Using Business To Make a Difference: B Corps

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By Neelanjana Gautam & Matt Gwin

Neelanjana Gautam Matt Gwin

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Using Business To Make a Difference: B Corps

You want to make a difference with your job, and have a positive impact in the world. So you’re turned off by your conception of the “big evil corporation”—those giant monoliths that want nothing more than to take people’s money and put it in the hands of their big-wig executives and shareholders, right?

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On the other end are nonprofits, serving a pure or social mission, but often dependent on grants or donations, and frequently inefficient with resources.

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What’s a business-minded do-gooder to do?

Good news: there’s something in between – combining the best aspects of for-profit businesses with a conscious social mission. “Doing well while doing good.”   B-Corps (or, more broadly, social enterprises) are the result of a global movement of people using business as a force for good.

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Although all businesses have the obligatory goal to turn a profit and “maximize the bottom line,” B Corps add something to this (often referred to as the “double bottom line” or even “triple bottom line”). They’re still viable, operational for-profit businesses making a bottom line profit, but they’re also concerned about their bottom line social impact.

In other words, B Corps aim to impact and serve more than just the shareholder. The idea is to build a collective voice, stand for something, and help employees and customers live to a higher purpose.  

 

What are they really?

what are you

A social enterprise, broadly, is a company which puts people at the center of its vision. For example, it caters to a social mission such as providing healthcare or safe drinking water, reducing waste, producing sustainable goods, launching renewable energy programs, creating opportunities and jobs for the unemployed, etc.

B Corporations are for-profit social enterprises that have pursued some sort of designation or status.

“Certified B Corporations” have been verified by B Lab, a nonprofit organization that is helping tens of thousands of businesses, institutions to measure what matters most and build stuff that has a lasting impact. It’s inspiring millions to “b the change”.  

In simple terms, B corp certification is to sustainable business what LEED certification is to green building or Fair Trade certification to coffee. Companies of any size, legal structure, or industry can become B Corporations, but currently most B Corporations are privately-held small and medium-sized businesses.

Most states in the US also have a legal “benefit corporation” status which allows the company to add its social, environmental, or community mission to its legal goals (otherwise it could be sued by investors or shareholders for not fulfilling its fiduciary duty to fully maximize profit).


Be part of a movement

toms

As society has become arguable more socially-conscious and demanding of companies’ social and environmental responsibility, it has become easier for B Corps to market their social mission as a selling point (think Toms Shoes or  Ben & Jerry’s ).

People today, especially in our generation, want to give their business to companies that go above and beyond and that stand for something. This trend will only continue, so B Corps will likely become increasing popular and successful.

 

Have great coworkers.

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Once a company attains the status of a B corp it automatically attracts talents that care deeply about the mission and goals. You’ll be surrounded by like-minded driven individuals determined to make the world a better place through the power of conscious, responsible business.

B Corps exist in just about any industry you can imagine, and aim to impact countless different social missions. Let’s take a look at a few:

Rubicon

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A Certified B Corporation since 2012, Rubicon Global was an early advocate of using business as a force for good. They’re a waste management company that doesn’t own a single landfill or garbage truck — instead, they connect customers to their independent hauler network and create an incentive structure that reduces waste and encourages recycling. They believe in a future where the goal of zero waste will no longer be a vague concept, but a reality. To that end they’re asking people to “think outside the bin.”

 

Etsy

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Shopaholics swear by Etsy, the popular online marketplace, which is a place to express your creativity through the buying selling of goods. But Etsy has always been a people-powered company with a social mission. Their core services support micro-businesses that make and sell handmade, vintage and craft goods; a big chunk of Etsy sellers are from low-income populations.

Etsy believes business has a unique opportunity and obligation to create value for people and the planet and the B Corp assessment is a framework that helps guide the company to work toward the goal.  

 

Better World Books

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Better World Books holds themselves to a triple bottom line: Social (promoting literacy and putting books in the hands of the underprivileged), Environmental (reducing landfill waste and paper production by selling used books, and undergoing various carbon offset measures on top of that), and Economic (making money). So far they’ve distributed over $22 million to literacy initiatives, donated over 6 million books to those in need, and reused or recycled over 210 million books that would have likely ended up in landfills.

 

EcoWatch

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One of the nation’s leading online environmental platforms, EcoWatch educates and motivates people to protect human health and the environment. They feature three verticals—EcoNews, EcoLiving and EcoBusiness—and a shopping cart of green products. Their online store  features thousands of green products to help people lead a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle. They’ve taken the lead in distributing online news to drive change.

 

BioLite

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BioLite produces various off-the-grid products. Their flagship energy efficient cookstove captures excess thermal energy and turns it into electricity to charge your phone. It’s sold in the US to the high-end camping/outdoorsy crowd, and those larger profits are used to subsidize affordable sales to people in Kenya, Uganda, India, and elsewhere.

 

So, if you want to dive into the world of business but don’t want it to be “business as usual,” take a hard look at B Corps! They’re the perfect combination of interesting problems, creative market solutions, and societal benefit.

 

 

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Neelanjana Gautam
neel

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