreneurs.”
Adding a conscience to business
It seems this growing wave of conscious consumerism isn’t just marketing spiel. According to several studies, including Neilson’s The Sustainability Imperative, consumers will pay more for sustainable brands. Globally, sales of goods with a commitment to sustainability have grown more than 4 per cent, while those without commitment grew less than 1 per cent.
However, after years of big brand marketing, we’re not fools when it comes to believing company claims. According to the study, we no longer take them at face value and are far more demanding of real proof of a long-term investment, in doing the right thing. The B Corp movement and certification process is seen to be a way for companies to achieve that, as well driving a higher level of social and environmental purpose and demonstrate and improve a company’s ongoing efforts.
Certification also encourages the sharing of best practices across different industries and helps B Corps improve their environmental footprint programs and employee engagement efforts. Patagonia has widely reported that their certification not only validates their culture, but it also helps them connect with like-minded people and attract better quality candidates – further fuelling their reputation as a great place to work.
It’s very easy to be sceptical of the aura and rhetoric surrounding B Corps. However, we’ve clearly arrived at a time when we, as consumers, are looking for more meaning in our choices and purchases. B Corps are now driving a much needed reboot of capitalism – one where the desire for profit, is balanced with purpose.
NOTE: A version of this post under another title, was originally published in INDVSTRVS magazine
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