B Corps: The new face of 21st century business

Posted 2018-02-15

The B Corp movement is quickly changing the world of business by challenging companies to meet rigorous social sustainability and environmental performance standards. But why are companies so eager to seek B Corp certification, and how does it benefit consumers?

According to Christie Stephenson, executive director of the Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics at UBC Sauder, “B Corp certification is a way for companies to express their values in a very way public way. Customers, employees, supplies and other stakeholders know what B Corps stand for, which can be welcomed in the same way that organic or fair-trade certification is.”

B Corp certification is issued to for-profit companies by the non-profit organization B Lab. Organizations with the designation voluntarily meet standards of transparency, accountability, sustainability and performance, but most importantly, they also strive to create value for society rather than shareholders. In addition to being part of a movement dedicated to creating a more just and conscious economy that “works for all,” the B Corp community enables members to support each other’s businesses while also impacting policy and legislation nationally and internationally.

While B Corps tend to be smaller, local companies, certification has been achieved by companies in a wide variety of industries. These include well-known firms such as consumer goods company Natura, apparel retailer Patagonia, Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, and B.C.’s online grocery service Spud. 

“The B Corp Declaration says it all: we must be the change we seek in the world, and all business ought to be conducted as if people and place mattered,” explains Stephenson. “Although the movement has had tremendous momentum, it’s still a new concept for many.”

In an effort to raise awareness about the growing phenomenon, The Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics and the Business Career Centre at UBC Sauder recently co-hosted a panel event that brought together B Corp leaders from a variety of firms.

Panelists from Junxion Strategy, Bullfrog Power, Mills Office Productivity, Active Impact Investments and Hootsuite shared what it means for their companies to be B Corps and the benefits they have experienced so far. Derek Isley, senior director of talent acquisition at Hootsuite, described the different ways that Hootsuite has been impacted by an employee-driven initiative to become a B Corp.

“Ultimately, being a B Corp is something that matters to our customers and it’s something our employees are proud of.” He added that although the certification process requires perseverance, for his company B Corp certification “just made sense.”

If the number of companies becoming B Corps is any indication, it’s an idea that is starting to make sense for a lot of others as well.