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The B Corps that Make Social Impact a Priority Without Consumer Pressure The B Corps that Make Social Impact a Priority Without Consumer Pressure

The B Corps that Make Social Impact a Priority Without Consumer Pressure

by Alex Goldmark
March 14, 2012

B Lab released a list of the “best companies for the world” yesterday, drawn from the top 10 percent of the 513 certified B Corporations the social enterprise-focused nonprofit assesses every year. The list takes into account how a company does business as much as what their business is, studying firms' environmental impact, how they treat and compensate employees, and how they interact with and support their communities.

If you haven’t heard of all these companies, that’s not surprising, particularly because many are business-to-business firms that don’t market to the public. These businesses deserve twice the recognition because they don’t face the same public pressure to go green. Of the 19 companies that took the title “best for overall impact,” more than a third are business-to-business. Another third also provide some mix of consumer- and commercial-focused offerings.

While being better for the environment helps Method Home Products—also on the list—sell its soaps, New Resource Bank doesn’t have an obvious incentive to focus on funding better businesses. In fact, its commitment probably makes its business harder, but it does it anyway. NRB lends to businesses like most other banks do, but earned its slot on the B Corp “best” list because it uses financing to spur more sustainable practices in clients. “This means helping them to unlock the economic and social value of becoming a more sustainable company,” says CEO Vince Siciliano. “We do this through referrals to consultants and our own industry expertise,” which then lets NRB underwrite better loans while also playing the role of adviser. Siciliano and his team chose to take a sustainable tack because social impact is important to them individually. It also happens to give them a leg up as lender of choice to social enterprises.

Financial services companies like NRB did particularly well on the B Corp best list, with two other investment firms also getting the nod: Next Street and Partnership Capital Growth. Real estate services had a strong showing, too, because those B2B companies like Green Building Services and Re:Vision Architecture can thrive helping other companies clean up.

PREM Real Estate also made the cut. On it's face, it's a typical real estate firm, but the company builds in sustainable practices for itself and its clients while treating employees right. That kind of blended value is rewarded by the B Corp impact metrics.

There appears to be a trickle-up effect: More than ever, consumers want to buy from companies with lower carbon footprints. So those companies need to make their buildings greener, or reduce their products’ environmental footprints—and for that, they often turn to B2B B Corps. “More than 75 percent of U.S. GDP is business, so we can all make a big difference by choosing business partners that deliver better services to us and deliver better value to their employees, community and environment,” says Jay Coen Gilbert, a B Lab co-founder. “It’s a win-win-win.”

His list is worth perusing because, unlike other lists that reward flash and green rhetoric, B Lab measures results and brings us companies that toil away on principal even when nobody’s looking. You’ll also find plenty of companies that we’ve covered on GOOD before, so have a look at the list below or in full at B Lab’s site [PDF].

For Overall Impact: Better World Books, Global Green Energy Corp, Green Building Services, Larry’s Beans, Method Home Products, Moving Forward Education, Namaste Solar, New Resource Bank, Next Street, Partnership Capital Growth, Piedmont Biofuels, PREM Group, Re:Vision Architecture, RecycleBank, South Mountain Company, Southern Energy Management, SQA Pharmacy Services, The Redwoods Group, Virginia Community Capital.

For the Environment: Brightworks, Bullfrog Power, Ecovations, gDiapers, Global Green Energy Corp., GoLite, Green Building Services, Guayaki Sustainable Rainforest Products, IceStone, Larry’s Beans, Method Products, Namaste Solar, New Leaf Paper, Patagonia, Piedmont Biofuels, Preserve, Re:Vision Architecture, Salt Spring Coffee, Southern Energy Management, Sustainable Solutions Unlimited.

For the Community: Agora Management Corporation, Cap Global, Care2.com, Change.org, Ecovations, FMYI, Hershey Cause, Ideal Network, Mal Warwick Associates, Moving Forward Education, New Resource Bank, Next Street, PeaceWorks Technology Solutions, PREM Group, SQA Pharmacy Services, thedatabank, The Redwoods Group, Virginia Community Capital.   

For Workers: Change.org, Exponent Partners, First Affirmative Financial Network, First Rate, Inc., Heller Consulting, King Arthur Flour Company, Namaste Solar, Partnership Capital Growth, PeaceWorks Technology Solutions, Rally Software, Re:Vision Architecture, Relevance, South Mountain Company, Sungevity, The Caprock Group, thedatabank, inc.

Photo courtesy of B Lab.

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