B Corporations: Using Business ‘As a Force for Good’

John Egan - The Upside Blog

by | Updated: April 14th, 2017 | Read time: 4 minutes

In the sustainability movement, the buzz about B Corporations keeps growing louder.

Many of you may not know what a B Corporation is, but you undoubtedly have heard of some of the B Corporations in the U.S., including Ben & Jerry’s, Etsy, Patagonia and Warby Parker. So, what’s the common thread tying together these and hundreds of other B Corporations (or B Corps for short)?

Earth-Friendly Tree Planting Scene to Represent B Corps Environmental Efforts | Vitacost.com/blog

As explained by the B Corp organization, B Corporations “use business as a force for good.” The nonprofit B Lab certifies a for-profit business as a B Corp if it meets “rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.” This certification is similar to a product being certified as organic.

How can you back the B Corp movement?

“The everyday person can get involved by spreading the word about B Corps and supporting them with their purchasing power,” says Callie Rojewski, a spokesman for B Lab.

Today, there are more than 2,000 certified B Corps representing over 130 industries in 50 countries. B Corp certifications started in 2007. For a full list of B Corps, visit this page.

One of the newest certified B Corps is Stonyfield, a maker of organic yogurt.

“Stonyfield’s mission has always been to change the world,” says Nichole Cirillo, the company’s mission director. “Becoming a B Corp marks the next stage in our commitment to our customers and the planet. It’s a responsibility we’re happy to shoulder as we work towards a collective good with the support of fellow B Corps, our employees and partners, and Stonyfield’s fans.”

B Corp certification wasn’t easy for Stonyfield, and it isn’t easy for any other company.

A candidate for B Corp certification must complete an assessment process, submit documentation, fill out a questionnaire, go through background checks and possibly host a site review. Once a company is certified, it must be recertified every two years.

In the assessment process, a company must score over 80 points on the B Impact Assessment, a free online platform for evaluating the company’s impact on consumers, employees, suppliers, the community and the environment. The highest possible assessment score is 200.

Certified B Corps say it’s worth the effort.

Fetzer Vineyards, a producer of organic wines, became B Corp-certified in 2012. The company says it joined the B Corp program to help ensure its environmental credentials were verified.

“B Corp certification substantiates our transparency claims with savvy consumers who consider a company’s sustainability record,” Giancarlo Bianchetti, CEO of Fetzer Vineyards, is quoted as saying in a Harvard Business Review article. “It also makes us part of a community of like-minded business leaders and provides a platform for shaping the sustainable practices of our industry.”

Richard Stammer, former CEO of B Corp-certified Cabot Creamery Cooperative, wrote the Harvard Business Review article. He says B Corp certification enables Cabot to “constantly innovate to create even more social and environmental benefits.”

“The arrival and growth of B Corps is a watershed moment for business. We’ve clearly arrived at a time when companies that exclude social and environmental considerations from their operating missions risk losing market share and destroying shareholder value,” Stammer wrote. “B Corps are a needed reboot for capitalism for the modern age, ensuring that the social responsibility of business is not only about profits, but also contributing solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.”

Here are three other recently certified B Corps, representing the array of companies participating in the project.

Eminence Organic Skin Care, a provider of personal care products for salons and spas

“Having B-Corp certification validates Eminence Organic Skin Care’s longstanding commitment to supporting the planet and the principles we share with our customers,” says Boldijarre Koronczay, president of Eminence Organic Skin Care.

In an announcement about its B Corp certification, the company promises to keep selling products that are free of parabens, animal byproducts, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfates, harmful colorants and fragrances, mineral oils, petroleum and other harsh chemicals.

Recycle Track Systems, which specializes in waste and recycling technology

CEO Gregory Lettieri says his company’s “mission and values are closely aligned with the goals of B Corp because we believe there is a better way to do business. It’s about being strong corporate leaders. We know that creating transparency, accountability and sustainability in our industry will benefit our customers as well as the environment.”

New Mexico’s Taos Ski Resort, the world’s first ski resort to become a certified B Corp

Among the initiatives that played a part in the resort’s B Corp certification are:

  • A 20 percent reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.
  • Waste reduction and recycling programs, including the addition of reusable dinnerware.
  • Water refill stations aimed at decreasing the presence of single-use plastic water bottles.

In a news release, Andrew Kassoy, co-founder of B Lab, says he hopes Taos Ski Valley “sets a new standard in skiing and adventure travel in which resorts, visitors and locals work together for preservation of the environment, economic prosperity for all and stewardship of common values.”

In a 2016 article, four college professors say B Corps and other “alternative forms of organizing” let mission-driven businesses convey their support of society and the environment amid commonplace claims by businesses about being “green” and “good.”

“Increasingly, corporations are donning the persona of a responsible citizen, while continuously performing practices to maximize profit,” the professors wrote. “These contradictory tendencies motivate traditionally ‘green’ and ethical businesses to unite and stake a claim to their authentic difference, fueling the growth of B Corporations and other new types of organizations.”

Want to support B Corps businesses on Vitacost.com? Here are 10 brands to check out:

  1. Yogi Tea 
  2. Badger
  3. Thinkbaby
  4. King Arthur Flour
  5. Nutiva
  6. EO Essential Oil Products
  7. Method
  8. Traditional Medicinals
  9. New Chapter
  10. Bare Snacks