My guest today is Katie Kerr, Director of Communications for B Lab, which certifies and supports B Corporations.
JB: Last year, I interviewed your boss, Jay Coen Gilbert, who co-founded B Lab. For readers who aren't familiar with the concept, can you give us a thumbnail sketch of what B Lab is and what it does?
KK: B Lab is a nonprofit organization that serves a global movement to redefine success in business so that all companies compete not only to be the best in the world, but the best for the world. In simpler terms, we work for and with a movement of people all using business as a force for good.
To achieve our vision for a shared, durable prosperity, we work to create systemic change through a number of interrelated initiative: 1) building a community of Certified B Corporations to make it easier for all of us to tell the difference between "good companies" and good marketing; 2) passing legislation to accelerate growth of social entrepreneurship and impact investing (27 states have already passed benefit corporation legislation); 3) developing B Analytics, a customizable platform for investors to benchmark and report the impact of their global private equity portfolios; and 4) providing free, powerful tools for businesses to measure, compare and improve their social and environmental performance (more than 16,000 businesses use B Lab's free B Impact Assessment).
You can learn more about all our work at bcorporation.net
JB: That's great! I love the ability "to tell the difference between 'good companies' and good marketing". And I want to vote with my consumer dollars whenever possible. What's new since we were in touch last year, Katie?
KK: It's been quite the year for the B Corp movement. There are now over 1100 Certified B Corps in 121 industries and 37 countries. We've launched several global partnerships to help develop the community around the world and have welcomed companies from exciting new sectors, like Green Mountain Power, the first certified public utility, Natura, the largest and first public B Corp in Latin America and Kickstarter, a fast growing crowdfunding platform for creative projects.
Additionally, we are now working with a variety of partners to encourage all companies to measure what matters, impact, with the B Impact Assessment. We hope by providing this free, confidential tool, all companies will begin managing and measuring their impact on their workers, community and environment. It has built in tips and best practices so any one can start using their business as a force for good. And for those of you who prefer to work offline, check out the B Corp Handbook for interviews with leading CEOs, tips and a Quick Start Guide.
Finally, we just announced the launch of the B Corp Fellows program, the first opportunity to do public service for the impact economy. B Corps Fellows will be trained to work with thousands of companies to measure and manage the impact of their businesses on their workers, communities, and the environment with as much rigor as their profits. We are looking for applicants now, so please let any recent MBA or Bachelor's degree recipients who might be interested know.
JB: Whoa! That is a lot of positive new developments. I'd like to hear more about the B Corp Fellows program first. How did that come about and how does it work?
KK: The B Corps Fellows program will train passionate recent undergrads and professionals to help companies measure their impact on their communities, employees, and environment. The Inaugural class of 2015 will have 12 Fellows, but the program will expand over time to make sure all companies have the tools to measure what matters.
We are launching the B Corps Fellows in response to excitement from both the public and private sectors to create public service opportunities through private enterprise in the impact economy. We are also exploring cross sector partnerships to support this Fellowship, which in turn will support the movement to use business as a force for good. It's an exciting opportunity for both us and the newest generation of Changemakers.
JB: Sounds exciting! Now, let's turn to the new inroads that you've made into the public sector. Please talk about that for a bit, Katie. I just assumed that public companies would not be able to participate in B Corps. How does it work? How is the application different from a privately-held company? And if it's not different, why did it take all this time to expand in that direction?
KK: The process for public companies to become Certified B Corps is actually the exact same. They must score a minimum score on the B Impact Assessment and amend their legal documents to institutionalize stakeholder interests.