Striving for a B
By Matt Millikin
A few years back when I was on the job hunt, a friend suggested that I look to see if any B Corps were hiring. Now, I would never settle for a B in school; why should I settle for a “B” Corporation when it came to a job? I immediately hopped on the internet looking for the best “A” Corps around. A five-minute search turned up exactly nothing. Well, not nothing – there were C Corps, but that’s obviously even less acceptable than a B Corp. At a loss, I hunkered down and resorted to researching what a B Corp actually was (aka – spent five more minutes on the internet).
Fast forward to present-day me. Now working at a B Corp and having recently completed Verdical Group’s recertification assessment, there’s one very important conclusion I’ve come to: one does not settle for a B Corp. To be awarded the certification requires a great amount of time, effort, and soul-searching. (If companies can be considered legal persons, surely they can have souls that require searching as well?)
So, you’re probably wondering – what exactly is a B Corp? According to B Lab, a B Corp is a for profit business “that meet[s] the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.” That sounds great, right? Why isn’t every business a certified B Corp then? Well, probably because it is very tough to achieve.
B Corps are certified by a third party (B Lab) as having met the minimum requirements (80.0 points) to be considered a B Corp. The certification process begins with a questionnaire; for our recent recertification, there were approximately 300 questions. Some of these are questions that any owner could answer easily. Does your company use corporate shells to minimize tax payments? See that? Easy to answer. (Hopefully.) How many metric tons of waste has your company saved from the landfill or incineration? Not something most people know off-hand.
There are six different Impact Areas that the questionnaire assesses: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, Customers, and Disclosure Questionnaire. B Corp certification is a voluntary process that allows for some flexibility in terms of which policies you implement; during certification and recertification, you can easily shift your priorities and explore new Impact Areas. (Compare this to a Benefit Corporation, which legally mandates your business stick to B Corp-certified values – Verdical Group’s status as a Benefit Corporation in the State of California was worth a massive 10 points during recertification.) The number of questions varies and will shift automatically as you fill out the form. If you have a company that already impacts the environment in all kinds of ways, you’re going to get lots of follow-up questions. If your community involvement was weak in the past but current events have gotten you more involved, you may find that additional paths to earn points have opened up for you. My advice is to look at the assessment questions, find all that low-hanging fruit, and then make those changes right away. Then, take a long look at the more challenging or less obvious policy changes that can be made.
As an Xennial (it’s a real thing), there’s something about a point system that really makes me buckle down and work. This might be because I learned math by playing games loaded from a floppy disk (the actually floppy ones), or because I learned about sustainability by playing Oregon Trail (seriously – you can only take what you can use, so don’t bother shooting the bison), or simply because I view everything through a gamer lens. So, when B Corp tells me we can gain 0.68 more points by verifying “Explicit coverage of transgender-inclusive healthcare,” I’m going to get on the phone and call our healthcare provider to get that verification (or push them to cover it). Luckily for us, it was already included in our plan. As a cis, straight, man, it may not cross my mind to make sure we have coverage available for gender reassignment surgery, but the competitive gamer in me wants those 0.68 points (and, of course, to create a more inclusive environment at Verdical Group).
B Corp sheds light on ways to improve your company that may not normally breakthrough that unconscious privilege. And that, right there, is probably my favorite thing about the B Corp process. A company is just made up of people, and even decision-makers with the best intentions may not think to incorporate a range of ideas that could improve their company. There are so many policies a company can implement to improve their culture, the planet, and their profit – and having a source to pull ideas from and nudge you toward those ideas is incredibly useful. For instance, while Verdical Group is a sustainability-based company we had never evaluated our own carbon footprint. A gentle nudge from B Corp and we’ve now analyzed employee commutes and travel, energy use at our offices, annual purchases, and waste with a goal of offsetting all the way back to our founding in 2012 (as well as going forward). Another example? We’ve started tracking diversity within our supply chain – if it’s not measured you can’t change it, and we want to “B” the change.
Do you work for a company that might be interested in joining approximately 4,000 companies worldwide that have gone the B Corp route? Here’s my first recommendation: look at the questionnaire today. Don’t wait. Some of the policies can be implemented by something as simple as updating your employee handbook, while others require weeks or months of work. Verdical Group’s score jumped from 84.8 points four years ago to 123.7 today because we put in the work over the last few years. We analyzed suppliers, business impacts, employee suggestions – and improved. It was not an overnight process.
What if you cannot convince your company to go this route? Or, what if you just want to make some immediate improvements on the planet? Well, today, you can support companies that have already made the commitment. After you’ve biked home (QBP) from your day spent designing your zero carbon building of the future (Verdical Group), take off your hat (Wallaroo), change into your most comfortable clothes (Patagonia), grab your favorite pint (Ben & Jerry’s or Aslan Brewing Co – depending on your pint preference), and take a second to breathe. Maybe you can’t fix everything all at once, but there’s always a choice you can make that may just make things a bit better. Vote with your dollar and support B Corps in your purchasing decisions every day. And tomorrow, after a refreshing night’s sleep (Avocado), try again. (Note – none of those companies have given me anything to plug them. But if they are reading this and want to – hit me up.)
Want to see Verdical Group’s report card? Check it out here. We couldn’t be prouder to have that “B” next to our name.