Best practices for social change and environmental action

Archive for the ‘Civics’ Category

The “B Corporation” gains traction

In Best practice, Civics, Nonprofit law, Nonprofit management, Policy, Social enterprise on September 6, 2011 at 8:34 pm

Despite the impression given by media puff pieces, Corporate Social Responsibility is hardly a new thing. Since the industrial revolution, there have been businesses with a core sense of responsible public behavior.  Lots of large corporations and smaller ventures have put those values into practice, either in the interest of good citizenship, an abiding sense of ethics, or simple public relations.

It’s all been largely voluntary, however, and subject to the whims of senior management and governing boards.

Now there is way to integrate a social role into the structure of a business, in essence making it a formal part of the corporate charter: The B Corporation. (Benefit Corporation) 

This business model extends the concept of social enterprise into the greater for-profit sector. By achieving certified “B Corporation” status, a business commits to using the power of free enterprise to solve social and environmental problems.

Unlike the majority of social enterprises, B Corps are not neccessarily in business to address specific problems in the public interest (although the model does make good sense for a nonprofit or social enterprise.)  Instead, the B Corp certification is for any business — regardless of the products it makes or the services it provides.  It is a new way of addressing impacts and ethics in a world of constrained resources, changing climate, and humanitarian mandates.

That’s quite the challenge in this day and age, so it’s logical that certification is much more than just making a paper committment. To distinguish itself as a B Corporaton, a business must put formal programs in place to meet comprehensive – and transparent  – social and environmental performance standards and implement legal accountability practices for those standards.  Moroever, the business must strive for a like-minded consituency across its supply chain, partnerships…and even its customer base.

A tall order, indeed.

In the US, the B Corporation designation is implemented at the state level.  So far only Maryland, Vermont, New Jersey, Virginia and Hawaii have passed legislation for it, but a number of other states have proposals on the table.

There’s a lot happening on this front. To learn about it, check out the B Corp website. 

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