By Alex Marino, Staff Writer
Are you interested in a career path connecting social change to profitable business ventures? If yes, then hopefully you’ve already begun exploring the world of social enterprises and the impact-driven missions that define their organizational charters while at the same time promoting social and environmental initiatives on a global scale. These charters redefine what it means to be a profitable business by incorporating measurement systems to evaluate, formulate, and implement projects that create sustainable social and environmental results, not just financial benefits for shareholders. From multinational corporate CEO’s to entrepreneurial start-up founders, the acumen we use to define successful businesses is shifting as executives see a path and purpose to “doing good while doing well.” This means companies can be profitable while also contributing to impact-driven initiatives, and not only as philanthropic offerings, but as a part of internal operations that redefine mission, vision, and values.
In response to this transition, the non-profit organization B-Lab created a regulatory framework to measure a company’s impact-oriented inputs, outputs, and outcomes, and provides a merit-based B-Corp certification stamp of approval. So what exactly is a B-Corp certification? According to Bcorporation.net, “B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.” Currently, there are over 16,000 B-corp certified company’s operating in 42 countries, and the trend is moving in a positive direction in response to growing consumer pressure to contribute to the 2017 Sustainable Development Goals.
In addition to the B-corp certification, companies can register their organizational charter as a “benefit corporation,” meaning that the legal framework of the company defines its mission as principally impact-oriented. Under such a framework, an organization’s charter commits it to making business decisions that satisfy both shareholders and stakeholders, in contrast to a traditional for-profit entity that must only satisfy the demands and pressures of shareholders. A benefit corporation’s legal status is embedded within its charter, and as a result, if the company is sold, the new owners are subject to maintaining an impact-driven mission oriented towards stakeholders. This status is appealing to social investors considering putting their money in social impact organizations because it reduces the risk that the social and/or environmental mission they are contributing to will change in the event the organization changes management or ownership.
Social impact focused organizations are a new breed or hybrid business entity, and therefore, measurement systems, standards, and informational literature are limited. However, the Global Impact Investment Network portal is doing a fantastic job leading the way as a primary resource for impact-related business. In addition to great literature options on impact-driven initiatives and investment options, the following portals are pioneering systems complimentary to the B-Corp certifications standards and measurement systems (Sourced from theGIIN.ORG):
- “IRIS is the catalog of generally-accepted performance metrics that leading impact investors use to measure social, environmental, and financial success, evaluate deals, and grow the credibility of the impact investing industry.”
- “The Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS), which utilizes the Impact Investment and Reporting Standards, was launched to the public. GIIRS is a ratings system for mission-driven organizations and funds.”
At the 2016 Net Impact Conference & Expo in Philadelphia, we had the pleasure of hearing keynote addresses from B-corp certified Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson, Sustain Natural’s co-founder Meika Hollender, and B-Lab’s co-founder Jay Coen Gilbert. Sustain Natural is a sexual wellness company that creates healthy products for intercourse, and also drives the GetOnTop national campaign that encourages women to take charge of their sexual well-being. Etsy is an online portal for creative entrepreneurs to market their self-made products through a digital channel reaching consumers all over the world. These organizations, along with the other 16,000 that exist globally, are pioneers in a vast and quickly developing movement to prioritize social and environmental standards over high-rate market returns produced at any expense.
So why are multinationals like Wal-Mart all of a sudden re-characterizing their mission to include sustainability and social impact initiatives? The answer is YOU. The millennial generation is producing a new impact-minded consumer that is shifting marketing approaches, and entities such as B-lab and the GIIN are supporting the movement by creating stamps of approval to put on products and/or logos identifying which companies are contributing to a better and more sustainable social and environmental future. As a consumer, you now have the power to only purchase products that carry these stamps of approval, and as a result of making that informed decision, you are saying no to operating standards that ignore environmental and social atrocities such as child labor and excessive carbon missions. Business can be profitable and beneficial to the well-being of societies at the same time. We can do well while doing good!
Feature Photo Courtesy of: www.indigenous.com