It’s not every day that a bona fide business movement comes along — an evolutionary and revolutionary paradigm shift that can literally change the world for the better and outright redefine success in business across the board. Take heed America: a seismic shift is indeed underway in the form of the Public Benefit “B Corporation,” a new classification that effectively leverages the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.
By electing to become a B-corp, a business obligates itself to pursue general or specific public benefits as a primary corporate objective rather than primarily striving to achieve profit or other fiscally-driven mandates, as is the case with other incorporation options. By opting to voluntarily meet higher and more rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency, certified B-corps distinguish themselves by offering a meaningful goal and better way to do business. As the modern impact economy mindset progresses, the B-corp option is resonating. In fact, today there are more than 1,200 certified B-corps from 38 countries, and over 121 industries working together towards one unifying goal: to use business as a force for good.
The impact of this movement cannot be understated. Some experts even liken the advent of B-corps to other broad-based, industry-reforming designations. For example B-corps designation is what Fair Trade certification is to coffee, or USDA Organic certification is to milk.
The Web site for B Lab, the nonprofit driving force behind B-corps, underscores the importance of this certification, citing that:
Government and the nonprofit sector are necessary but insufficient to address society’s greatest challenges. Business, the most powerful man-made force on the planet, must create value for society, not just shareholders. Systemic challenges require systemic solutions and the B Corp movement offers a concrete, market-based and scalable solution… As a result of our collective success, individuals and communities will enjoy greater economic opportunity, society will address its most challenging environmental problems, and more people will find fulfillment by bringing their whole selves to work.
A corporation can elect to be a public benefit B-corp upon formation, or by amending its articles of incorporation with a specified majority vote of its shareholders. Of course, even for a company that wholeheartedly want to function as a change agent and positively impact society for the greater good, it must also make sound business sense for it to become a B-corp. With more traditional operational benefits like creating higher quality jobs, attracting and engaging talent, gaining competitive advantages in the marketplace, gaining access to discounted and specialized programs and services, appealing to investors and networking with a like-minded peer community, the fundamental business opportunity speaks for itself.
Structuring my own business to be a B-corp was a no-brainer given that I’ve always operated under a socially conscious “entrepreneurial philanthropy” business model — a “socialpreneurship” approach that fuses my business and philanthropic initiatives into one cohesive mission and vision. For too long entrepreneurship and philanthropy have existed as two separate entities; one building a business, the other donating money from business. Blending the two, along with the added commitment to social responsibility, creates a self-sustaining and more impactful entity that simply works better, has real meaning and fosters an enduring effect.
In short, a B-corp classification helps ensure that an entity’s business and philanthropic pursuits are not only working in sync, but also have meaning and purpose beyond the norm. Change is the fire that forges greatness, so embrace it, pursue it and live it in your business.