B Corporations. Have you heard of them? B Corporations are businesses that balance profit and purpose. To become certified, they must “meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability,” according to Certified B Corporation. Companies that become certified B Corps work together with other leaders of B Corporations to help lower poverty levels, reduce inequality, create stronger communities, create jobs with dignity and purpose and foster healthier environments.
The B in B Corporation stands for “beneficial” and that means beneficial for customers and employees, suppliers and sub suppliers, the ocean, the flora, the fauna and all persons (whether company shareholders or not).
How to Become a B Corporation
In order to become a B Corporation, companies need to undergo an assessment and an application process which takes six to nine months and costs some money (both in terms of an application fee and annual dues once they receive B Corp status). B Corporation leaders have to sign The B Corp Declaration of Interdependence. It reads:
“We envision a global economy that uses business as a force for good.
This economy is comprised of a new type of corporation—the B Corporation—
which is purpose-driven and creates benefit for all stakeholders, not just shareholders.
As B Corporations and leaders of this emerging economy, we believe:
• That we must be the change we seek in the world.
• That all business ought to be conducted as if people and place mattered.
• That, through their products, practices, and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all.
• To do so requires that we act with the understanding that we are each dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations.”
Where B Corporations Came From
B Corps was founded by three former Stanford University friends—Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan and Andrew Kassoy in the United States. Gilbert said they desired to create something “that assists in supporting and uplifting all the entrepreneurs and investors around the world that were trying to use their business for a higher purpose than just maximizing personal wealth, but more to create, sort of, community health.”
But the idea for B Corps, which evolved from what they called B Lab, had to get through some legal hurdles before companies could be certified as such. The founders envisioned B Corp as a type of category like C and S corporate status but early 2000s corporate law prevented many companies who wanted to seek B Corp certification from changing their legal status.
To get laws changed to allow their vision, Coen Gilbert, Houlahan and Kassoy worked alongside a small cohort of chief executives and lobbied legislators on both the state and federal levels. In 2010, Maryland was the first state to approve this new company form. Afterwards, Delaware (where many companies incorporate) introduced legislation similar to Maryland, and more states and Washington D.C. followed suit. And today more than 40 states recognize B Corporations. The United States isn’t the only country to recognize B corps. Seventy-seven countries worldwide have adopted similar legislation.
Currently, more than 4000 companies are certified B Corporations, and many are names you’ll recognize: Ben & Jerry’s, Cabot, Eileen Fisher, Tillamook, Bombas, Stonyfield Organic, Illy and Amy’s Kitchen. To us, these companies and their leadership—and Coen Gilbert, Houlahan and Kassoy themselves—are not just beneficial to the world, they are Whole Champions.
Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia Works, called the B Corp movement “one of the most important of our lifetime.” But Gilbert is quick to point out they are “just a fraction of a much broader movement of people using businesses as a force for good, all around the world in many different contexts.” So they partner with people in various movements: fair trade, organic, coops, employee ownership, voting and many more.
The B Corporation website highlights the ways its members are embracing inclusion, dismantling racism and white supremacy, honoring Black leaders (both past and present) and collectively fighting climate action. These are all things Whole Champion Foundation feels strongly about and supports. We are grateful to businesses who answer the call, step up and become certified B Corps, and the best way we can support them is by giving them our business and by working alongside of them.
Our view of what is Whole Champion is, according to our founder Barbara Edelston Peterson, is a human B Corp. “Whole Champions care about themselves, other humans and the planet and strive to make the world a better place. That’s why they are human B Corps,” she said. Whole Champions are beneficial to everything and everybody around them.