Commercial world improvers

How B Corps are conquering the market
PostedDecember 03, 2014, in  Step 8: sustainable society
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What do Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia and Etsy have in common? All three are ‘B Corps’, companies operating under a sustainability certificate. These Benefit Corporations meet high social and ecological requirements, take responsibility and are transparent about their dealings. World improvers with commercial ambitions: a promising combination. 

Global movement

There are now more than 1,000 businesses worldwide who may call themselves B Corp. Remarkable, because those who wish to earn the certificate must meet strict requirements. The American B Corporation is the founder of this global movement. The underlying philosophy: governments and non-profit organizations may be necessary but are not powerful enough to take on social challenges. In other words: no sustainable future without sustainable businesses. B Corporation has set itself the goal of ‘redefining’ business success.  


Ironically, B Corp began on Wall Street, the place where ‘social relevance’ is often a synonym for ‘the interest of the shareholder’. But since the economic crisis of 2008, the realization that profit has many facets is breaking through more often. Indeed: companies that take their social responsibility, are increasingly  being rewarded for it.  B Corps are attractive for governments, media, young talent and capital providers. Precisely because of the strict requirements, this certificate opens a lot of doors. In its own words: ‘B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk.’  

Impact Assessment

B Corps therefore create new changes, but how do you make sustainable performance visible? After all, ambition alone is sufficient, results count. That is why the Impact Assessment was developed: a confidential questionnaire on different aspects of business operations. A quick scan takes only 20 minutes; a complete assessment 90 minutes. The results are then compared to the benchmark, resulting in an ‘impact score’ of between 0 and 200. That score may be confrontational, because it does in fact show the state of the company in great detail.


Knowledge sharing

B Corporations together form a network with ‘knowledge sharing’ as the common denominator. Case studies, therefore, are shared and read extensively. The assessments are an instrument for measurement; the case studies are a source of inspiration. Those who wish to become a B Corp, must earn a minimum number of points, after which a B Corporation check follows. New B Corps are expected to actively communicate their new identity. Given the many benefits of the quality certificate, that is in fact no more than a matter of course.    

New reality

It has often been argued on this blog: Integrated Reporting is not a hype but rather the new reality. B Corps understand and embrace that. So they create companies equipped for the future that make the world a more beautiful place, but then on the basis of ‘business sense’. An example that deserves to be followed.

‘B Corps might turn out to be like civil rights for blacks or voting rights for women - eccentric, unpopular ideas that took hold and changed the world.’ – Esquire Magazine

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PostedDecember 03, 2014, in Step 8: sustainable society
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