Is it possible for corporations to be guided by and operated with a primary goal of creating benefit for society and the planet? B Corp says yes, and can back it up, with over 400 member businesses and $2 billion in collective member revenue.
It was a diverse group of people drawn to Sustainovations B Corp event; everyone from Palo Alto venture capital folks and consultants to sustainability focused individuals connected with Slow Food South Bay. The common ground for attendees was a curiosity and passion for creating legal structures and viable metrics to support, encourage and mandate corporate responsibility and accountability to all stakeholders.
The speakers for the panel included B Corp members: Aseem Das, Founder & CEO of World Centric, Jeff Mendelsohn, Founder & CEO of New Leaf Paper, and John Montgomery of Montgomery & Hansen LLP, as well as Dermot Hikisch, Dir. of Business Development with B Corp.
So what exactly does B Corp do to create a credible accreditation for member businesses? Well, the main tool that B Corp provides is a thorough survey for a company to track all of their metrics: covering people, planet and profits. Member companies also commit to transparency when they become members by committing to having the results of their company survey available online at B Corp for the public and their stakeholders to see. This high level of transparency creates high accountability to the company community and to the public.
John Montgomery spoke compelling about the origins of corporations as a legal entity from the days of kings and queens, many centuries ago. Among the original obligations were such stipulations as: a built-in end date for the corporation’s existence and the requirement that the corporation in question was providing benefit to the larger community. In the US, a gradual race to the bottom between states in a bid to be corporate friendly has nullified nearly all traces of these original corporate restraints. But the history exists to indicate that For Benefit Corporations are not such a radical concept after all. If anything, they are a return to the original charters given to Corporations in the first place.
A large emphasis of the event was the notion of a corporation’s legal structure having profound long range influence over the capacity of its employees to have a collective conscience as an organization. Having a legal structure in the founding documents of an organization that identifies and prioritizes the collective conscience of the corporation allows for high accountability to all stakeholders throughout the life of the company.
There is currently B Corp legislation that would allow for the founding of a legally recognized For Benefit B corporation in Vermont, New Jersey, and New Hampshire, as well as legislation pending in CA (AB 361) that provides similar status.
B Corps has had a wide reaching impact even beyond its current membership, as over 1,400 businesses have completed the online survey without becoming members and benefited from the feedback and suggestions for improvement provided within the survey.
B Corps will likely become a recognizable name within the next several years, as they are at a tipping point with a recently launched nationwide publicity campaign, reaching out to more than 17 million people.
So, can you do good by your people, your planet, and make good money at the same time?
B Corp says yes, and on top of that you can be a part of a symbiotic market place of high integrity businesses with shared values. Among the B Corp perks: business service discounts with prominent software providers, a sunset on student loans for Yale students moving into work for a B Corp, and a diverse community of businesses committed to operating for the benefit of all shareholders.
Salem Kimble & the BetterWorld Team