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Tuesday
Jan182011

What's a "B Corp?" And Should Nonprofits Care?

Today in Washington, DC, Care2 joined together to hold a press conference with PhilanTec, PICnet and several other B Corporations (the "B" stands for "benefit" by the way) largely to answer that question. In a nutshell, a B Corp is a new kind of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. To become a certified B Corp, a company must: 

1. Meet transparent and comprehensive standards of social and environmental performance;

2. Legally expand their corporate responsibilities to include consideration of stakeholder (not just shareholder) interests; and

3. Amplify the voice of sustainable business and for-profit social enterprise through the power of the unifying B Corporation brand.

The B Corporation designation helps us all tell the difference between a “good company” and just good marketing.  This is important for employees who want to find a workplace that they can believe in wholeheartedly. It's also a way to help guide those suppliers, investors and customers -- including nonprofits! -- who want to support companies that are making a positive impact on society.

Care2 and the other B Corps who participated in today's press conference at Busboys and Poets restaurant (which is also a B Corp) happen to focus mainly on serving nonprofit, rather than for-profit, clients. That makes us a unique sub-group within the larger community of B Corporations, which now includes 365 companies spanning more than 55 industries. To help tell our story, we launched a new site at www.bcorpsfornonprofits.com, in which we outline the ways we are special -- and hopefully deserving of our nonprofit clients' patronage. To summarize these ways:

  • B Corps are social enterprises with "do-gooder missions" similar to -- and complementary with -- nonprofits' own vital missions.
  • Nonprofits are our primary clients. They are not a sideshow to us. They are our Main Event!
  • As B Corps, we have committed to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, of social responsibility.

On that last point, Care2's certification as a B Corp, by the nonprofit organization B Lab, requires us to meet or exceed a  set of specific, measurable and auditable B Corporation standards (we need at least 80 out of 200 points on the B Ratings System™). These standards cover practices ranging from workplace diversity to carbon neutrality, recycling and waste reduction, donating a portion of our profits to good causes, etc.  Care2's main (though not only) vehicles for donating these dollars to nonprofits are our Butterfly Rewards program and our Click-to-Donate pages.

Care2's founder and CEO, Randy Paynter, pointed out that nonprofits can have confidence in selecting B Corporations as service providers, because we share nonprofits' central commitment toward improving society and the planet. As Randy put it: "It's a way for nonprofits to spend dollars to strengthen, rather than weaken, their organization's social mission." 

In addition to the psychic rewards of becoming a B Corp, there are an increasing number of more tangible and immediate rewards. For example, by becoming a B Corp, Care2 also became eligible for a growing number of benefits that governments are creating to encourage socially responsible businesses. Just last week, the New Jersey legislature unanimously passed a bill to officially recognize B Corps in New Jersey, making it the second state (after Maryland) to do so. The city government of Philadelphia likewise has recognized B Corps and actually established tax breaks to attract B Corps to the city.

The idea of B Corps is gaining momentum. We hope that the B Corp movement will eventually attract thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of companies. We especially hope it will attract those companies like ours that have made it our main mission -- a very humbling responsibility that we strive to do justice to every day -- to provide services to nonprofit organizations.

Feel free to contact me if you'd like to learn more at clint (at) Care2team.com 

Clint O'Brien is the VP of Nonprofit Services for Care2.com, a social network of 15 million people taking action for nonprofits and causes

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