When I hear the term “corporation” I think of two things. The first thing that comes to mind is a business that is just plain huge and are only there to make money. The second thing I think about is the non-profit corporations that do good works for the community and the environment. I also know non-profit corporations don’t have the goal to make a profit.
What I was not aware of that there is a third kind of corporation, a Benefit Corporation (or B Corp). The B Corporation is much like a regular corporation because it needs to make a profit, however, it is different because a B Corp has an additional mission, to provide for a social or environmental benefit. It is like a mashup of a regular corporation and a non-profit corporation.
With all of those different kinds of corporations, there is also another kind of B Corporation, a Certified B Corporation through the B-Lab. I know, it is a confusing, yet important point that companies like Simply Straws get certified.
I then wondered what a company, like Simply Straws, has to do to become a Certified B-Corp under B-Lab. When I read how difficult it is to become certified, I am more impressed with the B-Corporations that take the extra step to become certified. The process that B-Lab uses to certify B-Corps requires that the B-Corp has a solid vision for how their company supports social and environmental good, that the company can prove their positive business and ethical works, and that they can be part of a network of B-Corps making profound difference in the lives of people and with our planet.
The B-lab was created in 2007 and has since certified a lot of well-known companies, including Patagonia, Seventh Generation, Ben & Jerry’s, Etsy, and about 1,100 others, including Simply Straws world-wide.
What about a Certified B Corp is important?
Ryan Honeyman wrote an article in the The Stanford Social Innovation Review in which he looked at the B Corp movement. Their conclusion was that the B Corporation has succeeded in five areas. 1) They are attracting talent and engaging employees, 2) They are increasing consumer trust, 3) They are benchmarking and improving performances, 4) They are protecting the company’s mission for the long term, and 5) They are building collective voices.
Honeyman believes that the B Corporation movement has brought together a global community that is committed to solving some of the world’s largest challenges in both the social and environmental arenas. He also believes that the real change will not be in the majority of corporations adopting the B Corp method of business, the real change will be the impact from using, “credible, whole-business benchmarking tools such as the B Impact Assessment.” He says, “When businesses measure the effects of their operations on all of their stakeholders, compare themselves with their industry peers, and start to compete to be the best for the world rather than just the best in the world, we will make progress toward a shared and durable prosperity for all.”
So I went back to look again at the reason for a Certification as a Certified B Corp. The website states:
“By voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability, and performance, Certified B Corps are distinguishing themselves in a cluttered marketplace by offering a positive vision of a better way to do business.
B Corps create higher quality jobs and improve the quality of life in our communities.”
Wow. I like that reason. It means that I can support a B-Corp and know that my dollars are being spent on things that I believe make the world a better place to live.
I like that there are businesses that are willing to make “doing good” the major part of the fabric of their business model. It is reassuring that there are a lot of good people out there doing really great things for other people and for our planet.