Benefit Corporations and B Corps: The Latest Buzz

Now that California has passed Benefit Corporation legislation, Benefit Corporations and B Corps are all the rage! If you’re trying to keep up with it all, here’s the latest from around the web:

  • An interview on KPFA last week explores the Benefit Corporation legislation. It’s well worth listening to, and you can Benefit Corporationsaccess it here.
  • Following the B Corp Retreat in October, Shift Alliance explains the purpose, progress, and future challenges of B Corps.
  • With the passing of the new legislation, it’s easy to confuse Benefit Corporations with B Corporations. Sometimes, however, a B is not a B.
  • What is being called the biggest change in NY corporate law since the introduction of LLCs in 1994? Hint: It involves turning profits while benefiting the public.
  • If you’re trying to make sense of B Corps, this primer on B Corps breaks it down for you.
  • What was the process for one company to become a certified B Corp? Rivanna Designs shares their story.
  • This short video by B Corp Impact Makers has been around for a while, but it’s worth watching because it explains their model for doing good – and challenges you to steal it!

Finally, if you haven’t yet read B Lab co-founder Andrew Kassoy’s post on B Corps and Occupy Wall Street, I highly recommend that you read it here.

California Passes Benefit Corporation and Green Business Legislation!

Over the weekend, Governor Brown signed two important pieces of legislation that will help to advance socially and environmentally responsible businesses in the state: AB 361 and AB 913.

AB 361: Benefit Corporations

With AB 361, California joins a growing list of states that now recognize Benefit Corporations. The bill was introduced by Assemblymember Jared Huffman and creates a “new, entirely voluntary type of corporate entity to let California businesses balance the pursuit of corporate profits with environmental and social goals.” Under current state law, corporations are required to prioritize profit and financial interests. Benefit corporations are different in that they allow corporations to give equal consideration to social and environmental interests instead of just to financial profit. This is a significant step that gives triple bottom line businesses legal recognition in California.

AB 913: California Green Business Program

AB 913 requires the Depart of Toxic Substances Control to establish a California Green Business Program. Under the Hazardous Waste Source Reduction and Management Review Act of 1989, the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) is already required to establish a program for hazardous waste reduction. AB 913 requires that, as part of implementing its source reduction program, the DTSC develop:

“A California Green Business Program that provides for the voluntary certification of businesses that adopt environmentally preferable business practices, including but not limited to, increased energy efficiency, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, promotion of water conservation, and reduced waste generation.”

Green and Sustainable Businesses: Onward and Upward!

Taken together, these two pieces of legislation can have a significant impact on businesses that want to incorporate the triple bottom line into their business practices. AB 913 will provide additional resources to the many small businesses in the state that want to go green but may need guidance and support in order to do so. AB 361 will give corporations that are ready to adopt a new corporate form that better reflects their social and environmental mission an option for legally doing so. Both the creation of a statewide Green Business Program and the new Benefit Corporation entity will also help consumers to distinguish between businesses that make green claims versus those that either meet green business certification standards and/or incorporate social and environmental interests into their legal framework. It should also be noted that both Benefit Corporation status and Green Business Certification are entirely voluntary.

Additional information about AB 361: Benefit Corporation legislation and the Green Business Program is available on the blog.


Green Chamber of Commerce Interview with Cultivating Capital

Green Chamber of Commerce

One of the organizations that is leading the way in advancing the green economy is the Green Chamber of Commerce. The Green Chamber of Commerce 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

As a member of the Green Chamber, I was recently interviewed and invited to share my thoughts about Cultivating Capital, working with women entrepreneurs, and sustainability. The full interview is available on the Green Chamber website and is reposted below.

GCC: Tell me about the founding vision of Cultivating Capital and how the company was started?

CM: The vision for Cultivating Capital emerged while I was getting an MBA in Sustainable Enterprise from Dominican University. I was interested in sustainability consulting and was thinking about working with women business owners. As I did some market research, I came upon compelling statistics about the expected growth in women-owned businesses in the next few years. I realized that if that entrepreneurial activity could be harnessed and steered in a sustainable direction, it could prove to be a critical leverage point for transformation in business. Cultivating Capital was started in order to bring attention to and accelerate that process.

GCC: How did you come to Cultivating Capital and what is your background?

CM: My background is in non-profit and small business management. As Health & Safety Director for the American Red Cross, I managed all First Aid and CPR classes and related programs for the Palo Alto chapter. As the Sustainability & Marketing Manager for Greenerprinter, I developed and implemented the company’s first social media marketing strategy, worked on SEO, and restructured the Adwords account, ensuring that all would coordinate with our overall marketing strategy. On the sustainability side, I handled two certifications for the company, B Corp and the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership. After completing my MBA, I decided to start my own company, Cultivating Capital. At about the same time, I also began working with the Alameda County Green Business Program as a Green Business Consultant and shortly thereafter joined the Board of the Sustainable Business Alliance, where I chair the Marketing Committee.

GCC: What kind of consulting services does Cultivating Capital offer?

CM: Cultivating Capital helps small business owners in the two areas that are shaping business in the 21st century: going green and marketing themselves online. Specifically, an audit of the business can serve as a starting point for evaluating its current sustainability and online marketing practices and then serve as a foundation on which to develop the overall strategy in both of those areas. I also work with business owners in business plan development and overall business strategy.

GCC: Can you describe examples of women’s businesses with whom you have worked and describe how you have helped them develop more sustainable businesses?

CM: Some current projects include working on an online marketing strategy for a firm that helps social enterprises to raise capital; working with a sustainability-minded bookkeeping business on green business certification, marketing and operational improvements; providing business planning and development support for a sustainable business incubator; and developing a business plan for a boutique offering sustainably-produced clothing.

GCC: What advice do you have for others in your industry who are trying to be more green?

CM: I think that consultants and business service professionals can do quite a bit to go green, beyond just using recycled paper or minimizing paper use. Are we using a big business bank for business checking services, or are we putting our money into local banks that are more likely to benefit the local community? Are we constantly driving to meetings, or are we using public transit and virtual meetings to reduce driving? Are we evaluating our own supply chain? For example, purchasing office supplies from a large chain store versus a local, independently owned business makes a difference. These are just some of the things that even service professionals can consider when trying to go green themselves.

GCC: Have you faced any obstacles in the process of trying to be a sustainable business?  If so, how did you or how do you continue to overcome them?

CM: I wouldn’t call them obstacles, but I have had to do more research and in some cases pay more money in order to work with companies that share my sustainability values. It took me a while to find the right green-certified insurance agent and locally owned bank to work with. I also wanted to use a locally owned, green web hosting service but for practical purposes, it was easier to use the hosting service that my web designer used. This is one area that I’m hoping to change at some point in the future.

GCC: Can you describe specifically your sustainable business practices?

CM: I’ve tried to make Cultivating Capital a sustainable business in several ways. First, I started my company with the intention of having it become a Certified B Corporation, so I worked with an attorney who was familiar with B Corps. We specified in the LLC operating agreement that due consideration would be given to the company’s effects on stakeholders and the environment, among other things. This ensured that the triple bottom line of “people, planet, and profit” is in the DNA of Cultivating Capital. Second, I chose a LEED-certified workspace (the Hub at the Brower Center; the Brower Center is itself also a Certified Green Business). Finally, I’ve also made it a point to green my own supply chain as much as possible by working with other companies that are either Certified Green Businesses or B Corps (or both), such as the Katovitch Law Group, Avail Insurance Services, and Greenerprinter.

I’m also going through the auditing process to become a Certified Green Business in Alameda County and have started my own B Corp certification process; both of these are reputable certifications that have established clear and transparent standards for green and sustainable businesses (and in an era of greenwashing, the need for standards is becoming increasingly important). There’s a post on my blog that explains more about my own sustainable business practices: Sustainability for One Small Business.

GCC: What does sustainability mean to you?

CM: Sustainability is a framework through which we can create a world that is socially just and operates within natural environmental limits. Although in modern western society, we tend to act as if we can separate ourselves from nature, the reality is that we can’t – every single item that we use in our daily lives is provided by nature, if we trace it back to the original raw materials from which it was created, so working within natural limits is necessary. We also need to ensure that all people have at least their basic human needs met and that they can live with dignity. I don’t believe that this is an idealistic notion; rather, I see it as an imperative based upon basic human compassion and a necessity for stability in an inter-connected world. When a business takes responsibility for its social and environmental impact, it moves us closer towards this better world. Sustainability helps to make this possible.

GCC: Why did you decide to join with the Green Chamber and how has it impacted your business?

CM: A lot of work needs to be done to move us closer to a just and sustainable world, and we each have a role to play. I respect the Green Chamber’s national advocacy efforts and want to support its work and also to be part of the green business community.

Sustainability for One Small Business

When I started Cultivating Capital, I wanted to create a company that would not just help others to become more sustainable, but would also incorporate the best sustainable business practices. After all, if we are to reimagine business for the 21st century, we can’t just set up and operate our companies in the traditional way.

Supporting Companies with Shared Values Small business sustainability on main street

Most of the companies that I’ve worked with are B Corps or Certified Green Businesses. When it comes to defining what it means to actually be a green or sustainable business, there are few agreed-upon standards, which makes it easy for a business to call itself green even if it isn’t. However, Certified Green Businesses have met local standards in the Bay Area for environmental responsibility, and B Corps have met national standards for social and environmental responsibility. I know that these companies share my social and environmental values and have been vetted by reputable, third-party organizations. If we are to transition to an economy that supports local, sustainable businesses that minimize their environmental impact and give back to local communities, we need to support those businesses financially. This means making conscious choices about how we spend our business dollars and remembering that every dollar spent is a vote in favor of a company’s practices.

With that in mind, below is a list of some of the things that I’ve done and suppliers I’ve used to help Cultivating Capital be more sustainable:

  • LLC Filing & Legal Services: Katovitch Law Group, a local Certified Green Business and B Corp in Oakland. We specified in the LLC operating agreement that due consideration would be given to the company’s effects on stakeholders and the environment. This ensures that the triple bottom line of “people, planet, and profit” is in the DNA of Cultivating Capital (it’s also the legal framework for B Corps).
  • Business Banking: Mechanics Bank, a local community bank. One of the most important decisions that any of us can make around sustainability is deciding where we put our money. We may want to create jobs in our local community and support local, green businesses, but if we then give our hard-earned money to big banks that do not act in the best interests of that community, we actually undermine our best efforts.
  • Business Cards: Greenerprinter, a local Certified Green Business and B Corp. Beyond using recycled paper, Greenerprinter has implemented progressive practices within the printing industry, and offers high-quality printing at competitive prices. [Full disclosure: I was a Greenerprinter employee for two years.]
  • Business Insurance: Avail Insurance, a local Certified Green Business based in Berkeley.
  • Office Space: Cultivating Capital is based at the Hub, a progressive co-working space that attracts people working on “solutions for a better world.” The Hub is located in the David Brower Center, a LEED certified building in Berkeley and itself a Certified Green Business in Alameda County.
  • Office Purchases: Most of my office supplies come from Alko Office Supply, a local, independent business in Berkeley just around the corner from the Brower Center.
  • Transportation: With the excellent public transit system that we have in the Bay Area, I rarely drive anymore. BART can usually get me anywhere I need to go. In addition to reducing emissions and avoiding the traffic congestion on Bay Area freeways, there’s the added benefit of being able to use the time in transit productively to get work done.

Of course, this isn’t to say that I’ve done everything that I can to make Cultivating Capital the kind of company that I want it to be! These are simply the first steps that I took when I started the business; I just didn’t feel that I could honestly say that I wanted to create a triple bottom line, sustainable business if I created a traditional LLC, banked at Bank of America, printed my business cards at Vistaprint, and purchased my office supplies at Staples. But there’s still a lot more that I’d like to do. Here are some projects that are on deck:

  • Green Business and B Corp Certification: I would be remiss if I didn’t adhere to the very standards that I most respect for sustainable businesses! As a result, Cultivating Capital is currently going through the auditing process for Green Business Certification in Alameda County, and I’ve begun the process to become a Certified B Corporation (the first step of which is to take the Impact Assessment). [I'm also a Green Business Consultant with the Alameda County Green Business Program, but my business is, of course, subject to the same standards and auditing process as any other business.]
  • Giving back to the community: Currently I volunteer on the Board of the Sustainable Business Alliance, but I would like to identify other ways in which Cultivating Capital can give back to the community, including perhaps donating a percentage of profits to a local non-profit or making a micro-loan to an entrepreneur through Kiva.
  • Local, green web hosting: This was a tough one. I had wanted to use a locally owned, green web hosting service but for practical purposes, it was easier to use the hosting service that my web designer used; fortunately, his choice (Servint) has implemented some green initiatives, but I would still prefer to use a local service. This is one area that I’m hoping to change at some point in the future.

It’s important to remember that what it means to be a sustainable business is still being defined: “Make my business sustainable” is not something that can just be checked off a list! Rather, it’s an ongoing, evolving process of continual improvement. Nevertheless, that’s a rundown about what I’ve done so far to make Cultivating Capital a sustainable small business. I’d love to hear about what you’ve done in the comments.

Completing the B Corp Impact Assessment

B Corps (the B stands for “Benefit”) are companies that are committed to using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. They Benefit Corporationshave emerged as one of the most important developments in triple bottom line business.

Since Cultivating Capital is going through the process of becoming a Certified B Corporation, I wanted to share with you an overview of the certification process, especially the Impact Assessment.

Becoming a B Corp involves a 4-step process: filling out the Impact Assessment, conducting an assessment review with a staff member, adopting the legal framework, and reviewing the certification fees. The Impact Assessment, along with the resulting Impact Report, make up the B Impact Rating System.

The B Corp Impact Assessment

The B Corp Impact Assessment is a comprehensive survey of your business practices that determines your impact on all stakeholders; it’s updated every two years to ensure continual improvement. Expect to take 60-90 minutes to fill it out, but since it’s an online checklist, you can work on it, save it, and then return to it later to complete it.

It’s divided into 4 different sections:

  • Governance: Standards related to mission, the Board of Directors, and transparency.
  • Community: Standards related to employee practices, supply chain, and community service.
  • Environment: Standards related to your overall environmental practices.
  • Beneficial Business Models: Standards related to how your business model serves the community and conserves the environment.

There’s also a Disclosure Questionnaire, which covers a range of areas in which a company must disclose its activities. These include identifying if a company is involved in activities such as gambling and firearms, whether or not it engages in animal testing and uses child or prison labor, whether people have had to relocate due to construction of a company’s facility, and whether there have been any fines, sanctions, or formal complaints to regulatory agencies against a company’s practices.

Taken together, the Impact Assessment and Disclosure Questionnaire comprise a holistic framework for any company that is seeking to do good through its business operations – which is, of course, what B Corps are doing!

The Impact Assessment and Your Business

The Impact Assessment is useful in a couple of different ways. Of course, if you’re interested in becoming a B Corp, it’s the first step in the process. By filling it out and seeking certification, you’ll be committing your business to the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility.

However, the Impact Assessment is a great tool even if you’re not seeking certification. According to the B Corp website, “[The Impact Assessment] is free and open to all, whether or not you’d like to become a B Corporation. You are welcome to use it as a benchmarking tool and to track your company’s social and environmental performance.” You could register online, access the Impact Assessment, and use it to identify areas where you can make improvements in your own company’s operations. If you’d like to see how your company compares to other sustainable businesses, you can then check out the B Corp Index; it compares the social and environmental performance of more than 1,300 companies (on average, B Corps score 25% higher than other sustainable businesses).

To learn more about B Corps, I invite you to read the post, “What Are B Corps?” If you have any questions about B Corps or the Impact Assessment, please leave them in the comments below.

Human Capital: The “People” Part of the Triple Bottom Line

The triple bottom line is one of the principles of sustainable business that gives weight not just to making a profit, but also to being responsible for how a business impacts people and the planet. In short, it looks at people, planet, and profit in all business considerations.

The financial component is the one that we are most familiar with, because it has traditionally been the only part that a company has to be concerned about. The concept of natural capital has gained increased attention as we realize that many of the natural resources we take for granted are not going to be around forever. The “people” part is really about human capital – the people who actually carry out the work of the company, as well as the people who are impacted by the company (this is the part that puts the “social responsibility” in CSR, corporate social responsibility).

Putting People First

Many forward-thinking companies look at how to really value their people. Perhaps one of the most important developments has been the emergence of B Corps, which expands the concept of shareholders to consider all stakeholders – basically everyone touched by the business, including employees, customers, suppliers, and community members.

Other examples of companies that are putting people first include: Human Capital: People Part of the Triple Bottom Line

  • Zappos, which CEO Tony Hsieh has famously built around employee happiness.
  • Semco, a Brazilian company that has implemented innovative workplace practices, including allowing workers to set their own salaries, as the “Caring Capitalist” video explains.
  • Clif Bar, the food company with 5 aspirations, one of which is to “create a workplace where people can live life to its fullest, even from 9-5.”

Companies that put people first realize that it’s good for business. Some early research suggests that green businesses may have happier employees – employee productivity may actually increase when people feel good about the sustainability initiatives of the company that they work for.

What Does This Mean for Your Business?

Remember that your business is all about people. Who is touched by your business? Obviously, employees and customers are, but what about others, such as the people who live in the community where your raw materials are originally extracted? Then ask yourself, “How can my business impact them in a positive way?” Some ways to do this are to implement employee engagement programs, partner with a non-profit in your local community, and ensure that, if you outsource any of your work, it is done in compliance with human rights and labor laws.

The more that you can do this, the more that you will build goodwill and loyalty among the people who make your business possible. In turn, this will help your business to be sustainable for the long-term.

Why Your Small Business Needs to Go Green & Market Online

Isn’t one of the ongoing challenges of being a business owner just keeping up with the changes around you?

Your customers are constantly looking for a better value, your competitors don’t let up for a moment, the technology you’re used to becomes obsolete quickly, and you need to run your business while also trying to have some balance with your personal life. No wonder you’re so busy!

However, keeping up with changes becomes especially important in this day and age. In particular, there are two recent developments that have changed the landscape of business and that will affect you now and in the future. All businesses, large and small, will need to incorporate these into their overall strategy in order to be successful in the 21st century. These two changes are the need to become more sustainable and to effectively leverage online and social media marketing.

By now, you probably know that going green and marketing online are important. The question is: are you doing both effectively? Consider that 46% of small businesses don’t have a website (still!) and many businesses are still learning how to integrate sustainability into their overall strategy and operations. If you’re focused on just surviving in the present, you’re missing out on gaining a competitive edge for the future.

If you go green but don’t market, you may not generate enough sales to make your business profitable. Most customers, including older Baby Boomers, are now going online for information. Without an online presence, your business simply can’t be found. Without social media, it’s harder to connect with and educate your customers.

If you market but don’t go green, you will be at a disadvantage in several ways. First, your expenses may be higher than those of competitors who have implemented green practices such as conserving water and energy, which can directly benefit your bottom line. Second, you may be missing out on potential customers who are factoring environmental considerations into their purchases. And finally, you may be unprepared for how changes such as increases in gasoline prices may affect the shipping of your products.

Ultimately, the best way to ensure that your business will survive and thrive for the long-term is to integrate sustainability and the triple-bottom line into your business and market yourself online effectively.

Going Green in Alameda County

We are fortunate in the Bay Area to have a well-developed green business program. The Bay Area Green Business Program includes Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma Counties. San Francisco and Monterey also have Green Business Programs. Since 1996, over 2200 businesses have been certified.

In this short video segment hosted by Bill Roth of Earth 2017, Alameda County Green Business Coordinator Pamela Evans talks about “Best Practices for Cutting Costs and Emissions in an Office.” Tips and information for helping businesses to go green include:

  • What is the quickest way to reduce energy in your office?
  • What uses the most water in your office, and what can you do about it?
  • What is the number one reason that businesses go green in Alameda County?

If you’re interested in pursuing Green Business Certification, you can visit the California Green Business Program website and enroll online.

How to Join the Women Leading the Green Economy

Last week, I had the good fortune to co-present on the topic “How to Join the Women Leading the Green Economy,” with Grace Tiscareño-Sato. Grace is the author of “Latinnovating: Green American Jobs and the Latinos Creating Them.” The book is the first to examine the role of Latino entrepreneurs in the emerging green economy.

Our presentation was at the 3rd Annual Women’s Business Expo held by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (video highlights are available below). We focused on three main topics:

  1. Women and sustainable businesses are a powerful combination. The rise of women-owned businesses and sustainable businesses is presenting us with a unique opportunity to reshape business as we know it.
  2. Many women business owners are already active in the emerging green economy. Examples include women like Carmen Rad of CR&A Custom, a large-format printing company that uses biodegradable materials, and Sandra Artalejo, a fashion designer who repurposes discarded materials into new products.
  3. How you can go green in your business. This involves looking at the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit. While most businesses are quite adept at looking at the profit component (a necessity to survival in business!), the focus on people and planet tends to be much less prominent.

In terms of reducing your impact on the planet, areas to look at include:

  • Energy and water conservation: How can your business reduce its energy and water consumption?
  • Solid waste reduction and pollution prevention: How can your business divert waste from the landfill and minimize use of harmful chemicals?
  • Production and distribution: How can your business modify its production and distribution practices to make it more environmentally responsible?

To ensure that your business is having a positive impact on people, areas to look at include:

  • Employee wellness: How does your business provide for the well-being of your employees?
  • Community impact: How does your business support its community?
  • Supply chain impact: How are people impacted throughout your supply chain?

These are all important areas to look at in your business as you consider what you can do to go green and develop a sustainable business. The actual practice of greening your businesses in these areas may seem to be overwhelming, but it’s important to realize that the business case for sustainability has already been made: businesses that minimize their environmental impacts can in turn reduce their expenses, while also generating goodwill among employees and customers, which can lead to higher revenues. The businesses that do this will also realize a competitive advantage in being able to tap new markets. Finally, this is just an overview (we only had 45 minutes!), but fortunately, there are several resources available:

  • Certifications: Bay Area Green Business Program and B Corps
  • Networking and advocacy groups: Sustainable Business Alliance and the Green Chamber of Commerce
  • News and information: Greenbiz, Triple Pundit, and Sustainable Industries

This short video captures some of the highlights from the Expo:

Are you a woman with a green business? Share your story below!

What is Sustainability?

There are various definitions of sustainability. One of the most commonly accepted definitions comes from a 1987 UN Conference: “Sustainability is the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.” This sounds good, but what does it really mean?

What is sustainability?

Meeting the Needs of the Present

Think for a moment about our most basic needs: food, water, and shelter. Traditionally throughout human history, these were provided on a local, moderate scale. Food was grown locally, water came from a clean local source such as a river, and shelter was modest. In recent decades, however, this has completely changed.

Now, our food is mass-produced on huge farms using pesticides and then transported halfway around the world, which has resulted in the displacement of small farmers, pollution from pesticides, and significant energy requirements from the transportation alone. Our water supplies are strained as a result of increased demand from growing populations and reduced supply from the pollution of our waterways. Finally, the size of our shelter has increased as well: the average American home has increased in size from 983 square feet in 1950 to 2,434 square feet in 2005. These homes require great amounts of energy to heat and to cool, not to mention the amount of resources used in building them in the first place.

Beyond food, water, and shelter, it’s worthwhile to look at our wants in addition to our needs. We want to have the latest electronics and gadgets, the latest fashions, the latest cars, etc. – all of which require raw materials and energy to produce, transport, and maintain, and most of which will ultimately end up in landfills. Multiply this by 300 million people in the U.S. alone, and you can begin to see how this can create a strain on a planet that has never in its history had to produce so much for so many people.

Sustainability: Beyond Green

Although sustainability is often thought of as “going green,” it actually goes beyond that. Green can be limited to environmental issues such as reducing our carbon emissions, conserving water, and minimizing waste. These are, of course, all important activities that are needed for us to work and live within the natural limits of the planet.

Sustainability, however, challenges us to look at both social and environmental impacts. When the air and water are polluted, those are not just environmental issues – they are public health issues for the people who will breathe that air and drink that water. When development expands into isolated areas, the effects go beyond just the loss of forests and habitat destruction – it’s a cultural issue for indigenous people who may lose their traditional way of life. When oil spills occur, the effects aren’t limited to the loss of animal life and damage to ecosystems – they are a blow to local communities and people whose livelihoods are threatened.

By examining more closely the interactions among our economic activity, our environmental impacts, and our social impacts, we can begin to understand how sustainability is, ultimately, a much more holistic and comprehensive way of looking at our lives and understanding the world in which we live.

The Implications of Sustainability for Business

This is why the triple bottom line has emerged as an important concept in sustainable business. The triple bottom line takes into account that every business needs to be financially profitable – the traditional “bottom line” of business. In addition to this, it takes into consideration the environmental impact as a result of business operations (such as its use of energy and water) and its social impact as well (such as its treatment of employees and people in the local community). The idea is that for a business to be sustainable in the long-term, it will need to be profitable in a way that operates within natural limits and respects the well-being of people affected by the business. In short, it will need to factor people, planet, and profit into all business considerations.

This is not a perfect model, of course, and many businesses large and small are struggling to adapt to it. After all, it goes against traditional business practices, which have focused solely on maximizing profits. On a positive note, there are interesting and innovative models emerging that are helping to pave the way for sustainable business, such as B Corps.

Sustainability can actually be quite complex and is subject to different interpretations. How would you define sustainability? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.