How do we really do business today? Is that a fair question? I’ve noticed an increasing amount of alliances across the gamut of ‘industry’ today. Those alliances seem to have a variety of visions and missions, often relative to the garnering of market share and stock price. Competition is fierce. Collaboration amongst cohorts and peer groups is on the rise.
An ‘alliance’ is defined as: a union or association formed for mutual benefit, especially between countries or organizations. What kinds of alliances get the most attention these days? One that I find is getting increasing attention is that of B-Corps or Benefit Corporations.
- In the United States, a benefit corporation or B–corporation is a type of for-profit corporate entity, legislated in 28 U.S. states, that includes positive impact on society and the environment in addition to profit as its legally defined goals.
The purpose of a benefit corporation includes creating general public benefit, which is defined as a material positive impact on society and the environment. A benefit corporation’s directors and officers operate the business with the same authority as in a traditional corporation but are required to consider the impact of their decisions not only on shareholders but also on society and the environment. In a traditional corporation shareholders judge the company’s financial performance; with a B-corporation shareholders judge performance based on how a corporation’s goals benefit society and the environment. (not to be confused with B Corp Certification)
- B Corp certification (also known as B Lab certification or B Corporation certification) is a private certification issued to for-profit companies by B Lab, a United States-based non-profit organization. To be granted and to preserve certification, companies must receive a minimum score on an online assessment for “social and environmental performance”, satisfy the requirement that the company integrate B Lab commitments to stakeholdersinto company governing documents, and pay an annual fee ranging from $500 to $25,000. As of March 2014, there are 990 “certified B Corporations” across 60 industries in 27 countries.
The B-Lab certification is a third party standard requiring companies to meet social sustainability and environmental performance standards, meet accountability standards, and to be transparent to the public according to the score they receive on the assessment. B-Lab certification applies to the whole company across all product lines and issue areas. For-profits of all legal business structures are eligible for certification.
Relations and relationships are expanding from the old-world view of being associated with humans to a more expanded (indigenous) view of the inclusion of Nature – the Earth and all its inhabitants, human, plant and animal. Perhaps this ‘new’ view is one that we’ve been missing for some time, the result of which has been the ‘unintentional’ devastation of ecosystems and the pollution of our air, earth and water – not to mention humans. Is it time for a reexamination of how we do business?
Of course the idealistic and perhaps unrealistic perception is that we can change. The notion of change is frightening from many perspectives, mostly from the fear of loss of something we think we has provided security or a way of life to date. First World countries have standards of living that Third World countries only dream about today. Second World (a term rarely used today) refers to the former Soviet Union and China, which have grown to First World county status as they’ve incorporated capitalism. Unbridled capitalism is probably the root of our collective problems caused by the poor fiscal and social management of resources.
How do we change? The introduction of change management philosophy has focused on the induction of what appear to be ‘holistic’ systems now; the view that each component of a system affects the whole, a type of synergy if you will. This new ‘strategy’ is being taught across the gamut of business schools, first introduced in the last century to the corporate world through the work of Peter Senge and others. ‘Learning Organizations’ became the goal for maximizing resources.
Speaking of maximizing resources, just a few years ago a long-time respected authority, the International Organization for Standardization (known for the ISO 9000 series manufacturing standards), turned its vision toward Social Responsibility and commissioned representatives from over 90 countries to draft the ISO 26000 Social Responsibility Standards. It took nearly 10 years to complete and offers one of the most exquisite examples of an alliance of collaborators.
The ISO 26000 Social Responsibility Standards was released on 1 November 2010. Its goal is to contribute to global sustainable development, by encouraging business and other organizations to practice social responsibility to improve their impacts on their workers, their natural environments and their communities. (Wikipedia)
The difference in these ‘new’ standards is that there is no ‘certification’ process; intentional action is the only requisite. Beyond the resistance to change is great potential, possibilities that exist to truly change the way we do business. The challenge is that the request for change and restructuring has to come from both directions – top-down and bottom-up. There are no more silos. We’re all farmers, tending the new crop of corporate standards and social responsibility. Isn’t it time?