Congratulations to the Top 10% for Overall Impact. The B Corp Best for the World List recognizes those companies creating the most positive overall social and environmental impact.
Finding the World’s ‘Best’ Social Entrepreneurs
By John Tozzi
April 17, 2013
Rigging Libor, bribing governments, running sweatshops: Corporations’ worst behavior is often the most visible. B Lab, a small Berwyn (Pa.) nonprofit, is trying to highlight the opposite stories: businesses that act responsibly, treat their workers well, and do good things for the environment and their communities.
Since 2007, B Lab has certified as “B Corps” more than 700 companies trying to balance their social missions with making profits. Its process involves documenting the company’s beneficial impact (and the company paying a fee to B Lab of $500 to $25,000 a year, depending on revenue). Most B Corps are relatively unknown small or midsize companies. A handful, like Patagonia and Warby Parker, are bigger brands.
B Lab has also been instrumental in getting 12 states, including California and New York, to recognize new legal structures that give company directors legal cover to consider social and environmental goals instead of just financial returns. Twenty more states, including Delaware, are considering similar legislation.
Today, B Lab is releasing its second annual list of companies that score in the top 10 percent on its assessments, what it calls the “Best for the World” list. How did the 67 companies get there? There’s no single formula. Many paid workers generously and gave them good benefits. A lot of them have business models intended to create broad public benefits, like providing services to the poor or elderly, or promoting clean energy. Nearly one-third of the companies on this year’s list came from outside the U.S. More than half of them have been certified as B Corps just in the last year. I spoke with B Lab co-founder Jay Coen Gilbert about the list. Edited excerpts follow.
Why put together a list of “best” companies?
Business is the most important man-made force in the world, and our biggest social and environmental challenges are too big to be solved by governments or nonprofits alone. The list tells us which businesses are creating the most value for the world.
Is it challenging to compare companies in different industries and countries? How do you compare companies making sustainable clothing in the U.S. with a telecom provider in Afghanistan?
The B Corp movement is in the early stages of going global. No question, comparability is difficult the broader you get. Since capital flows globally and often across sectors, there’s a need to do the best we can to provide a comparable set of metrics that can look at a core function of a company. Every company has employees, every company operates in the local community, every company has an environmental footprint.
What practices helped companies get included on the list?
In order to be that high a performer, you’re going to have to be operating pretty well on all cylinders. They’re typically not only excelling in one area, just employee practices or environmental practices. They’re bringing that same intention to create shared value for all of their stakeholders.
What’s the challenge ahead for the B Corp movement?
The biggest challenge: It takes real effort to earn this certification. This isn’t “pay a fee and get a seal of approval.” All of these companies have also made legal changes to their governing documents. That’s the attribute that makes these companies built to last. Companies that do that are the ones that make [the mission] more than a nifty mission statement pinned on the wall. The biggest challenge for B Lab is how to grow the community exponentially as opposed to arithmetically.
For profiles of a few of the standout companies on B Lab’s list, click here.
Tozzi is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek in New York.
From September 23rd to October 2nd, Washington D.C.’s monuments to presidential greats and civic leaders, museums of art and history, and houses of government were juxtaposed with houses of another breed: the green and technologically-advanced. Once every two years since 2002, teams of students from all across the United States (and now all across the globe) congregate on the National Mall in a Department of Energy-sponsored competition to design and build energy-efficient, solar-powered homes. This year, in the Solar Decathlon’s 5th competition, 20 teams from five countries presented their designs, which ranged from SCI-Arc and Caltech’s highly conceptual “outsulated” CHIP house, to Appalachian State’s Solar Homestead influenced by vernacular typologies, to the University of Maryland’s WaterShed whose micro-wetland helps reduce water pollution. I toured the homes this weekend and share a few of my favorite designs.
An aerial view of Potomac Park where the 2011 Solar Decathlon was held. Photo by: Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.
Inspired by traditional Appalachian settlements, Solar Homestead by Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, won the People’s Choice award and was my favorite design, too. Each element of the design, from the furniture, to the Trombe wall, to the bifacial solar panels, to the staggered stud construction were incredibly well thought out. But what set this design apart is its reproducibility factor: as high-tech as the design sounds nearly all of its materials are available at Lowes stores (the school’s sponsor) and are accessible to builders all across the country.Photo courtesy of the DOE.
Along the large porch/breezeway are bifacial solar panels (and a few Bertoia chairs). The panels collect direct sunlight from above and reflected light from below to increase the amount of energy created, which compensates for the flatness of the roof (not the optimal angle for typical solar panels). “One concern people have about solar panels is that they often look like an afterthought,” says David Lee, one of the students who designed and built the home. Here they’re integrated with the overall design and don’t stick out like a sore thumb.Photo courtesy of the DOE.
The home consists of one main building and three outbuildings that can be configured in many different ways. This outbuilding clad in poplar bark is an office. The poplar bark shingles are maintenance-free for up to 80 years and are a Cradle to Cradle gold certified material.Photo by Diana Budds.
This is so Awesome; we could not avoid sharing it with You. I was lucky enough to find the time to make the drive down to see William McDonough’s lecture last month in Charlotte NC. Included in his presentation was a reference to the life of trees, and how a house can aspire to mimic the perfection of this design. He showed a technical interpretation of this futuristic idea as well as Highland Craftsmen’s Bark House brand shingle siding, which is produced today. (more…)
Chris McCurry will be participating in Carolina Connect 2010: Innovation Through Entrepreneurship and Intrapreneurship. This year Chris will be one of the featured speakers as part of the “Inside the Minds of CEOs” Panel Discussion. Moderated by Henry Doss, an AdvantageWest Board Director and a business consultant and principal with Avenue ISR, a consumer research and business strategy practice based in Traverse City, Michigan. The successful leaders of some of the region’s most admired companies share their secrets in an informal “conversation with the CEOs” setting. What energizes them? What is the one thing they must do every day, without fail? What keeps them awake at night? What do they view as the best opportunities in today’s economy? (more…)
Spruce Pine – Through the efforts of the local state legislative delegation, the Town of Spruce Pine will soon see ten new jobs in downtown along with the complete renovation and redesign of the former Express Market CITGO Station building. State Representative Phillip Frye and State Senator Joe Sam Queen joined hands to advocate on behalf of the town for the funding of a $199,124 N.C. Rural Economic Development Center Building Reuse Grant to help support the project. Frye and Queen were notified late last week that the grant was approved. (more…)
As Highland Craftsmen embraces the idea of a future where Earth Day is every-day, students for the Sustainable Development Program at ASU come to share their ideas as stakeholders in the company. Brooke Kornegay, The Farm Manager at Appalachian State University’s Goodnight Family Sustainable Development Program Living Learning, brought two groups form the ASU campus in Boone to tour the Spruce Pine based facility. Students were introduced to the philosophy and practical application of sustainability expressed in true Bark House fashion. The group toured and were invited to share their observations and questions. (more…)
(Spruce Pine, NC) North Carolina Department of Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry, along with officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) presented its distinguished Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) award to Highland Craftsmen Inc at the company’s manufacturing facility in Spruce Pine, NC. (more…)
A Guide for Business Leaders
As “Green” businesses grow and green-washing creates confusion for mainstream public, the need for organizations that evaluate and certify green businesses is growing. Problem is, how do you,the business leader choose which certifier to recommend to your organization’s board? This blog should help you start the process of evaluating certification organizations. It will give you questions to ask and items to consider.
“Humans only invented vinyl siding a few decades ago, but tree bark has been protecting trees for quite a while longer. Bark shingles were often used on Craftsman style houses in the early 1900s, but they were made from chestnut, which was almost wiped out in a blight. A century later, they still look good. Chris and Marty McCurry started looking at bark shingles in the early nineties and reinvented them, reintroducing them as a product in 1996.” (more…)
February 1 to 5 has been declared Clean Energy Week .
“The Primary Objective of Clean Energy Week is to engage Congress and the Administration to take action on climate solutions, renewable energy, and energy efficiency, which remain top priorities for the American people and are essential components of job creation and economic growth.” (more…)