Better companies make better products. That's the message of a new ad campaign seeking to push the B Corporations certification process into the mainstream. It's another positive step in the steady growth of the B-Corp movement over the past three years. Until now, the movement was an entirely business-to-business campaign, founder Jay Coen Gilbert tells GOOD.
Research by BBMG found that once "values-driven consumers" were made aware of the B Corp logo, 90 percent of them said they would look out for it (pictured at end of slideshow). “The B Corp campaign resonates because consumers care about the companies that stand behind the products," said BBMG partner Raphael Bemporad in an emailed statement.
Why do these companies pony up thousands of dollars for another certification when they already have organic, fair trade among others? Well, this stamp of approval is about the company not the specific product. It has to do with the values behind a business, not just the production of a specific product. "This is about more than a certification for good business," says Gilbert, who is also the co-founder of the B Lab nonprofit behind the B Corp concept and a former entrepreneur. "Through their unique legal structure, B Corps are solving the systemic problems that lead to endless cycles of financial and environmental crises. If you want systemic change, here it is." Changing the product is great, but change the company, that's even more lasting change he argues.
That's why B Corps have to submit to a potential audit, receive an impact assessment about social and environmental practices, and even change their formal legal obligations to shareholders—no small task for a company courting investors. Specifically on the legal front, B Corporations have to alter their organizing documents so that they aren't beholden to shareholders' interests.
That's not to say they don't have a duty to return profits to owners—these are still businesses—but with the B Corporation legal tweaks, companies commit to considering social, environmental, and community impact as well as financial returns when making decisions. That means a CEO can say, I'll give profits to charity, or hire at-risk workers because the social impact outweighs the financial risk. That's a liberating legal alteration that could unleash a whole wave of good work if the concept keeps growing.
So far there are more than 350 companies certified in 54 industries worth $1.78 billion. The real momentum is that two states have so far created a
special tax category new corporate form called B Corporations, formally codifying this way of doing business, and potentially opening the door down the road to preferential tax treatment. That could be a major incentive for do-gooding companies to step it up and make their commitment formal and permanent.
The ad campaign launched by B Lab is the next step in pushing the concept into public consciousness and thus, widespread adoption.
The full page spreads with images on top (see slideshow above) asking consumers to compare B Corps with other companies. The bottom half highlights sustainability or social impact facts alongside a statement from each company on why a B-Corp certification is worth it. Here's a typical one:
TS Designs became a B Corporation because we wanted to add definition and legitimacy to our current efforts of looking after people and planet. We want to show everyone that being a B Corporation means that not only do we talk the talk, but we walk the walk.
Jay Coen Gilbert says the ads will reach 17 million values-driven consumers through $1 million in donated ad space in places like Ogden's publications (Mother Jones News and Utne Reader) and Care2.com, as well as business leaders through Sustainable Industries. As for why they're taking the ads public now? Gilbert says simply, "Check out this community of businesses worthy of your support."