By Marion McGovern, Special for The Times USA
I am proud to be part of the leadership team of the Myers-Briggs Company that made the effort to become a Certified B Corporation. Not only did we do all of the necessary work to become certified by B Labs in a way that makes us accountable for metrics beyond traditional financial measures, we are the oldest company in North America to do so. The choice was natural for us, since we have always operated with all stakeholders in mind. As such, developing metrics reflecting our commitments to our employees, community and the planet was just an extension of our business practices.
So here I am, the Chair of the Board, beaming with pride at this accomplishment, and it turned out to be a bit anti-climactic. What was incredibly surprising to me, was how so few people seemed to know or appreciate what it means to be a Certified B Corp. Even though we join the ranks of over 1700 companies in 50 countries, many colleagues had no idea what that meant. Given that, I thought I’d share some highlights.
What is a Certified Benefit Corporation?
A Benefit Corporation is a legal structure that allows for profit companies to align their corporate mission with the interests of all stakeholders, especially around environmental and social issues that affect employees and their communities. Some pundits view it as a natural outgrowth of the “triple bottom line” construct in corporate governance, which has led to the growth in Corporate Social Responsibility Programs. (CSR). Whereas many goals stemming from CSR initiatives are elective, the goals set by are certified B Corporations are intended to be measured and met. To be certified, B Corporations must go through a rigorous evaluation by B Labs and must be recertified every two years.
A very common misconception about being a B Corporation is that it is a structure for non-profits. Choosing to become a B Corporation does not change the C Corp election. Many well know companies, like Patagonia, Etsy and Ben & Jerry’s are B Corporations. Large international profitable firms like Dannon have been B Corporations for years.
Why Become a Certified Benefit Corporation?
There are many reasons that companies are choosing to become certified B corporations and similarly, many reasons why investors are applauding the move.
- Sustainability improves Performance – 80% of the studies on sustainability demonstrate that strong practices have led to enhanced performance. (http://benefitcorp.net/investors/who-investing-benefit-corps
- Companies want to demonstrate authentic concern for stakeholder interests– A recent study by 2 business school professors concluded that the rise of CSR programs within large companies was often done for the firms to appear to be “green” and socially responsible. In the face of this, many smaller firms wanted to demonstrate their commitment to these principles by not just measuring a certain practice but being held accountable for it.
- It provides a recruiting advantage – It is no secret that millennials are a powerful cohort in the labor market and will become 75% of the workforce by 2025. They are often very purpose driven, and working for a company with a higher purpose tp the community and the planet can be a differentiating factor and help a company become an employer of choice.
- It can create tremendous engagement with employees – At The Myers-Briggs Company, we launched a bottoms-up employee led initiative to establish the metrics by which we would be measured. Employees from every office worldwide across disciplines and rank came together to develop the right set of measures. The buy-in and excitement this created was tremendous.
- Liability can be reduced – The B corporation structure offers legal protections to balance the financial and non-financial interest involved in key corporate decisions
For the Myers-Briggs Company, all of these reasons applied. Moreover, we also realized that serving all stakeholders was just part of our DNA. We were already doing many of the things that were measured in the B Labs assessment. For us there was no anguish or indecision – to become a Certified B Corp – to B – was never the question, but rather the right answer.