B Corps: Corporations that Give Back

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This post is going to veer off the personal-giving road just a bit, but only so that I can share with you what I find to be the most fascinating way businesses give back. How do they do it? By putting giving into their business model. There are many corporations known for their non-profit foundation arms, foundations that are sometimes doing quite powerful work. But who would have thought that one day we would see a legal business structure that has a triple bottom line: good for profits, good for people, good for the earth.

I present to you: B Corps.

The name sounds a bit like something out of a Spiderman movie but don’t let that evil term “corp” fool you- B Corps are the protagonists in this story. A B Corp (short for Benefit Corporation) is, in fact, a certified triple bottom-lined business that has passed the requirements of B Labs, a non-profit run out of Pennsylvania. By creating new corporate law that allows for businesses to put their social conscience at the forefront of their business models, B Labs created a way for those companies that want to do good to do so without being chastised (or worse, sued) by shareholders. Now an ice cream company can say that it will only buy its milk from organic, grass-fed farms, even though this may keep profits from maximizing.

So what does this mean for us, the lowly consumers of packaged foods and online shopping? Well, feel low no more, shoppers, because now you can check to see if your favorite packaged cheese company is a B Corp, which means that when you buy let’s say Cabot Cheese (yum!) that you are not just supporting a generic bad-for-the-earth packaged cheese corporation, but you are actually investing in dairy sustainability research. Cabot Cheese doesn’t just produce delicious cheese that can be replicated and sold in virtually every New York City deli, but it produces cheese that was made in a sustainable, environmentally-conscious way. Does that take the guilt out of buying Extra Sharp Cheddar or what?

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Image from the B Corp 2012 Annual Report

To be honest, you won’t have heard of most of the businesses on B Corps’ website. That’s because fewer than 10 states have adopted B Corp laws. But more and more corporations are getting certified every year. Though it’s too soon to tell what the long-term impact of B Corp certification will be, I am, for the time being, excited to know that several of my favorite brands are, in fact, partaking in this creative model for social good.

Guess who else is a B Corp!

Etsy

Patagonia

Cabot Cheese

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2 comments
  1. People have been talking about ethical investing (e.g., not in RJRNabisco – yknow, Big Scary Tobacco) for some years now, and there are investment funds that work to (or claim to) put their monies just in ethical endeavors. What you describe above is the natural next step to this consciousness – but you show it’s actually being done. For my part, I ALWAYS loved Patagonia, and Cabot cheese IS the best 🙂 And, just to be contrary, I DON’T think this discussion veers off the personal-giving road you’re paving. It’s fully in keeping with your vector of infusing meaning into your doing. You insist that we be conscious of what we do how we do where we do why we do. This post reveals another path in that direction. Waiting to hear more…

    • I think the hardest thing about wanting to conscious of what we do and why we do it, is actually staying conscious. I constantly find myself hungry in the supermarket, purchasing the easiest frozen meal I can find, and only thirty minutes later at home when I warm it up in the microwave am I upset by how much energy and waste was consumed to make this nutrient-deficient meal. I say the next big step is for someone to create a buzzer that goes off every time you are about to make a purchase decision, reminding you to think about what you’re buying and what that means in the bigger picture.

      We can call it the BenefitBuzzer!

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