THE BLOG
09/21/2010 05:51 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Soccer and Socially Responsible Business

The One World Futbol was designed to withstand the harsh conditions in refugee camps, war zones, poor villages, and inner cities.

When my wife Lisa Tarver and I decided last year that we needed to start a business to market the "ultra-durable" soccer ball I'd dreamed up several years before, we knew we couldn't settle for business as usual. The idea of setting up a company with the primary purpose of making us a lot of money wasn't just uncomfortable, it was downright repugnant.

In fact, our original intention had been to form a nonprofit, so we could just give the balls away. But there were two big problems with this idea: (1) we didn't have much money of our own, and (2) Lisa knew from years of experience in the nonprofit sector how hard it is to attract donations, no matter how cool the idea is. We'd heard about "socially responsible" companies, which sounded right and got our attention, but we didn't know much about them. So we went online and started researching the topic.

Now, less than a year later, we're in business as the One World Futbol Project. If you look all the way down at the bottom of the home page on our Web site, a little left of center, you'll see a little capital letter "B" inside a white box. Here's what it looks like when enlarged:

I'm extremely proud to say that, when we launched the One World Futbol Project on July 8 this year, we were able to display that logo as a Certified B Corporation. On that day we joined more than three hundred other companies that, like us, had passed a rigorous examination of their values, their business model, their governance structure, their relations with suppliers, and their impact on their community and the environment. By enrolling in the growing community of B Corporations, Lisa and I knew we had found a way to operate a business, make a decent living (we hope!), and make a real difference in the world.

Here are a few of the things that helped us qualify as a B Corporation:

• The One World Futbol is sold at retail with a "Buy One Give One" offer, so that for every ball the company sells, we give away a second ball to a nonprofit organization working in communities in need.
• Each ultra-durable One World Futbol can replace dozens, even hundreds of traditional soccer balls over the years. Once standard balls are punctured, sometimes after just a few days, they're useless -- and typically tossed in the trash. The One World Futbol will go on playing year after year. So it can save a lot of money, too!
• The One World Futbol Project consists of two entities: the for-profit company and a nonprofit foundation. The company will share its profits with the One World Futbol Foundation.

There's a whole lot of meaning packed into that letter "B." If you know anything about business, you've probably heard about "C" corporations and "S" corporations. Well, a B Corporation is an entirely new category of business, and, little by little, it's becoming law. Already, two states -- Maryland and Vermont -- have adopted legislation recognizing the Benefit Corporation. Seven other states have expressed interest in considering similar legislation in 2011.

Meanwhile, just a little over two months after our launch, the One World Futbol Project is well on its way. We've already shipped hundreds of free One World Futbols to dozens of nonprofit organizations in more than 40 countries -- and we're just getting started.

Children in rural Ghana with their dusty new One World Futbol, already a survivor of hours of play.

If you're dreaming, planning, or launching a business with a mission, or already have a business that you want to imbue with more meaning and impact, I encourage you to join us in the B community. You can find out more at www.bcorporation.net.