Our Exploring the B Impact Assessment series examines each of the five sections in the B Lab's B Impact Assessment and review examples of companies that have been recognized as Best for the World in their impact area. If you’ve read our Build a Better Business - Customers blog, then you may be eager to revisit this topic and learn more about why implementing an employee engagement strategy in your company is important for long-term development.
In the Customers section of the BIA, businesses are evaluated on stewardship of its consumers through the quality of products and services, ethical marketing, data privacy and security, and feedback channels. In addition, this section recognizes products or services that are designed to address a particular social problem for or through its customers, such as health or educational products, arts & media products, serving underserved customers/clients, and services that improve the social impact of other businesses or organizations.
A Shift in Consumer Demand
Over the past three years, a shift in consumer trends has pushed businesses to adapt to a new market emphasizing transparency, stewardship, and purpose-driven values. This transformation has been steadily shifting, with consumers having more interest in brands that are transparent, taking action against social injustices, and protecting the environment. Customers want to do business with brands whose values align with their own and will make purchases based on those values.
As we discuss in the Environment section of the Impact assessment series, the Global Sustainability Study of 2021 indicated that 85 percent of people have shifted their purchasing behavior towards being more sustainable. The demand consumers have created for environmentally and socially responsible services and products is radically transforming how businesses must operate, for good.
Data Privacy & Transparency
The B Corp framework has been advocating that business leaders and corporations play a vital role in using business as a force for good and provide tools to create intentional customer stewardship practices. Businesses that are interested in creating transparent and long-term customer relations should be evaluating how they support a healthy planet, build community resilience, and do business more sustainably than other organizations. The B Corp framework highlights a growing emphasis on the role that business leaders must play in providing transparency to their clientele, offering a sustainable and effective alternative to business as usual.
Organizations should not only be transparent about their social and environmental impacts but have clear ethics policies on how they protect and use clear customer information. Businesses that are clear about their privacy and data use save time, money, and ultimately build strong customer loyalty. Companies that are transparent from the start with their consumers develop long-term effective client relationships that withstand setbacks or unforeseen challenges.
Accessibility to Goods & Services
There are still many obstacles facing a greener and more equitable future. Grow for Good’s Conscious Consumer Report highlights that the cost of socially responsible products and services is the number one obstacle that Americans cite when explaining why they don’t spend more money with sustainable businesses. For one-third of the survey respondents, 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic led to a reduction in household income. In 2022, many individuals and families are being impacted by inflation. The current cost of living combined with wage stagnation has impacted consumer spending on more sustainable products.
B Corporations are actively working to improve accessibility to services and goods that they provide, in some cases, emphasizing underserved populations. The New York community sports organization, Kids in The Game, is an excellent example of long-term prioritization of inclusive services offered to their customers. Their pricing models allow their services to be accessible to 97% of New York City ZIP code areas and assist over 25,000 children.
B Lab’s Approach to Customer Stewardship
The customer section of the B Impact Assessment has four main priorities:
- Access to products and services for underserved customers
- Customer stewardship that evaluates privacy and product impacts
- Impact models that assess if a company's products/services improve the social or environmental impact of a client organization
Let’s take a look at some of the 2022 B Corp Best for the World companies like Kids in the Game that are seeking to improve their accessibility and pursuing customer stewardship:
Genius Capital Management | Capital & Investment Management
Impact investment company, Genius Capital Management, helps customers better understand wealth management topics ranging from values-aligned investing to the potential for hydrogen infrastructure. “People are directing their money away from greenhouse gas polluters and into investments that align with their values,” says Genius Capital Management. This certified B Corporation uses a concrete and value driven investment approach to provide consistent returns to their clients in a changing market.
Vonzella | Insurance Agency
This agency expands options and access to insurance by developing products for people who have been historically excluded or who live in under-resourced communities. Using insurance as a tool to advance social equity, wealth preservation, and economic justice, Vonzella partners with community organizations and gives back a portion of every commission they earn. Their work rethinks the typical insurance market structure and encourages a customer-focused service that builds community relationships and resilience.
Riverwater Partners | ESG Investing Company
Based in Wisconsin, Riverwater Partners focuses on environment, social, and governance (ESG) investing and aims to make the world a better place by growing wealth through investments that promote racial equity, climate justice, and underserved or underrepresented stakeholders. This B Corp incorporates lessons and tools from its work with investee companies to inform and improve its own sustainable business practices.
Adding Value to the Customer’s Lives
Adjusting customer practices to align with the BIA is proving to build successful and long-term business. Consumers from all age groups are eager to buy from businesses that they know are doing right to the planet and people. Adding value to customers' lives starts with educating consumers on why their purchase matters, how it makes an impact, and why buying from B Corps differs from other companies. Even the best-intentioned consumers have a hard time finding the products and information they are interested in. By adopting B Corp standards and practices, businesses can be assured that their products are reaching consumers who are dedicated to changing the way that business is done, encouraging a purpose-driven economy.
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