We've all bemoaned the headlines. Exorbitant CEO pay, environmental devastation, corporate fraud, corruption. We read about big scandals in the business world, are dismayed, and then we see them happen again. But what many don't know is that thousands of people are working all over the United States and worldwide to reverse this trend by using business as a force for good.
How do we counter the adverse natural selection that has come to characterize corporate behavior where the spoils go most to the agents willing to act the worst against people and planet?
B Corps give us an answer. They offer a way to improve the state of business by re-imagining how a company defines success.
A B Corp measures its success based on its impact on people, communities, and the environment just as much as its profitability. These companies have embodied the triple-bottom-line approach, meaning they are structured to create and achieve economic prosperity, social justice, and environmental sustainability. This approach makes the company accountable to all of its stakeholders, not only shareholders. To gain certification, every B Corp undergoes a rigorous assessment of five categories: environment, workers, customers, community, and governance. And they must perform to very high standards, well in excess of industry averages.
There are many naysayers who would condemn us all to a dismal view of the role of business in society, but we hold a more hopeful outlook. By helping businesses align their operations with their values, tackling equity and inclusion in the business world, and building a powerful movement, we and the entire B Corp community can and will change the world.
At Beneficial State Bank, we believe in total values-alignment. We use the B Corp assessment tool as a yardstick against which we are constantly measuring and re-measuring our success. We're able to reinforce what's going well and identify areas ripe for improvement. The B Corp assessment helps us to look at our company's relationship with our workforce, such as compensation, worker health, and job flexibility. It examines the environmental sustainability of our supply chain, our products (are they promoting public benefit?), our community involvement, and of course our mission and overall transparency of practices and policies. It affirms our strengths, but more importantly, it reveals our weaknesses and gives us a roadmap for how to do better, and be better, for the world. As a certified B Corp since 2013, we've been honored "Best for the World," a designation reserved for the top 10% of all B Corps, and we score in third place, worldwide, on the B Corp impact assessment. Our certification is a signal to potential customers and vendors of what we are about, and our score is a benchmark against which we are always trying to improve.
Our B Corp status keeps us accountable to our mission of building prosperity in our communities and creating an equitable future. When we think about the world we want to live in, it is one that recognizes the promise of every person, realizing that we do better together than we can apart. We envision a world that doesn't leave anyone feeling desperate; it's fully inclusive, racially and gender justice, and environmentally restorative.
Banking fits into this vision of prosperity if you think of it as the original and most powerful form of crowdfunding. Banking is our collective desire to pool deposits to finance the economy -- and therefore, to a good degree, the society we want to see. It's not that a specific deposit funds a specific loan, but all deposits fund a lending practice with which depositors are therefore associated.
Our Beneficial State Bank model is designed to address the imbalance of power, justice, and equity in the economic system. Our B Corp certification ensures that we are addressing issues of racial, ethnic, and gender equity in all aspects of business, from our hiring practices to our procurement policy.
Finally, we know we can't do this alone. Our system is designed to work against the B Corp model of business. With critical mass, we can shift the perception that the sole purpose of business is to generate profit, and prove that business has the potential to be a much more powerful force for good.
The B Corp movement is strong and growing. Today, there are over 1,600 certified B Corps from 42 countries representing over 120 industries. With more B Corps getting certified every day (and thousands more taking the initial B Corp initial assessment), our missions are strengthened by the increased commitment to measurement that ensures we are using business as a force for good.
B Corps tend to be community-oriented businesses. In certain cities, the network of certified B Corps get together for monthly meetings to coordinate their efforts and find ways to better serve their community. B Corps are already making a difference, and there is significant potential to do more. By continuing to ask: "What does our community need?" B Corps will change the nature of business as we know it.
We invite you to join the movement! If you believe in aligning your business with your values, addressing and solving for equity and environmental issues through your daily business operations-- and if you want to be a part of one of the most important movements of our time, join us! Consider taking the B Corp assessment.
As an individual, your role is critical to stop the trend in business that rewards those who act most harmfully against our planet and communities. Support B Corp businesses with your everyday shopping, including where you bank. Banks are, after all, a part of your personal and commercial supply chains. Find B Corps near you here.
We must turn the spotlight toward businesses that are using the power of social markets to solve social and environmental problems, and away from those that exploit communities to merely reap a profit.
The B Corp Life is a new blog series geared towards exploring what it's like to work at a benefit corporation. Why do b corps matter, and what does the future hold for them? Let us know at PurposePlusProfit@huffingtonpost.com or by tweeting with #TheBCorpLife.