- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers; 1 edition (October 13, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1626560439
- ISBN-13: 978-1626560437
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The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good Paperback – October 13, 2014
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"You ought to take a look at these B Corporations... we've got to get back to a society that doesn't give one class of stakeholders an inordinate advantage over others." (President Bill Clinton) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Over the past three decades, a set of bold new ideas promoting this transition has been gaining momentum in the worlds of business and finance. Innovative ventures such as Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Calvert Funds, The Body Shop, Stonyfield Farm, and innumerable others have demonstrated to the satisfaction of growing numbers of businesspeople and investors that businesses thrive when they seek not just to make a profit for their shareholders or owners but to benefit all their stakeholders, including customers, employees, suppliers, and the communities where they do business, as well as the environment. Variously called “socially responsible businesses,” “Triple Bottom Line companies,” “values based businesses,” or by many other labels, these ventures are proving that, in the 21st century, the only truly sustainable businesses are those that serve a mission greater than mere financial profit.
Over this same period, several organizations have sprung up to promote this perspective and serve the entrepreneurs and investors who share it: Social Venture Network (1987), Investors’ Circle and Business for Social Responsibility (1992), Net Impact (1994), and BALLE (the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, 2001) cater in different ways to this new sector of the economy. Then, in 2006, three young men who had been friends as Stanford undergraduates nearly two decades previously came together to form what may in the final analysis prove to be the most consequential organization of them all: B Lab.
B Lab, a nonprofit organization based in Philadelphia, offers an online questionnaire that thousands of businesses around the world are using to benchmark their progress toward the Triple Bottom Line of People, Planet, and Profit. Those companies that score 80 or more on the 200-question instrument may seek certification as B Corporations (B is for “benefit”). More than one thousand businesses in over 30 countries have done so. B Lab’s strategy is to enshrine the benefit corporation concept in law; 26 states plus the District of Columbia have already done so, nearly all of them with strong bipartisan legislative majorities, and bills have been introduced in another 12 states plus Puerto Rico. By registering separately with the states where they’re incorporated, B Corporations can insulate themselves from lawsuits taking them to task for making decisions on other than purely bottom-line considerations. More importantly from the perspective of those who have founded or run many B Corporations, taking this step makes it very difficult for future generations of directors and officers to reject their companies’ social and environmental mission.
Now sustainability consultant Ryan Honeyman has produced The B Corporation Handbook, a step-by-step introduction to the B Corp concept and the process of securing certification. The Handbook is well-organized and smoothly written and should prove accessible to virtually all comers. Honeyman guides the reader through the certification process, with helpful explanations along the way. If you run a business, or are even planning to start one, you owe it to yourself to read The B Corporation Handbook.
B Lab and Certified B Corps
“The main focus of this book is the Certified B Corporation.” The certification process is administered by B Lab, “a nonprofit organization that serves a global movement to redefine success in business so that one day all companies will compete not only to be the best in the world, but the best for the world.”
“Any visitor to the B Lab website can view a simple report, similar to the nutritional label on a cereal box, that shows how each Certified B Corporation performed on the Workers, Community, Environment, and Governance sections of its assessment. This report makes it easy for consumers, investors, policy makers, and the media to tell the difference between good companies and just good marketing.”
“We feel that B Corp is a ‘No Bulls***’ stamp that proves we mean what we say and is a great way to start a conversation about how and why our business is different,” said Edward Perry, Co-founder and Managing Director of COOK Trading in the United Kingdom.
B Corp Assessment
“The B Impact Assessment, including access to the best practice guides, comparative data, and an individualized improvement report, is a free public service provided by B Lab. If you are interested in becoming a Certified B Corporation, there is an annual B Corp certification fee… You can use the assessment to measure your company’s social and environmental performance, gain valuable insights that can help spark new ideas, and motivate your company to reach for an improved score over time … Some B Corps, such as Ben & Jerry’s and Numi Organic Tea, are going further by using the B Impact Assessment to benchmark their key suppliers… An overall B Impact Score of 40 to 60 is average.” B Corp certification requires a minimum score of 80. “Regardless of your initial overall score, remember that this is a journey of continuous improvement.”
B Corps have an advantage in attracting investment capital. “Goldman Sachs found that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of investors seeking to incorporate sustainability and environmental, social, and governance factors into their portfolio construction… The Society of Human Resource Management found that the number of [socially responsible investment] funds is likely to double in the next few years to match the rapidly growing interest… All Certified B Corps receive a free Global Impact Investment Rating System (GIIRS) rating and a free listing on B Analytics, an investor-facing platform designed by B Lab.”
Employee Recruitment and Retention
“The B Impact Assessment asks you to think about how your company treats its workers in three major areas: compensation, benefits, and training.” John Replogle, CEO of Seventh Generation said, “Clearly identifying your purpose will attract the very best, brightest, and most passionate people.” Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard explains why socially responsible policies are good for the bottom line: “It costs a company an average of $50,000 to replace an employee—from recruiting costs, training, and loss of productivity. Our child-care center helps us retain our skilled moms.”
B Corps benefit from media coverage. “Using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems is a positive, innovative, and compelling story that has generated, and continues to generate, a high level of media interest… B Lab nominates and acts as an advocate for B Corps to receive top honors, such as a listing among Bloomberg Businessweek’s Top Social Entrepreneurs.”
Honeyman asserts that B Corp certification will attract customers. “Transparency builds trust. B Corps are trusted by customers because they have met rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.” This sounds aspirational rather than a present-day reality—I had no idea what a B Corp was before reading this book, so I question widespread consumer awareness. The author adds, “Goldman Sachs also reported that 52 percent of U.S. consumers claim that they actively seek information about companies’ corporate social responsibility record either ‘all of the time’ or ‘sometimes.’” Still, this is surveying what consumer say they’ll do versus measuring what they actually do.
“The B Impact Assessment measures your company’s community impact in five areas: job creation… diversity… engagement and giving… local involvement… suppliers, distributors, and product.”
“Environmental audits vary depending on the size of the business. A small business, for example, may concentrate primarily on paper, water, and energy use, whereas a large organization may also evaluate emissions, materials, hazardous waste, travel, commuting, and its corporate fleet… Many companies find that the majority of their carbon footprint can be traced back to their supply chains.”
Benefit corporations as legal entities
Aside from B Lab’s Certified B Corp program, more than 25 U.S. states have passed benefit corporation legislation. “By elevating your values to the status of law, your company will be able to maintain its mission through changes in management and ownership…. In the United States, becoming a benefit corporation will not affect your company’s tax status. Your company can still elect to be taxed as a C corp or S corp. Benefit corporation status affects only corporate purpose, accountability, and transparency requirements.” The Benefit Corp Information Center website contains more information including state-by-state legislative status.
The end of the book includes a list of ten TED Talks and other videos by B Corps, including On Better Business by B Lab co-founder Jay Coen Gilbert.