Be Like A B: Social, fiscal and environmental responsibility

Certified B Corp. Conscious Capitalism. Human Business. Sustainable Brands.

By Indra Gardiner Bowers, Founder/Chief Executive Officer, i.d.e.a.

There are many ways to be a socially, fiscally and environmentally responsible company. Some companies bake their mission into their product or service (think Patagonia or Method), but for many of us, our dream is to work with companies who are purposeful. 

Three years ago, my partners and I decided we didn’t want to just work for mission-driven clients we wanted to walk the talk ourselves. We hadn’t started that way, so we had to do some reverse engineering and figure out what we could do to be part of this new sector of the economy.

It just so happened we had a friend who was willing to be our guide (I called him our Sherpa) on the path to becoming a certified B Corporation. Thank goodness because I didn’t really know what I was getting into. 

B Lab is the non-profit organization that created and awards the B Corporation certification for for-profit organizations. It developed the B Impact Assessment (BIA) to assess a company’s overall impact on its stakeholders and community. 

I’m not going to lie, getting through certification can be challenging and each year B Lab makes it just a little bit tougher. Every two years companies must re-certify, so there is no room for complacency. My company went through re-certification in 2016 and it was a nail biter. We had to make changes and provide clarifications for two months before we finally crossed the magical minimum score of 80 out of 200 points. 

So, getting certified isn’t for everybody. But the five pillars of the BIA are a sound framework for assessing your impact on your community, environment and key stakeholders. Thousands of companies have taken the short version of the BIA just to see how they stack up and where they might find improvements. It’s a valid method for ensuring that even if you don’t want to be certified as a B Corp, you can Be like a B!

The five pillars are:

  • Governance
  • Workers
  • Community
  • Environment
  • Customers

Some of the categories are highly relevant to service organizations like agencies, while some are geared to manufacturing companies. That can make certification harder, but the pillars each provide something worth assessing within your agency.

In my session at the 2017 PRSA Counselors Academy in Seattle I will dive into the five pillars, discussing how we developed programs and policies that allow us to create benefit for our stakeholders and community. We’ll look at why we do this and what benefit i.d.e.a. has reaped from our efforts. We’ll kick-start your journey toward Being like a B with some thought provoking exercises and discussion. 

When we became certified, we received our Declaration of Interdependence. This document (which is displayed right next to the conference room Keurig so clients can see it!) states: 

We hold these truths to be self-evident:

That we must be the change we seek in the world;

That all business ought to be conducted as if people and place mattered;

That, through their products, practices, and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all.

To do so requires that we act with the understanding that we are each dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations.

If this resonates for you as a leader or business owner then join me for an exploration of what using business as a force for good means to you.

Indra Gardiner Bowers, Founder/Chief Executive Officer, i.d.e.a. For more than 20 years, Indra has led clients with creative thinking and execution in the fields of public relations, social media and experiential marketing. She is a strategist, a writer and a realist. Indra is a founding partner at i.d.e.a. an integrated marketing shop focused on creating and activating courageous ideas. As CEO, Indra oversees human resources, accounting, operations and project management. She is the firm’s B Corp champion and works with its employee-led Team Wonderful to keep a vibrant, sustainable culture alive.