Founding B Corps Speak: Lessons Learned after 15 Years as a B Corp

The B Corp movement is a global movement of people using business as a force for good. Around the world, more than 6,000 companies – a number that is steadily growing – have been inspired by the vision of an economic system that can be equitable, inclusive, and regenerative, one that can help right the many wrongs in our world. 

This movement is global now, but it started with a few intrepid individuals who took a leap of faith on an unknown and untested concept. (For anyone who’s frustrated with the lack of brand recognition about B Corps now, consider what it meant to get certified early on when no one knew what a B Corp was.)

These first companies that got certified in 2007 are the Founding Bs, the first ones who committed to using business as a force for good and who have paved the way for the rest of us. In 2022, I’ve reflected on their milestone – 15 years as a Certified B Corp! – wanting to both honor it and learn from it. 

With that in mind, I reached out to some of the Founding Bs with one question: “What have you learned after 15 years as a B Corp?”

I consider their answers, shared below, as a gift from them to those of us in the B Corp community who follow in their footsteps.

“When Jay Coen Gilbert and Bart Houlahan asked Untours to be the first B Corp, Hal Taussig and I never dreamed that we were joining such a vibrant community of like-minded business leaders. We’d had many conversations with the two of them about what B Corps would look like. The final iteration seemed like a promising idea, but one that would take tremendous energy and effort to bring to fruition. Now, 15 years later, we can look back at a few things that we’ve learned:

1. There are a lot more of us than we thought. In 2007, we knew about Ben and Jerry’s, Patagonia, and a handful of other high-profile companies that saw business as a tool for social and environmental change. Now, we take for granted that there are thousands of companies with leaders who think like we do.

2. We have a lot to learn. There are a lot of smart, dedicated people in the B community that we can and have learned from. I’m sometimes frustrated that I can’t spend less time running a business and more time having meaningful conversations with other B leaders.

3. The certification process keeps getting harder! This is as it should be. The process has pushed us to do more to improve our policies and practices than we ever would have done on our own.”

Brian Taussig-Lux, Untours, the world’s first B Corporation

“For me, the most significant learning from 15 years as a Founding B Corp is the magnificent blending of beliefs, values and purpose that has powered the movement of business for good. Each and every B Corp leader I’ve met believes that they are making a positive impact with their business. Values of kindness, love, and caring for others are common threads amongst these leaders. Purpose is built into their missions and serves as a guiding light in making oftentimes difficult decisions.

Running and scaling a business is a gargantuan task, but being in a community of business leaders with shared beliefs, values and purpose is uplifting and soul-affirming. This is very palpable when B Corps gather, be it a small local meetup or a gathering of hundreds at the Champions Retreats. I believe that this is what fuels our B Corp movement forward, and it has been such a privilege to have been here from the very start!”

Rose Penelope Yee, Green Retirement

“We are a very unique B Corp (an “all profits to charity” IT consulting firm built on the Newman’s Own model and owned by a nonprofit, similar to what Patagonia just adopted as their model). Since our founding in 2006, we have given over $4.5m, as well as pro bono support, to local charitable organizations with whom we partner.  

As a Founding B Corp, we have always been proud to support the B Corp movement. Beyond organizing local B Corp events in central Virginia, we also put forward the Benefit Corporation legislation in Virginia and worked with our bill sponsors in the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate to get it passed. Virginia was the third state after Maryland and New Jersey to put the law into place. 

What we have learned is that there are many ways to get certified but that it is important to use the B Impact Assessment to focus on continuous improvement in our mission, model, and impact – and we have strived over the years to make changes to further move the company towards that goal, driven by suggestions from the assessment. We have also contributed to the assessment’s improvement; for example, we got a question added about supporting other B Corps in your supply chain decisions. 

Finally, as an advocate for recruiting other B Corps, I have learned that business owners either naturally “get” why they want to be a B Corp (it is already in their own and their company’s DNA) or they don’t and pushing them on that idea doesn’t work.  

We continue to be a proud B Corp and can’t wait to see where the movement goes next!”

Michael Pirron, Impact Makers, Inc.

“King Arthur Baking is one of the Founding B Corps and from the beginning, we have experienced such power in being part of the B Corp community. It truly is a community of businesses working together toward the common goal of using business as a force for good. 

In 2007, the opportunity to become a B Corp was brought forward by a board member, who presented to the Board of Directors a simple reason for pursuing certification: King Arthur Baking has always believed that business ought to be conducted as if people and place matter. Being a Certified B Corp helps us measure our impact and provides a scorecard to benchmark our progress. The board enthusiastically embraced the concept, and B Corp certification has subsequently motivated the company to embrace environmental sustainability as part of its mission. 

Over the years, we have learned that there is always room to improve our overall impact and we continue to set ambitious goals for ourselves. We use the B Impact Assessment to help us seek opportunities and ensure we are making progress against our goals. As the assessment evolves over the years, it raises the bar for our company to think innovatively while striving to maximize our impact for both the planet and our people. There is such power in being part of the B Corp community, which from the beginning has felt like a true community of businesses working together toward the common goal of using business as a force for good.” 

Molly Lawrence, King Arthur Baking Company