Utility bills, the B Corp Handbook, and a broken candle.
Applying for B Corp certification is a bit of a catch-22. If you’re already incorporating social and environmental impact into your business anyways, why do you need to formally become a B Corp? It seems like a lot of paperwork (and a not-insignificant amount of time and money) to just put a stamp on what you’re already doing.
That argument makes sense, and we don’t fault mission-driven companies that choose not to certify if they don’t think it’s necessary. (We do fault companies that don’t prioritize social and environmental impact.) But for us, the benefits outweigh the costs.
What are the benefits, exactly? A common question we’ve been getting is whether there are tax incentives or other direct financial benefits, and the answer to that is no. One explanation is that if there were direct financial rewards tied to B Corp status, some unscrupulous companies may try to certify for the wrong reasons, which could taint the overall reputation of the certification. So, no, no tax perks.
But the other benefits are just as valuable as financial rewards, if not more. Over the past week, Melissa read The B Corp Handbook by Ryan Honeyman, an in-depth guide to the certification process. Conveniently, the book includes a list of the top ten benefits of certifying:
- Being part of a community of leaders with shared values.
- Attracting talent and engaging employees.
- Increasing credibility and building trust.
- Generating press.
- Benchmarking and improving performance.
- Attracting investors.
- Protecting a company’s mission for the long term.
- Building collective voice.
- Saving money.
- Leading a global movement.
For us, the community aspect of B Corps is huge. We want our company to play a role, however small, in moving our world towards a more circular economy by encouraging sustainable consumption behaviors. But we’re acutely aware that we can’t move the needle unless we work alongside many others who share that goal. In terms of direct support for the certification process, we’ve already experienced the generosity and camaraderie of the B Corps community, including Seams to Fit, Hugo & Hoby, and Walden Local Meat, as we shared in our last post. We’re excited to deepen these connections with these and other B Corps.
Being a B Corp also sets you apart from other companies that engage in “greenwashing” -- slick marketing that claims you’re making an impact, but with little action to back it up. B Corp certification shows that your business walks the talk. As consumers increasingly want to give their business to companies that do good, B Corp certification is a clear signal that they can trust you. This will be important to us as we expand our reach and try to attract new, sustainability-minded customers.
And if these benefits aren’t convincing enough, Honeyman also lists some reasons why B Corps matter at the broader scale:
- They accelerate the evolution of capitalism.
- They redefine success in business.
- They are concrete and measurable.
- They build collective voice.
- They are better businesses.
- They help us live to a higher purpose.
- They stand for something, not against anything.
Some of Melissa’s favorite quotes from the book underscore the value of B Corps:
“We are witnessing one of the most important cultural shifts of our time. We are in the midst of the evolution of capitalism from a century focused on maximizing short-term shareholder value to one focused on maximizing long-term shared value.” (xi)
“Business is, for better or worse, one of the most powerful forces on the planet. At its best, business encourages collaboration, innovation, and mutual well-being, and helps people to live more vibrant and fulfilling lives. At its worst, business -- and the tendency to focus on maximizing short-term profits -- can lead to significant social and environmental damage … Over the past 30 years, there has been a tremendous growth in the number of conscious consumers, socially responsible investments, and triple bottom line businesses that believe that business should strive to do no harm. More recently, there also has been … a growing trend among entrepreneurs and business leaders toward creating market-based solutions to our most pressing global challenges.” (13)
“The positivity, collaboration, excitement, innovation, and pure joy of being part of a community that shares your core values and a clear sense of purpose is what inspires, motivates, and energizes B Corps to use their businesses as a force for good. The B Corp community benefits from a high level of trust, a high quality of intellect, and an entrepreneurial spark that is more powerful than that of any other group I have ever seen.” (22)
“The rapid growth of the B Corp community, the legislative success with strong bipartisan approval, and the support of the investment community all are evidence that the idea of harnessing the power of business to drive systemic change is widely appealing … The B Corp community stands on the shoulders of more than 50 years of hard work in the microfinance, community development, cooperative ownership, clean tech, and socially responsible investing movements. The Certified B Corporation is the next iteration in a process of continual evolution.” (170)
So, yes, we could go on with running our business without officially certifying. But why wouldn’t we want to be a part of this movement?