Pick up the Wall Street Journal on any given day and there’s a good chance you’ll read of another company scandal.
From the tech industry grappling with gender discrimination allegations to companies withholding damaging information about data breaches to airlines roughing up their customers, it’s not hard to become cynical about the business sector.
But while there have been many bad apples, there are also plenty of business leaders who are running their companies in an ethical manner and who measure their success based on more than the bottom line.
The problem is that there’s never been an easy way to identify who these companies are. Plus, their individual efforts are often overshadowed by bad behavior that generates the headlines.
However, for the past 10 years, there’s been an organized movement to bring these isolated voices together to collectively raise the profile of companies demonstrating a better way to do business. These are Certified B Corporations. B Corporations have met the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability, and Geneva Global is proud to be one.
Why Do B Corporations Matter?
There are three reasons why you should be paying attention to this movement and doing what you can to support B Corporations.
1. The private sector needs to be involved if we want to solve our toughest problems
There is no shortage of problems that will affect us all—from climate change damaging our communities to failing education systems that are stunting our children’s ability to compete in the global economy. We all have a vested interest in fixing society’s challenges.
While the social sector is squarely focused on solving these problems, it represents the smallest amount of capital compared to the private and public sectors. The government may wield scale and influence, but it often lacks the ability to get things done quickly, is risk-averse, and often faces tight budgets, especially at local levels.
Where the public and social sectors lack, the business sector excels. Representing a massive amount of capital and innovation, the business sector is poised to fill this gap. As the third leg of a stool, working alongside the public and social sectors, we can harness what companies do best: building solutions that meet a demand.
I’m not talking about corporate philanthropy, even though that does do a lot of good (especially when companies hire Geneva Global to ensure their money is put to good use!). I’m advocating that more companies should think about evolving their business practices to bring about positive change.
It can mean rethinking how a company packages and sells its products to tap a new market, as Unilever did when it developed single-use shampoos and deodorants for consumers living on less than $2.50 a day. Or it can mean implementing better production and supply chain processes, like Danone has been doing. Or it can mean a company rethinking how it hires employees, as Greyston Bakery did with their open-hire policy that enables homeless individuals to get a job baking brownies (that make their way into Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, by the way).
There are benefits to doing business this way. Two-thirds of consumers would pay more for a product or service that comes from a company with responsible practices, according to a 2015 Nielsen study. Employees—especially Millennials—increasingly prioritize working at companies that have a positive social impact.
Companies are waking up to the fact that being socially responsible is not only good for our community and planet, it’s good for their bottom line, too.
2. The current system of capitalism needs a makeover
Andrew Kassoy, one of the co-founders of B Lab, the organization that launched the B Corporation movement, wrote a great piece on why the traditional capitalist system is failing and how we can change it.
As Geneva Global has experienced from working on systems change initiatives, anytime you go about changing a system, it requires a comprehensive approach that brings together various stakeholders to work towards a common goal.
In the case of B Lab, their approach to systems change includes:
- Building a community of credible leaders and influencers. Since the movement began a decade ago, there are now over 2,000 B Corps around the world. These passionate business leaders are proving you can do well by doing good and are using their influence to draw attention to the movement.
- Creating tools that make it easy for other businesses to follow. Any business can take the free B Impact Assessment, which measures a company’s social and environmental policies and provides a roadmap for improving practices. Several cities are working with their local business community to encourage companies to increase their positive impact, like Philadelphia’s Best for PHL
- Inspiring consumers, investors, workers, and others to support these businesses. From raising consumer awareness through B the Change media stories to driving capital through the Global Impact Investing Ratings Systems (GIIRS), there are ways all stakeholders can build greater momentum for the movement.
3. You have the power of the purse (or wallet)
Last year, the average American spent about $57,311, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If we literally put our money where our mouth is, that’s a lot of power you and I have to support the types of companies that align with our values.
At the annual B Corp Champions Retreat I attended a few weeks back, I was struck by how many products and services are available from B Corps.
Here’s a small sample of the products and services you may use on any given day and at least one B Corp that you could purchase from:
- Hair care (Davines)
- Makeup (Alima Pure)
- Jewelry (Dogeared)
- Clothes (Patagonia)
- Household cleaning products (Seventh Generation)
- Wine (100 Percent Wine)
- Books (Better World Books)
- Your mattress (Leesa Sleep)
- Doctors (Northwest Permanente)
- Financial Advisors (Abacus Wealth Partners)
There are over 2,000 companies around the world—from Afghanistan to Zambia—that are holding themselves to a higher standard to make a dent in society’s most pressing problems. As more companies become B Corporations and more consumers opt to support them, business becomes a force for good that will benefit all of us.