B-Corps: Business as a force for good

Photo courtesy of B Lab

Business is one of the most powerful forces on earth, having the potential to create systemic impact for everyone. While government and the nonprofit sector are a necessary and important part of creating change, they are insufficient to address today’s greatest challenges. Business must step up and play a larger role. The successful company of tomorrow must create value for society, not just shareholders.

For much of the past 50 years, the purpose of business was to maximize profit. However, this traditional and outdated view is severely limiting, if not destructive, and has failed to provide the shared and durable prosperity that most of us seek.

To address today’s greatest challenges, we need to harness the power of business as a force for good. We need a global movement that enables millions of people to support businesses that do well while doing good.

The B Corporation movement is putting this theory into action, and Asheville has been a budding hub. Today there is a growing community of over 1,200 certified B Corps, from more than 35 countries across 120 industries, all working together toward one unifying goal: to redefine success in business. B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. This helps build their most important asset – trust, which can in turn attract customers, talented employees and capital.

The community of certified B Corps includes well-known brands like Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia and Etsy, as well as local Asheville companies like the recent expansion of New Belgium Brewing Company, New Earth (in partnership with New Mountain Asheville and Asheville Music Hall), Big Path Capital and Highland Craftsmen Inc. However, any company can start creating a positive impact. The B Corp movement is for everyone, from public utilities like Green Mountain Power, to large, public multinationals like Natura and small tech startups, such as Kickstarter.

Join the movement to use business as a force for good

Now is the time to get involved and create true change. Today’s consumers are more willing to support brands that are taking a step toward building a better world. In fact, the 2013 Cone Communications Social Impact Study indicated that where price and quality are equal, 89 percent of consumers would switch from their current brand to a brand that is socially responsible.

Equally important, the next generation of employees wants more than just a salary – they want to work for the right purpose. A report by the Brookings Institute found that in the U.S., “Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of millennials said they would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love, than $100,000 a year at a job they think is boring.”

There is also great local momentum in Asheville. Michael Welchel from the founding B Corp, Big Path Capital, shares: “B Corp is helping put in place the infrastructure that is so critical for the mainstreaming of impact investing.  We see the trends that investing for profit and impact represents one of the largest investment opportunities of our era.”

There are now weekly lunches on Fridays in Asheville for B Corps and interested companies to talk through how to best use business as a force for good and guidance toward the B Corp certification process. Adrian Zelski, co-organizer and owner of New Mountain Asheville, says, “I feel like in 15 years, 20 years, people are going to ask why a business isn’t a B Corp.”

New Mountain Asheville has been home to numerous B Corp gatherings showcasing panels of thought leaders, live music and movie screenings, all to illustrate a better way to do business. Andy Fyfe from B Lab’s Community Team says, “I had the chance to visit Asheville late last year. It’s inspiring to see the leadership initiative of the local B Corp family there. What’s more exciting is what’s to come. Asheville’s very special.”

With these forces in place, there has never been a better time to join the movement. Whether you are an entrepreneur, employee or consumer, there’s a way to get involved. Please join us! Have your company take the first step by measuring its impact at bimpactassessment.net and help spread the word about a better way to do business. To learn more, visit bcorporation.net and #BtheChange.

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