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To B Corps, or not to B Corps, is that the question for the Future of the Corporation?

We promised ongoing reflection on the Future of the Corporation, and in attending their February 2021 online conference, we heard many references to something known as B Corps. Not having heard about these before, we wondered if that was also true for the good readers of the IBEX Newsletter. The movement that is B Corps has existed for around 6 years now, and aims to certify, legally as well as morally, businesses that meet high standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency and accountability. Key here is legal process verifying that a corporation meets the highest standards of business plans towards enacting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

This seems important. Many organisations aspire to be ethical and social but having a certified and rigorous process to verify their plans ensures that they are likely to meet them. In the news the day I first wrote this, was an Extinction Rebellion demo blockading an Oil distribution depot in nearby Southampton, claiming the company concerned is simply engaged in what is called ‘greenwashing’. There is also ongoing newspaper comment today about Banks which provide capital for heavy carbon emitting companies like BP and Shell, continuing to sponsor arts and sports projects. A company will engage in some business action that are ecological and ‘green’, but over promotes it in a way that suggests that they are greener than their other business actions would support. An energy company might make much of producing and selling Solar Panels, say, but more quietly still invest in building Coal power stations, or as reported today developing a major oil drilling field off the Shetland Isles, which is exempted from the reports on UK Carbon emissions for the purposes of the COP26 conference in Glasgow later in the year.

A B Corps certified enterprise, with its rigorous audit of plans for meeting ethical and social goals on application, can avoid this accusation, and mean a business can genuinely promote itself positively. For more on the auditing process involved and the tool kits that business can use, go to the website for B Corps, https://bcorporation.uk where there is much more, stating a declaration of independence and purpose:

“We envision a global economy that uses business as a force for good.

This economy is comprised of a new type of corporation - the B Corporation - Which is purpose-driven and creates benefit for all stakeholders, not just shareholders.

As B Corporations and leaders of this emerging economy, we believe:

  • That we must be the change we seek in the world.

  • That all business ought to be conducted as if people and place mattered.

  • That, through their products, practices, and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all.

  • To do so requires that we act with the understanding that we are each dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations.

Around 400 companies in the UK are certified as B Corps, with 3700 around the world across some 74 countries. The most notable company IBEX noticed on the list in the UK was Able and Cole, but there are many more of varying sizes and across some 150 different industries. Many advocates for the Future of the Corporation process, the Business Purpose movement of which we have written previously, believe that this is a significant way their goals can be fulfilled. The very least many of us could do, if we are not running suitable businesses that might be eligible for this process, is to seek out the companies and use their products, which many of us who support the principles of Fair Trade, do in other spheres. B Corps are a growing movement, and we are likely to hear much more about it in the future. So do investigate, if any of this peaks your interest.