(This article originally appeared in The Guardian)
These days doing good business means more than making money — it also means doing good. And now there’s an increasingly popular way to show you’re serious. It’s called a “B corporation”. Have you considered this for your small business?
Saxby’s has. The Philadelphia-based coffee chain recently reached the standards necessary to attain “B corporation” status. According to Technical.ly Philly, the company has joined other local Philadelphia companies, such as Arcweb Technologies, Simply Good Jars, Roar for Good and Houwzer, in getting this certification. But these companies aren’t alone.
Clean hair care brand Innersense Organic Beauty also recently announced that they’re now “B corporation certified”. So did Aloha, the makers of organic plant-based protein bars, powders and drinks. As did California-based accounting firm Armanino LLP. These organizations have joined more than 3,900 companies from 74 countries in attaining “B corporation” status. The Guardian is a B corp.
So what is this? Well, it has nothing to do with tax filings or the IRS (thank goodness). Instead it’s all about social responsibility.
According to B Lab, the firm that certifies companies for the designation: “Certified B corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. They are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment.”
What exactly does this mean? It means not only having a social conscience as an organization, but putting your money where your mouth is. Companies that attain this designation commit themselves to reducing inequality and poverty, contributing to a healthier environment and treating their workers with “dignity and purpose”. They also commit to using their profits and growth to a “greater end”.
To be a certified B corporation, a company must achieve a minimum score on a 200-plus question “assessment test” based on a company’s size, sector and market. Applicants must also disclose any past public complaints, fines and sanctions as well as make full disclosure of its corporate practices. The certification also requires companies to make changes to their bylaws in order to give legal protection to directors and officers when they consider the interests of all stakeholders (and not just shareholders) when making their decisions. It also requires companies to create additional rights for shareholders to hold directors and officers accountable to consider these interests.
So why do this? Because it’s 2021 and a new generation of workers and customers are pushing today’s business leaders to consider things beyond just profits. And many smart leaders are responding to the call.
“Typically, when you’re trying to grow in old-world capitalism, you’re just making money,” Nick Bayer, the CEO of Saxby’s told Technical.ly Philly. “Growth for us is now double-impact growth. When we grow, inherently so does our impact, our ability to hire more people and get more diverse. We are a stakeholder business, not just a shareholder business.”
Joanne Starkman, one of the founders of Innersense Organic Beauty, agrees. “Becoming certified B corporation reinforces the confidence our community has in our brand,” she said in a statement. “It acknowledges our commitment to social and environmental responsibility and elevates our brand as a leader in the clean beauty industry. At our core, we value balancing profit with purpose.”
For me, becoming a certified B corporation is a smart move, but it’s not just about climate justice, diversity and stakeholder equity. Of course, most companies believe in these things (you would be crazy not to in 2021). But the certification, like any other certification or accreditation like those offered by ISO, the Better Business Bureau and the US Chamber of Commerce forces a company into adhering to these standards and processes and not just saying so. For a business owner, it makes a statement to employees, customers and community that they’re committed to do things beyond just making money.
And let’s be pragmatic. In this era of social justice powered by social media where more people are holding companies to a higher standard and prefer to do business with those organizations that are doing good things, this is simply good business.
Interested? Well, you better get in line. According to B Lab it takes six to 10 months to complete the process and only one in three applicants make it — so “B” ready.