17 Jul Well-Behaved Corporations are the Future
By Adrienne Gerard
Have you ever asked yourself what the world’s leading companies do with all that profit; why more is not being directed towards environmental problems; why employee wages are sacrificed in favor of ballooning executive compensation; why the weight of community outreach and improvement is balanced on the backs of cash-poor non-profits? As the efforts of many corporate titans continue to fall short, a small but inspiring class of socially-conscious organizations is gaining momentum, leading by example and showing the world a thing or two about what it means to put company resources to good use.
The B Corp (Be The Change Corporation) classification was developed by B Lab, a nonprofit that supports organizations in the business of doing good. B Lab created the voluntary certification program by assessing corporations’ environmental and social performance, as well as their transparency. When classifying companies, certified B Corps are the star students in the class. Not only do they create high quality jobs for employees, but they strive to provide high quality products and services that better the lives of consumers, the quality of communities, and the health of the world. Currently, over 1,300 certified B Corps exist in 41 countries, blazing trails in over 121 industries; their impetus stemming from the notion that, “business, the most powerful man-made force on the planet, must create value for society, not just shareholders.”
This relatively small number of companies are currently making advances, passing laws for benefit corporations in 27 states, and becoming more and more powerful within the global climate. Corporate giants read-up! You can all take a lesson from a page in the B Corp Handbook.
Four Reasons Why B Corps Will Change The World
THE EMPLOYEE – (B Corps invest in their employees — employees find fulfillment in their work — employees are more productive)
B Corps are changing the way companies care for their employees, opening doors like never before to members of society afflicted by severe hiring disadvantages. Companies like Greyston Bakery have implemented open hiring policies that place under-skilled applicants into yearlong paid apprenticeship programs. They welcome the homeless and ex-convicts, providing them with the opportunity for a fresh start, and with it, a future not stigmatized by the events of their pasts. Organizations like Cardinal Resources (a company that manufactures inexpensive water purification systems), and Indigenous Designs (creating fair trade, organic clothing) provide employees with tuition reimbursement, while Dansko (manufacturing shoes for happy and heathy feet) provides four weeks of paid paternity leave. And this is just a bite out of the apple. In everything from profit shares for employees, to livable wages for part-time workers, B Corps are changing the game when it comes to employee responsibility.
THE SOCIAL VALUE – (B Corps are tying their products and services to greater social missions)
With more company resources directed towards the well-being of employees, you may be wondering where B Corps’ profit margins lie. What must they be charging for their products and their services to be able to devote resources towards a greater good? In fact, by altering their behaviors, studies show that companies are increasing customer loyalty, and with it, company profit. According to the Good.Must.Grow Conscious Consumer Index conducted in February of 2015, 64% of consumers prefer to buy products from an environmental or socially conscious company.* Consumers want to know what they are buying is ultimately contributing to something greater: that their lotions from Episencial have never been tested on animals, that their produce from Veritable Vegetables come from an organic farmer, transported in hybrid tractors and trailers, and that Bixbees will provide a backpack full of school supplies to a child in need with every backpack purchased.
THE COMMUNITY IMPACT – (B Corps are seen positively in their local communities)
Being a force for change where, “individuals and communities will enjoy greater economic opportunity,” is part of the certification criteria. SABEResPODER for example, (a Spanish-language media company creating educational material for immigrants), donates 10% of its profit to local charities, while at Sustainable Harvest (the U.S.’s largest importer of fair trade coffee) 30% of the team is composed of employees from surrounding low income communities. Los Angeles-based B Corps like Sencha Naturals, Dogeared, Beanfields, and thrdPlace joined forces to create a beautiful mural to help enhance a local neighborhood, while Equator Coffee and Teas (based in Northern CA) provided micro loans to farmers El Batan, Equador, and Finca el Valle, Guatemala to help renovate farms and replant crops after devastating losses to infestation. B Corps realize that in order for them to succeed, their communities need to succeed as well.
THE ENVIRONMENT – (B Corps are committed to reducing their environmental impact and to reversing what damage corporations have already done)
Whether it be via products or company policy, B Corps are changing the meaning of environmental impact. Companies like IceStone (a manufacturer of recycled-material countertops) recycle 80% of their waste, while their entire manufacturing process is certified sustainable. Most manufacturing B Corps are working in LEED certified facilities (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), while others are using high percentages of renewable energy. Companies like World Centric (a compostable packaging manufacturer) offset all their carbon emissions and offer incentives to employees who use public transportation, while Lotus Foods uses technology that allows small-scale farmers to double (sometimes even triple) crop yield with 80%-90% less seed, no chemicals, and 50% less water use.
What’s perhaps most inspiring about these organizations is that their B Corp status remains entirely voluntary; they adhere to B Corp requirements not because of regulation but through their own self-discipline, stemming from an understanding that the greatest benefit they can offer lies with the greater good. More than anything, the B Corp movement reveals the insincerity of larger corporations who claim financial restriction as the main impediment from doing more for the community around them. If smaller organizations with fractions of the resources these larger corporations have cannot only survive but thrive while acting responsibly towards employees, community, and environment, any corporation can. And, it’s time we as consumers demand they do. If not, there are plenty of other places where we can take our business.