sustainable business

Bay Area B Corp leaders share brand strategies

Carolyn McMaster | May 14, 2015

Last week’s B Corp Leadership Development conference drew more than 200 people from the Northern California tribe, making the all-day gathering an unbeatable opportunity to learn from fellow susty businesses. Here are some of the moments and ideas that stuck with us from our day at the David Brower Center in Berkeley.

We’re in the middle of a B hive. California is home to 30 percent of all B Corps, and the Bay Area has the largest regional concentration. San Francisco alone has more B Corps (75) than any other city in the world.

Conversations are more effective than preaching. This point came up more than once—prominently in Klean Kanteen CEO Jim Osgood’s keynote and Plum Organics mission manager Victoria Fiore’s “Scaling Up Without Selling Out” Q&A—and it’s an important one. Lecturing is not persuading.

Bake your mission into your brand value. That way, acquirers and partners can’t strip it out without destroying what they’re buying. When Campbell’s purchased Plum, Fiore said, “The immediate assumption was that we would be gutted like a pig.” But that didn’t happen—Plum went forward with becoming legal benefit corporation. “We’re out there trying to tell the story that purpose and profit can go hand in hand.”

Certification is way more than a score. The B Impact Assessment helps companies improve how they do business and boost engagement across the board. It’s also a reality check, a way to “make sure we’re not drinking our own Kool-Aid,” as Osgood put it. We were fired up by Fireclay Tile: they took the assessment twice before scoring high enough to become a B Corp. “It really has transformed our organization,” said CEO Eric Edelson. “It was a great sense of accomplishment, but it’s clear there’s so much more to do.”

Non-snarky media coverage is on the way. Bryan Welch, formerly of Ogden Publications, is soon to launch B the Change Media, “the Rolling Stone for the B Corp movement.” The company will tell stories about business for good in print, digital, video and podcast formats. B the Change is “not set up to burnish your egos,” Welch told the crowd, and will focus on real results.

We were inspired. Our cynical selves are always amazed at the generosity and energy of the B Corp community, and BLD reminded us that we are greater than the sum of our parts. As Glen Tripp, CEO of Galileo Learning, put it in his presentation on enhancing company culture: “In the right culture, in the right environment, so much more is possible for each of us.”


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