Wanna B? This book will help you get there

Relative to the millions of businesses in the U.S., the collection of companies that have formally adopted the blended profit and community impact tenets of benefit corporations is quite small. Yet fueled by the socially minded and those disgusted with a singular focus on shareholder profits, such organizations have increasingly assumed a bolder stance on the corporate landscape.

For example, companies such as outdoor gear manufacturer Patagonia, ice cream producer Ben & Jerry’s and Fort Collins-based brewery New Belgium have all proactively built reputations as businesses built around visions and missions that peacefully coexist with strong business models.

Not coincidentally, those three companies are certified B Corps, which means each has scored 80 out of a possible 200 points on the rigorous corporate assessment engineered by the nonprofit B Lab. This assessment measures a company’s performance against “standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency,” according to B Lab.

The assessment is indeed challenging, as it prods on topics ranging from how much waste a company produces to the multiplier between the company’s largest and smallest salaries. But with B Lab looking to expand far beyond the 1,100 certified companies worldwide—including about 50 in Colorado—it needed to de-mystify the assessment process.

In The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good by Ryan Honeyman, it has done just that.

Actually, the book was not published by the B Lab group. But in a business niche that many within the B Corp community define as a movement, the book’s author is certainly a champion of the cause. Peppered with personal perspectives, the book effectively reflects Honeyman’s passion for B Corps. His own Honeyman Sustainability Consulting was certified as a B Corp in 2012, and it helps companies work toward the B Corp designation and implement sustainability initiatives.

To clarify, B Corp designation is separate from legally incorporating as a benefit corporation—or as a public benefit corporation in Colorado. One of the largest differences (as outlined in the B Corp Handbook) is that B Corps apply for certification from B Lab, pay to use the designation once it has been earned and must complete a new assessment every two years for renewal.

Benefit corporations register and submit necessary reports and renewal paperwork to state officials such as Colorado’s Secretary of State office. Yet legislation regarding benefit corporations in the more than 25 states that have passed such laws generally requires that companies measure their impact against a third-party standard. Given the thoroughness of the B Lab assessment, many benefit corporations have adopted the standard as their relevant measure. Plus, it’s free.

Regardless of the motivation behind tackling the B Corp assessment, The B Corp Handbook is a helpful guide—from the six-week plan of attack to the insights into the key elements of the assessment. Furthermore, by offering numerous suggestions and tips for success at implementing B-friendly measures, the book helps business owners understand that the B process is not just a feel-good exercise. Instead, it’s a thoughtful, holistic analysis designed to help success-minded companies set and fulfill profit-based and community-minded goals today and into the future.

In breaking down the different parts of the B Corp assessment, the book serves as an informal workbook, presenting an initial inventory as well as space to reflect at the end of each chapter. The book does not promise to cover the complete assessment, but provides starting points for discussing how a company can implement business initiatives to positively affect interactions with assorted key stakeholders.

These chapters cover a company’s potential impact on employees, the broader community and the environment, as well as the impact the company’s governance and business model can have on such groups. Each discussion features insights from companies based around the world that have successfully earned B Corp certification. Plus, with 10 pages of additional resources, the book points readers in plenty of other directions, should they wish to dig deeper into a topic.

Encompassing the origins of B Lab through the potential benefits for aspiring B Corps, The B Corp Handbook is a valuable tool and resource for companies considering a move into the B space.

Categories: Management & Leadership