Our world is out of balance. Climate, politics, inequalities…We have heard it over and over again – but where do we start making all this change?
For us, it was about figuring out that we were different, but not alone.
About 4 years ago we found ourselves going through the process of certifying to become a B Corporation. Being a female-led enterprise did not make us different, it was our business philosophy that made us an outlier. It has always been front and center in every important decision that we have made – creating a common good for society and for the people that we work with, while earning money. It turns out that adding altruistic elements to the classic business model makes you special.
There are currently over 260 companies in Canada representing a diverse range of industry sectors that choose to be different. We are not alone – we are part of a group changemakers called B Corps.
B Corps can be defined as “organizations that blur the boundaries between the for-profit and nonprofit sector by adopting social and environmentally driven missions while generating profit to sustainably accomplish these missions”
It is a reality that private businesses control the majority of the world’s resources and we know how that has worked out over the last 300 years. We are encouraged by the social movement underway to tackle the environmental crisis that affects every person, plant, and animal on earth. The private sector has been slow to join the movement, prefering to enact corporate social responsibility as a silo within its individual structure. It doesn’t have to be that way.
It is clear to us that the social landscape is not well served by the current concentration of power which stifles any discourse of reconciliation and gender equality. Among other inequities. Talk to anyone in the nonprofit sector and they will tell you how urgent the situation is for marginalized people around the world. B Corps recognize social need as omnipresent and choose to be for-profit businesses that generate positive social value and reduce their environmental impact at the same time. The process of certifying is rigorous and forces companies to think and act on social issues like diversity, accessibility, and community. It makes sense that private business should also have a grassroots community of like-minded owners choosing to change the paradigm.
Our company’s sole purpose is to build capacity and amplify the mission of not-for-profit organizations and socially-minded businesses. Having a unique perspective on the inner workings of many of Canada’s charities, foundations, and institutions has allowed us to conclude that the charitable sector is also ready for change.
As the climate crisis is forcing us to take collective responsibility for the planet’s gifts, the increasing need for transparency in the not-for-profit sector is going to force organizations to do the same for the finite resources within its structure. This reality will shine the light on how the sector makes choices about its service providers, suppliers, and internal processes.
Who you choose to do business with is important. It is also part of the ethos of B Corps: to certify, they are required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. It is about being conscious and making choices that continue your social mission. Making sustainable decisions is an extension of the good most organizations in the social sector are striving for already. It says something about how you are spending the valuable resources that donors give you to achieve your mission. B Corps themselves have social or environmental missions and they share a base-set of values that is clearly established and shared with organizations in the nonprofit sector.
Although there are currently only a relatively small cohort of businesses in Canada that have chosen to embark on the process of certification established by B Lab, the not-for-profit org behind B Corps, it is worth looking at the list and considering them before continuing with business as usual. The time to make conscious change is now.
The nonprofit sector should not only care about who their suppliers and service providers are, but also how they treat their employees, where they source their goods and how it impacts the environment. It is about taking a look through a wider lense. It is not enough to look outward, towards the people they are trying to help and be satisfied with the impact, the nonprofit sector needs to look inward at its own internal operations and structure and ask hard questions about how the choices they are making have a ripple effect.
Because the bar is continuously being raised for B Corps during the recertification process that happens every three years, it forces companies that have already committed to using their business as a force for good to up the ante and look for new and innovative ways to push the dial even further.
The charitable sector can also take steps towards achieving even greater social impact. For example, by taking a closer look at who their private sector suppliers and partners are, they can begin to apply their impact philosophy beyond their own mission and look for others who are also working on changing the system.
Becoming a B Corp was the best strategic planning our company ever did because it put into concrete practice things that we were already doing by instinct. We wanted to be challenged, we wanted to be inspired to do things differently and to create lasting social value.
We believe in the 3.5% rule – that it only takes a small minority of people to change the world. Whether it is a non-violent protest or community action to solve a local problem – it is the choices that we make and the dedication to those choices that brings about lasting change.
March is B Corp Awareness Month and now you know there are no more excuses to continue with the status quo. If we collectively use the tools at our disposition to make choices through a united set of values, the system will change as a result. Set your goals today as an organization, together we can move the dial. You can use the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as starting point – the online Action Manager can help your organization stay motivated and on task. It is a good place to get started. Something’s got to change!