While young, this movement has had a tremendous reach already and includes over 1,000 companies, including well-known companies like Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, and Portland’s own New Seasons.
This movement is designed to address a fundamental flaw in our capitalist system. This flaw is that financial results fail to fully measure the impact of a business on society – value created, in MBA jargon – and as a result, a business can make money and destroy value in society.
Sometimes these impacts (“externalities” in nerd speak) are massive. Think of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, or the predatory lending practices that contributed to the 2008 financial meltdown.
B Corps come from the belief that our capitalist system isn’t fatally flawed, but that it’s serving humanity poorly because companies are rewarded based on an incomplete picture: it’s like we business folks are driving a fogged up car and we have to make decisions based on only being able to see out of a small part of the front windshield.
The B Corp certification is meant to be a certification broad enough be relevant to any business model, of any size, which certifies that you are responsible to the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profits. In their words, B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee. I won’t give you all the details here, but if you’re curious, they have a wonderful piece on their website: Why B Corps Matter. (Also, I want to hire their copywriter.)
Several months ago, we as a company took the decision to start our B Corp certification journey. It was a rigorous but efficient process that increased my respect for the validity of the certification – and the importance of our roadmap of areas to keep improving! For those who are curious, the process looks like this:
- Take their online exam, which takes about 90 minutes. There’s a shorter version if you want to quickly gauge where your company is at.
- See how your score rates with your first pass (there are certainly some items you won’t know or will need additional documentation for).
- Have a phone call with their dedicated and helpful team to review your score and go through the exam question by question. In this step you look for areas where you might have been too easy or too harsh, clarify any questions you might have, and identify areas for improvement.
- If you qualify, you submit your results, and they randomly audit you on 6 questions asking for specific documents.
- Once you get through this last step, you are certified for a two-year period after you pay a small fee and sign a term sheet. Each year 10% of companies are randomly audited with a site visit to ensure compliance.
If you’re curious, take a look at our results. What I especially love about the B Corp model is that it commits us to continuously improving our community, the environment, and our employee engagement – it’s not just a one-time certification that you then forget about.
As an unabashed business nerd, I don’t want anyone to think I hate our system – I’m deeply implicated in it. To the contrary, I’d like to challenge all of you out there to think about how we can more effectively use the tools of business to create a better world. Gandhi famously said “be the change you wish to see.” I find it hard to think of a better way to take action in your business than this.
To a bright future,
Cameron and The PixelSpoke Team