Beyond The Corporate Model: B Corps Gain Interest
"B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee, or USDA Organic certification is to milk." - bcorporations.net
J Barnett | Los Angeles
B Corp certification is becoming increasingly popular as companies compete in a field of "green is good." Small and mid-sized companies are attempting to set themselves apart from larger corporations who have entered into the environmental and community awareness revolution.
Certification is a way in which for-profit businesses can be seen as authentic proprietors of social change, setting themselves apart from less than genuine trend seekers. B Lab, a nonprofit organization assigns certification and awards to companies that "create value for non-shareholding stakeholders, such as their employees, the local community, and the environment."
There are over 1800 certified B Corporations in over 50 countries, and each year B Lab gives out their Best For The World Awards. The awards are distributed in several categories; including, community, environment, customers, and workers. According to 2016 Best For the World award recipient, Tom Weeks, CEO of Education Funding Partners (EFP), “Our team is inspired by the B Corp community and our shared mission to use the power of business to support a social good. This honor reinforces that our commitment to public education and focusing on our stakeholders — public school districts, corporations, and the communities they impact — is good for business and good for society.”
As B Corps find greater and greater success in the marketplace, fundamental change is occurring in the traditional shareholder-focused company models. As pointed out in Harvard Business Review, Why Companies Are Becoming B Corporations, by Suntae Kim, Matthew J. Karlesky, Christofer G. Meyers and Todd Schifeling, "The traditional corporate form has in many ways monopolized our understanding of how we think and talk about “business.” The rise of new forms of organization will require re-imagining what (and who) are the fundamental building blocks of business."
Legal changes are also taking place as companies attempt to restructure how they define their business models. The changes include:
- The formation of precise wording to consider stakeholder interests in company by-laws.
- Definition of "stakeholders" as employees, community, environment, suppliers, customers, and shareholders.
- Stakeholders hold no priority over other stakeholders
- Company's values are under new management, investors, or ownership.
B Lab determines the merits of business participants based on the "B Impact Assessment." Companies are scored based on how they effect the environment, workers, customers, and communities. As bthechange.com points out, "It is commonplace for business leaders to discuss how they minimize the harm their businesses do to communities and the environment."
"But a small group of pioneering businesspeople is setting a higher bar. Instead of minimizing harm, they seek to maximize the positive impact of their businesses. Instead of limiting negative externalities, they actively and purposefully seek a regenerative economy by operating their businesses in more thoughtful and rigorous ways."
It's hard to argue that B Corporations are at least trying to incorporate sustainability through local awareness and an improved edict of fairness.