These days everyone I talk to wants to know more about B Corps. Some people want to know how to become a B Corp and some are curious about the benefits we get from being a B Corp. Another question that comes up quite often is wanting to understand the difference between B Corp certification and CSR.
A B Corporation is a business that is certified for doing business ethically and responsibly. That certification is really Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in its purest sense.
In 1953 the American economist Howard Bowen published Social Responsibilities of the Businessman, kicking off the modern debate about the role of business in society. A key takeaway from that book is that business should ‘pursue policies, decisions and actions that are desirable in terms of the objectives and values of our society’. From his starting point the discipline of CSR was painfully birthed over the next couple of decades amid a tension of two perspectives – those who agreed with Howard and those whose central tenet was fiduciary responsibility – that the only responsibility of business is maximising shareholder returns and damn the consequences.
The neoliberal movement tried to deny that business has an inherent responsibility to society and CSR ultimately became a model of Corporate Social Responsiveness – about responding to social pressures. This is a reactive managerial approach, not a philosophy. Most CSR frameworks are about compliance and being seen to do the right thing in order to protect that shareholder value.
B Corps outright reject the neoliberal position – they proudly declare themselves as ‘profit with purpose’ and ‘business as a force for good’. B Corp certification rigorously benchmarks environmental and social impact, governance, worker and supplier relations but it goes further than compliance.
B Corps elevate CSR to Corporate Social Leadership. B Lab and their B Corporation certification has rebooted CSR back to the original spirit of Howard Bowen. Much more than meeting just their responsibilities, B Corps are leaders – driving change and taking responsibility as moral agents in society.
We’re proud to be a B Corp.