sustainable business

Federal and international policy makers promote B Corps and benefit corporations as models

Carolyn McMaster | October 7, 2014

B Corps are getting some well-deserved attention in the upper echelons of policy and business both nationally and internationally, B Lab leaders reported Sept. 30 at the “State of the B” quarterly conference call.

First, the G8 Social Impact Investment Taskforce, led by the UK’s Sir Ronald Cohen, released a report Sept. 15 that includes a call for countries to adopt something similar to U.S. benefit corporation laws, with an international framework that allows “profit with purpose” businesses to “lock in their mission.” The report, Impact Investing: The Invisible Heart of Markets, cites B Corps and benefit corporations as models throughout. (What’s the difference? B Corp is a certification that the company meets rigorous social and environmental standards; a benefit corporation is a legal structure that enables a company to make decisions based on values as well as on financial returns.)

In the U.S., benefit corporations are getting national press coverage, with recent pieces in the New Yorker by James Surowiecki and in the New York Times by David Brooks, Robert Reich and Robert Schiller.

All this caught the eye of U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, who called B Lab and asked to come to the B Corp annual retreat, Oct. 7–9. (How often does that happen?) He’ll be participating in a town hall–style discussion—I’m at the retreat as you read this, and will report back.

These developments indicate that the B Corp concept is gaining serious traction. It’s reflected in the numbers, too: There are now more than 1,100 Certified B Corps in 35 countries; 350 are outside the U.S. The District of Columbia and 26 states have enacted benefit corporation laws, and 19 more are on deck. The Canadian bar is floating the idea of a national benefit corporation law. For comparison, there were just over 300 B Corps when Thinkshift was certified in 2010, and only seven states had passed benefit corporation legislation when we became one in January 2012.

The task now is to keep the momentum going, and ideally, accelerate it. Here are three things that can push the B movement forward:

  • We need to continue to press for policies and legislation that enable business for good.
  • We need an ongoing effort to gather facts and figures that make the case for B Corps and benefit corporations.
  • Many more companies, and more high-profile companies, need to become certified Bs for B Corps to become a visible and desired alternative to the current dominant business culture.
  1. […] have just a few marquee names, like Ben and Jerry’s, Etsy, Method and Patagonia. As I noted in my pre-retreat post, we need more B Corps—there are 7 million businesses in the U.S. alone, so right now we’re just […]

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