B Corporations: It's Not Just About Profit

By Samatha Abrams, 

Co-Founder, Emmy's Organics

samantha-abramsWhen you're shopping in GreenStar, there is a lot to look at. The aisles are filled with products and brands that you know and many that you don't. What are the things that you check for? Do you look at the branding of a package and think, "This is for me!" Or do you look at the ingredients of the product? Or do you shop by certifications, such as "Organic" or "Non--GMO"?

Do you ever wonder what else is behind a product and the company that makes it? There's so much behind the business of packaging and branding that is meant to confuse shoppers. A package that looks natural, healthy, or consciously made may quite possibly be the opposite. This issue is exactly what the non-profit B Lab was created to tackle. In their words, it's "a way for consumers to differentiate between a 'Good Company' and just 'Good Marketing.'"

B Lab, the non-profit behind B Corps, was founded in 2006. Their main mission? To serve a movement of entrepreneurs who are "redefining success in business." To do this, B Lab certifies companies that meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. The certification is based on the "B Impact Assessment," which helps companies measure their impact on workers, the community, and the environment.

Beyond having created a tool to help companies measure impact, B Lab supports entrepreneurs who use business as a force for good by passing legislation for a new corporate form all around the country. This new corporate form, the Benefit Corporation, allows companies to bake their social and environmental missions into the DNA of their companies. B Corps around the world have been shown to create higher quality jobs and improve the quality of life in their communities for current and future generations.

I started Emmy's Organics with my partner (in life and business), Ian, in the very beginning of 2009. We were inspired by the simple gluten--free, vegan, and raw recipes that we created at home. As we began to grow our business, it was clear that we did not want to do things in a typical way. For example, we constantly looked at ways that we could be involved in the community, and when it came to hiring our first employees, we took the opportunity to learn how to be the best employers and managers we could be. We even looked closely at our supply chain as far as the ingredients we were ordering and the packaging that was used. It was important for us to get educated in every aspect of our business.

I learned about B Corps from Elisa Miller-Out, founder of Ithaca company Singlebrook Technology. Singlebrook was one of the first companies to become both a Certified B Corp and a Benefit Corporation. After attending an info session in town, I quickly realized that our mindset about business aligned with other B Corps. What appealed to me was that getting this certification would give us a way to show all of that extra care we put into our business that the consumer doesn't see. When you look at our products, you wouldn't necessarily know that I went to Sri Lanka to check on the quality of the coconut we source. Or, that we offer creative health programs for our employees, including weekly morning yoga! Becoming a B Corp would allow us to display those things through a powerful seal of approval. Plus, the ability to be a part of a group of like-minded business owners was something I was very interested in.

I quickly created an account for myself online and began filling out the assessment. What I thought would be an easy process proved to be a long and scary one! The level of detail the process required was very high. The assessment looks at every aspect of your business — from corporate governance, to workers, to community and environment — requiring a score of 80 out of 200 points to move forward. These are the areas where companies can contribute to a greater good while running a business.

Completing the assessment took me a couple of months. It required a lot of help and patience from the B Lab office and I had to provide a lot of documentation. There were things that we were doing already, such as community involvement, but I had no way to prove it. So, I wrote a Community Service Policy to include in our company handbook. I also documented the Energy Star insulation we added to our office to become more energy efficient and did the same with light bulbs, low-flow toilets, and so on. This was just the start of it — anything to get those points!

When I finally completed everything, we got an 80 out of 200. After going through the process, I gained so much respect for other B Corps and was (and still am) so honored and excited to be among them. There are two things that I love about the B Corp Assessment. One is that there is no room for fakers! I have certainly had my experiences when applying for various certifications of 
being surprised (and disappointed) by how easy the process was and how almost anyone could slip by to receive them. This is not the case for B Corps. Second, the Assessment is an ongoing work in progress. Each year, to maintain certification, companies have to re-submit their assessments. The questions and points available hold businesses to the highest standards of social, environmental, and corporate responsibility. This gives companies motivation to improve and grow and be better for their communities and beyond.

Emmy's exhibited recently at the Natural Products Expo West, the largest natural foods trade show in the country. Here, we proudly displayed our B Corp signs and felt as though the people who knew what that "B" meant saw us in a different light.

With this "B Corp" designation proudly displayed on a company's packaging, there is now a real way for shoppers to know that they're not only purchasing a good product, but also supporting companies that are giving back. So, when cruising the aisles of GreenStar, keep an eye out for this emblem and feel good about where your dollars are going.

During the month of April, watch GreenStar's shelves for information about 
B Corporations and the various B Corporation brands that GreenStar carries, both local and otherwise. For more information on B Corps, visit www.bcorporation.net

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