B Corps Businesses Emphasize Triple Bottom Line

Jul 2, 2015

What do Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, and Etsy have in common with Piedmont Biofuels, SJF Ventures, and The Redwoods Group insurance agency? They all have received the B Corps certification, indicating they are “using business as a force for good”, by focusing on the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit.
On a warm and sunny afternoon in June, a diverse crowd of young (and old) entrepreneurs and community activists gathered for the NC B Corps Champions Community Celebration on the lawn at Durham’s American Tobacco Campus. Although a few dozen admitted that they were there for the free beer and burgers from Bull City Burgers and Brewery and to listen to the band, a few hundred more were there to network and to learn more about B Corps.
The 28 North Carolina companies that are B Corps certified have earned at least 80 points on a 200-point scale. Some of the items on the scale might surprise you. Lauren Brown, a brand strategist at R+M in Cary, recounted that in order to get to 80 points, her company had to change janitorial services to one that uses eco-friendly cleaning products. The cost may have been higher, but Brown felt that receiving the certification was worth it, both for employee and environmental health and for expressing the company’s values to potential clients. The B Corps certification communicates those values to customers, who don’t necessarily have any other way of knowing if the company offers health insurance to its employees or organizes carpools to work.
The B Corps designation indicates how a company functions as a member of the community. B Corps members believe circumstances of social injustice that surround us are intolerable to us and are bad economic policy. “All business should be conducted as if people and place matter,” Maria Kingsley of Southern Energy Management Corporation concurred.
The B Corps member companies in NC are working to have Benefit Corporations recognized as a distinct legal entity in NC with House Bill 534. There are 804 B Corps in the US and 1,307 around the world, and the certification is legally recognized in 31 states and 41 countries. The B Corp movement began in 2007 when 49 corporations became B Corps.
Ultimately, becoming a B Corps or patronizing one is an act of self-preservation, as Angela Kalo from TS Designs, a t-shirt company, pointed out. “When you have a business that’s only focused on the bottom line, don’t be surprised at the devastation you leave behind.”