How Business Can Create Value for All Stakeholders
Through Practices That Improve Social and Environmental Factors, Companies Build Stronger Economies and Communities
As a new social contract between business and society gains broader traction after the Business Roundtable’s commitment “to lead for the benefit of all stakeholders,” a community of businesses stands ready to help turn those words into concrete actions.
More 10,000 successful Certified B Corporations and benefit corporations already have adopted stakeholder governance and are delivering value to their shareholders and to their customers, employees, suppliers, and communities, while preserving the natural systems on which all life depends.
The shift from shareholder primacy to stakeholder capitalism is a natural evolution that occurs through positive changes like those B Corps and benefit corporations are making through their everyday operations. Below are examples from two B Corps of business practices and worker innovation that show how to transform bold words about purpose into concrete actions that create value for everyone.
Health Care Beyond the Clinic
Northwest Permanente, a Portland, Oregon-based medical group with more than 1,300 physicians and clinicians, recently released a climate action plan for its operations and region — a unique move in the health care industry. The Northwest Permanente plan includes steps to ensure that vulnerable populations in its communities have a leading voice in planning for climate interventions; minimize the B Corp’s greenhouse gas footprint and offset the carbon its core business creates; and make the case for climate-smart business as a strategy for financial solvency amid growing uncertainty.
“What we’re really trying to say is that health care goes way beyond the clinic, and we need to address social and environmental factors. Over 60% of health issues are around housing, security, education, and transportation,” says Carolyn Allison, interim director of communications at Northwest Permanente. “Addressing the climate crisis is imperative for the medical community. As physicians, our voices are among the most trusted resources when it comes to issues that will impact our health, yet the field of medicine has been slow to respond to this issue. We created a platform that other health systems can use, and we’re really excited about that.”
By stepping up to face our planet’s biggest social and environmental challenges with steps such as a climate action plan, B Corps like Northwest Permanente serve as a model for other businesses looking to build a better world and a healthy and strong future for themselves and others.
Northwest Permanente also steps up in its communities through volunteering for change. This includes physicians and clinicians who participate in caring for the unserved populations by staffing free clinics during Martin Luther King Day of Service and throughout the year. In the NWP Hippocrates Circle program, physicians serve as mentors for middle school students interested in a health care career to ensure the medical workforce of the future represents the communities it serves.
Growing Benefits of Regenerative Agriculture
Carbon-offset provider NativeEnergy, a B Corp since 2016 and a benefit corporation since 2018, works with businesses to mitigate their impact on the planet by taking a look at a company’s entire supply chain to find areas for improvement. NativeEnergy also promotes net-positive practices like regenerative agriculture through a soil-based carbon emission reductions project.
“Almost all of our businesses touch agriculture in some way, and improving the way we cultivate food and materials has compounding benefits for the climate, biodiversity, waterways, and the resilience of farming communities around the globe,” says Tom Stoddard, vice president and general counsel at NativeEnergy.
By examining the footprint of each business client, NativeEnergy finds where a company can direct a portion of its budgets to invest in the landscapes it draws materials from and the communities it relies on for labor.
“For example, if you buy cotton, collaborate with B Corps buying cotton to invest in farmers willing to transition to carbon-sequestering cropping practices,” Stoddard says.
With a business goal to improve the capacity of the globe to sequester or mitigate carbon and other greenhouse gases, NativeEnergy walks its talk by sourcing renewable energy for its offices and purchasing offsets to address greenhouse gas emissions from travel and other activities.
Northwest Permanente and NativeEnergy are part of the community of Certified B Corporations. Read more stories of people using business as a force for good in B the Change, or sign up to receive the B the Change Weekly newsletter for more stories like the one above, delivered straight to your inbox.