A Better Way of Scaling Impact
Even with notable co-founders like Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis, Singularity University grew from humble beginnings as a nonprofit organization in 2008. We had but a handful of people running our very first Global Solutions Program (then the Graduate Studies Program) during the summer of 2009. Its goal: positively impact a billion people using exponential technologies.
Back then, we had six full-time team members and a handful of volunteers. Today we have over 100 core staff, 43 chapters around the globe, and a cadre of alumni from over 100 countries. SU has grown from a single-program educational institution to a multifaceted organization that is also an innovation incubator, startup accelerator, and active network of uncommon partners working together to solve big problems.
I don’t think there is any other organization whose charter is to directly take advantage of today’s rapidly disruptive and developing technologies for scalable social impact. SU has been spreading an awareness of the challenges we face, along with the tools, opportunities, and an eagerness to solve these grand challenges.
We recognized that we could best achieve our massive purpose by becoming a B Corporation.
So What’s a B Corporation? 🤔
B Corporations are companies straddling the line between for-profit and the mission-related commitment of a non-profit. In January 2012, SU was one of the first companies to file for B Corporation status in the state of California, joining nationally the likes of Patagonia, Kickstarter, and Ben & Jerry’s. These companies embody the concept of “business as a force for good.”
B Corporations are purpose-driven organizations that seek no tax benefits for their status, although unlike nonprofit structures, equity ownership is maintained by B Corporation shareholders and the company can make a profit. B Corporations are required by law to state, in their articles of incorporation, how they can achieve their impact and to report annually how they are progressing on that mission. B Corporations are less mired by incentives for short-term returns and can focus on achieving their mission in longer terms because they are not liable for failing to maximize profit over social goals. The status also helps protect a company’s mission by increasing transparency and accountability. Lastly, B Corporations have an advantage toward attracting like-minded talent and impact investors. (You can find our benefit report and our latest Impact Report on our website.)
Today, there are thousands of B Corporations across more than 30 US states, and other countries are introducing similar models, representing a paradigm shift in the entire global economy. Prosperity and growth of a business is less often measured by pure revenue generated but also by the rate at which new solutions to humanity’s challenges are solved. A new purpose-driven economy is on the rise, where corporations are looking at both profit and social impact as measures of success. More and more companies are beginning to understand that they are part of today’s systemic problems and have perhaps the greatest resource and ability to change, solve and create opportunities for profit at the same time.
As Peter Diamandis often says, today’s social problems are today’s biggest business opportunities. This is becoming increasingly obvious. Harvard Business Review found that purpose-driven organizations show six times greater rates of return than organizations who exist solely for profit. A Deloitte report concludes that purpose driven organizations build business confidence and drive investments.
87% of millennials — soon to be the vast majority of everyone’s workforce if it isn’t already — think that the success of businesses should be measured in terms that include more than just financial performance. The success and longevity of corporations will be based on a purpose-driven economy.
A Better Way of Scaling Impact 📈
We have often been asked why we changed from our nonprofit status in 2012. The answer is that our impact no longer comes just through educational programs, but through innovation activities and global communities. Our on-campus SU Labs assists in birthing and incubating projects and startups from our 10-week Global Solutions Program, as well as accelerating startups that emerge from the Global Solutions Program and alumni of our many other programs. The B Corporation status allows us to manage these investments and startup incubators in order to scale and ensure maximum impact, while preserving the focus of our mission.
We’re committed to transparency, and have been using an assessment tool from the independent, nonprofit B Lab as a third party check for our annual benefit report. In March 2016, we became a certified B Corporation, joining the certified B Corp global community. Certification provides an outside audit for SU to confirm we are on the path towards fulfilling our mission and that we meet rigorous social and environmental standards, as well as accountability and transparency. Being part of the B Lab network also helps us maximize and increase our impact initiatives through the potential collaboration and partnerships that we gain by joining the B Lab community.
We believe that being a Certified B Corporation will help Singularity University work toward our vision of a world where humanity’s Global Grand Challenges no longer exist.