You don’t have to launch your own 501(c)3 nonprofit to do serious good in this world. You can do your part to simultaneously support disadvantaged communities, lift up your own workers, act as a responsible steward of the environment, and look after your own bottom line.
Nearly 2,000 certified B Corporations (B Corps) do just that. According to B Lab, the nonprofit organization that developed the B Corp certification process, “B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk.” In other words, it’s the gold standard for responsible business practices.
“B Corp certification demonstrates for-profit companies’ commitment to sustainable, ethical business practices,” says Syga Thomas, founder and executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Thomas Foundation. “The process, which requires considerable time and effort, is not simply an exercise in lip service.”
B Corps don’t have to certify at the outset. Established companies can initiate the certification process at any time. You should consider doing the same, for these four reasons:
1. You Can Live Your Ideals
B Corp certification lets you practice what you preach. As a mission-driven entrepreneur, you can use the B Corp framework as a template or checklist for better business practices — even if you have a pretty good idea of what you want those practices to look like already.
“I obsessed over making the company as natural as our products, and I built LEAP from the ground up using sustainable business principles,” writes LEAP Organics founder Luke Penney. “Renewable energy, recycled and recyclable packaging, cruelty-free practices, and a commitment to giving back to environmental non-profits all formed the foundation of LEAP as a mission-driven business.”
At a high level, B Corps adhere to the triple bottom line (3BL): people, planet, profit. Within that paradigm, each individual B Corp has its own set of priorities. As long as you don’t violate the terms of your certification, you’re free to make your B Corp journey your own.
2. You’ll Find It Easier to Retain Quality Employees
According to the B Corp Community, certified B Corps are great places to work. B Corp Index datasets reveal that B Corps are 55% more likely than other sustainable, non-certified businesses to partially or fully cover employees’ health insurance costs. They’re 45% more likely to give performance or retention bonuses to non-executive employees. And they’re 28% more likely to promote or hire women and people of color into management and executive positions.
In an increasingly competitive marketplace for talent, these statistics matter. The upfront and ongoing costs of ponying up for your employees’ healthcare costs or padding their paychecks with performance bonuses may be preferable to keeping up with a revolving door. Take care of your employees from the get-go and they’re likely to remain loyal. Once you’ve codified that promise by certifying as a B Corp, prospective employees will take notice.
3. You’ll Direct Resources Where They’re Needed Most
Employees aren’t the only beneficiaries of the B Corp model. B Corp Index data finds certified B Corps supporting nonprofit organizations at far higher rates than non-certified companies, including firms that follow sustainable business models. Compared with other sustainable firms, certified B Corps are 68% more likely to donate 10% or more of their profits to charities and 18% more likely to use suppliers from low-income communities.
4. You’ll Look Better to Suppliers and Customers
Selfishness and B Corp status don’t mix, but your decision to certify needn’t be completely altruistic either. In most industries, B Corp status remains novel enough to differentiate the relative handful of early adopters from the great mass of fence-sitters. This paradigm is subject to change as the 3BL movement accelerates, but for now, B Corp status is a great marketing vehicle: an unmistakable signifier of your company’s integrity and sense of purpose.