Tag Archives: business

The Real Role of the B-Corp

B the change

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.

MDG Mania


It’s going to be a big week in New York City.  With five years left in its charter, the General Assembly of the UN will meet at The Summit on the Millennium Development Goals on September 20-22 to discuss and identify opportunities to accelerate progress of these ambitious, yet critical obligations for our global human welfare.  Across town the Clinton Global Initiative, established just five years ago, will also be holding a conference with its members on the progress they’ve made toward their annual commitments, many of which support the efforts of the MDG’s.  Climate Week kicks off as well – a regrouping of those involved with the disappointing talks in Copenhagen last December. And sprinkled throughout the city, NGO’s will be conducting their own meetings and work sessions to bring business leaders, non-profits and ordinary citizens together to address the critical challenges and requirements necessary at every level of society if we are to meet the goals set to be achieved by 2015.

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re-branding business

ethicsOn June 3, 2009, the day before their official graduation, 400 Harvard MBA’s took an unofficial oath to “serve the greater good”, “act with the utmost integrity” and guard against “decisions and behavior that advance my own narrow ambitions, but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves.”

Is a values-driven agenda re-entering the workplace?

In 2001, Enron kicked off a two-year run on financial fraud (WorldCom, Adelphia, Tyco, Global Crossing, etc.) which gave a good jolt to business and consumer confidence.  Accenture’s brand took a beating but other than that we seemed to return fairly quickly to ‘business as usual’.

That is until 8 years later, a financial crisis of epic proportions in conjunction with global climate change tied to a lack of responsible business oversight has even business students re-committing themselves to just what it means to be doing good business.

It may seem idealistic or even naïve for students to be taking this unsanctioned oath yet holding the business education community accountable may have greater implications for business management.  A set of shared values is one that helps define a profession.  As business students enter one of the worst hiring environments in decades, ethical decision-making is driving them to demand new approaches to shareholder value and 21st century company leadership.