Reshaping Business to Nurture Corporate Accountability
How B Corps Demonstrate the Value of Business Social Responsibility
The Business Roundtable’s recent decision to expand the purpose of business from a focus on shareholders to instead prioritize and care for all stakeholders serves as another sign of a shift toward a new economy.
Shareholder primacy has been the business status quo for decades, but it wasn’t always the case, as B Lab UK co-chair James Perry says:
“Initially, society required that corporation charters had to state a public purpose, in recognition of the profound power created when capital is organized. But by the 1980s this profit-maximizing ideology of Milton Friedman’s Chicago School had successfully co-opted global capitalism.”
Rejecting shareholder primacy isn’t a new concept for members of the Certified B Corporation community, who already are acting with purpose to benefit all stakeholders, of for consumers looking to spend their dollars with companies that align with their values.
As the co-founders of the B Corp movement wrote in response to the announcement: “It’s a significant sign of our shifting culture that the country’s largest corporations and the organization representing their interests are revising their definition of the purpose of the corporation from profit maximization to leading their companies ‘for the benefit of all stakeholders — customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.’”
The two B Corp community members below demonstrate how expanding your business to protect our planet and include everyone creates more robust communities where people are valued, empowered and heard.
Expanding Access to ‘Democratize Organic’
To make the premium organic food category accessible to all families and advance a more inclusive and regenerative economy, B Corp Happy Family Organics has embraced the task of “democratizing organic.”
Happy Family Organics CEO Anne Laraway is out to disrupt the organic food market by making the premium organic food category, often viewed as out of reach for many, accessible to all families. For Laraway and her team, there is no such thing as an inclusive or regenerative economy until everyone can participate. That’s why the company has embraced the task of “democratizing organic” — making organic food accessible to more people, from the field to the package to the store shelf to the family kitchen.
And the Certified B Corporation’s stats around these commitments are clear:
- More than 250,000 educational materials distributed to nonprofit partners since 2017, the majority of which have been dual-language (English-Spanish) materials.
- Three ongoing nutrition-education partnerships.
- More than 2.7 million meals and snacks donated over the last three years — more than 407,000 so far in 2019.
- $100,000 worth of organic food donated to Puerto Rico hurricane victims in 2018.
- More than 34,000 families reached with a free, online expert chat service with registered dietitians and lactation specialists.
Declaring War on Waste
As a committed B Corp and Melbourne, Australia-based architecture practice, ClarkeHopkinsClarke has been reducing, reusing and recycling its office waste for years. But earlier this year, the B Corp decided to measure and double down on these efforts through a “War on Waste.”
At ClarkeHopkinsClarke, the War on Waste began when one of its architectural technicians noticed desk bins meant only for paper being used for other things too. His request for clearer signage kicked off some broader conversations about waste management and led to some hands-on, smelly research.
Over three days, a small team of ClarkeHopkinsClarke staff volunteered to audit its paper, recycling and waste bins to assess contamination and find out which items its workers disposing of incorrectly. This helped the B Corp determine five steps to improve its recycling and reduce its annual contribution to landfill by one-third. Acknowledging the reality of “wishful recycling” and the lure of convenience, it focused on clear education and high-impact steps that require minimal behavioral change from staff.
Here’s a quick video that tells the story: The process, key problems and a few high-impact initiatives introduced as a result.
Happy Family Organics and ClarkeHopkinsClarke 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.