Wednesday, February 10, 2010

B Corporations: For Benefit of Society.

I've been doing a lot of reading about B Corporations and the organization responsible for their creation and certification, B Lab (Yep, it was talked about at PopTech) over the past few weeks. I first heard about the organization when still a student at BGI (it's hard to believe that I graduated in June of last year) and remember thinking that it certainly seemed like a fabulous idea; an organization dedicated to digging deeply into companies' "green" and "sustainable business" claims to provide some level of transparency as well as seeking to gain favorable regulatory status for such entities. Why not seek to create an incentive for companies that work to benefit the society they function in beyond mere economic gain? Seems like a no-brainer, right? (image from AuthenticOrganizations)

I was fortunate to have met some people familiar with B Lab and B Corporations while studying at BGI; seemed that people passionate about changing the way we do business were somehow associated or connected with BGI. They visited our school to share their experiences, their ups-and-downs, existential crises, experiences, you get the picture. When I pause to think about it (this is from memory, so I hope I do not overlook anyone!), it's quite an honor roll; I was fortunate to have been exposed to their light and wisdom:
As I reflect upon this list, what's striking to me is the broad range of sectors they represent; consumer products to financial services to office products. In my opinion there are not enough companies in the b-2-b space paying attention to the same trends B Lab reflects. This will change as consumer demand moves up the supply chain. There is movement toward a socially aware business model in more places than I think (overcoming my own cynicism). I also remember being impressed and humbled with the thoughtfulness these business leaders brought to their businesses, they were not content to start a business, a challenging undertaking by itself, rather they seek to inculcate their businesses' future with values that reflect the humanity within their businesses and the people they serve.

When we pause to think about it...why haven't we been doing this from the get-go?

I suppose we accepted the concept that by focusing on profits and maximizing shareholder returns companies would benefit humanity by generating jobs and wealth. Perhaps we're reaching the point (with unemployment "officially" hovering at ~10% in the US and profligate sovereign spending of natural and financial capital endangering future generations) where our belief in this singular business purpose is teetering on the brink of oblivion.
B Corporations represent part of the way forward for our society, encouraging and empowering businesses to respect the societies in which they operate.
As I finish this post I am seated at a business that would is a strong candidate for B Corporation status, Nourish Restaurant (@nourishlocal) in Lexington, MA. If you live near Boston, pay it a visit.


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