Business as a force for good
When so many businesses claim to be sustainable, it can be difficult to distinguish the companies that genuinely have a more progressive approach. Businesses are very aware of the value their customers and other stakeholders place on their social and environmental impact and are keen to make a virtue of any efforts in these areas, whether sustainability is core to their business model or diametrically opposed to it. When even arms manufacturers and tobacco companies push their sustainability credentials, it isn’t always easy to establish which companies have a real commitment to a people and the planet.
B Corp cuts through the noise by providing certification for businesses with superior social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency, based on objective evaluation. It aims to be to business what Fairtrade certification is to coffee or organic certification is to food and farming. While credible certification bodies exist for specific sectors at a national level, for instance the Social Enterprise Mark in the UK, B-Corp certification is the first to operate globally and across such a wide range of industries.
“A growing movement of successful, sustainable companies create lasting value for all stakeholders, not for just their shareholders… B Corp certification helps to increase awareness by distinguishing credible businesses that are genuinely committed to doing good.”
Peter Blom, CEO, Triodos Bank
To achieve certification companies have to evidence their commitment to using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. They need to demonstrate they create benefit for all stakeholders, not just shareholders, that their products and practices should aspire to do no harm, and that they conduct their business in a way that recognises that ‘people and place matter’.
B Corps include a diverse range of businesses spanning 121 industries. As well as smaller companies working to shift the paradigm of business as usual, some major businesses are certified, including the Patagonia outdoor clothing company and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Earlier in April Etsy’s IPO helped to shine a light on the B-Corp movement. As the online marketplace for handmade crafts and antiques’ stock surged on its Nasdaq debut, Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson provided reassurance that the profit-maximising values of Etsy’s new investors would not compromise its values.
“Etsy’s strength as a business and community comes from its uniqueness in the world and we intend to preserve it,” said Dickerson. “We don’t believe that people and profit are mutually exclusive. We believe that Etsy can be a model for other public companies by operating a values-driven and human-centred business while benefiting people.”
B Corp arrives in Europe
The B Corp community is rapidly becoming a global movement. On Wednesday Europe joined the USA, South America, Canada and Australia, with the official launch of B Corporation movement in the region.
“B Corp certification is a natural fit for many European companies already operating in a sustainable way” says Leen Zevenbergen, a serial entrepreneur who is leading the European B Corp Movement. “It will stand as a benchmark for those looking to improve their impact in the community, for their workers and the environment”.
The launch event in Amsterdam was also an opportunity for Triodos Bank to announce that it had achieved B-Corp certification, joining more than 60 founding members across Europe. Triodos Bank CEO Peter Blom said, “A growing movement of successful, sustainable companies create lasting value for all stakeholders, not for just their shareholders. Sustainability is fully integrated in their business. B Corp certification helps to increase awareness by distinguishing credible businesses that are genuinely committed to doing good. It also helps improve the sustainability performance of the certified businesses themselves. We are part of this movement and are delighted to become a certified B Corp ourselves.”
While it’s early days for the B Corp movement in Europe, given its success in the US and elsewhere, its influence across the continent is likely to rapidly grow. With 500 European businesses currently going through the certification process, the B Corp community in the region is set to rapidly swell. And as the movement builds momentum, we’ll see growing recognition of the B Corp symbol and what it stands for, making it easier tell the genuinely ‘good companies’ from those with just ‘good marketing’. The introduction of the B Corp to the European market sets the stage for an increase in greener, socially responsible and impact driven brands – and provides further inspiration of how business can, and should, be a force for good.
words: Will Ferguson
We envision a new sector of the economy which harnesses the power of private enterprise to create public benefit. This sector is comprised of a new type of corporation —the B Corporation — which is purpose-driven, and creates benefit for all stakeholders, not just shareholders. As members of this emerging sector and as entrepreneurs and investors in B Corporations, We hold these truths to be self-evident:
- That we must be the change we seek in the world.
- That all business ought to be conducted as if people and place mattered.
- That, through their products, practices, and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all.
To do so, requires that we act with the understanding that we are each dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations.
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