New Trends in CSR: The Case for B Corp

June 2, 2017

The ’90s and early 2000s saw a rise in the creation of NGOs, as a response to the antagonization of business, which was being blamed as the root of all that was wrong in the world. Companies, in turn, responded with very one-dimensional campaigns to endear customers with their social efforts. Big checks to philanthropic causes were given left and right, and enforced volunteer days were the talk of the town.

We have come a long way from those days. Someone stopped and thought for a minute, “What if we shifted our strategy? What if we keep doing good for our business, but engage in better practices that will also be better for the world?” This is what is now known as Triple Bottom Line: people, planet and revenue.

Kathy Pickus, senior vice president for global citizenship and policy at Abbott said: “Corporate citizenship is not about giving more money and more product. It is about transforming businesses to operate responsibly.”

So what has led to this new trend? One factor was the integration of Millennials (and the soon-to-come Gen-Z) into the workforce. These generations are looking to make a difference and to work for a cause they believe in. In order for companies to capture and retain better talent, they must adapt their modus operandi as employers to meet the new expectations of their employees.

Another reason is that new findings in behavioral science have only reinforced that humans are irrational creatures who base their decisions on emotions. In fact, even how we choose our laundry detergent is no different. According to Simon Sinek, a well-known writer on leadership, customers are attracted to the why and not the what that companies are selling. Companies are starting to realize that market share is better captured when there is an authentic and larger reason that goes beyond profits. The only problem is that, most of the time, consumers are skeptical about corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaigns and overall social responsibility claims that big corporations make.

Enter the B Corp Community.

Created in 2009, B Corp Community is an organization that looks “to redefine success in business so that one day all companies compete to not only be the best in the world, but the best for the world.” With more than 1,000 companies already, from Ben & Jerry’s to Patagonia to Etsy (and everything in between), they have presence in 60 industries spanning 30 countries. Their online presence on social platforms has been worthy of digital strategy textbooks. Their #BtheChange hashtag has been used an astounding 8.6 million times.

B Corp Community works in collaboration with B-Lab, a sister non-profit that provides the metrics and engineering tools necessary for companies to A) get certified, and B) keep benchmarks and monitor their business so they can aim for best-in-class practices.

This organization provides not only a stamp that certifies that a company is complying with governance best practices, but a platform to lobby for new legislature and a database for companies to construct reports and get market insights. Not to mention that it has also worked great as a marketing strategy. It is reported that 28% of B Corp companies are more likely to have women and minorities in management and 47% more likely to use on-site renewable energy. These are just two amazing facts that make consumers and employees prefer companies like Catchafire or Klean Kanteen over the competition. (For more information on B Corp Community visit bcorporation.net.)

It is difficult to predict what the next trend will look like, or how long this new model will continue growing. But looking back, there is a clear pattern toward improvement and evolution. The days where thought leadership, shareholder value and social impact interweave are fast-approaching, and when that day comes, everyone will be a winner.