Should You Be a B Corp?
If you believe in doing good, not just doing well, this distinction may be for you.
New Orleans is hosting the international B Corp Champions Retreat with events around the city from September 25 to 27.
During this three-day event, hundreds of B Corp leaders from around the world gather as members of the “B Economy,” described on the event’s website as “part of a broader global movement of people using business as a force for good.”
But what is a B Corp?
People, Profit, Planet: These are the three Ps that define what it means to be a B Corp. If you’re a B Corp, it means that your organization believes that making a living is important, but it shouldn’t be the only important thing. It’s the idea that business owners should hold themselves accountable to not just create a successful service or product, but also make a conscious effort to improve the world.
B Corp offers a community for those same do-gooders who are interested in joining a movement where doing the right thing and earning an autonomous revenue stream aren’t mutually exclusive; in fact, it may be more beneficial for your cause, which does not have to be grand. Maybe you just want to create a unique work environment where employees have the opportunity to purchase equity in the company, or offer educational opportunities to your community.
Being a B Corp is about “using business as a force for good ™.” If you have a passion, outside of grossing the largest bottom line possible, chances are you can make B Corp. work for you.
An example of a B Corp leading its industry is the retailer Patagonia, which is also a registered public benefit corporation. Patagonia has a passion for environmental preservation and sells adventures in the local and global environment. Consumers go to their stores or shop online because they want to enjoy the natural wonders of the world. By making it their mission to protect the environment, such as donating all Black Friday sales to charity, Patagonia not only created a loyal consumer base, it established itself as a global leader in its industry.
Ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s became a B Corp in 2012 and has kept social and environmental responsibility at the forefront of its mission. The company’s values are based on being a good citizen of the world, offering a product that not only tastes great, but also serves a greater purpose. If you visit the company’s website, you see the company’s values page right at the top, where it breaks down all the causes the owners have contributed to, both financially and physically. Not only has Ben & Jerry’s been used as a force for good in the fights for racial justice, climate change, refugee rights and fair trade, the company is also thriving. Revenues tripled from 2000 to 2015 and have yet to show signs of slowing down.
Nonprofits are important, but many people who consider operating their own nonprofit haven’t considered pursuing their venture as a for-profit, and have possibly underestimated the ease of receiving funding. On top of that, many nonprofits that exist today overlap their mission with another already existing organization. Rather than working together to achieve their goal, they siphon funds from the same pool.
B Lab is a nonprofit organization responsible for assessing candidates seeking B Corp certification, which requires meeting rigorous standards. B Lab will test a business’s social responsibility, environmental consciousness, transparency and accountability. Are these businesses good neighbors? Do they make the world a better place by existing?
Becoming a B Corp comes with unique benefits not seen in other philanthropic ventures. For example, you have to be a for-profit entity, meaning you are entering a world of competition and carving out your own niche. The good news is that you control your own destiny.
This business distinction provides entrepreneurs with the opportunity to network with a vast web of global movers and shakers. It offers a unique marketing opportunity for people who share similar values, but it cannot be used solely for marketing. You have to truly believe in the mission of using private market power for good.
When filling out the pre-assessment to see if a B Corp certification is for your company, you have to ask yourself as a business owner questions about your company’s culture, and if you should implement certain strategies to not only improve your core mission, but also your brand and product.
You shouldn’t just become a B Corp to capitalize on a trend. There have always been entrepreneurs who put their mission and values at the same level as profits. The best place to start is with the simple questions asked in Jim Collins’ book, “Good to Great.” In it, he encourages business leaders to ask themselves questions like, “What am I passionate about? What can I be the best in the world at? What drives my economic engine?’””
Becoming a B Corp will take work; it will require meetings with your team, friends and partners to figure out what your mission is and what you want your company’s impact to be. It may even make you consider your legacy, which can be a terrifying thought, but if you commit to the idea, you join a community of entrepreneurs who went through the same journey you did, who want to leave the world a better place, and who want to help others who share their same values.
For more information on B Corps, visit bcorporation.net.
Ari Goldfarb is the vice president and COO of Follow the Hummingbird Consulting. He received his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Maryland and is completing his master’s degree in economics at the University at Buffalo. Follow him on LinkedIn for daily advice on growing a small business linkedin.com/in/rkgold.