Last week, I attended a celebration for B corps in Colorado. These are for-profit companies certified by a nonprofit called B Lab for achieving social and environmental goals along with business ones. What I noticed differently from other discussions among B Corps in the past, was a stronger focus not only on this vibrant community of like-minded business people — there are now more than 1000 B corps in the US, including Patagonia, Etsy, and Seventh Generation, and dozens in Colorado, including New Belgium Brewing, GoLite, and Teatulia.
I also noticed folks talking about the B corp community as an economic network.
In the panel discussion last week, and in numerous smaller conversations afterwards, many people described how being a B corp is not only about what their own company does socially and environmentally, but also about their relationships with suppliers, customers, even competitors.
So, for example, they’re now having conversations with their supply chain about why they became a B corp, how this has increased staff motivation, retention, productivity, and ultimately profitability. Which not surprisingly leads to expressions of interest by those companies.
And, I’ve noticed, some B corps are expressing a preference for buying from other B Corps, as a means of aligning their values up and down their own supply chains.
The interesting question then is this: could being a B corp provide your company with a competitive advantage? I have talked to B corps who argue quite convincingly that being a B corp strengthens their company, but mostly in the past they have talked about how it provides their employees with a warm glow, one that makes everyone feel good about working there. That’s a good thing, but there might be more…
Now it seems being a B corp may also improve how you reach, attract and retain customers. That sounds like something for any business to consider as they do or re-do their business plan. Becoming a B corp is a pretty small investment if it works for your values, for your employees, and for your customers.
A recent article in the New Yorker about B corps can be found here.
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