“Best for the World” is the goal of the companies that make up the B Corp movement. The “B” stands for benefit — and not just the monetary kind. Certified B Corps create benefits not just for their shareholders, but for the community, the environment, employees, consumers and more.
“Instead of just focusing on maximizing profit, these companies are considering much more and widening their aperture to consider workers, communities, environment and … the overall governance of how their business is structured,” says Andy Fyfe, community development coordinator with the national nonprofit B Lab, the conferring body behind B Corps. “These are all for-profit companies, but they also create public benefit for all their stakeholders,” he says.
B Lab started 10 years ago in Pennsylvania as a project of three co-founders, says Fyfe. Now, the organization has a full-time staff of 55, and companies ranging from law firms to household product manufacturers bear the B Corp logo.
That kind of growth will pay off this year with an important milestone. With B Corps in 45 countries, B Lab anticipates 2016 will be the year when at least half the certified companies will be located outside the U.S. Currently, nearly 1,600 businesses are certified as B Corps worldwide. In the U.S, there are 800, and in North Carolina, 32.
To become certified, businesses have to meet requirements under two categories: performance and legal. “The performance requirement is very rigorous,” Fyfe says. “Businesses have to meet a set of standards to become a B Corp.”
For large businesses, the legal component can complicate the process because it may involve amending the entity’s charter, he adds. “You can almost see it as, ‘Hey, if you’re going to certify, you’re recognizing that’s what your company’s doing now, and, in order to protect that in the future, you need to put that into your operating agreement or into your charter to really be accountable for that.’”
However, the organization welcomes businesses of any size in the name of promoting the movement and creating real change, Fyfe says. This summer, B Lab will have another medium to get the word out with the launch of B The Change, a new bimonthly publication scheduled to roll out in June in both print and digital forms.
“We’re kind of hoping for it to be kind of like the Rolling Stone of the impact economy,” says Fyfe.
Later this fall, more than 500 B Corps from 20 countries will head to Durham for the organization’s annual networking event, which will be the first time it is held in the Southeast. The three-day B Corp Champions Retreat isn’t exactly a conference, Fyfe says, although it does include workshops, receptions, awards ceremonies and community service. “It’s an opportunity for all the B Corps to get together and ask, ‘What can we do together that we can’t do alone?’”
Both the event and the movement are open to more than just for-profit businesses. Over time, B Corp leaders have expanded the vision to include students, shoppers, job seekers and investors, all of whom play an important role in the economy and community.
“This is not just a movement of businesses. Originally, we started with that idea of trying to help separate good companies from what’s just good marketing, given that there’s so much false marketing — like greenwashing — out there,” says Fyfe. “Whether you be a customer, investor or policymaker, you deserve to be able to see that these companies are walking the talk. Now we’re looking beyond just business owners to all people, of all walks of life, who are seeking a way to use business as a force for good.”
For more information, visit www.bcorporation.net.