By now you’ve probably heard about B Corps (or Beneficial Corporations). You may be wondering what it’s all about, or how it’s different from what your own business may be doing. “B Corps” are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet this new movement’s rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
In contrast to not-for-profit entities, the purpose of a “Beneficial Corporation” is to create general public benefit, which is defined as a materially positive impact on society and the environment (i.e. maximum positive externalities and minimum negative), while still making money for its shareholders. Think of it like ‘certified organic’ or ‘certified fair trade’ for your business.
By last count there were just 1,895 B Corporations headquartered in 50 countries and operating in 130 industries worldwide. There are only 158 B Corps in Canada, including Eastern Ontario’s fabulous social enterprise (and a favourite brewery!), Beau’s All Natural Brewing Company Ltd. The Beau’s story is a great one to look into if you haven’t already.
B Lab’s vision is that one day all companies compete not only to be the best in the world, but the Best for the World® and as a result society will enjoy a more shared and durable prosperity. Along the way, these “businesses with a purpose” benefit from the differentiated advantage that comes from addressing the growing consumer preference for companies that meet some standard for social and environmental performance. They are also able to attract and retain talent by appealing to prospective employees who include social good as part of their career goals.
One of the most interesting aspect of the B Corp movement for me, however, is the striking parallels to the values-based decision making that characterize most successful, family controlled businesses that beat the odds and survive into their 3rd and 4th generations. (see “Family Values in a Business”). A B Corp is a “business with a purpose” – something that many family businesses will already recognize as a differentiating – if not competitive – advantage.