There was a time when the world was divided. On one side of the ledger were for-profit companies and on the other non-profit organisations. Companies were typically built to maximise profits for their shareholders and no one else. Their focus was on a single “bottom line”, namely profits. On the other side were non-profits. They were organised to create social good. Their activities included things like offering a soup kitchen to the homeless or mental health support for the vulnerable. Their focus was also a single bottom line, namely having a positive impact on their community.
Today, however, the world is changing. These two diametrically opposed organisational archetypes are increasingly taking on the characteristics of each other. The catalyst is a new breed of entrepreneur, the “Social Entrepreneur”. These brave souls have identified wicked problems in the world that need solving. Rather than use a non-profit approach, they are using business as a force for good. They see that they can create a business that makes meaning and money.
What are B Corporations?
The establishment of certified “B Corporations” in the US in 2007 offered a formal structure for Social Entrepreneurs to build their money and meaning-making machines. Becoming a certified B Corporation demands that a company “meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose”. Entrepreneurs need to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, community, and environment. It is unique in that it is the only certification for a company as a whole as opposed to say gaining “organic” certification that applies just at the product level.
Today there are more than 2,700 certified B Corporations in 60 countries. A further 10,000 companies have completed the impact assessment to become a B Corporation. Well-known companies such as Patagonia and Kickstarter are B Corporations. The largest B Corporation is USD$6 billion Danone Whitewave in the US who makes yoghurt.
Australia boasts 500 B Corporations from listed superannuation provider Australian Ethical to brewers including Stone & Wood and Four Pines, Koala mattresses and Ben & Jerry’s.
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