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The B Corp Conundrum: From Backend Users to Publicly Listed B Corps?

It seems interest in B Corps extends beyond the privately held startup or the natural, fair trade, organic company.

Submitted by: Joe Sibilia

Posted: Mar 19, 2014 – 09:00 AM EST


By Joe Sibilia

When an organization receives as much attention as the B Lab does from the press, awards from NGOs and lists as one of the Top Three stories on CSRwire several times a year, you wonder what’s really happening.

Why are there only 976 – as of last week – B Corps when the American landscape fills over seven million businesses? Who is reading these stories? What action are they taking? Are we operating in a bubble? And where’s the business opportunity?

As B Corps continue to rise in prominence and gain attention from our audience, these questions also grow stronger. We process a lot of news every day – from original series and reports on Talkback and curated content on our CSRlive section and social media, to paid content on our newswire in the form of news releases, research, tools, events, books, etc.

Rarely does one story attract continued attention over a long period time. The Chevron/Ecuadorian tribes trial attracts a lot of attention. MGM, Coca-Cola, Unilever, IKEA and McDonald's get their share of attention and books are always popular.

But B Corps?

Before I focus on why this might be, let’s agree that we don’t have all the answers. We can answer only that which we see from our analytics, instincts and experience.

B Corps: Beyond Passionate Startups

It seems that the interest in B Corps extends well beyond the privately held, active, passionate, startup, or established natural, fair trade, organic company. There is interest, across the lines of our audience – which is quite diverse, including journalists, analysts, activists, academics, investors, pubic relations, investor relations and pubic policy professionals.

However, it also seems that we have professionals in large organizations that are afraid of publicly declaring their interest in B Corps and instead choose to do so by using one of the B Lab tools, namely the B Impact Assessment.


But that’s the conundrum.

How can the B Lab convert these tool users (16,000 users compared to 1,000 Certified B Corporations) into legal B Corps? Maybe the answer lies in asking these users themselves:

  1. Are the B Lab fees too high to inspire your organization from becoming a B Corp?
  2. Are the legal constructs and changes too burdensome?
  3. Why are you using the tool and not taking advantage of other B Corp benefits?
  4. Are the tools more useful than the structural changes required to become a B Corp?
  5. Do you have the authority to approve your organization to join the B Corp ranks?

Or maybe it's time to view these tool users not as lacking intention to become B Corps but as an audience ready to be introduced to the process of becoming a B Corp.

Emerging from the Bubble: Creating Enterprise

Sometimes I think that the plethora of data and news we process keeps us operating in a bubble. We might be blinded by our goals of shifting capitalism and losing track of the business opportunities presented in the shift. Today, the Long Tail of enterprise supports the notion that a unique affinity group can create the conditions for a successful business.

The B Corp phenomenon is a kernel ready to blossom into an ecosystem of businesses. Today there are 16,000 users. Tomorrow there will be more. They represent a whole array of bthechangebusiness opportunities for attorneys and consultants to help companies become B Corps, for the media to raise awareness and track progress, for accountants and bookkeepers to track financial and non-financial activities, for lobbyists to prepare for more legislation, and much more for investors, funds, detractors and elected officials campaigns.

Today, small affinity groups are creating their own economies. Take a look on social media for innovative enterprises creating industries that did not previously exist, for example. Or simply the diversity of folks that participate in our Twitter chats on a regular basis: They don’t just represent big brands and NGOs but entrepreneurs, consultants, and leaders supporting our transition to a sustainable economy.

Contained in the B Corp laboratory of ideas are many such social enterprises and business opportunities waiting to be explored. Let’s scale these opportunities and create more sustainable enterprises that are a win for our social, environmental and economic reality.

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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