The concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) is increasingly changing the way that companies work and handle business. Greater value is placed on companies that commit themselves to doing business within the Triple-Bottom-Line framework, successfully balancing economic, social, and environmental expectations of stakeholders. Increased development of CSR programs has allowed for businesses to select one that matches their structure and values. Discussed below are three examples of these programs that have very different models but all strive to grow today’s most well-known companies into impactful leaders of change.
The first of these programs is the B Corporation certification. B Corp certified companies are for-profit businesses dedicated to helping solve social and environmental issues. By becoming a B Corp, these companies demonstrate their commitment to improving the surrounding community outside of their shareholders, while also meeting high-set standards of accountability and transparency. The goal of the B Corps program is to have businesses use their influence and status to benefit people and the environment in need.
Overseen by the non-profit B Lab, to become a B Corp companies must first take the B Impact assessment and receive a minimum score of 80 out of 200. This assessment analyzes the overall impact the company has on its stakeholders, including its workers, suppliers, surrounding community, and environment. Following the assessment, companies review their results in-depth with B Lab representatives, provide additional documentation to support their answers, and discuss difficulties. Regarding recertification, certified B Corp companies must update their assessment every two years, continuing to achieve at least 80 of the 200 possible points and provide updated supporting documentation.
Photo Credit: B Lab
Today, there are now over 2,000 certified B Corps spread across 150 countries, many of them very well-known, such as Ben and Jerry’s, Method, and Etsy. Touching on why companies themselves want to become a B Corp, a study revealed that many of these small to medium sized businesses find it helps them stand out against other massive CSR programs at larger firms. The reasoning can also be found within the specific environment these companies perform business in and the belief it is their responsibility to solve many of its underlying problems.
1% for the Planet
Photo Credit: 1% for the Planet
Here at Verdical Group, we are extremely proud to be a member of 1% for the Planet. Unlike the B Corps certification, 1% for the Planet is a nonprofit member organization that works to help businesses make a positive impact on the environment. They achieve this by asking businesses to donate at least one percent of their annual sales to high-impact environmental nonprofits. Furthermore, they collaborate with these businesses to identify specific environmental causes they want to contribute to. 1% for the Planet also certifies that every dollar donated from members is going to a trusted and verified nonprofit organization. While each business is welcome to choose any nonprofit partner, the organization can also provide tailored recommendations to suit specific company needs. Members can have an unlimited number of nonprofit partners and can change partners from year to year. Through this partnership, 1% for the Planet aims to not just direct business towards environmental causes, but increase overall funding to help protect our planet. With over 5000 members, 1% for the Planet is shifting how organizations take part in Philanthropy.
Photo Credit: International Living Future Institute
The final program, titled “JUST,” was created by the International Living Future Institute (ILFI), who also developed the Living Building Challenge. JUST is not a certification program. Rather, it is a transparency platform for organizations to disclose their operations, including how they treat their employees and where they make financial and community investments. One major difference between JUST and previously mentioned programs is its area of focus, which is primarily on social justice. It is a “nutrition label” for socially just and equitable organizations, allowing them to demonstrate their leadership in many areas of CSR. The label is outlined by 22 specific social and equity indicators that are housed within six general categories: diversity, equity, safety, worker benefit, local benefit, and stewardship. This nutrition label approach requires organizations to report on these indicators. These measurable accountabilities are recognized at a one, two, or three-star level, which is then summarized on the label. Organizations can use this label on their website or marketing material to exhibit their commitment to these issues. Showcasing how transparent the program is, ILFI posts organizations’ reported information publicly on their website so individuals can gain increased knowledge on company practices. To acquire the JUST label, organizations register on the JUST website for a small fee and begin uploading policies and data for each of the indicators. ILFI then confirms if the submitted information will receive a JUST label. While there are currently only about 50 organizations that have registered and received the JUST label, the program is bringing to light the significance of business transparency and accountability.
Businesses that are certified B Corps, 1% for the Planet members, or that have received the JUST label are rapidly becoming the new norm. While many smaller organizations have been practicing these programs’ values for decades, they can now be officially recognized for their dedication and leadership with regards to such pressing social and environmental issues. Though programs like these require increased cost and effort, they significantly boost company value while helping them achieve goals that had once been out of reach. These programs are also changing the mindset of consumers who frequently have to decide which business to purchase goods and services from. Living in a society in which every company acts to help with the world’s most pressing issues is slowly becoming a reality thanks to CSR programs like these.