what is a b corp

What is a B Corp?

Businesses have the opportunity to rewrite the rules by holding themselves to a higher standard. And B Corp may be the breakthrough corporate America needs.

We’re told from the time  we can walk to play by the rules.

Of course we bend and break those rules along the way, but what about when they’re already broken? 

Let’s be honest, as a business owner, you’re already a bit of a rule breaker. We’ve all patched up a dysfunction that needed a lasting solution. “Business-as-usual” embraces routine mediocrity — playing by the rules. But surprise, this isn’t the ONLY way to do business.

Businesses have the opportunity to rewrite the rules by holding themselves to a higher standard. And B Corp may be the breakthrough corporate America needs.

Chris Marquis says it best in his book on the B Corp movement Better Business:

“B Corp is the most important social movement you’re never heard of.

If you care about the rising inequality and decreasing economic mobility, the climate crisis, the coming soil and water crisis, and the political crisis of tribalism, then you should care about the B Corp movement. If you care about long-term economic growth as well as the future of high-quality jobs and work itself in an age of mass automation, then you need to know more about it.”

B Corp is a global movement of businesses that take a pledge to commit to the triple bottom line: planet, people & profit. It’s about using business as a force for good to accelerate a global culture shift and redefine success in business while building a more inclusive and sustainable economy.

In order to obtain a B Corp certification, a business must meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.

“B Corps form a community of leaders and drive a global movement of people using business as a force for good,” according to the B Corp website

Take Patagonia for example, a B Corp since 2011, who was just named the most influential brand in America.

The values and aspirations of the B Corp community are embedded in the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence.

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 each dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations

If we take a look at the current B Corp community, it reflects the world’s business landscape. Businesses small and large the same have joined the B Economy. 3,500+ of B Corps (a majority) are small businesses — #represent !!

All that said, B Corp isn’t for everyone.

“We actually created a system that was counter to human nature, and we’re in the middle of a mid­course correction,” says founder Jay Coen Gilbert. Human nature in this case likely refers to traditional corporate structures and capitalism (aka. Those ‘rules’ we were talking about earlier). 

In case you haven’t noticed, traditional corporate structures and capitalism aren’t exactly having their best moment right now. Nor is that expected to change unless a drastic shift takes place. How do we protect ourselves from a system of capitalism while deriving the benefits of it?

A possible solution? B Corp and the B Economy. Which advocates for things such as fair worker’s compensation, a liveable wage, products and services that do minimal harm to the environment, transparency in governance, accountability for corruption. Essentially doing what business should do: solving problems not causing them.

How to Get Started as a B Corp?

Now that you understand why you should become a B Corp, how can you get started?

We created The Small Business Sustainability Guide to answer just that. The Small Business Sustainability Guide is packed with actionable tips small businesses can implement in each of the 5 impact areas to help your company become a better steward for the planet. 

We’ve broken it down into manageable chunks, designed by small business owners for small business owners. 

  • Governance – Policies and practices that support the mission, ethics, accountability and transparency of your company. Good governance clearly communicates your company’s common goals and the actions needed for your team to get there. 
  • Workers – Those magical people who’ve decided to follow you into battle and make your business function. “Happy wife, happy life” applies here, too.
  • Environment – Every company can have an impact on the environment. It’s time we stop rewarding monetary gains to businesses taking shortcuts that negatively impact people and planet. 
  • Community – The establishment of communities is human nature. This is your business’ social and economic impact toward the communities in which you operate.
  • Customers – How can you offer more than just a good or service to the people who keep you in business. Going above and beyond can turn one time customers into life long ones. 

The beauty of B Corp and the B Impact Assessment is that you can make it 100% yours. This isn’t a certification for just environmental or non-profit style businesses. It’s for all business. B Corp is comprised of everything from food and clothing brands to consultants, production companies and even in-house painting companies. If purpose drives your brand, you just may be B Corp material. 

A Brief History of B Corp

In 2006, three friends left their corporate careers to dedicate their time to the creation of B Lab, the company that oversees the B Corp Certification process. Essentially, they committed to making it easier for mission-driven companies to protect and refine their positive impact. 

Jay Coen Gilbert was sick of shareholder primacy, where a stock price can benefit at the cost of everything else. Gilbert decided “he was going to start an organization that would allow companies to apply for a designation that would publicly hold them accountable for the ways they benefited workers, communities, the environment, and customers.

B Corp Companies

Patagonia, one of the most notable B Corps, is the top brand in America according to the 2021 Axios-Harris Poll 100 survey. This survey ranks the most visible companies in America based upon their performance in these key areas:

  • Trust – “Is this a company I trust?”
  • Vision – “Does this company have a clear vision for the future?”
  • Growth – “Is this a growing company?”
  • Products and Services – “Does this company develop innovative products and services that I want and value?”
  • Culture – “Is this a good company to work for?”
  • Ethics – “Does this company maintain high ethical standards?”
  • Citizenship – “Does this company share my values and support good causes?” (SGB)

As our country becomes increasingly polarized year after year, it is seen that the people flock to partisan brands, and Patagonia is evidently a strong supporter of social impact — from taking action on top environmental issues to holding themselves to a high standard of social responsibility for workers.

Ben & Jerry’s is another known and loved brand with a mission “to make the best product they can, be economically sustainable, and at the same time, create positive social change – specifically to advance new models of economic justice that are both sustainable and replicable,” as stated on Ben & Jerry’s B Impact Report.

Any industry can be a part of the movement. Dr. Bronner’s, according to their B Impact Report, “[makes] socially and environmentally responsible products of the highest quality, while dedicating its profits to help make a better world,” using their unmistakable labeling to promote unity: “We are All-One or None!”

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