Image Description

The Humanitarian Side of Everything: B Corporations

Welcome to "The Humanitarian Side of Everything: Creating Positive Impact in Your Daily Life" on Listenable! This is Lesson Eight, and I'm your host Alexa.

Through many of our lessons, we've seen that how we choose to spend our money can have a significant impact. Our clothing, food, and other physical goods can have a huge positive or negative impact on the environment and on people.

How we spend our money matters, even when we're spending on non-physical goods. The businesses that we interact with, whether it's a bank, a car company or a clothing company, have a huge impact on society. These companies make decisions about how they use natural resources, how they compensate their employees, and how they use data that have ripple effects throughout society. Ethical business practices are critically important.

A traditional view of business sees the purpose of business as returning value to shareholders – those who have invested in the business. But increasingly, corporations are expected to consider all shareholders, including how they impact their employees and the environment.

There are a few ways that you can know if the companies that you buy from are answering to all stakeholders, not just shareholders.

First, you should know about B corporations, or B Corps – a type of social enterprise that meets specific standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability all to ultimately balance profit and purpose.

B corps are like regular businesses in a lot of ways – they have employees, pay taxes, and answer to stakeholders. But B corps are unique in that they aim to have a positive environmental and social impact.

B Corps use the power of business to work towards reducing inequality, lowering poverty, protecting the environment, creating jobs, and counter social issues. They aim to use their business for the ultimate goal of creating a positive impact on their employees, communities, and the environment.

To become a B Corp, a company has to go through a thorough impact assessment to measure its entire social and environmental performance. This includes their supply chain, input materials, how they compensate their employees, and dozens of other metrics.

Today, there are 3,522 Certified B Corporations in 150 industries and 74 countries.

One B Corp that you may have heard of is New Belgium Brewing Co. They make Fat Tire, a popular Amber Ale. I'm not going to pretend that I actually know what an Amber Ale is, but I do want to talk about how New Belgium is incorporating impact into their business.

This company is focused on climate change and how it will affect both the economy and communities. In a world where climate change is only getting worse, many products, and even food, will be increasingly more expensive – and that includes beer.

So how is New Belgium part of the solution to climate change? This B Corp is reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, transitioning to renewable energy, and funding research into climate-resilient crop varieties. Their latest step towards climate solutions is the introduction of America's first certified carbon neutral beer. New Belgium offsets all of the emissions created by the production of its Fat Tire Amber Ale. That includes greenhouse gas emissions created to grow the raw ingredients, for electricity, manufacturing, for packing and materials, distribution, and even retail.

Beyond offsetting these emissions, New Belgium is also focused on reducing their actual emissions throughout their supply chain by using more renewable energy and increasing their investments in energy efficiency.

Other B Corps include Patagonia, the popular outerwear company, and Nisolo, a sustainable fashion brand.

Next, as you make purchases, consider buying from companies that are certified Fair Trade. This is an independent certification ensuring companies' products are ethically sourced from farmers who get a fair deal for their labor. A wide variety of products, from coffee to clothing, can be Fairtrade certified. Recognizing that an ethical supply chain extends beyond income, Fairtrade seeks to fight child labor, mitigate climate change, promote gender equality, defeat poverty, and support worker's rights.

Businesses seeking to get certified with Fairtrade America undergo a five-step process starting with a business assessment that examines a company's needs, goals, and supply chain. Once a business is deemed viable for certification, it submits an application that determines whether to certify its existing supply chain or utilize an already certified one. After application approval, companies sign a licensing contract with Fairtrade America and can then submit applications for individual products to get certified. Lastly, companies work with Fairtrade's marketing team to generate buzz about freshly certified products. Businesses selling Fairtrade products contribute to farmer payments for raw goods, auditing fees, and licensing fees for using the Fairtrade label.

Lastly, more and more companies are becoming Carbon Neutral Certified. This is a standard earned by companies that offset and reduce all of their greenhouse gas emissions. The certification's software estimates emissions created when a company makes and delivers their product or services. They offset those emissions and then help companies to reduce their overall emissions.

Many companies are making progress towards a positive impact outside of these certifications. But as a consumer, looking for companies that have demonstrated their commitment to ethical standards by becoming B Corp, Fair Trade or Climate Neutral certified is a great place to start.

That's the end of lesson eight. In this lesson, we learned about three certifications that help consumers to shop responsibly. Next time you're shopping, consider the environmental and social impacts of the companies that you buy from. In our next lesson, we're talking about sports.

Image Description
Written by

Alexa Bussmann