There's a growing trend of businesses taking on social responsibility measures, but not always for the right reasons. Some organizations use social consciousness and sustainable methodologies as a marketing tool or to check a box for the annual report, but many more are authentically concerned with using their business to help people and the environment.
Companies that are truly committed to social responsibility establish and follow an ethical framework as a course of their business, promoting actions that benefit the local environment and society as a whole. One of the best ways to demonstrate your company’s dedication to these ethics is to take the steps required to achieve B Corp certification.
Why B Corps Matter
Many companies, including Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, Seventh Generation, Etsy, and Warby Parker, embrace the B Corp label as a representation of their commitment to social responsibility. As of 2017, the number of certified B Corps had grown to more than 2,300, and that number is likely to continue on its impressive growth trajectory.
B Corps meet the stringent standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency set by the nonprofit B Lab. This organization "serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good."
The certification process ensures the legitimacy of the data and the intention of the company’s leadership. The use of audits, biennial recertification, and the thoroughness of the application process virtually ensures that every B Corp is an authentic representation of this commitment.
How B Corps Pay It Forward
B Corps are 28% more likely to hire minorities and women for management positions, 55% more likely to cover some of the cost of health insurance for workers, and 45% more likely to provide bonuses to nonexecutive workers.
Moreover, companies that take on the B Corp certification challenge are four times more likely to pay for professional development opportunities for their employees and more likely to give employees paid volunteer days in the community. These stats help illustrate how B Corps help to establish higher-quality jobs while also improving lives in their local communities. And while these examples clearly show how B Corps benefit themselves and others by providing value for their employees and communities, some organizations contribute on a much larger scale.
At Patagonia, for example, their love of wild and endangered places compels them to significant preservation and restoration work. In addition to being the gold standard of supply chain management (i.e., verifying every detail of what goes into its products), this B Corp donates time, services, and at least 1% of its sales to hundreds of grassroots organizations all over the world that work to help reverse the tide of environmental degradation.
Patagonia's collective efforts have contributed more than $185 million to conservation efforts, and it has invested $38 million in companies and ventures with socially responsible models. It is an excellent example of a company executing on its social mission.
4 Ways to Become More Socially and Environmentally Responsible
Even if you're not quite ready for the strenuous B Corp certification process, there are other ways to move toward that goal. Here are four things you can do to put your organization on a path to sustainability and social responsibility.
1. Define it.
By 'it,' I mean your company's purpose. If you don’t have one articulated, define it! Need a process? Simon Sinek offers a popular framework in his books, 'Start With Why' and 'Find Your Why.'
Defining your purpose will help illuminate and guide everything that you do. Everything. Your purpose should inspire and motivate your employees, customers, and partners to join you in your cause. Some of the most successful companies today have aligned their varied enterprises under a singular purpose. Tesla's mission, for example, is "to accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy." Driven by this important purpose, it has become one of the fastest-growing companies over the last decade.
2. Install it.
After you define your purpose, install it within your organization. Help your people internalize it by sharing stories that exemplify your purpose. You could summarize these stories in posters, your annual report, internal or external videos — anything that helps amplify the awareness of what it means to live as a socially and environmentally responsible business.
Build your operational plans around it, budget for it, and hire people who can embody these virtues and take charge of raising awareness.
3. Communicate it.
Now you can tell the world. Push your communication efforts as far as you can. Put your purpose and corporate social responsibility goals front and center: on your website, at your physical place of business, and in your social media activities.
Create digital content that highlights your purpose and tells your company's stories. Post it. Tweet it. Share it. Tell the world why you do what you do, and say it often.
4. Protect it.
Consider codifying your mission by pursuing B Corp certification. Not sure about certification? It can't hurt to fill out the B Impact Assessment. This is a free and confidential tool to benchmark your social and environmental impact, even if you never get certified. More than 16,000 businesses are already using it. For most companies, doing a rough-cut assessment takes about an hour.
You don’t have to be fully certified as a B Corp to incorporate your company as a Benefit Corporation, which provides legal protection for the social and environmental components of your mission. Both statuses send a strong message to employees, customers, partners, and the public that you care deeply about your impact on people and the planet we share.
Social and environmental responsibility is everyone's job. Although B Corp certification is not the only way to prove your dedication to social and environmental progress, it is one of the best ways to put your organization's commitment to the test and show the whole world why your work matters and how you contribute to making the world a better place.