What is the Most Surprising Benefit of Becoming a B Corp? (It's Not What You Think).

BEST FOR THE WORLD. Caroline Wanjiku, CEO of Daproim Africa, accepts the Best for the World award from Global B Corp ambassador Marcello Palazzi at a B Corp event in Kenya.

BEST FOR THE WORLD. Caroline Wanjiku, CEO of Daproim Africa, accepts the Best for the World award from Global B Corp ambassador Marcello Palazzi at a B Corp event in Kenya.

Being Part of a Global Community of Leaders

The incredible value of the community itself came as a surprise for many B Corps.

Many said that they were originally interested in becoming a Certified B Corporation in order to take advantage of the marketing benefits, to receive discounts on products and services, or to benchmark their social and environmental performance.

But, almost universally, it has been the strength of the global community—and the sense of being part of something bigger than an individual business—that has become the most deeply fulfilling aspect of B Corp certification.

The positivity, collaboration, diversity of experience, innovation, and joy of being part of a global community that shares your core values and a clear sense of purpose is what inspires, motivates, and energizes B Corps to use their businesses as a force for good.

The B Corp community benefits from a high level of trust, a focus on equity and belonging, and an entrepreneurial spark that is very powerful.

In many ways, the value of the B Corp community itself makes sense. The rigor of the B Corp certification process means that it takes serious dedication to complete, which helps to filter out businesses that are not truly committed to meeting high standards of performance, accountability, and transparency.

The result is a passionate, highly innovative group of some of the most socially and environmentally conscious businesses on the planet.

While the B Corp movement started in the United States, it was never intended to remain an American phenomenon. Indeed, since the first edition of this book was published in 2014, there are now more B Corps based outside of the United States than inside. This is because using business as a force for good has global appeal.

For example, whether you are a sole proprietor, a national brand, or global business with billions in sales, and whether your focus is on strengthening local communities, reducing global poverty, or addressing climate change, being part of a larger movement can help build collective voice, accelerate the adoption of standards, drive capital, help secure supportive public policies, and inspire consumers to change their behavior.

To give you a sense of the power of this international movement, we asked each of B Lab’s global partners to give us a few highlights of some of their region’s accomplishments.

Note that the following is only a small sampling of highlights—visit the B Corporation website for more information on each region. Here are some of the big wins and key milestones from each global partner.

Sistema B (Latin America), established in 2012

  • After initially starting in four countries—Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Colombia—the B Corp movement has spread to fifteen countries in Latin America.

  • Grupo Bancolombia, the largest bank in Colombia, launched the first Measure What Matters program in the region. The program’s initial focus was to use the B Impact Assessment to measure and manage the social and environmental impacts of 150 of its key suppliers. Fifteen other large companies in Latin America are following suit.

  • Natura Cosméticos, a publicly traded B Corp based in Brazil, acquired The Body Shop and Aesop, spreading the B Corp movement to seventy countries.

  • Santiago, Chile; Mendoza, Argentina; and Río de Janeiro, Brazil, launched Cities + B initiatives that bring together businesses, universities, foundations, public institutions, entrepreneurs, and citizens to develop solutions to their region’s most difficult social and environmental challenges. A key component of these ongoing initiatives is to encourage businesses in each city to measure, manage, and improve their impact with the B Impact Assessment.

  • More than 2,500 people take part in the Multiplicadores B (or B Multipliers) program to help spread the B Corp movement in Latin America.

  • Colombia became the third country (behind the United States and Italy) to pass benefit corporation legislation. Five other Latin American countries are currently debating benefit corporation legislation in parliament.

B Lab Australia and New Zealand, established 2014

  • Australia has four Australian Stock Exchange–listed companies that are Certified B Corps: Australian Ethical Investments, Murray River Organics, Silver Chef, and Vivid Technology.

  • In 2017, the first local B Corp Champions Retreat drew two hundred B Corp Leaders from across Australia and New Zealand.

  • B Lab Australia and New Zealand have begun pioneering an ecosystem partnership model with various organizations (such as banks, utility companies, and universities) who want to join the movement and accelerate the growth of the B Economy.

  • Benefit corporation legislation has attracted widespread support from across the business and legal communities and is currently being considered by the federal government.

We became a B Corp because we wanted to be in a community of like-minded, like-hearted people and to be part of a leading movement for positive change. As a certain African proverb goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Zara Choy, Digital Storytellers—Australia

Mele-Ane Havea (Small Giants).jpg

B Lab Canada, established 2015

  • FlipGive became the first Certified B Corp outside the United States, in 2008.

  • Business Development Bank of Canada became the first Crown corporation to certify as a B Corporation. The bank has dedicated staff resources to growing the B Corp movement, starting in Western Canada and scaling to include other regions.

  • Dutch Canadian Credit Union became the first credit union to become a Certified B Corporation. To date, five credit unions in Canada (representing more than 600,000 members) have become Certified B Corps.

  • British Columbia is looking to become the first Commonwealth jurisdiction to introduce benefit corporation legislation.

B Lab United Kingdom, established 2015

  • Scotland became the first country to launch a national impact management program.

  • More than one hundred large, high-profile (including publicly traded) companies in the UK engaged with the B Corp movement and began to measure their social and environmental performance via the B Impact Assessment.

  • B Lab UK delivered its B Leaders training program to create a dynamic group of champions to promote B Corps across the United Kingdom.

  • With core funding from the UK Department for International Development, B Lab began a project to map the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals onto the B Impact Assessment.

  • The UK government is committed to exploring the creation of a legal form in line with the benefit corporation.

B Lab Taiwan, established 2015

  • O-Bank from Taiwan became the first publicly listed B Corp bank in the world.

  • At the 2016 B Corp Annual Asia Forum, the president of Taiwan praised B Corporations “for their spirit of innovation and community service” and stressed that the government would continue to support the development of B Corporations and social enterprises.

  • At the Taipei Stock Exchange, B Corp certification is recognized as part of initial public offering support documentation.

  • The B Corp movement was championed at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation business advisory meeting, getting B Corps on the desk of the leaders of each of APEC’s twenty-three member states.

WHY WEREN’T WE INVITED? European B Corps pose for a group picture during their summer summit in Cascais, Portugal.

WHY WEREN’T WE INVITED? European B Corps pose for a group picture during their summer summit in Cascais, Portugal.

B Lab Europe, established 2015

  • Group Danone signed a partnership agreement with B Lab, helping to pave the way for multinationals to measure, compare, and improve their overall social and environmental impact.

  • Geneva, Switzerland, and Calais, France, joined other global cities in running citywide Best For campaigns, which, in partnership with local government and civil society organizations, encourage businesses to measure, compare, and improve their social and environmental impact.

  • A coalition of more than two hundred Dutch companies and organizations, including Certified B Corps, appealed to the Dutch government to prioritize the UN Sustainable Development Goals within the upcoming government coalition agreement.

  • Following the tireless work of Nativa cofounders Eric Ezechieli and Paolo Di Cesare, Italy became the first country outside of the United States to pass benefit corporation legislation.

B Lab East Africa, established 2017

  • B Lab East Africa established partnerships with Sustainable Inclusive Business (part of the largest private sector alliance in Kenya), Self Help Africa, and B Team Africa to promote impact measurement using the B Impact Assessment.

  • Enda, the first Kenyan running shoe manufacturer, registered as a benefit corporation in the United States and raised initial funding through B Corp Kickstarter.

  • Olivia Muiru, executive director of B Lab East Africa, was recognized as a 2017 Skoll World Forum Emerging Leader.

B Market Builder: Hong Kong, established 2017

  • The B Corp idea was presented at the Hong Kong Social Enterprise Summit, at local universities, to the government efficiency unit, and to the undersecretary for home affairs, helping to jumpstart the growth of the B Corp movement in the region.

  • Multiple B Leaders courses were conducted in Hong Kong in 2017 with the support of B Lab UK.

  • Two Chinese-language books on B Corps were published in Hong Kong in the past two years.

Although we are aware of Shared Value, Conscious Capitalism, and other models, we believe that the B Corp idea is particularly valuable and relevant for Hong Kong. B Corp certification is the only framework that provides a tangible and measurable road map that can help a business make the transition to be a force for good.

K. K. Tse, Education for Good—Hong Kong

B CORP GROWTH IN CHINA AND HONG KONG. K. K. Tse, founder of B Corp Education for Good, and Robin Lu, COO of First Respond (the first Certified B Corp in China), at an event in Hong Kong.

B CORP GROWTH IN CHINA AND HONG KONG. K. K. Tse, founder of B Corp Education for Good, and Robin Lu, COO of First Respond (the first Certified B Corp in China), at an event in Hong Kong.

B Corp China Team, established 2017

  • China’s most celebrated and influential economist, Wu Jinglian, publicly recognized benefit corporation legislation and the global B Corp movement as one of the most “notable economic trends,” during his keynote speech at the China Europe International Business School CSR [corporate social responsibility] Forum in Beijing, China.

  • The B Generation program, a youth leadership program to inspire, engage, and empower students to lead a global movement of people using business as a force for good, was officially launched at New York University Shanghai, China Europe International Business School, Peking University, and Tsinghua University.

  • Professor Chris Marquis at the Harvard Kennedy School published a case study on First Respond, the first Certified B Corp in China. First Respond’s achievement as the first B Corp in mainland China was also featured in a national news article in the China Daily.

B Lab Korea, established 2018

  • The Growth Ladder Fund for start-ups (a program initiated by the Financial Services Committee of Korea) includes “B Corp” as one of the evaluation indicators used to select investments.

  • The Korea International Cooperation Agency requires grantees of its Creative Technology Solutions program to obtain B Corp certification.

  • The Korean government unveiled its policy road map for social ventures in Korea, indicating support at the government level for the B Corp movement.

This article is an excerpt from the new Second Edition of The B Corp Handbook. If you would like to learn more, get your copy of the book today and/or sign up for the online launch event on May 30, 2019. You can also sign up for the LIFT Economy newsletter and follow Ryan on Twitter (@honeymanconsult) to stay up to date about the book and the B Corp movement.

Does B Corp Work for Multinationals and Publicly Traded Companies?


Large companies, including multinationals and publicly traded companies, have many opportunities to take part in the growing B Economy.

Some of these pathways include becoming a Certified B Corporation, incorporating as a benefit corporation, helping promote the movement to others, and using the B Impact Assessment and/or B Analytics to encourage key stakeholders to improve their social and environmental performance.

Another path to getting involved with the B Economy is to acquire a B Corp subsidiary.

For example, Unilever, the consumer goods multinational, has gone on a recent spate of B Corp acquisitions.

In 2016 and 2017, Unilever acquired five different Certified B Corps, including Mãe Terra, Pukka Herbs, Seventh Generation, Sir Kensington’s, and Sundial Brands. This was in addition to Ben & Jerry’s, which was acquired by Unilever in 2000 and became a Certified B Corp in 2012.

When we look at any of our acquisitions, one of the main considerations is always whether it is a good fit to Unilever. We look for companies that have similar vision and values to ours. That is critical to success of the partnership. B Corp companies come with many of the attributes that fit with our long-term goals and our culture, and therefore it is no surprise that some of our recent acquisitions, such as Seventh Generation, Pukka Herbs and Teas, and Sir Kensington, have been B Corps.

Paul Polman, Unilever—United Kingdom

Other large multinationals, such as Anheuser-Busch, the Campbell Soup Company, Coca-Cola, Group Danone, the Hain Celestial Group, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Rakuten, SC Johnson & Son, and Vina Concha y Toro have acquired Certified B Corp subsidiaries in recent years.

Some of the large companies with B Corp subsidiaries include:

Example 8 - B Corp Subsidiaries.jpg

Danone Leads by Example

Danone is a great example of a publicly traded multinational that is heavily involved with the B Corp movement on multiple levels.

At the company’s 2017 annual shareholder meeting, Danone CEO Emmanuel Faber announced Danone’s intention to become the first Fortune 500 company to earn B Corp certification.

In addition, once Danone decided to get more involved with the B Corp movement, the organization started helping several of its subsidiaries make progress toward B Corp certification.

By using the B Impact Assessment, Danone was able to determine which subsidiaries were ready to move toward certification and which first needed focused improvement work.

“The B Impact Assessment represents a set of demanding standards, which some of our businesses are able to meet already,” explains Blandine Stefani, B Corp community director at Danone. “For some others, becoming a Certified B Corp is an ambition that will require some changes to their practices, with the support of B Lab.”

Through a cohort process facilitated by B Lab, the subsidiaries completed the B Impact Assessment together, allowing Danone to monitor their progress and improvement using B Lab’s B Analytics tool. For a large company like Danone, the Impact Management Cohort made pursuing B Corp certification for subsidiaries easier, faster, and more transparent.

As of 2018, Danone has nine subsidiaries certified as B Corps, is making use of the benefit corporation legal structure in the United States, is assessing and educating more business units using B Lab’s impact management tools, and is taking a leadership role to create more pathways for multinational engagement.

Reducing the Cost of Capital

In an innovative approach tying the cost of capital to environmental, social, and governance benchmarks, Danone partnered with twelve leading global banks that agreed to lower their loan rates if Danone increases its verified positive impact in the world.

The percentage of Danone’s sales from Certified B Corp subsidiaries was one of the environmental, social, and governance measurements.

In other words, the more they sell from subsidiaries that are B Corps, the lower their cost of capital.

The deal on Danone’s $2 billion syndicated credit facility was led by BNP Paribas and includes Barclays, Citibank, Crédit Agricole, HSBC, ING, JPMorgan, MUFG, Natixis, NatWest, Santander, and Société Générale.

The result is that the heads of corporate and institutional banking for a dozen of the world’s largest credit providers—notoriously the most fiscally conservative people in any boardroom—have affirmed that becoming a Certified B Corporation reduces risk and can help you save money.

This article is an excerpt from the new Second Edition of The B Corp Handbook. If you would like to learn more, get your copy of the book today and/or sign up for the online launch event on May 30, 2019. You can also sign up for the LIFT Economy newsletter and follow Ryan on Twitter (@honeymanconsult) to stay up to date about the book and the B Corp movement.

Sample Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Surveys from TMI Consulting

Dr. Tiffany Jana and their team at TMI Consulting provided some incredibly useful diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) surveys for the second edition of The B Corp Handbook. A teaser of some of the content from the surveys are reproduced below.

Dr. Jana believes that DEI work should not be led by intuition or depend solely on a few experiential stories that instigated larger corporate action. Metrics enable leadership to gauge whether DEI concerns are isolated or widespread. The resulting data informs whether a DEI strategy needs to be narrowly focused or more comprehensive.

The sample DEI surveys are designed to provide your organization with enough information to begin (or restart) inclusion-focused work.

Finally, Dr. Jana cautions folks to be careful with your data collection, interpretation, and dissemination of results. TMI Consulting offers services to guide the process and interpret the results, and also offers more comprehensive assessments as well.

For professional assistance, please contact tmi@tmiconsultinginc.com and mention the B Corp Handbook DEI survey. Purchase The B Corp Handbook (or hire TMI Consulting) to get full access to all of the questions in the surveys.

Leadership Structural Inclusion Survey

The Leadership Structural Inclusion survey will allow your leadership team the opportunity to examine some of the systems-level structures that either support inclusion or reinforce exclusion. These questions are only to be asked of executive leadership.

  • Is the average compensation for men and women equal in comparable non-managerial and managerial roles?

  • Do you have a standardized process to file employee complaints?

  • Are employees taught how to file complaints?

  • Does your organization have diversity and/or inclusion listed as a core value or as part of your mission statement?

  • Purchase The B Corp Handbook (or hire TMI Consulting) to get full access to all of the questions in this survey.

Employee Organizational Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Survey

The employee organizational DEI survey can be administered to all employees and should be rated on a five-point Likert scale. Employees should respond with the extent to which they agree or disagree with each statement. For example, have employees respond with (1) strongly disagree, (2) disagree, (3) neither agree nor disagree, (4) agree, and (5) strongly agree.

  • At work, I feel comfortable voicing my opinion in a group.

  • The organization provides timely and accurate communication to all employees about policies, procedures, and expectations.

  • The organization provides developmental opportunities for employees at all levels.

  • The organization has a clear process for employee evaluation and feedback.

  • Employees know and understand why the organization values diversity and inclusion.

  • Purchase The B Corp Handbook (or hire TMI Consulting) to get full access to all of the questions in this survey.

This article is an excerpt from the new Second Edition of The B Corp Handbook. If you would like to learn more, get your copy of the book today and/or sign up for the online launch event on May 30, 2019. To help us spread the word, please check out our promotional guide for The B Corp Handbook. Sign up for the LIFT Economy newsletter to stay up to date about the book and the B Corp movement. You can follow Ryan and Dr. Jana on Twitter: @honeymanconsult and @twiffanyjana.

Talking to Investors: Q&A with Adam Lowry of Ripple Foods


What do investors really think about Certified B Corps and benefit corporations? Ripple Foods is both a Certified B Corp and a benefit corp—and they have raised over $100M in venture capital from mainstream investors. LIFT Partner Ryan Honeyman spoke to Adam Lowry, Cofounder and Co-CEO of Ripple Foods, to get his thoughts.

Q: You have raised over $100 million in venture capital from well-known investors like GV, Goldman Sachs, and Khosla Ventures. Have your investors had any positive and/or negative reactions to Ripple being a benefit corporation?

A: Positive! Most established firms are fully on board with, or exclusively investing in, companies that drive social and environmental good. They want those companies to be authentic—driving measurable results and being transparent about what they do and don’t do well and, most importantly, building the capability of continuous improvement. I have never had a potential investor avoid making an investment in our company because we are a benefit corporation.

Q: What sort of language, examples, or arguments have you found effective in helping investors get comfortable with the benefit corporation legal structure?

A: The primary concern I hear is “Does this structure create any new or additional liabilities that a more traditional structure does not?” It helps to have at least a cursory understanding of shareholder provisions. When that is addressed, investors are generally very comfortable. If you need to go in depth, bring in a lawyer with expertise in that area. At times I have leaned on an attorney familiar with benefit corporation statute in order to answer more technical questions.

Q: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who may be uncertain about their ability to raise capital if they convert to a benefit corporation?

A: I think it’s a nonissue. If anything, being a benefit corporation helps in the fundraising process. But be prepared. Do your research to understand the legal differences between benefit corporations and other corporate forms, and don’t be afraid to enlist some help to address a potential investor’s concerns directly.

Q: Do investors have any questions about exit/liquidity as it relates to benefit corporations?


A: Liquidity is really the same with benefit corporations. That’s dictated by the terms of the purchase agreements that investors sign. The key is not that you can’t sell; it’s that you can’t sell out (compromise your mission for liquidity). I’ve seen some investors push back on that, but, the way I see it, that’s a great litmus test of whether an investor really means it when they say they want to invest in sustainable businesses. I would question someone who pushes back on my benefit corporation and B Corp status. It might be a sign that they are not the right investment partner to have in the first place.

This article is an excerpt from the new Second Edition of The B Corp Handbook. If you would like to learn more, get your copy of the book today and/or sign up for the online launch event on May 30, 2019. To help us spread the word, please check out our promotional guide for The B Corp Handbook. Sign up for the LIFT Economy newsletter and follow Ryan on Twitter (@honeymanconsult) to stay up to date about the book and the B Corp movement.

What Do Investors Think of B Corps?


What Do Investors Think of B Corps?

Many entrepreneurs want to know whether becoming a Certified B Corporation and/or a benefit corporation will hurt their ability to raise capital. The evidence says no.

According to research compiled by B Lab, 120 venture capital firms have invested more than $2 billion in Certified B Corporations and benefit corporations.

For example, mainstream venture capitalists such as  Andreessen Horowitz, GV, Kleiner Perkins, New Enterprise Associates, and Sequoia Capital have invested in Certified B Corporations. Union Square Ventures, a venture capital firm that invested in Kickstarter, says B Corps are appealing because the companies that produce the most stakeholder value over the next decade will also produce the best financial returns.

Rick Alexander, head of legal policy at B Lab, has written, “Since nearly all B Corps are privately held companies, it would be reasonable to start by asking if venture capital firms invest in B Corps. They do. In fact, at this point, nearly every major Silicon Valley venture capital firm has invested in a B Corp.”

Our B Corp certification is very important to our investors. It helps validate that we are making progress towards our goal of improving the livelihood of agribusinesses in developing nations.
— Gabriel Mwendwa, Pearl Capital Partners, Uganda

Some of the Investors in Certified B Corps:

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 9.28.28 PM.png

I would love to hear your comments. Does this resonate with you? Do you think that investors are more or less likely to invest in B Corps?

This article is an excerpt from the new Second Edition of The B Corp Handbook. If you would like to learn more, get your copy of the book today and/or sign up for the online launch event on May 30, 2019. To help us spread the word, please check out our promotional guide for The B Corp Handbook. Sign up for the LIFT Economy newsletter to stay up to date about the book and the B Corp movement. You can follow Ryan Honeyman on Twitter at @honeymanconsult.

How Did the B Corp Movement Start?


A Brief History: From AND 1 to B Corps

I first discovered the AND 1 mixtapes in the late 1990s. The mixtapes were a series of basketball “streetballing” videos, created by the popular basketball shoe and apparel company AND 1, that featured lightning-quick ball handling, acrobatic slam dunks, and jaw-dropping displays of individual talent. I was a huge fan of the AND 1 mixtapes because the players used flashy, show-off moves that were very different from the more traditional style of basketball played in college or the NBA at the time. I was so fascinated with the mixtapes that he even integrated them into his lesson plans when he worked as an English teacher in Zhejiang Province, China.

Many years later, I was quite surprised to find out that AND 1′s cofounders, Jay Coen Gilbert and Bart Houlahan, along with Andrew Kassoy, their longtime friend and former Wall Street private equity investor, were the people who created the Certified B Corporation. I learned that Coen Gilbert’s and Houlahan’s experiences at AND 1, and Kassoy’s experience on Wall Street, were central to their decision to get together to start B Lab, the nonprofit behind the B Corp movement.

AND 1 was a socially responsible business before the concept was well known, although AND 1 would not have identified with the term back then. AND 1′s shoes weren’t organic, local, or made from recycled tires, but the company had a basketball court at the office, on-site yoga classes, great parental leave benefits, and widely shared ownership of the company. Each year it gave 5 percent of its profits to local charities promoting high-quality urban education and youth leadership development. AND 1 also worked with its overseas factories to implement a best-in-class supplier code of conduct to ensure worker health and safety, fair wages, and professional development.

That was quite progressive for a basketball shoe company, especially because its target consumer was teenage basketball players, not conscious consumers with a large amount of disposable income. AND 1 was a company where employees were proud to work.

AND 1 was also successful financially. From a bootstrapped start-up in 1993 to modest revenues of $4 million in 1995, the company grew to more than $250 million in U.S. revenues by 2001. This meant that AND 1—in less than ten years—had risen to become the number two basketball shoe brand in the United States (behind Nike). As with many endeavors, however, success brought its own set of challenges.

AND 1 had taken on external investors in 1999. At the same time, the retail footwear and clothing industry was consolidating, which put pressure on AND 1′s margins. To make matters worse, Nike decided to put AND 1 in its crosshairs at its annual global sales meeting. Not surprisingly, this combination of external forces and some internal miscues led to a dip in sales and AND 1′s first-ever round of employee layoffs. After painfully getting the business back on track and considering their various options, Coen Gilbert, Houlahan, and their partners decided to put the company up for sale in 2005.

The results of the sale were immediate and difficult for Coen Gilbert and Houlahan to watch. Although the partners went into the sale process with eyes wide open, it was still heartbreaking for them to see all of the company’s preexisting commitments to its employees, overseas workers, and local community stripped away within a few months of the sale.

The Search for “What’s Next?”

In their journey from basketball (and Wall Street) to B Corps, Coen Gilbert, Houlahan, and Kassoy had a general sense of what they wanted to do next: the most good for as many people as possible for as long as possible. How this would manifest, however, was not initially clear.

Kassoy was increasingly inspired by his work with social entrepreneurs as a board member of Echoing Green (a private equity firm focused on social change) and the Freelancers Insurance Company (a future Certified B Corporation). Houlahan became inspired to develop best practices to support values-driven businesses that were seeking to raise capital, grow, and hold on to their socially and environmentally responsible missions. And Coen Gilbert, though proud of AND 1′s culture and practices, wanted to go much further, inspired by the stories of iconic socially responsible brands such as Ben & Jerry’s, Newman’s Own, and Patagonia, whose organizing principle seemed to be how to use business for good.

The three men’s initial, instinctive answer to the “What’s next?” question was to create a new company. Although AND 1 had a lot to be proud of, they reasoned, the company hadn’t been started with a specific intention to benefit society. What if they started a company with that intention? After discussing different approaches, however, Coen Gilbert, Houlahan, and Kassoy decided that they would be lucky to create a business as good as those created by existing social entrepreneurs such as Ahmed and Reem Rahim from Numi Organic Tea and Mike Hannigan and Sean Marx from Give Something Back Office Supplies. And more importantly, they decided that even if they could create such a business, one more business, no matter how big and effective, wouldn’t make a dent in addressing the world’s most pressing challenges.

They then thought about creating a social investment fund. Why build one company, they reasoned, when you could help build a dozen? That idea was also short lived. The three decided that even if they could be as effective as existing social venture funds such as Renewal Funds, RSF Social Finance, or SJF Ventures, a dozen fast-growing, innovative companies was still not adequate to address society’s challenges on a large scale.

What Coen Gilbert, Houlahan, and Kassoy discovered, after speaking with hundreds of entrepreneurs, investors, and thought leaders, was the need for two new basic elements to accelerate the growth of—and amplify the voice of—the entire socially and environmentally responsible business sector. This existing community of leaders said they needed a legal framework to help them grow while maintaining their original mission and values, and credible standards to help them distinguish their businesses in a crowded marketplace, where so many seemed to be making claims about being a “good” company.

To that end, in 2006 Coen Gilbert, Houlahan, and Kassoy cofounded B Lab, a nonprofit organization that serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good. The B Lab team worked with many leading businesses, investors, and attorneys to create a comprehensive set of performance and legal requirements—and they started certifying the first B Corporations in 2007.

I often wonder to what extent business can help society in its goals to alleviate poverty, preserve ecosystems, and build strong communities and institutions. . . . B Lab has proven that there is a way.
— Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State

This article is an excerpt from the new Second Edition of The B Corp Handbook. If you would like to learn more, get your copy of the book today and/or sign up for the online launch event on May 30, 2019. To help us spread the word, please check out our promotional guide for The B Corp Handbook. Sign up for the LIFT Economy newsletter to stay up to date about the book and the B Corp movement. You can follow Ryan Honeyman on Twitter at @honeymanconsult.

Key Developments in the B Corp Movement (Since the First Edition)

GROWING THE GLOBAL MOVEMENT. Juan Pablo Larenas, cofounder and executive director of Sistema B, speaks about B Corporations to an audience in São Paulo, Brazil.

A lot of progress has been made since The B Corp Handbook was first published in 2014. Here are some of the major developments in the B Corp movement since then.

International Growth

There are now more Certified B Corps based outside than inside of the United States. There are Certified B Corps in more than sixty countries, including Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Kenya, Mongolia, the Netherlands, and Zambia (to name a few).

This expansion is due, in large part, to the tireless work of B Lab (the nonprofit behind the B Corp movement) and its partners around the world.

These global partners include B Lab U.S., B Lab Canada, Sistema B (Latin America), B Lab Australia and New Zealand, B Lab United Kingdom, B Lab Europe, B Lab Taiwan, B Lab East Africa, B Market Builders in Hong Kong and Korea, and the B Corp China team.

Private Equity/Venture Capital Investors

Mainstream investors are becoming much more receptive to the B Corp idea. For example, B Lab has collected publicly available information on more than $2 billion of investment in B Corps and benefit corporations by 150 different venture capital firms to date.

Indeed, nearly every major Silicon Valley venture capital firm has invested in a Certified B Corporation and/or a benefit corporation. This includes Andreessen Horowitz, Benchmark Capital, Founders Fund, Goldman Sachs, Greylock Partners, GV (formerly Google Ventures), Kleiner Perkins, New Enterprise Associates, and Sequoia Capital.


Another important development has been growing interest of multinational organizations in the B Corp movement.

For example, Danone, a $25 billion publicly traded food conglomerate, declared in 2017 that it seeks to become the first Fortune 500 company to earn B Corp certification. Danone has also certified ten of its subsidiaries as B Corporations. This includes Danone North America, which, at $6 billion in annual revenues, is the largest Certified B Corp in the world.

Unilever, a $62 billion publicly traded consumer goods multinational, has recently made a number of B Corp acquisitions. From 2016 to 2017, Unilever acquired five Certified B Corps: Mãe Terra, Pukka Herbs, Seventh Generation, Sir Kensington’s, and Sundial Brands. This was in addition to Ben & Jerry’s, acquired by Unilever in 2000, which became a Certified B Corp in 2012.

Natura, a Brazilian-based B Corp and leader in the cosmetics industry, made headlines when it acquired The Body Shop in 2017. This was the first billion-dollar acquisition by a B Corp—and it was a surprise to many people that a B Corp was the acquirer.

Public Markets

In 2017, Laureate Education, a higher education company with campuses around the world, was the first benefit corporation to have an initial public offering (IPO). Laureate Education was also the third Certified B Corporation to go public in the United States (behind former B Corps Rally Software and Etsy).

Laureate, which was backed by the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, raised $490 million in its IPO. The company had previously closed a $383 million private equity pre-IPO round in 2016, which included Apollo Management, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, and the Abraaj Group.

Laureate Education going public is a big deal because many commentators were unsure about how the markets would react to a company that, as a benefit corporation, legally holds itself accountable to considering all stakeholders (students, workers, community, the environment, and others) when making decisions.

Globally, other publicly traded B Corps currently include Australian Ethical, Murray River Organics, Silver Chef, and Vivid Technologies (in Australia); Natura (Brazil); Yash Papers (India); and O-Bank (Taiwan).

Example 4 - O-Bank.jpg

PUBLICLY LISTED B CORPS. Tina Lo, vice chairwoman of O-Bank Group, a publicly traded B Corp bank in Taiwan, speaks to reporters at a B Corp event in Asia.

Benefit Corporation Governance

In a time of political gridlock, the B Corporation has generated bipartisan support across the globe.

In the United States, legislation to create benefit corporations—a new corporate governance structure based on the B Corp idea—has been passed in “red” states like Louisiana and South Carolina, “blue” states like California and New York, swing states like Colorado and Pennsylvania, and even in Delaware, the home of corporate law, where more than 63 percent of Fortune 500 companies are incorporated. There are thousands of benefit corporations to date across 37 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

Internationally, after being endorsed in 2014 by the G8 Social Impact Investment Task Force, benefit corporation laws have been passed in Italy and Colombia, with many other countries currently considering legislation. It is not hard to see why this idea receives bipartisan support. The benefit corporation legal structure and the B Corp certification are pro-business, pro-environment, pro-market, and pro-community.


When the first edition of The B Corp Handbook was published, in 2014, there were perhaps ten to twenty schools teaching about B Corporations. Now there are more than one thousand faculty members teaching about B Corps at more than five hundred colleges and universities—including the Federal University of Technology–Paraná, Harvard, the London School of Economics, MIT, North Carolina State University, Stanford, the University of Alberta, Yale, and other top academic institutions across the globe.

It is clear that professors, students, and administrators around the world have recognized that in order to change the way we do business, we need to change the way we teach business.

There are two formal networks of academics: the Global B Corp Academic Community and Academia B. The goal of these networks is to advance the state of academic study into business as a force for good.

Impact Management

We manage what we measure. This is one of the most basic truths in business. It follows that we ought to measure what matters most: the ability of a business to not only generate returns but also create value for its customers, employees, community, and the environment. To date, forty thousand companies have used the B Impact Assessment, a free tool that measures any company’s overall social and environmental performance.

Bancolombia, the largest bank in Columbia and the third largest in Latin America, is a great example of a company that has used the B Impact Assessment to measure its impact beyond its own operations. For example, Bancolombia started using the B Impact Assessment to measure the social and environmental impacts of 150 of its key suppliers. The bank used the impact data to generate performance reports and highlight areas for improvement for suppliers who completed the assessment.

Bancolombia envisions this as the first phase of a multiyear effort that they hope will eventually create deeper alignment and engagement with their more than thirteen thousand suppliers and one million customers throughout South America.

Another impact management tool that is becoming increasingly used is B Analytics. B Analytics is a flexible data platform that automatically aggregates and analyzes B Impact Assessment data. B Analytics is important because it allows investors, fund managers, nonprofits, and large corporations to accelerate change in the markets and to encourage change in their business communities.

For instance, organizations like Ashoka, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, Conscious Capitalism, the Family Business Network, Social Capital Markets, and the Young Professionals Organization are helping companies in their network to measure and manage their positive impact.

“Best For” and “+ B” Campaigns

On a local level, B Lab has partnered with place-based leaders and local governments to create a series of “Best For” and “+ B” initiatives around the world. In 2015, the Best for NYC campaign encouraged all businesses in New York City to measure, compare, and improve their impact.

The program was made possible by a coalition of partners, including community organizations, business and trade associations, universities, government agencies, banks, and large employers committed to supporting the local economy.

Since then, other campaigns have included Best for Calais (France); Best for Geneva (Switzerland); Best for PDX (Portland, Oregon); Best for PHL (Philadelphia); MZA + B (Mendoza, Argentina); RIO + B (Río de Janeiro, Brazil); and STGO + B (Santiago, Chile). More cities will be launching similar campaigns in the near future.

Inclusive Economy Challenge

B Lab launched the Inclusive Economy Challenge in 2016. The challenge is a call to action, encouraging the B Corp community to increase its collective positive impact by moving toward a more diverse and equitable economy.

Each year, companies participating in the Inclusive Economy Challenge choose three or more goals from the Inclusive Economy Metric Set, a subset of B Impact Assessment questions that focuses on themes like supporting vulnerable workers, climate change mitigation, supplier screening, and corporate governance.

In the first year, 175 companies participated in the challenge, collectively achieving 298 measurable inclusion goals. B Lab launched this challenge because they, like many B Corps, believe that our community’s vision of a shared and durable prosperity is not possible without an inclusive economy.

In addition, B Lab realizes that the Inclusive Economy Challenge is only a start. There is a lot more for B Lab and the B Corp community to learn about DEI. Whether you are interested in becoming a Certified B Corporation or not, B Lab has created a set of relevant, practical, and helpful best practice guides that any company can use to build a more inclusive business. Visit bcorporation.net to download these guides and/or to learn more about the Inclusive Economy Challenge.

Want to learn more? Get your copy of “The B Corp Handbook” today and/or sign up for our online launch event on May 30, 2019. To help us spread the word, please check out our promotional guide for The B Corp Handbook. Sign up for the LIFT Economy newsletter to stay up to date about the book and the B Corp movement.

Excerpt: Introduction to the Second Edition of "The B Corp Handbook"

The following is an excerpt from the introduction to the new Second Edition of The B Corp Handbook: How You Can Use Business as a Force for Good (Berrett-Koehler Publishers). Get your copy of the book here and/or sign up for our online launch event on May 30, 2019.

Ryan Honeyman

(pronouns: he/him/his)

RH Headshot - BW Cropped.png

I first found out about B Corporations while baking cookies. The flour I was using—King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour—had a Certified B Corporation logo on the side of the package. “That seems silly,” I thought. “Wouldn’t you want to be an A Corporation and not a B Corporation?” The carton of eggs I was using was rated AA. I was obviously missing something.

An online search revealed that the B logo was not a scarlet letter for second-rate baking product. B Corporations, I found, were part of a dynamic and exciting movement to redefine success in business by using their innovation, speed, and capacity for growth not only to make money but also to help alleviate poverty, build stronger communities, restore the environment, and inspire us to work for a higher purpose. The B stands for “benefit,” and as a community, B Corporations want to build a new sector of the economy in which the race to the top isn’t to be the best in the world but to be the best for the world.

Since my initial discovery, I have watched the B Corp movement grow to thousands of businesses in over sixty countries. In addition to King Arthur Flour, well-known B Corps include Ben & Jerry’s, Danone North America, Eileen Fisher, Kickstarter, Laureate Education, Method, Natura, Patagonia, Seventh Generation, and Triodos Bank. Thought leaders such as former President Bill Clinton and Robert Shiller, the winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, have taken an interest in the B Corp movement. Inc. magazine has called B Corp certification “the highest standard for socially responsible businesses,” and the New York Times has said, “B Corp provides what is lacking elsewhere: proof.”

You ought to look at these B Corporations. . . . We’ve got to get back to a stakeholder society that doesn’t give one class of stakeholders an inordinate advantage over others.

Bill Clinton, former president of the United States

I think B Corporations will make more profits than other types of companies.

Robert Shiller, Nobel laureate in economics

I originally decided to write this book because many business owners and CEOs are intrigued and excited by the idea of B Corporations but there was not a single step-by-step resource that could explain the what, why, and how of the B Corp movement. There was a need for a book that was practical and hands-on, a comprehensive guide for those interested in using business as a force for good.

The main focus of this book is the Certified B Corporation, not the legal entity known as a benefit corporation. This book focuses on the Certified B Corporation because this certification (and the B Impact Assessment, the free online tool for improving a company’s social and environmental performance) is available to any business in the world, regardless of existing legal structure, size, or location of incorporation. There is a separate book written on benefit corporations, Benefit Corporation Law and Governance: Pursuing Profit with Purpose, by Frederick Alexander. I highly recommend it for those of you who want to go deep on the topic. For some of the basics, you may review appendix A of this book for an overview of benefit corporations, answers to some frequently asked questions about the legal structure, and a look at the similarities and differences between Certified B Corporations and benefit corporations.

This second edition of The B Corp Handbook, which I have coauthored with Dr. Tiffany Jana of TMI Consulting, updates the core content from the first edition of the book while adding Dr. Jana’s expertise on diversity, equity, and building a more inclusive economy.

A lot has changed for me since 2014, when the first edition of this book was written. I now have two kids, a girl and a boy. Any parent reading this knows that something changes when you have kids. For me, having a girl made me viscerally aware of the many systemic barriers she will face in this world. It made me feel sad, angry, and helpless. Her birth caused the first in a series of deeper revelations. For example, many ideas that I was intellectually supportive of—like women’s empowerment—suddenly became personal and real.

In addition to being a new father, this shift inside of me was accelerated by watching more cell phone videos of the police shooting unarmed black men, by Indigenous-led protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, by the power of the #MeToo movement, or by immigrant children being forcibly separated from their parents just for seeking a better life in the United States. The confluence of these events reordered my internal list of personal and professional priorities. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) shifted from one of many issues I care about to my top priority.

This book is a lot different than the first edition. Some readers may have mixed reactions to the addition of so much content around DEI. You might think, “I wanted to read a straightforward book about B Corps, and you are blindsiding me with all of this DEI content. It feels like you are forcing this topic on readers when it is just one of many priorities. If I wanted to read a book about diversity, I would get one.”

If you find yourself thinking along these lines, I understand the reaction. I may have thought the exact same thing before 2014. What I have learned over the past few years, however, is that there is no such thing as a conversation about DEI and a separate conversation about business as a force for good. They are the same conversation. Siloing DEI into something separate is one of the main barriers facing our movement to create a more equitable society.

Another thing I have learned is that, as a cisgender (that is, my gender identity matches the sex I was assigned at birth), nondisabled, straight, white male who is a U.S. citizen, it is the privilege of people like me to not think about DEI. We can mostly ignore it, or expect people of color (or other historically marginalized groups) to figure it out, or we can indefinitely kick the conversation down the road without any apparent negative repercussions. It should not be the burden of people of color, women, or other marginalized groups to educate folks with privilege about institutional racism, institutional sexism, and other forms of systemic bias.

One reason privileged people like me avoid this topic is that many of us feel like we don’t know where to start—even if we are interested in addressing systemic bias. Another reason is that conversations about DEI, especially about race, often bring up feelings of shame, guilt, hopelessness, anger, and sadness. I have taken solace in the advice I have received from racial justice educators and social justice activists over the last few years. Their comments have generally followed along the lines of the following:

  • Yes, you are a privileged white male. However, you did not invent racism, sexism, and other forms institutional oppression. You inherited them.”

  • “It is OK to feel awkward and uncomfortable when talking about DEI. Try to stay engaged. If you choose to walk away from an uncomfortable conversation, you are exercising your privilege, because people of color, women, and others cannot walk away from their identity.”

  • “Do not doubt that you will make mistakes and feel embarrassed. Perfection is not the goal. Stay engaged long enough to give yourself a chance to recover from your mistakes, make a breakthrough in understanding, and strengthen your ability to have difficult conversations.”

If it feels awkward and uncomfortable to talk about DEI, it can be absolutely terrifying to discuss white supremacy. “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I can hear you saying. “Are you seriously bringing up white supremacy in the introduction to a book about B Corps? I am about to throw this book out the window.” If you are having this reaction, I get it. Hang in there. I promise this will tie back to B Corps.

As a white person (or for any person, for that matter), the term “white supremacy” is often jarring and cringeworthy. It can conjure up images of neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members marching down the street with torches—leading to feelings such as shame, defensiveness, or anger. However, I am not proposing that we discuss the bigotry of individuals who identify as white supremacists. I want to examine the system or organizing principle of white supremacy, in which white domination of society is seen as the natural order of things. For white people like me, it is important to discuss this system, because it goes largely unnoticed and operates by default in the background of our daily lives.

“Again,” you may be wondering, “how is this possibly related to B Corps? I don’t see the connection.” It is related because our economy is based upon—and tightly intertwined with—the legacy of white supremacy. If we aren’t directly learning about, disrupting, and dismantling this framework, how can B Corps be truly successful in creating a more inclusive economy?

After learning more about this system from leaders in the antiracism movement, I believe it is important to specifically name white supremacy in the context of the B Corp movement because white supremacy is the system that perpetuates many of the problems our diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives are attempting to solve. For instance, white supremacy implies a number of unspoken norms. It describes a social order in which one kind of person is superior: a white, Anglo, cisgender, Christian, heterosexual, wealth-oriented, nondisabled male. People who do not fit neatly into each of these categories and who want access to power and privilege are often forced to Anglicize their names, hide their sexuality, play up their wealth, act “male,” and hide their religion.

The culture of white supremacy also elevates a certain attitude and approach to life. Many of the values I learned and internalized growing up as a young white male included things like, “Work hard. Keep your nose to the grindstone. Be productive. If you see a problem, fix it. You can do anything you want if you just try hard enough. Everyone gets a fair shot. You are responsible for your own success in life. Suck it up and don’t complain. Always be polite. Avoid conflict. Don’t rock the boat. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” For years, I assumed that the values imparted to me by my family were somehow unique to us. It shocked me to realize that these messages are part of a cultural lineage and belief system that is handed down by white families to their children over many generations.

These internalized values play out in subtle and pernicious ways. For example, if a white child sees a poor black child at school, they might think, “Well, maybe their family just needs to work harder,” or “We should help those poor people, who obviously haven’t figured it out and need the assistance of people like me.” Based on the narrative that everyone gets a fair chance and that working hard is the answer, the white child may assume that the black child’s family is solely responsible for the circumstances in which they find themselves. In addition, white children are taught to avoid conflict. “I’m confused why this black child is poor,” the white child might think, “but I’m not going to ask about it. It seems like a sensitive topic. It must just be the way things are.”

Nothing in the previous example was consciously or purposefully racist on the part of the white child. If anything, the white child thought they could be helpful. The cause of the damaging conclusions is the unexamined belief system—the default order of things—that has been passed down to white people and that perpetuates institutional bias.

Until recently, I had always believed that the answer to many social and environmental problems was to “help” historically marginalized groups bring themselves up to par with white communities. I had never considered that challenging and unraveling the norms, assumptions, and culture of white supremacy itself could be part of the solution. Reframing this problem is difficult and uncomfortable because it shifts the focus to me. That is why I believe it is incumbent upon us in the B Corp community to more explicitly name white supremacy and examine its negative effects. Antiracist leaders have helped me understand that only by naming it, disrupting it, and dismantling it can we successfully create an economy that works for the benefit of all life.

Two things became readily apparent in deciding to incorporate DEI into this book. First, it was clear that, as a white male with all of the socially accepted and normative characteristics I have just mentioned, I was not the right person to lead a discussion about inclusion. I needed the help of an expert. Second, I strongly felt that DEI should not be a case study, featured section, or stand-alone chapter. It should touch every aspect of the book. Dr. Tiffany Jana was the first person that came to mind.

I have known and admired Dr. Jana for many years. They are a B Corp CEO, an expert on DEI, a doctor of management and organizational leadership, and an international public speaker. They are the coauthor of Overcoming Bias: Building Authentic Relationships Across Differences (Berrett-Koehler 2016) and Erasing Institutional Bias: How to Create Systemic Change for Organizational Inclusion (Berrett-Koehler 2018). I am incredibly lucky to have Dr. Jana as a coauthor of this book. In fact, I’ll stop gushing about Dr. Jana and let them take it from here.

Dr. Tiffany Jana

(pronouns: they/them/theirs)

Author Headshot 2 - Dr. Tiffany Jana.png

I was thrilled to be invited to coauthor the second edition of this book, because it reinforced something I already knew. Namely, that the B Corp community, by and large, seeks greater diversity among and within its businesses. Ryan’s invitation registered as a fantastic opportunity to share what I have learned about expanding inclusion, designing equitable systems, and increasing diversity within communities. DEI is not just a vocation for me. It’s a deeply personal calling.

There is an unexpected backstory to this book that reflects the depth of change I have witnessed on a personal, professional, and societal level. When Ryan first reached out to me, in the fall of 2017, I identified as a woman and was married to a white antiracist. Neither of those is true anymore. In addition to no longer being with my former partner and to subsequently deepening my connection to communities of color, I also now identify as a gender-nonconforming Christian. This means, among other things, that my pronouns have shifted from she/her/hers to they/them/theirs. As a Christian, the singular/plural God construct of the Holy Trinity is accessible to me. The idea that God, as “they,” is part of me is as important as when I use the gender-nonconforming aspect of “they.” It’s a constant reminder that I am not just one thing.

The level of urgency I feel about DEI has evolved as well. When Ryan and I first spoke about the book, I was still grounded in my personal and professional experience as a global citizen. I was happy to moderate my voice in order to appeal to people as gently as possible. Being married to a cisgendered, white male helped me embody racial reconciliation on a daily basis. It also helped me to whitewash my life and enjoy a level of privilege that stands in stark contrast to the experiences of many of my brothers and sisters of color. My credit score went through the roof. I wasn’t pulled over once during the seven years we were married—if he was driving. I was taken more seriously when I brought him to business functions, whether he contributed or not. While this approach has served me well (benefiting from pro-white bias and being white adjacent), I am not sure it still does, going forward.

Now is not the time for me to get comfortable, tread lightly, and sidestep the tough conversations. Racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and the legacy of white supremacy, slavery, and institutionalized bias are real and continue to wreak havoc in our communities. The blacker, poorer, and more marginalized you are, the worse the disparities. It is time that we, as citizens of the world and especially as B Corps, get real about what’s going on.

In the time that it took to complete this book, there was an enormous shift across the world. Nationalism (especially white nationalism) has increased in the United States, Europe, and other countries and regions. Civil rights, and the progress toward equality many of us believed we had made, have been eroded. Classism is costing the poor (of all races and ethnicities) even more freedom and opportunity. Puerto Rico remains isolated in devastation after a natural disaster that likely would have been addressed more quickly and effectively had its population been more white and affluent. An increasing number of unarmed African American men, women, and children are being harassed, abused, and killed on video, with seemingly no justice for their abusers and killers. People are being sentenced for unreasonable lengths of time for nonviolent crimes and subsequently are subjected to inhumane conditions that most people are oblivious to or do not care about.

You may wonder what any of this has to do with B Corps. Well, everything. The B Corp community has placed a flag in the ground stating that we are here in service of the earth and her inhabitants. If we fail to leverage our collective economic power to address what we can clearly see are gross injustices––economic, environmental, social, medical, educational, and more––then are we really walking the walk?

Remember, DEI is not just an American thing. DEI is a global phenomenon. The difference is the type of diversity and who has been or is being marginalized. There is always a subset of people who are treated less than fairly. Humans are prone to the marginalization of others based on fear of differences that they don’t accept or understand. In the United States, for instance, racial divides are the source of much conflict. Despite the fact that ethnic minorities in the United States are called “people of color,” we are in fact “people of the global majority.”

Diversity is always relative. In other countries, race may not be the primary focus for discrimination. People around the world are marginalized for their religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, citizenship status, or low income.

I understand that conversations about DEI can make some people really uncomfortable. It can be frightening to discuss this topic if you feel ill-equipped to navigate the perilous waters of conversations about equity. Rather than avoiding this topic indefinitely, my advice is to be gentle on yourself and others. Everyone has to learn how to navigate hard conversations. As a DEI practitioner, I still have to learn, read, study, process, try, fail, blunder, and recover along my journey. I have used dated terminology that people find insulting. I have inadvertently privileged my temporarily able-bodied status. I’ve supported the gender binary construct without thinking. All of this was just in the last year. There are no perfect role models for DEI. We all mess up sometimes. It’s usually just a matter of who is around when it happens and whether you are brave enough to own it and hold yourself accountable.

The important thing is to acknowledge your error, apologize whenever possible, and be more present and intentional next time. It takes practice, but cultural fluency is worth it. It is better to keep trying and to mess up than to be blindsided without any skills to employ. Take responsibility for your own understanding so your words and actions can reflect the thoughtful consideration of your fellow humans. With that in mind, let’s briefly define what diversity, equity, and inclusion actually mean, since they are referenced frequently in this book.

  • Diversity describes the differences among people, both demographic (race, ethnicity, gender, religion, class, age, and so on) and experiential (how people think, work, communicate, and live).

  • Equity is often confused with equality. The difference between the two is important. Equality means everyone gets treated the same. Equity, on the other hand, means everyone gets treated according to their individual need or circumstances.

  • Inclusion is the space we make for people to participate in systems. We can have all types of diversity, but if we fail to invite people to the table and empower them, they remain marginal. Inclusion means inviting people to join, participate fully, and help shape systems and make decisions. If you use people as tools to get work done but don’t engage their minds and hearts, that is not inclusion. If people’s opinions are not sought out, taken seriously, or acted upon, that is not inclusion. Inclusion is sharing the work, the opportunities, the glory, the fun, and the failure. Inclusion is rooted in welcoming people as they are and helping them grow and participate fully.

Our businesses are powerful tools that we can use to help build the world in which we want to live. This will require listening to those who are disenfranchised by systemic forms of oppression. People who have been exploited by our current economic system exist across the political spectrum, in rural and urban communities, around the world. In order to restore trust in business, the business community needs to respond to those people’s legitimate desire for jobs with dignity. The business community also needs to make the case that economic justice for all is inextricably tied to, and dependent on, social and environmental justice.

You may be wondering what an inclusive economy actually looks like. An inclusive economy looks like a living wage for all workers. An inclusive economy looks like a boardroom and management team with the same demographics as the company’s factory floor. An inclusive economy looks like ownership opportunities for all employees—especially historically marginalized groups like women and people of color. An inclusive economy holds institutions accountable for reinforcing racist, sexist, and other inequitable structures.

Systemic bias should not be nurtured or defended. Companies that thrive on the exploitation of people should not thrive. We can create an economy where inclusion and accountability are rewarded. The realization of these ideas should not depend solely on government regulation. They can be achieved through the leadership and stewardship of the business community, if we choose to take action.

As you will learn later in this book, one way for you to take the next step in building a more equitable economy is to try benchmarking your company’s performance with the B Impact Assessment. The B Impact Assessment measures inclusive values that can help you quantify and shape the way you treat employees, your suppliers, local community members, and more. Completing the assessment will provide you with suggestions for creating substantive and impactful opportunities for individuals from chronically marginalized backgrounds. It also provides guardrails against some of the more tokenistic and superficial gestures that will fail to yield meaningful results.

The B Impact Assessment credits your business for supplier diversity, for creating equitable compensation structures, for investing in diverse recruitment, and for creating meaningful professional development opportunities. In addition, you are asked whether you pay a living wage, to measure pay differentials across your organization, and whether you provide scheduling flexibility for workers. Another consideration is the demographic composition of your staff, leadership team, and board of directors. If you do not have a board of directors, you will be invited to consider diversity, equity, and inclusion when the time comes to create one.

This is the magic of the B Corp journey. Your company may not be as equitable as you want it to be, but the B Corp movement provides the framework, tools, and community of support you need to continue to improve.

As you read this book, look for “Dr. Jana’s Tips,” where I describe practical solutions, metrics, suggestions, and best practices for the creation of a more inclusive economy. Whether you are part of an established B Corp or are still considering joining the movement, The B Corp Handbook will help you design a business that places diversity, equity, and inclusion in the foreground.

Part 1 of this book provides a brief history of the B Corp movement, a description of what B Corps are and why they are important, an overview of an emergent concept called the B Economy, a discussion about what investors think about B Corps, and an analysis of whether B Corp works for multinationals and publicly traded companies.

Part 2 goes into detail about the different benefits of becoming a Certified B Corporation—including joining a global community of leaders, attracting and retaining talent, benchmarking and improving performance, and more.

The third part describes the B Impact Assessment, a comprehensive tool that helps turn the desire to use business as a force for good—including the desire to integrate DEI more deeply into your company—into a series of concrete, measurable, and actionable steps. This section is a great resource, whether you want to become a Certified B Corporation or you are unsure about becoming a B Corp but want a free tool to assess, compare, and implement improvements that are good for workers, the environment, communities, governance, and customers. Whichever path you choose, this section will give you the insight, resources, and best practices necessary to make the most of your efforts.

For those who are fired up and ready to go, the Quick Start Guide in the fourth part outlines a six-step action plan to help you move forward on your journey as efficiently and inclusively as possible. Like the section on the B Impact Assessment, the Quick Start Guide is designed to be useful both for businesses that want to become a Certified B Corporation and for companies that simply want to improve their social and environmental performance. Look for “Ryan’s Tips,” which will help you move through the B Impact Assessment and/or the B Corp certification process with maximum effectiveness.

In the final part, we delve into a discussion about the work still left to be done as a B Corp community as it relates to DEI. We believe that the B Corp community has made a lot of progress on DEI, but there is still a lot of work to do. We end the main content of the book by discussing what success for the B Corp movement might look like.

Importantly, the collective wisdom of the B Corp community is present throughout this book. More than two hundred CEOs, sustainability directors, impact investors, marketing executives, human resources directors, and others from an international cohort of Certified B Corporations submitted responses for this book. The goal was to get a wide range of opinions, directly from the B Corp community, about why they became a B Corp, the business benefits of B Corp certification, and the challenges that typically arise during the certification process. We also asked respondents to provide advice for companies that are considering whether to certify. In fact, one of the most powerful aspects of this book is the opportunity to hear fellow business leaders describe, in their own words, why their company became a B Corp and why they think B Corps matter.

There are three final things to consider. First, B Corp offers a framework that any company in any state or country in the world can use to build a stronger and more inclusive business. This framework is relevant whether you are a business-to-business (B2B) or a business-to-consumer (B2C) business, a local sole proprietor or a global brand, a start-up or a third-generation family business, a limited liability company or a partnership, an employee-owned company or a cooperative, a C corporation or an S corporation, or even if you are still deciding on the right structure for a new business.

Second, B Corp is relevant to you personally, whether you are attracted or repelled by such terms as “green,” “socially responsible,” or “sustainable”; whether you consider yourself conservative or progressive; whether you consider yourself an expert in DEI or a beginner; whether you are a student, a young entrepreneur, or an experienced businessperson. If you have ever thought about how you could make a living and make a difference, about how you can build a more equitable economy, about your legacy and the example you set for your kids, or about leading a purpose-driven life—and especially if you’ve thought about how you could use business as a force for good—the B Corp movement is for you.

Finally, DEI should not exist as a side project, an isolated initiative, or something your company talks about once every few years. B Corps and aspiring B Corps would be wise to integrate DEI into every aspect of their businesses. Addressing bias, racism, sexism, or any diversity challenge is not like surgery to remove an appendix. You don’t just cut it out one day and then it’s over. It’s more like hygiene––you have to keep tending to it if you want to stay healthy.

The world is watching us. The B Corp community needs to continue to lead and inspire. After all, if B Corps can’t get inclusion right, who can?

Want to learn more? Get your copy of the book today and/or sign up for our online launch event on May 30, 2019. To help us spread the word, please check out our promotional guide for The B Corp Handbook. Sign up for the LIFT Economy newsletter to stay up to date about the book and the B Corp movement.