February 5, 2023

To Be or Not To B Corp?

An opportunity to work for an organization that embodies "Doing Well While Doing Good" attracts and retains employees. The B Corp approach of generating profit while integrating an environmental or social purpose resonates with the workforce. In addition, the B Corp model is a framework that guides companies to becoming part of a "global economy to benefit all people, communities, and the planet."

As a thought leader, author, educator, and consultant on humanist manufacturing, I write a weekly article that benefits leaders who want to improve their organizations using elements of my Humanist Manufacturing framework.

The Certified B Corp

The title is a homage to William Shakespeare's opening scene in Hamlet. I was introduced to the B Corporation movement by Christina Cain. The B Corporation mantra of "Doing Well While Doing Good" is an approach with a continuing focus on generating profit, but with an added expectation of integrating an environmental or social purpose that enthralled me. In addition, the B Impact Assessment immediately resonated with me as it is a highly organized and expansive approach to guiding an organization to becoming a responsible business operation.  We will explore the benefits of adopting the B Corp model to increase employee engagement in an organization.

"Impact Makers is a Certified B Corp and an all-profits-to-charity model which allows us to provide maximum value to our clients while supporting our community. As a socially-oriented business, we attract high-caliber personnel who have helped us contribute over $4 million in pro-bono consulting and cash support to our community partners since our founding almost 16 years ago." – Michael Pirron
The Newman's Own of IT & Management Consulting

Michael Pirron, Founder & CEO of Impact Makers, has been integral in my understanding of the benefits of an organization becoming a Certified B Corp. His story of launching Impact Makers and ongoing support is invaluable.  He had a career in consulting, where he was well compensated, but the work left him feeling unfulfilled.  During his MBA program in the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, he developed his idea of a social enterprise built on Newman's Own model of "all profits to charity." In 2006, with $50 and a laptop, he founded Impact Makers as a for-profit IT and management consulting firm. It was and continues to be a hybrid of the best of the for-profit and non-profit business models, where he chose to give away 100% of company profits.  

An Example of doing Well While Doing Good

Pirron wanted to develop a company to resolve two fundamental issues — the lack of time most professionals had to make a substantial difference in their community and non-profits' need to fundraise." The result was a social venture that:

• Provides professional consulting services at market prices.

• Competes to win business.

• Pays their employee's market rates.

• Maximizes profits.

• Retains a volunteer board of directors.

• Is transparent with all stakeholders and shares financials publicly.

• Contributes pro bono consulting and gives all profits to charitable community organizations over the company's lifetime.

• Provides a minimum pledge to a non-profit partner — even when not profitable.

While the company continues to evolve the business model, it primarily exists as what he saw as his original "why." During the research I conducted at his company, a recurring theme during interviews of their various stakeholders was that this was why they were attracted to the company. There was a strong sense of pride when sharing the importance of working for a company with deep employee engagement in the organization's mission.  I witnessed first-hand the impact of adopting the B Corp model for an organization.

The Cascade Engineering Example

Further exploring the B Corporation movement, I learned of Fred Keller.  Keller founded Cascade Engineering Inc in 1973 with six employees molding plastic parts. The company now has 15 plants in six US locations and an operation in Budapest, Hungary, with 1,600 overall employees.  These results would be enough success for many, but Keller felt the need to make a positive difference by doing business using a triple bottom line (TBL) of people, planet, and profit. As a result, Cascade Engineering joined a growing list of Certified B Corporations, now at more than 6,000 companies, in 2010. In addition, they connected with others committed to holding their business to a high standard of verified environmental and social performance, legal accountability, and public transparency.

The Cascade Impact

How does a company impact society and the environment when they have widely diverse business units of markets in agricultural/industrial containers, office furniture, polymer compounding, recycling/waste management, RFID asset management, and transportation?  For Cascade Engineering, this includes acting on what they believe in the following ways:

• Anti-Racism – The company was working to implement diversity and inclusion long before becoming seen as essential to adopt.

• B Corp – The company is one of the largest B Corps in the world.

• B Nice – A commitment to providing mental health assistance to employees and their families using the BE NICE four-step action plan.

• Certifications – The many additional certifications include International Automotive Taskforce, ISO 9000, ISO 14001, ISO/IEC 17025, Partners for a Racism-Free Community, and LEED.

• Returning citizens – A pathway for the formerly incarcerated to re-enter the workforce.

• Veteran-Friendly Employer – A commitment to support the recruitment, training, and retention of returning service members.

• Welfare to Career – A program that guides people from welfare to a meaningful career that has also increased engagement and retention.

• Women's Business Enterprise – A project to improve supplier diversity in the supply chain.

• Young Professionals of Color Conference – From 2012-2020, the company held an event in West Michigan that provided business advice to those of color that was career-changing and inspirational.

Keller recently shared, "I started out trying to do what I could as a child of the 60s to live up to the principles of having a business that works for everyone."  As a result of several decades of doing more of what he could, Cascade Engineering significantly commits to the extended community beyond the walls of its plant operations, which results in high-impact employee engagement.

Brett Jordan on Pexels
Key Takeaway

An opportunity to work for an organization that embodies "Doing Well While Doing Good" attracts and retains employees.  The B Corp approach of generating profit while integrating an environmental or social purpose resonates with the workforce.  In addition, the B Corp model is a framework that guides companies to becoming part of a "global economy to benefit all people, communities, and the planet."

First Step

Individuals interested in learning more about becoming a B Corp can read The B Corp Handbook: How You Can Use Business as a Force for Good by Ryan Honeyman and Tiffany Jana.  The book provides an overview of B Corps, the benefits of adopting the model, an introduction to the B Impact Assessment, and a quick start guide.  Furthermore, there is guidance for integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion into an organization's DNA.

My Gratitude

I am grateful to Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan, and Andrew Kassoy, the founders of the B Corp movement, for introducing a new approach to a stakeholder economy that is now a global movement.  When developing their fresh approach to business, they merged the best of the for-profit and non-profit business models into a for-benefit model.    

Sneak Peek

Next week's blog will continue to expand our knowledge of the B Corp movement to deepen employee engagement which is essential to humanist manufacturing.  

Additional Information  

To learn more about our work or read more blog posts, visit emmanuelstratgicsustainability.com.

I encourage you to read my book Humanist Manufacturing: A Humanitarian Approach to Excellence in High-Impact Plant Operations.  The paperback and eBook versions are now available at Amazon and many other booksellers.  You can also view the Humanist Manufacturing Book Launch to gain additional insight into the Humanist Manufacturing framework.

I invite you to join the Humanist Manufacturing Group on LinkedIn if you want to interact with others interested in the topic.

If you like what you have read, I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn.

Please feel free to contact me if you need help with the manufacturing support services of consulting, coaching, Fractional Chief Sustainability Officer, or training/reskilling at 734-664-9076.

See my virtual TEDx Videos at Reinventing the Prison Industrial Complex and Humanist Manufacturing.

Feel free to sign up for my newsletter or email me at Contact Me.

Cover Image Credit: Oladipo Eden Constantino on Pexels

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