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B Lab: Helping Companies Not Only Be the Best in the World, But the Best FOR the World

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Joan Brunwasser     Permalink
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JB: Your website lists a number of companies that are certified as B Corporations. I was happy to see that one of them is Dansko, whose clogs I've worn for years. Can you use them as an example? I think it will make the whole process clearer to our readers. What did they do to qualify? How does it work?

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JCG: Sure - companies are certified in three steps. First, Dansko had to meet our social and environmental performance standards. This means that they took our B Impact Assessment and earned a minimum score of 80 (out of 200 points). The B Impact Assessment measures the overall impact of a company on its stakeholders (workers, community, environment) and varies depending on the company's size, sector, and location. It's free, transparent and confidential so anyone can take it, whether they wish to become certified or simply see where they stand.

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After completing the assessment and a review to verify their answers, Dansko received their B Impact Report [that you can check out here ]. All certified B Corporations make their B Impact Reports available online through their profile page, so everyone can see how they create a better world.

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The next step involves meeting our legal requirement, which varies slightly depending on corporate structure and state of incorporation. However, the goal remains the same: to bake sustainability into the company's DNA. This way as a company grows, brings in outside capital, or plans succession, its mission can better survive new management, new investors, or even new ownership. [You can dig into the legal details here .]

Finally, Dansko signed the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence and Term Sheet. This simply makes certification official and reaffirms the company's commitment to our shared vision. With that, we welcomed Dansko into our community (they've been part of the community since 2007, re-certifying every two years).

JB: That helped, thanks. You've currently got B Corps in 27 countries and 60 industries. Tell us a bit about your outreach strategy. Once you crack a specific country or industry, does it make it easier to get others to jump on the bandwagon?

JCG: I'm happy to say we're actually in 28 countries now! The most recent company to certify was Pots n Pans in Vietnam. We are thrilled that social entrepreneurs from new markets are looking to join the B Corp community and pioneer the movement in their home country.

As for strategy, we will mostly be focused on building the global movement through regional partnerships. We currently have one partner in South America called Sistema B , who is focused on four countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia). We are also developing partnerships in Australia and New Zealand, and in Western Europe. Our role is to ensure these partners can scale operations and build community within their region.

That said, we will continuously seek to certify engaged companies, no matter the country. Our hope is to see the number of countries increase, but most importantly, to see the community of certified B Corps strengthen and flourish wherever it's located.

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JB: I'm with you there. Can you give us a little personal history, Jay? You started as an entrepreneur yourself. How did that experience morph into B Lab?

JCG: That's right- Bart Houlahan, another B Lab cofounder, and I created and sold AND1, a $250M basketball footwear and apparel company based outside Philadelphia. I led AND1's product and marketing and was AND1's CEO during its period of most rapid growth and decline.

Through this experience, I developed a passion for using business as a force for good. As I said before, government and nonprofits are necessary but insufficient to solve today's greatest challenges. Bart Houlahan, Andrew Kassoy and I cofounded B Lab to serve those entrepreneurs who are using business to create a better world.

However, we identified two systemic challenges that must be addressed if we are to use the power of business to create the greatest positive impact. The first is a lack of standards to help us tell the difference between good companies and just good marketing; and the second is existing corporate law that demands that business prioritize shareholder value maximization to the exclusion of the value created for all stakeholders.

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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