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B Corp, B Corp Certification, Purpose-driven

Conclusion - It matters!

By Mark Odegard

We know that the climate is changing – 97 percent of scientists agree. While social problems are not new and have been transparent to many people, Covid-19 and racial justice protests shine a bright light on the challenges facing our country and the world. With Covid-19, we are seeing the economic impacts (i.e., clear economic shocks impacting GDP) and social impacts (i.e., nearly 400,000 deaths in the US and over 2 million deaths worldwide as of mid-January 2021). Climate change will have a significantly larger economic impact over a longer period. And continued inequality, inequity, and blatant discrimination and racism could lead to increasing civil disobedience and civil disruption if not addressed at all levels of society.

We already know the impact of doing nothing – we can see it all around us.

Demand for purpose-driven companies is increasing, the market opportunity for those companies is large, and investors see the inherent value in the purpose-driven business model. Companies that manage with purpose tend to be more profitable. And Certified B Corporations made it through the 2007-2009 recession more effectively than other companies. Purpose-driven companies are more resilient.

The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.

Henry David Thoreau

There are risks and downsides. Those risks can be managed and are easily offset by the corresponding upsides already noted. Committing to the B Corp model or Benefit Corporation legal structure brings additional reporting and management burdens. At the same time, those additional accountabilities support operational management structures that promote increased productivity and efficiency and improve employee engagement. All of which directly support profitability.

Companies that already manage with purpose, that have created company cultures around social and environmental sustainability, may already be enjoying and maximizing all the positive impacts noted throughout. Those companies already understand the benefits, and the B Corp certification may just incrementally-build on existing customer awareness of company practices and values rather than providing a substantial lift.

However, Certified B Corporations represent a movement. It is a movement of companies that believe business can andshould be a force for good. It is a movement that continues to grow and gain momentum. Most B Corps are small- to mid-size businesses and large companies and corporations that already believe they have a responsibility to social and environmental sustainability have an outsized role to play in this movement. By becoming B Corps, all companies send a loud and clear message to the global business community that change is coming. This alone may be reason enough to move forward with certification.

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