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?
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!