Join the B Corp Revolution
“You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.” – Ursula K. Le Guin
Founded in 2006, B Lab helped spark a global movement redefining success in business. Beloved national brands Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, Etsy and Method, and favorite local companies A to Z Wineworks, Fishpeople, Yogi Tea, Neil Kelly (and yours truly) have all voluntarily committed to higher standards of transparency, accountability and performance to be B Corp certified.
The good news is that today more than 1,500 companies representing 130 industries, in 42 countries are B Corp certified. If you assume a constant rate of certification, that pencils out to approximately 20 new B Corps taking the Impact Assessment and joining the community every month.
That’s great news, right!?
The bad news is there are only 1,500 certified B Corps. . .
According to the US Census Bureau there are over 28 million small-/medium-sized businesses in America. Even conservatively estimating that less than 1% of those businesses would be able meet the requirements to become a B Corp – that’s still more than just a few potential new B Corps. Unfortunately at the current rate it would take decades – no scratch that, it would actually take centuries – to verify and certify that many businesses.
So what more can we (individuals and B Corp businesses) do to help?
Movements are about mobilizing people behind a shared purpose. Movements can start out with just a small group of people who believe passionately in something and with a little luck can spread like wildfire. Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS research? Or the Kony 2012 video campaign? Today anyone with a video camera and social media accounts can put out a call to action and hope it goes viral (kittens help with the viral part).
For the B Corp movement to really succeed and affect massive change, there are three distinct and disparate audiences we need to reach and enroll:
- Business owners and thought leaders: we need them to sign up, take the Impact Assessment and join the community.
- Policy makers and government staff : we need them to enact rules and incentives for facilitating B Corp incorporation and recognition.
- Consumers: we need them to seek out and prioritize companies, products and services that have the Red B label indicating certification. (this one, by the way, is the most important of all.)
In the next two decades, three billion people are expected to enter the middle class. According to GlobeScan and BBMG, about one third of these new shoppers are “aspirationals,” a segment of consumers defined by their love of shopping, desire for responsible consumption, and their trust in brands to act in the best interest of society.
Despite the marketing, promotion and use of the B Corp logo on products, advertisements and digital assets, still not nearly enough people know what B Corp means, and why it matters. If the goal is to change purchasing and consumption habits on a massive scale, we need to reach mainstream middle-American consumers with varying or no interest in sustainability.
So, join us in this revolution. Whether you’re already a B Corp, or a business that aspires to it, or just a conscious consumer, there’s more we can do to make a bigger impact.
- Look up your favorite companies to see if they are a B Corp. Buy their products and services.
- If you’re a B Corp, reach out and recruit other businesses that have shared values and culture. During the rigorous review process, provide these B Corp hopefuls with encouragement, mentoring and support.
- Attend local events and talk about B Corp’s vision to spread awareness, create good and ignite worldwide change.
- Meet up with other B Corps to share tips and tools for success, or seek help/advice with a business challenge.
- Find ways to collaborate with other B Corps, and buy their products and services.
- Talk to consumers — ask them if they are passionate about buying products and services from businesses that align with B Corp values. Share that information with B Lab, community leaders and change agents.
This latter piece is critically important. A tiny symbol on the back of a bottle of beer or bag of flour is not going to jump off the shelf and change anyone’s mind as they’re walking down the aisles at Whole Foods, much less in Walmart, where many a B Corp brands are carried. Ultimately the goal should be to have the B Corp red B logo be as ubiquitous as Nike’s Swoosh or Apple’s apple.
How to make that happen? It starts with better communication with consumers. The more we understand and can demonstrate what consumers want and prefer because of their values, the easier it will be to convince businesses to put that logo on the front of their package. (By the way, it will also help encourage more businesses to become a B Corp.)
The rise of B corps is a reminder of the idea companies can be both profitable and charitable – not necessarily by how they spend their money, but how they make it. As individuals, we should engender for our work to be meaningful as well as profitable. It’s way beyond time for more companies to do the same and measure what matters.
Let’s be clear, we’re aiming for nothing less than sparking a new normal – the conscious consumer, and sustained changes in our behaviors and lifestyles. Let’s #bthechange.
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