For socially conscious entrepreneurs, becoming certified as a B Corporation sounds ideal: Make money and do some good at the same time. But how would it really change your business?
B Lab, a Berwyn, Pa.-based non-profit, created the unique business structure and provides the certification. To achieve B Corp status entrepreneurs must meet very high standards in how they treat employees, the environment, and the community in which their business operates.
We talked to entrepreneurs that were among the first B Corps, when the certification became available in 2007. Here, they share how the new structure has affected their businesses and offer advice on the process.
1. Method, a San Francisco, Calif.-based eco-friendly company whose biodegradable cleaning products are sold in more than 40,000 retail locations.
Co-founder Adam Lowry says earning the B Corp stamp of approval added credibility to his company's environmentally conscious mission. It's especially important, he says, since Method doesn’t have the resources of its larger competitors to create fancy reports that publicize initiatives related to sustainability.
For fellow entrepreneurs considering B Corp certification, Lowry recommends making sure you are clear and concise with investors, large or small, about your plans. Don't be intimidated. "Communication is key," he says. "These can be sensitive conversations, so they need to be communicated well. But ultimately, that is the conversation you want to have if you are an entrepreneur that wants to build a sustainable business."
Even though sustainability is at the core of Method's mission statement, Lowry says his company's executives still walked through the B Corp process with investors.
L to R: Mugshots' Eva Raczka (supervisor, Fairmount location), Angela Vendetti (owner), Adam Lees (manager, Fairmount location), and Nathan Gibney (coffee boss) at Coffeefest in New York. Photo Credit: Mugshots CoffeeHouse & Cafe
2. Mugshots CoffeeHouse & Cafe, an organic coffee bar with three locations in the Philadelphia area.
Mugshots owner Angela Vendetti says just making it through the extensive certification process is something to be proud of as an entrepreneur. "There are all kinds of questions about your waste policy and what you do for the environment," Vendetti says. "They ask about cleaning products and energy, everything from what you offer your employees to how you consider your neighbors in the decisions you make."
While the process can be time-consuming, Vendetti says her coffee shop's B Corp status has helped with employee retention. Before the certification, job training and professional development was only available to 30 percent of her employees. Today it's 100 percent, since investing in your team is part of the rationale of a B Corp. She offers employees off-site training courses, like "Advanced Espresso," and with each lab an employee completes, he or she gets a 25 cent per hour raise.
The Workplace Dynamics team. In the front row, second from the right, is Doug Claffey,CEO. Photo Credit: Michele Snyder with Bella Photography
3. Workplace Dynamics, an Exton, Pa.-based company that surveys workplaces with the intent to improve them.
For CEO Doug Claffey, the certification process alone helped the company come up with new ideas. For example, one of the questions asked by B Lab is whether businesses extend a day off to employees who want to participate in community service. At the time, the company didn’t. Now it does.
And the company reassesses its efforts regularly, as B Corp businesses must be recertified every two years. Claffey acknowledges it's time-consuming, but he says the benefits outweigh any hassles.
He views his company's B Corp status as a prestigious recruitment tool. "We get recruits in that say, ‘I am coming to you because you are a B Corp.’" says Claffey.
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