B Corp: Business, Environment, and Society

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Without knowing it, you may be buying goods from manufacturers who commit to being green and assisting their workers in moving from welfare to successful careers. The books you buy could be coming from a seller who recycles used books and uses the funds to support local libraries and global literacy.

Companies around the world have been redefining their mission to use business as a force for good by solving social and environmental problems. They’re becoming Certified B Corporations, a program that launched in 2007.

“B” the Change

Through requiring practices such as transparency, commitment to protecting the environment and resources, and defining their responsibilities to workers, B Corp certification challenges companies to not only be the best in the world, but also the best for the world—serving society as well as shareholders.

Currently, there are about 2,000 companies in 50 countries working to redefine success in global business, according to the Harvard Business Review. Perhaps the most famous members are Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s.

Obtaining B Corp certification is an excellent way companies can stand out among the greenwashing hype being promoted by some companies that don’t walk their talk. Becoming certified is a rigorous, time-consuming process that assesses companies in four areas: governance, workers, community, and environment.

“In the Bioforce portfolio of brands, Herbatint is the first to become B Corp certified,” said Pierce Sioussat, CEO of Bioforce USA, the company responsible for making Herbatint available to the American marketplace. Herbatint “made the investment to build a new LEED certified manufacturing facility and put in place new worker policies that provide environmentally friendly transportation and community programs. They then made the decision to become one of the first Italian companies (and to date the only hair color company) to become B Corp certified,” Sioussat said.

The B Corp certification process, while challenging, was “viewed as positive by Herbatint management since they knew all companies were being held to the same high standard of rigor and verification,” Sioussat said.

Taking a Closer Look

In terms of governance, transparency lies at the forefront. B Corps must have employee-facing or public clarity with regard to company finances and operations, as well as a clear mission.

B Corps pay significant attention to income inequality, whether it be the gap between their lowest- and highest-paid workers, going above and beyond basic employee benefits, and/or providing skills and training opportunities for people to move up in the workplace.

A positive impact on the community is another consideration. Locally sourcing goods and services, advocating for social and environmental programs, and making an effort to hire from local, underserved populations are ways businesses can prove their commitment to community.

Additionally, a proven commitment to environmental stewardship, such as using renewable energy and environmentally beneficial materials, and showing an interest in sustainable practices proves companies are concerned with the environment.

Whether you’re part of a company with a mission to become B Corp certified or a consumer determined to buy B Corp-certified goods and services, choose to use business as a force for good.

Sources: 

“The B Corp Movement and Why It Matters” by Pierce Sioussat, www.NaturalProductsInsider.com, 8/17/17

“Why Companies Are Becoming B Corporations” by Suntae Kim, Matthew J. Karlesky, Christopher G. Myers, and Todd Schifeling, Harvard Business Review, 6/17/16