When I started my company Six Second Stories last year, I knew I only wanted to work with purpose-driven organizations and companies.
While doing market research and learning how I could serve those kinds of clients better, I kept running across the term “B Corporation.” I’d never heard it before.
Last week on my podcast, I hosted Eric Henry from TS Designs who broke it down for me.
TS Designs is a screen printing company in Alamance County that’s been operating since 1977!
They worked with big name brands like Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Polo, and GAP. But after 1993’s NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) all the bigger brands started moving their manufacturing to countries that could do it cheaper.
Eric and his team then decided to pivot to focus on three bottom lines: profits, people, and the planet.
TS Designs were way ahead of the time. Now it’s almost trendy to care about more than your profits (which is great), but in 1993 “B Corporations” weren’t really the talk of the town.
Eric explained to me that most people mean “Benefit Corporation” when they refer to “B corporations.” These are companies like Toms, Ben and Jerry’s, and Patagonia. Their responsibility is not just to appeal to their shareholders, like in a C-corp or S-corp, such as my business.
Last year, I raised some money for hurricane victims in my hometown and state after the historic Hurricane Florence.
Earlier this year, I teamed up with @RedCross to tell that story.#GivingTuesday2019 https://t.co/QUGGa3137P
— Rain Bennett (@rainbennett) December 3, 2019
Their profits go to making the world a better place, taking care of their people, and to the shareholders.
However, there is a problem. North Carolina doesn’t actually recognize Benefit Corporations.
Instead, companies that want to operate like TS Designs can choose to get a “B Corporation certification”. If the difference between a Benefit Corporation and a Certified B Corporation seems confusing, it’s because it is.
Jonathan Storper, a lawyer that drafted benefit corporation legislation in California breaks it down:
Many people use the terms “B Corp” and “Benefit Corporation” interchangeably. While similar in concept, there are important differences. B Corp is the term used for any for-profit entity that is certified by the nonprofit B Lab as voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability, and performance. Think of it as the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for businesses voluntarily trying to do well by doing good. By contrast, a Benefit Corporation is a type of corporation currently recognized in 27 states with legally protected requirements of higher purpose, accountability, and transparency.
I suppose that’s because actually caring about the world we live in is also growing in popularity. What a novel concept!
Don’t get me wrong, there are obviously still (and maybe always will be) companies that try to exploit people and destroy the planet in the sole interest of lining their shareholders’ pockets, but the tide is starting to shift.
“Mission driven” and “purpose driven” are used so often now they’re almost clichés.
I teach this to all my storytelling clients because we see it clearly in the world of marketing.
The days of not mixing business and personal (lives, beliefs, values) are over. Today, customers want to know what companies support and what their overall goals are. People want to support businesses that align with their own values.
Furthermore, with the rise of the internet and social media, businesses can’t hide behind the curtains anymore. Most likely anything going on behind the scenes will be exposed and this encourages transparency.
I’ll admit, I’ve thought about seeking out B corp certification for my company as well. I just need to learn a lot more about it. Fortunately, talking to people like Eric Henry who’ve done it for decades will help with any questions I might have.
But the point is, we don’t need any certification to focus on larger goals that impact our communities and environment. We can use our businesses as a way to make the world a better place and make ourselves money.
We need healthy people to drive our businesses forward, we need an environment that is sustainable in order to do our business, and (as someone who’s worked with nonprofits for years and see their constant funding woes), we need to make money to ensure that we can keep taking care of our people and the planet in the future.
Capitalism and altruism are not mutually exclusive.
Rain Bennett is a two-time Emmy-nominated filmmaker, writer, and competitive storyteller with over a decade of experience producing documentary films that focus on health and wellness. His mission is simple: to make the world happier and healthier by sharing stories of change.
You can read the rest of “Right as Rain” here, and check back every Wednesday on Chapelboro for a new column!