This week I attended the B-Corps Handbook book launch at the offices of Hanson Bridgett in San Francisco, the law firm instrumental in lobbying California to institute the Benefit Corporation legislation.
As a marketer myself, I don’t know that I’ve ever found myself in a room with so many lawyers – and I have to say it was heartening. If lawyers in California think this topic is important, it indicates that the infrastructure for the B-Corp certification is in the early stages of hitting its stride for becoming more than just a marketing initiative, but a substantive opportunity to influence the business community it is targeting.
The B Lab – founders of the B-Corp – launched 7 years ago to critical acclaim. Critical in that the market was flooded with sustainable certification symbols such as USDA Organic, LEED and Energy Star. Acclaim in that B-Corp took a much more holistic and lasting view of business’ propensity for net-positive effect, evaluating fundamental operational standards and also putting people into the equation. It is an agnostic certification process for any business that wants to take a values-led approach to doing business differently.
Twenty-seven states have now taken note of B Corps’ lead and passed Benefit Corporation legislation. (Note: the two are separate entities, one is a certification to receive a marketing benefit and one is a legal framework aligning shareholders and management to protect a company’s mission incorporating social benefit and prioritizing revenue distribution accordingly).
The real value behind B-Corps is not simply in its exhaustive process to evaluate a business’s operational policies as they reflect mission, community, employees and environment, but the POV that becoming a B-Corps extends to prospect customers, clients, partners and the supply chain in which the business operates. As one participant thoughtfully noted “It would make me evaluate prospect clients through a whole different values lens. I have the ability to work with many clients but this would help me know I’m having an even larger effect with like-minded businesses”.
B-Corp has stated that it hopes to become irrelevant and Benefit Corporation status is one step in that direction. However, B-Corp’s work is hardly done. With only 1100 companies in 36 countries officially signed on, the evangelism has only just begun.