B the Change

A B C’s of becoming a B Corporation

Certifying businesses that take on social and environmental problems

More and more entrepreneurs are going into business and growing their enterprises with a broader focus than building shareholder returns. Instead, these purpose-driven leaders see the potential for a much broader impact, one that includes society and the environment.

Increasingly there are businesses that want to create value for all their stakeholders, not just their shareholders. These companies are competing not just to be best in the world, but best for the world.” B Lab Founder Andrew Kassoy

Certified B Corporations are leading a global movement to redefine success in business. Companies that achieve B Corp certification have agreed to voluntarily meet higher standards of transparency, accountability, and performance. They know that they can stand out in a cluttered marketplace through their higher purpose and a shared vision that businesses can create benefits for all stakeholders; not just shareholders.

What’s driving business owners to invest in the certification process? There is growing acceptance of brands doing well by doing good. Across the globe, 75% of consumers believe it is acceptable for brands to support causes and make money at the same time (up 33% since 2008). A full 80% of consumers feel it is important for companies to share their efforts to address societal issues. Edelman goodpurpose Study

“These companies are competing not just to be best in the world, but best for the world.” B Lab Founder Andrew Kassoy Click To Tweet

How do companies earn B Corp certification

Starting with an online impact assessment, business owners can complete a questionnaire that summarizes their business as it relates to four categories: Workers, Governance, Community and the Environment.

Just the exercise of tackling 174 questions in the four categories above is time well spent by any organization. As a business grows, questions like these below can shape the future of the company:

  • What percent of non-executive, full-time employees participated in the company’s bonus plan in the last fiscal year?
  • What practices apply when evaluating the social and environmental performance of your suppliers?
  • Has your company gone through an environmental review or audit in the last 12 months?
  • Are there key performance indicators or metrics that your company tracks on at least an annual basis to determine if you are meeting or social or environmental objectives?

Some organizations may not be able to achieve the minimum 80 points required to earn the certification, but the impact assessment tool is an ideal way to focus resources toward next steps. Learn more about my journey toward certification.

A growing NETWORK with many benefits

Companies aiming for a passing grade have done the math for the business case and understand the ABCs of joining this fast-growing group of certified companies:

A – Affiliation: A B Corporation will join a community of like-minded businesses that want to change the status quo. Fellow businesses in related or complementary industries have a network of entrepreneurs they can rely on to help manage business challenges.

B – Baseline: Rather than re-inventing the framework, the impact assessment can shape a company’s commitment towards: Workers, Governance, Community and the Environment. There are ample opportunities to learn form other B Corporations on how they raised the bar in each category.

C – Credibility: Since the assessments are conducted by a third party, this helps ensure there’s no greenwashing or trying to look good with slick marketing. It is unbiased and based on a consistent approach that helps owners measure what matters and ultimately, build a better business.

About 150 businesses in Canada are currently certified, along with over 1,600 companies in 48 countries. BC-based Persephone, Salt Spring Coffee, Lunapads and Fairware are in good company with global brands like Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s and Method. This movement is growing fast and Certified BCorps achieve brand lift from their affiliation, which also helps to attract employees, earn publicity an gain competitive advantages in their sector.

Ready to measure what matters and understand your company’s impact in the world? We work with conscious brands that are ready to “B the change”. Let’s talk about how to build and share your stories.

B SCHOOL FOR SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS

Creating impact beyond the bottom line

Social EntrepreneurshipA growing number of entrepreneurs are starting ventures designed to create a positive social impact. They are looking for authentic ways for their businesses to become the best for the world, not just the best in the world. These are for-profit enterprises that solve some of the world’s most challenging problems, often with a relatively simple solution. It’s a movement that’s worth watching in your own community and across the world.

In British Columbia’s Sea to Sky corridor, the Social Venture Challenge is an opportunity for social entrepreneurs to encourage, support and grow new social ventures in the region. After submitting a one-page application, shortlisted entrepreneurs learned how to flush out business ideas, were mentored from experts in their field and were coached how to pitch their venture idea.

Around the world, businesses are not only looking for bottom line financial success, but bigger picture impact. A study at the recent New Metrics Conference hosted by Sustainable Brands revealed six types of capital that can drive the success (or failure) of a business: Financial, Physical, Social, Intellectual, Human and Natural. If any one of these areas is weak (e.g. high turnover at a company that does not invest in its human capital), the whole enterprise can suffer.

Big banks, investors and global brands are also paying attention to the social venture movement. Speaking at the World Economic Forum this year, Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, stated that

“Social entrepreneurs are role models, not only for young entrepreneurs, but, more importantly, for businesses like us. We can’t address in our business model many important societal issues if we don’t link up firmly with the creativity and passion and purpose-driven models of social entrepreneurs.”

More and more, we’re seeing that a company’s higher purpose is what gets people fired up to become loyal advocates for certain brands. This is evident not only for core customers, but a growing workforce that is looking for more than a paycheque. Research conducted by the Cone Millennial Cause group showed that 80% of young workers want to work for a company that cares about how it impacts and contributes to society. They also are willing to take less compensation in exchange for greater meaning in their work.

young workers willing to take less compensation in exchange for greater meaning in their work Click To Tweet

But passion and purpose are just some of the many elements that make up a successful venture. As a judge at a recent ‘Angel Den’ for the Social Venture Challenge in Whistler, I was able to help the cohort test their plan and perfect their pitch. Their enthusiasm makes it easy to love these ideas, but the business fundamentals surrounding the value proposition, revenue model and marketing approach are all essential to build a sound foundation and platform for a successful launch.

Their big event, the final pitch in the challenge, is coming up September 30 in Whistler. It’s being organized as a fun, fast-paced Dragons’ Den style event where participants in The Social Venture Challenge will pitch their burgeoning business ideas. Judges will be awarding the winning social venture with $3,000 start up cash, courtesy of Squamish Savings. Learn more at www.whistlercentre.ca

The entrepreneur’s journey is never an easy one. Embedding a social or environmental problem in the business model is even more challenging. Being able to tell the story of that journey and how the business can make a difference in the world is often the best way to market the brand and build your tribe. Need some help packaging that story to share with the world? Contact us to get started. We love working with purpose-driven brands that are ready to build a movement.

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5 INSPIRATIONAL MARKETING LESSONS FROM SOCIAL VENTURES

Brands that aim to create social good

Propelling Social Ventures is a one day event hosted by UBC’s Sauder School of Business that uncovers innovative ways to combine business with positive impact. The 2015 conference put the spotlight on social ventures that are re-imagining business for impact and mature businesses that are redefining models and strategies to integrate positive change on a large scale into their organizations.

The event featured start up social entrepreneurs along with more seasoned experts and business leaders, each of whom have found a niche where their business can make a positive impact in the world. While there was plenty of food for thought packed throughout the day, these were the five key marketing lessons that could apply to any type of business:

HONE YOUR TARGET MARKET

Brands for the Heart, an online branding and graphic design agency that brings together a virtual team, chose to focus only on a small niche of entrepreneurs and changemakers that are bootstrapping to build a business that makes a positive impact in the world. While the founders have experience working with global brands, they have developed a platform to help only new social ventures access talented branding and design professionals at a fraction of the agency rate.

BUILD YOUR TRIBE

Janie Hoffman, founder of Mamma Chia vitality drinks and snacks, started her business by building authentic relationships that had the potential to grow even before she had a product. When she wanted to bring energy-packed chia seeds to the mainstream and when she realized that the supply of chia seeds were only conventionally grown, she met directly with farmers in central America and enrolled them in the opportunity to switch to organic. She then surrounded herself with like-minded people who choose healthy lifestyles and believe in organic agriculture; a tribe who then became her first loyal customers and vocal brand advocates.

DISRUPT INDUSTRY NORMS

The entrepreneurs behind Wize Monkey identified a big gap in the coffee and tea industries. While most coffee plantations only operate a few months of the year to harvest ripe beans, they saw some low hanging fruit that would help keep employees working year-round. Instead of just harvesting the beans, they introduced a revolutionary new tea brand that is actually made by the coffee leaf itself. Not only does the tea have less caffeine, it is tasty, full of antioxidants, and it helps farmers operate more profitable plantations while providing stable job opportunities for pickers.

ELEVATE YOUR IMPACT

Social venture entrepreneurs are not just looking to build followers, generate likes or sell trendy widgets. They are looking for authentic ways for their businesses to become the best for the world, not just the best in the world. These are for-profit businesses that solve some of the world’s most challenging problems, often with a relatively simple solution. Arbutus Medical developed a $400 alternative to $30,000 surgical drills to enable safe and effective treatments of patients in the developing world. Time Auction designed a website portal that allows you to trade volunteer hours to meet inspiring people. Wize Monkey and Mamma Chia are helping farmers in some of the poorest countries to build more profitable and sustainable businesses.

GROW CONSCIOUSLY

Each of the businesses featured at Propelling Social Ventures shared great stories about their challenges to scale up. Finding the right partners who share your core values is essential for any social venture to grow and thrive. Janie Hoffman of Mamma Chia summed it up by sharing that “money is energy”; cautioning business founders to be conscious of the partners they attract, who will ultimately shape the future of the business.

Finding partners who share your core values is essential for any social venture to grow + thrive. Click To Tweet

Could your business learn more and gain inspiration from these social ventures? Looking for ideas to implement these lessons learned to grow your business consciously?  Contact Seeds Consulting to get started.

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