Benefit Corporations and B Corps: The Latest Buzz #10

Benefit Corporations (a legal designation) and Certified B Corporations (a third-party certification) are changing the landscape of sustainable business. Here’s the latest from around the web about this important movement:

B Corporation

  • Momentum continues to spread: Pennsylvania has become the 12th state to sign B Corporation legislation into law!
  • Ready to become a Massachusetts B Corporation on December 1st? The Massachusetts Secretary of State has released guidance on benefit corporations to help you.
  • Best read this week: a great summary of the B Corp movement from the New York Times, which labeled B Corps as the yardstick for socially conscious companies.
  • Ben & Jerry’s is now a B Corp! The Guardian provides a great summary of why this news is so big: Ben & Jerry’s is not only a huge, well known company, they are also the first subsidiary of a publicly traded company (Unilever) to become a B Corporation. For more details on the Ben & Jerry’s B Corp story, see what the Huffington Post, Fast Co, and Triple Pundit have to say about it. To read an interview with the Director of Social Mission at Ben & Jerry’s, check out CSRWire. Craving more? Ben & Jerry’s has made their B Impact Assessment public, which you can download here.
  • For Etsy, simply passing their B Corp certification wasn’t enough. Soon after their certification was announced, Etsy employees dedicated a day of work to improving the company’s B score. In this Harvard Business Review article, B Lab co-founder Jay Coen Gilbert writes, “[this] may result in better policies and a higher B Impact Score, but there’s more to it than that. It’s already spurred employee initiative, innovation and intrapreneurship – all in the name of making Etsy better.”
  • What are the biggest benefits to becoming a B Corp? Sustainable Industries notes 5 huge benefits noting that, “while other third-party certifications like LEED, Fair-Trade, and Energy Star are beneficial for any business, B Corp certification is particularly noteworthy and well-respected because it evaluates your entire business model.”
  • But does it pay to be a socially conscious company? You bet it does! Forbes outlines 7 ways it pays to become a triple bottom line business and highlights B Corps as a means to this end.
  • Ever enjoyed an article or infographic from GOOD? Now they’re a B Corp too!  You can read more on the GOOD website or check out Triple Pundit’s article on how GOOD bolsters the B Corp network.
  • Congratulations to Easy Office (nonprofit accounting), Alterrus Systems (vertical farming systems for urban gardens), Lotus Foods (fair trade and sustainable rice), and Sleep with a Purpose (socially conscious bedding) for joining the B Corp Movement!

Finally, watch Ben and Jerry’s Director of Social Mission explain the company’s excitement in joining the B Corp community.

What’s your favorite piece of B Corp news from this list?

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: The Latest Buzz #8

Benefit Corporations (a legal designation) and Certified B Corporations (a third-party certification) are changing the landscape of sustainable business. Here’s the latest from around the web about this important movement:

B Corporation

Finally, even former President Bill Clinton takes notice of B Corps:

What are your thoughts on the latest B Corp news?

10 Resources to Help Your Business Go Green in Alameda County

I recently wrote about the sustainability progression for East Bay businesses and how we have so many resources available here to help businesses to go green. Below, I’ve listed just 10 resources to get you started.

green business

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  1. Stopwaste: Stopwaste is focused on reducing the waste stream in Alameda County. How do they do this? By offering technical assistance, funding assistance, and a wealth of resources to help businesses reduce what they send to the landfill.
  2. Recology: An employee-owned business that provides recycling, composting, and disposal services for businesses, Recology is a great resource. They’ll even do a free waste consultation for you to help you determine how you can save money by implementing recycling and composting services while reducing your waste pick-up.
  3. Smart Lights: Would your business benefit from a free energy audit that would help you identify how you can be more energy efficient, saving both money and natural resources, while also identifying available rebate opportunities for the retrofit? If so, Smart Lights can do just that and help you if you’re in Oakland, Berkeley, Albany or parts of Contra Costa County.
  4. B.E.S.T. Program: Is your business in an area not covered by Smart Lights but still interested in a free energy audit and assistance with rebates? The Business Energy Solutions Team offers a similar service to businesses in other parts of the East Bay, including San Leandro, Hayward, San Ramon, and Walnut Creek.
  5. Smart Solar: Have you ever wondered if installing solar panels would be possible for your business? Smart Solar can help you answer that question. They offer free solar assessments and project assistance to businesses that are PG&E customers throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.
  6. Food Service Technology Center: If you’re in the restaurant industry, the Food Service Technology Center is an amazing resource for you. They specialize in promoting energy efficiency in food service and can help you with site surveys (free to PG&E customers), finding rebates for kitchen equipment (did you know you could get a $500 rebate for an energy efficient fryer?), and more.
  7. Bay-Friendly Landscaping: Stopwaste is one of the sponsors of the Bay-Friendly Landscaping and Gardening Coalition, which promotes sustainable landscaping that conserves water and reduce pollution. If your business has landscaping, consider using a Bay-Friendly Qualified Professional (and be sure to use drought-tolerant, California native plants!).
  8. Sustainable Business Alliance: The SBA is a business association committed to building a vibrant community of locally-owned, sustainably-minded businesses in the East Bay. SBA offers networking and business development for members, educates the public about the benefits of local economies and spending money locally, and supports public policy changes that promote sustainable economic development.
  9. Green Chamber of Commerce: The Green Chamber is a growing and diverse business network dedicated to promoting the success of its members, supporting the development of sustainable business practices, and advocating for  green public policy.
  10. Green Business Program: Last but most certainly not least is the Alameda County Green Business Program, which can provide your business with resources and support to receive Green Business Certification. The Green Business Program sets standards in areas such as energy efficiency and water conservation and partners with cities and utilities to help businesses to reduce their environmental impacts.

I know there are more resources out there! What would you add to this list?

The Sustainability Progression for East Bay Businesses

Green earth

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As a business owner in the East Bay, you are in a unique position with the sustainability options available to you.

There’s a sustainability progression that is available to East Bay businesses, and each step along the way provides an opportunity for you to establish a solid sustainability foundation for your business:

  1. Get started on going green – everyone has to start somewhere, and making sure that you cover the basics is a good first step.
  2. Work on Green Business Certification – meet the third-party standards of the Alameda County Green Business Program, which addresses energy efficiency, water conservation, pollution prevention, and waste reduction.
  3. Work on B Corp Certification – build upon your environmental efforts through B Corp Certification, a national certification for companies that harness the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.
  4. Go beyond and blaze a trail for other triple-bottom line businesses – this is the new territory in which you join other companies that are breaking new ground in reimagining business for the 21st century.

It could be argued that business owners everywhere have access to this same sustainability progression. However, there are a few features that make the East Bay unique:

  1. Getting started – an abundance of resources exist here that facilitate the process of getting started in the greening process. Looking for free energy audits? Both Smart Lights and the BEST program serve Alameda County. Interested in recycling options? Stopwaste.org can assist with everything from setting up recycling programs to figuring out how to properly dispose of almost anything you can imagine. Would you like to network with other green business owners? Both the Sustainable Business Alliance and the Green Chamber of Commerce can facilitate that. The list of resources to help you go green that we have available here is quite extensive!
  2. Green Business Certification – the Alameda County Green Business Program is a robust program with over 500 certified businesses. The program sets clear standards for certification and has developed strong partnerships with utilities and municipalities throughout the county that support the program. In addition, certified businesses go through an audit process that ensures that their practices meet the program standards, which strengthens the credibility for this program over others that forgo confirmation of a company’s practices.
  3. B Corp Certification – while B Corps exist throughout the US and Canada, the East Bay is home to many B Corps, including Give Something Back, Green Retirement Plans, Numi Tea, Free Range Studios, Cutting Edge Capital, Sungevity, Wendel Rosen, and Scientific Certification Systems, to name just a few. Plus, the West Coast B Corp staff office is just across the Bay in San Francisco. The combination of a local office and numerous certified businesses results in an active community that can provide support to new B Corps.
  4. Go beyond the Bay Area is a hub of activity right now around sustainable business, social entrepreneurship, impact investing, clean tech, green building, progressive legislation, and numerous other factors that are paving the way towards new models for the socially and environmentally responsible businesses of the future. If any company is interested in pushing the boundaries of old business models and trying something new and innovative, this is the time and place to do it.

Do you own a business in the East Bay? Where are you in this progression?

 

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: The Latest Buzz #6

Benefit Corporations (a legal designation) and Certified B Corporations (a third-party certification) are changing the landscape of sustainable business. Here’s the latest from around the web about this important movement:

And, in case you missed it, here’s the piece that PBS did on B Corps – “Benefit Corporations Aim to Make Profit, Positive Impact.” It’s worth watching!

What are your thoughts on the latest B Corp news?

 

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: The Latest Buzz #5

Benefit Corporations (a legal designation) and Certified B Corporations (a third-party certification) are changing the landscape of sustainable business. Here’s the latest from around the web about this important movement:

  • Forbes turned the spotlight to the rise of the charitable for-profit entity, examining “two new types of corporations [that] have been created to address the goals of making money, attracting private investors and addressing societal concerns: the benefit corporation and L3C.”
  • B CorporationThe Wall Street Journal noted “That anything other than maximizing shareholder value should be considered in a company’s decision-making normally can open the door to investor suits”… Benefit Corporations, however, are now changing that.
  • Why do companies choose to become Certified B Corps? Context Travel explains their reasons and the benefits of becoming a B Corp. Renewable Choice Energy also recently became a certified B Corp. On their blog, they share their experience getting certified as a B Corp.
  • “B Corps are about changing (or rather growing) corporate laws, standards, systems, and cultures” – and in doing so, they’re driving a new ecology of commerce.
  • B Corp Open Neighborhood is bringing idea of local communication to the digital age, with a unique social media platform, a free-wifi initiative, and a group purchasing program for solar energy. Learn more about Open Neighborhood on Care2.
  • Though the B Corp certification is not intended for non-profits, have you ever been curious about what B Lab’s own B report would look like? Wait no longer. In the spirit of transparency, B Lab has released its own B report, impact assessment, and supplier list.

Finally, the CBS Evening News ran this piece about Benefit Corporations that focus on giving back:

What are your thoughts on the latest B Corp news?

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: The Latest Buzz #4

B Corporations and Benefit Corporations are changing the landscape of sustainable business. Here’s the latest from around the web about this important movement:

  • California’s new Benefit Corporation legislation went into effect on Jan. 3, paving the way for more companies to maximize social good while turning a profit. In all, 12 companies registered as Benefit Corporations on the first day, with Patagonia leading the charge as B CorporationCalifornia’s first Benefit Corporation. KQED reported on Benefit Corporations, and even mainstream business publications took notice of the new law; Bloomberg examined the possible future of sustainable business law and the Economist noted that firms with benefits are part of a larger trend, with Britain and European countries already having or also developing new legal frameworks.
  • B Lab has set up a comprehensive Benefit Corporation Information Center that is a great resource for information about Benefit Corporations. It’s well worth checking out for businesses, attorneys, and directors interested in learning more about benefit corporations.
  • A great article on the Stanford Social Innovation Review explains why corporate structure matters and notes that Benefit Corporations represent “an opportunity to make a paradigm shift that harnesses the incredible power of companies to benefit society and the economy.”
  • The emergence of Benefit Corporations that incorporate a social or environmental mission into for-profit companies of course also blurs the traditional lines between for-profit and non-profit organizations. A short post on The Non-profit Quarterly asks, “But what does it [the Benefit Corporation structure] say about non-profits?” The American Bar Association noted that it could help non-profits deliver benefits by offering a new solution to the dilemma about whether to incorporate as a non-profit or for-profit. Nixon Peabody Law Firm provides a lengthy and detailed examination of Benefit Corporations, L3Cs, and the need to clearly understand the new legal alternatives for structuring business entities.
  • B Corp Warby Parker continues to make the news, this time with a write-up in Entrepreneur magazine about how this innovative eyeglass company secured venture capital (if you missed their Fast Company video, you can view it here.)
  • B Corps continue to grow in Canada. IMG  just became certified in December 2011, joining Dirtt and Bullfrog Power as Founding Canadian B Corporations.

Finally, our local NBC Bay Area spotlighted Give Something Back in its segment about Benefit Corporations:

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: The Latest Buzz #3

B Corporations and Benefit Corporations are changing the landscape of sustainable business. Here’s the latest from around the web about this important movement:

  • The biggest story recently has been the news that NY became the 7th state to pass Benefit Corporation legislation! EvenB Corporation Forbes noted that NY is now a better state for business. Or, as one writer noted, Benefit Corporations are set to Occupy Wall Street.
  • A good post on Greenbiz.com explains the legal requirements for Benefit Corporations in California, including the reporting requirements and shareholder votes needed to convert to a Benefit Corporation.
  • Mike Hannigan of B Corp Give Something Back notes the macro-trends that are changing the face of corporate philanthropy, especially in the support systems that now exist for responsible businesses: business associations, investment capital, business professionals who support values-based businesses, and of course new legal structures such as Benefit Corporations. Taken together, it’s quite a potent force!
  • As Benefit Corporation legislation continues to spread across the country, at least one state is wondering if it will miss this opportunity: Will Nevada be left behind?
  • This Wall Street Journal post describes the differences among the three emerging legal structures for social entrepreneurs: L3Cs, Benefit Corporations, and Flexible-Purpose Corporations, with suggestions about which structure would be ideal for different types of companies.
  • Mashable has jumped into the fray as well, asking “Do they really indicate good companies?” This is an important question, especially since the article notes that “72% of Americans believe it is important to ‘buy from green companies.’”
  • B Corp Warby Parker was featured in a Fast Company video that is well worth watching. They have built giving back right into their business model: for every pair of glasses they sell, they gift a pair to someone who needs them but can’t afford them. The result in one year? 85,000 pairs of glasses to people around the world!

Finally, I’m happy to share the news that Cultivating Capital is now a certified B Corp as well! As a staunch supporter of B Corps, I am proud to be a part of a community committed to harnessing the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.

Benefit Corporations and B Corps: The Latest Buzz #2

B Corporations and Benefit Corporations are changing the landscape of sustainable business. Here’s the latest from around the web about this important movement: B Corporations

  • Everyone’s talking about the passing of Benefit Corporation legislation in California. The Capitol Weekly, the newspaper of California government and politics, recently announced that a “new breed of company” is coming to California.
  • The SF Gate also noted that “California can become a magnet for companies pursuing a triple bottom line,” especially since the Bay Area already has many socially-conscious companies.
  • Sustainable Industries features a good overview about the Benefit of Benefit Corporations, explaining what they are and noting that “triple bottom line businesses are getting legit.”
  • The emergence of Benefit Corporations of course has significant legal implications. This legal perspective explains the difference between Benefit Corporations and Flexible Purpose Corporations. Also, one of the attorneys who worked on Benefit Corporation legislation was recently interviewed by the Green Chamber of Commerce, and it’s well worth reading, which you can do here.
  • Two movements as powerful as B Corps and Occupy Wall Street can’t help but call for comparison, such as in this post by B Lab co-founder Andrew Kassoy, an analysis on the shared goals and different tactics of the two movements, and how B Corps are an alternative to big corporations (a post that previously appeared on this blog).
  • Did you know that there are B Corps in Canada? MaRS, which is “building Canada’s next generation of growth companies,” explains the B Corp Certification and a newspaper notes that a local company is one of only 20 B Corps in Canada.
  • The story of B Corp iContact, an email marketing and social media marketing company, was profiled in Time magazine – and it’s an inspiring account of the humble origins of a $50 million company.

Finally, for the first time in its 94-year history, Forbes magazine identified the top 30 social entrepreneurs. Guess who made the list? B Lab founders Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan and Andrew Kassoy, plus B Corps New Leaf Paper, Gray Ghost Ventures, Freelancers Union, and Ignia. Congrats to all!

Tired of Big Corporations? Check out B Corporations Instead

The Occupy Wall Street movement is now in its second month, and whether you agree or disagree with it, it clearly cannot be ignored. My own feelings towards it have been somewhat ambivalent. As a member of the 99%, I share the frustrations of many who are tired of seeing our government controlled by large corporations and am deeply troubled by the effects that a growing gap between the rich and the poor has on our democracy and the opportunities that this country has always offered. However, I feel that some of the anger has been misdirected at business in general. During the General Strike in Oakland on November 2, a large banner reading “Death to Capitalism” was prominently hung up during the march. How can I, as a business professional, support a movement in which some members view business as the problem?

Not All Businesses Are Created Equal

The truth is that not all businesses are created equal. Consider the following characteristics of Big Corporations:

  • Legally required to focus first and foremost on maximizing profit
  • Can operate largely without regard to how their business affects society and the environment
  • Drive local, independent businesses out of business
  • Take money out of the local economy and send it to shareholders and executives outside of the community

By contrast, consider the following characteristics of B Corporations:

  • Legally required to make decisions that are good for society, not just shareholders
  • Use the power of business to address social and environmental problems
  • Often local, independent businesses that operate within and give back to their local community
  • Help keep money in the local economy where it continues to circulate within the community

The problem is not business in general, or even Big Corporations alone, but instead it is the way in which large corporations have prioritized profit above all else. B Corporations are part of the solution. B Lab co-founder Andrew Kassoy captured this quite well in a recent piece in Forbes: “The Occupy Wall Street movement signals a collective dissatisfaction with the status quo. B Corporations and their supporters are offering an alternative.”

Harnessing the Power of Business – for Good

One of the reasons that I went into business is because I believe deeply that we need to address the social and environmental problems that we face. Yet, when I looked at the options for effecting change, I had to acknowledge that the government can’t solve our problems (especially in its current state of impasse) and the non-profits, where I worked for years, simply don’t have the resources to solve all the problems that they’re tackling. The private sector is in the best position to effect positive social change by harnessing the power of business and diverting it away from just making money and towards making a profit while acting responsibly – and this is exactly what B Corps do.

If you are a business owner, I encourage you to consider becoming a B Corporation. The process begins with completing the online B Corp Impact Assessment. If you are not a business owner, consider shifting your purchasing dollars to B Corporations and local independent businesses that provide jobs, produce positive social impacts, and protect the environment.