The idea of starting and running a business for any reason other than profit may seem counterintuitive to some. But a growing number of businesses around the world are turning that idea on its head, and showing that business can — and should — do more.
During 2020, a 23% growth in global submissions to become a B Corp indicates a growing movement of people committed to using business as a force for social and environmental good. It’s a rise that signals a global shift in priorities, and its causing more and more businesses and individuals to take note.
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What is a B Corp?
B Corps are businesses — small, medium and large — that balance profit and purpose. Much like Fair Trade certification, or LEED certification, the B Corp logo indicates that a business has met the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal responsibility.
There are more than 3,500 Certified B Corps in more than 70 countries. From well-known B Corps like Patagonia, Danone and Ben & Jerry’s, to lesser known brands like Bombas and Nisolo, collectively, B Corps are working to reduce inequality, give back to their communities and make a positive impact on the environment. For example, B Corps outperform other businesses on pay equity and they are 250% more likely to offset their carbon emissions than regular companies
The growing business case for doing things better
While the purpose of B Corp certification is to drive outcomes beyond the bottom line, it creates business opportunities, as well. For many consumers, whether or not a business acts in a way that’s sustainable is a big factor in whether or not they’ll support that business over others.
According to a recent report from the National Retail Federation and IBM, nearly 60% of consumers say they’re willing to change their purchasing habits to have a positive impact on the environment. Of those who rated sustainability as very or extremely important, more than 70% say they’d pay a premium for products and services from responsible companies.
For startups, doing their part and communicating their impact effectively is a critical step in attracting customers, building trust and long term loyalty.
Related: WJR Business Beat with Jeff Sloan: Consider the Legal Entity Known as a B Corp for Your New Business
How to become a B Corp
The decision to become a B Corp is an easy one. Any aspiring entrepreneur who accepts the simple truth that the environment and societies around the world are hurting can also see that business is one of the most powerful forces we have to drive change. When you think about the power of collective business, there’s no choice but to put that power to positive use.
Certification is done by the non-profit B Lab and involves a scoring system that assesses a company’s direct impact on the environment, the community, its customers and workers. To be certified, a business must score at least 80 points out of a possible 200. It’s a process of peeling back the layers of a company’s operations and business model to assess its impact on the world.
The B Lab Assessment Tool is one of the most credible ways an entrepreneur can get started on his or her B Corp journey, as it helps to see how your business stacks up against B Corp criteria. It can also help identify gaps and guide an entrepreneur to make better business decisions.
Once certified, B Corps must maintain an ongoing commitment to the values and aspirations of the B Corp community, laid out in the Declaration of Interdependence. There’s also an annual certification fee, which can be as low as $1,000 for a small business, but up to $50,000 for a company with more than $750 million in revenue.
No one said being a force for good was easy! But in today’s world, entrepreneurs and customers alike understand there’s no choice but to step up and be the change we want to see.
Our B Corp journey
Sendle has been a B Corp since the day we started in 2014. In fact, we were the very first technology B Corp in Australia, where we were founded.
Sendle is a 100% neutral shipping service, which takes some effort given the transport industry accounts for 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions. And that number stands to grow; last year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, online spending in the U.S. alone soared to $795 billion, up 32.4% from the previous year, according to eMarketer. The World Economic Forum predicts we’ll see 36% more e-commerce delivery vehicles driving around our cities by the end of the decade.
We’ve always been acutely aware of our industry’s impact and knew if we went into business, we needed to take responsibility from the outset. We reduce our footprint by working with existing delivery networks to fill unused truck capacity, ensuring every route is as efficient as possible. We then offset the emissions from every package sent by purchasing carbon credits and supporting important carbon projects including the Lower Mississippi Valley Reforestation and Boobera Native Forest Regeneration projects in Australia.
Sendle’s B Corp status, and 100% carbon neutral shipping, gives businesses that ship with us a way to be more sustainable, and to communicate that value to their customers and everyone along their supply chain.
Doing good for the planet, and for the small business community, is part of what drives our employees. We attract like-minded people who find satisfaction and motivation in working for a business that’s putting good out into the world. In this way, B Corp certification adds another valuable layer to our business, as it helps us attract great people.
No better time to reset your company’s priorities
The year 2020 carried no shortage of adversity, and the businesses that survived can consider themselves lucky. When starting a new business, there’s no better time to take stock of what’s important as a founder. Fighting monumental problems like inequality or climate change can feel daunting for any one business, but if we find ways to better prioritize not just profit, but our planet and people too, we’ll collectively be moving in a far better direction.