B Corps: Changing the Capitalist Game

B_corps-300x300This post first appeared on Mosaic.

By Rosana Francescato

Years ago, I was invited to a “Monopoly” party. The hosts divided us into groups and got five or six games going. What fun, no? No! As the afternoon progressed, I noticed people getting meaner by the hour. People I thought were my friends. People who were normally nice. The game was bringing out the worst in everyone. It dawned on me that we were playing at the capitalist system, and it’s one that encourages selfishness and greed. I vowed never to play “Monopoly” again.

I only recently learned from Nation of Change that the game was created “to warn players of the dangers of free market capitalism.” Just as I thought!

But while I can avoid playing “Monopoly,” I can’t avoid being part of the capitalist system. And the dangers of that system are far more serious than hurt feelings or overturned game boards. We’ve seen capitalism widen the gap between rich and poor, ruin many in the middle class, and devastate our planet.

So what can we do? Are we stuck with this system? I can’t answer that question, but glimmers of hope are appearing, in the form of what’s being called “the new economy” — a more sustainable one whose overriding purpose is not to grow profit. And two important parts of the new economy are Certified B Corporations and Benefit Corporations.

What are B Corps?

You may have heard both of these referred to as B Corps. But while the two are similar, they have a few important differences. In a nutshell, B-Corp is a certification given by the nonprofit B Lab, indicating that a company meets a high standard of overall social and environmental performance. This certification is available throughout the United States and around the world.

Benefit Corporation, on the other hand, is a legal status administered by the state — so far available in 11 states, with legislation pending in 16 more. In states where both are available, a majority of B Corps have both the certification and the Benefit Corporation status.

What’s revolutionary about a Benefit Corporation is that it’s a new corporate structure that puts people and planet on equal footing with profit. That’s not just a statement of intent. It carries the legal weight of protecting a corporation from being sued by shareholders for not putting profit first — something that traditional corporations are subject to.

Many companies, like Mosaic, have opted to become Certified B Corporations. Whether or not the company is also a Benefit Corporation, that certification means a lot. It shows that a company has achieved a certain score on the B Impact Assessment, which verifies that it’s a purpose-driven, for-benefit company. And it requires legal protections to ensure a company stays true to its mission.

Why do companies become B Corps?

Whether a company goes for B Corp or Benefit Corporation status, the benefits are many — to both the company and the planet. Both entities bridge the gap between traditional corporations and nonprofits, providing a means of doing well while doing good.

To ensure that a company benefits not only its bottom line but also people and planet, both Benefit Corporations and Certified B Corporations are required to consider the effect of their decisions on employees, the community, and the environment. And both must report their social and environmental performance according to a third-party standard.

As even traditional companies know by now, these days that can attract customers and investors, not to mention engaged employees. And the credibility conferred by B Corp status can protect a company from charges of greenwashing.

But companies that become B Corps are doing much more than all this. In voluntarily submitting to high standards of transparency and accountability, they are becoming leaders in a movement to redefine success in business. They are changing the capitalist game.

A new game

The Nation of Change article concludes that we’ve reached the endgame of capitalism and it’s time to start playing a new game. But it’s easier to overturn a gameboard than an entire economic system. And that’s the beauty of B Corps. Instead of overturning the system, they are revolutionizing and transforming it, one company at a time — to the tune of over 600 companies so far, including well-known names like Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s.

Unlike “Monopoly,” the B Corp game leaves room for more than one winner. And the best thing about B Corps is that whereas traditional corporations are beholden to shareholders, B Corps serve all stakeholders and allow us all to come out ahead. That includes me. It includes you. And it includes our home, this planet.

Rosana Francescato combines her passions for solar power and community as a community solar advocate. This began with her quest to install solar on her San Francisco condo complex and has evolved into blogging and solar analysis. She’s a member of the Local Clean Energy Alliance steering committee and has hands-on experience installing solar with GRID Alternatives, where she’s been the top individual fundraiser three years in a row. She’s excited about new ways for the 75% to participate in solar and has invested in several Mosaic projects.

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4 responses

  1. Hi
    Come out “ahead” of what? Sounds to me like you’re still rat-racing, and rat-racing is pyramid climbing, and that’s capitalism. Me thinks you are blowing smoke up your own butt. If you look at capitalism, it is packed to the gills with servitude. And we use “join or starve” felony extortion on the 18 year olds… forcing them into “fight fight fight” after 18 years of childhood “share share share”. Nice policy reversal, eh? In a way, its forced religion into a competer’s church, right?

    Freedom? What freedom? And only ONE kind of currency… free marketeer greenbacks, with the Columbian Freemason pyramid scheme symbol on the back, in a country run by a “District of Columbia” which is not part of the USA proper. Do you see a con/sham happening here? Where’s the freedom to use Lutheran redbacks, or Mennonite bluebacks as our choice of legal tender currency? Seeing any loss of freedom here, or hand-me-down over-a-barrel-ism? Blatant con. Capitalism/economy-usage is a servitude/slavery system full of monetary discrimination and extortion, and we all know it.

    There’s only one solve for the current “spiraling out of control”… and that’s to abolish economies (money, ownership, price tags). Not a single other living creature on the entire planet… uses economies. Why do capitalists? Every childhood playground pyramid fell due to top-heaviness, and crushed the stalwart bottom layer kids. And every childhood tug-o-war was stopped when parents took away the tugged-over devices. Eliminate racing/tug-o-warring systems, and the racing/tug-o-warring will stop. Competition is NOT healthy, and it never was. Cooperation is healthy, but NOT cooperating in the proliferation of a tug-o-warring system.

    Best regards!
    Larry “Wingnut” Wendlandt
    MaStars – Mothers Against Stuff That Ain’t Right
    (anti-capitalism-ists) (anti-economy usage)
    Bessemer MI USA

    1. Yes, getting rid of currency is an excellent solution, thanks for suggesting that!

      How else do you propose we exchange goods and services efficiently? Or do you think we should go back to living in cave dwellings, weaving blankets out of birch cloth? I suppose it does go along quite well with the Paleo diet trend…

      1. Not just currency. Economies. Thus ownership goes, too. When everyone is on the same team, there’s no need for “exchange”. Take a look at how U.S. military society works. Requisition forms, custodianship, and TEAM. Everyone in the military understands that to damage ONE member of team, hurts ALL of team. You would be ASKED to work on team-improving things, not forced to work. You don’t need wages, because there are no price tags. You requisition what you need. Luxuries are kept in repositories just like the military’s “rec services” for all to share. Its different from earn’n’deserve… as it is a resources-based supply system… and nobody is put over a barrel… as that would damage team. MANY things would change. Reuse is of the ultimate pursuit, and invdividualism would be kept to a minimum. Cars would start looking the same and using the same parts, housing would be done with reusable and interchangeable modules, we’d start dressing somewhat the same, and products would be made to last, and have replaceable parts instead of breaking quick and not being able to be fixed. The Amish shovel lasts centuries. The capitalist shovel lasts about a year if you’re lucky. Its a different way of thinking… but the USA military has been using “all on the same team” and custodianship instead of ownership…. successfully, for many many years. Think Team Earth. Think World Needs TV, a worldwide TV station that reports on shortages and begs skilled people to help with the shortage. You work out of pride and honor, not for green paper false idols. Everything is owned by TEAM, and thus, everyone owns everything, and polices team materials to make sure they are cared-for, including each other. There’s no “trade” or “exchange”, there’s only filling requisitions and wearing team colors. For example… Team Food jump suits would be blue, and Team Housing would be red… and to wear either of those colors… is considered stardom… and is followed by our TV cameras and mentor-seeking children. They are heroes. Team Enjoyments is a proud team too, but not as prestigious as world survival-supply teams.

        I don’t know if you can wrap your mind around a world like that… but the military has used the colors/pride system for a long time, and although the military supply system is currently powered via capitalism, it doesn’t need to be so. Shake off the earn’n’deserve mentality, and you will see that resource-based supply systems is the only answer to the currently out-of-control inflating nightmare that capitalism racing has wrought. Take care, thanks for the comment.

  2. I wrote Changing Capitalism for People and Planet as an article for the Guardian in 2011. They didn’t want it but others were more receptive. It describes how the concept of a business for social benefit was pitched to Clinton’s re-election committee as an alternative to traditional capitalism described as People-Centered Economic Development.

    First deployed in Russia to source a microenterprise development intitiative, it was implemented as a formal business model without dividend distribution in the UK in 2004 where the business plan made this statement:

    “Traditional capitalism is an insufficient economic model
    allowing monetary outcomes as the bottom line with little regard to
    social needs. Bottom line must be taken one step further by at least
    some companies, past profit, to people. How profits are used is equally
    as important as creation of profits. Where profits can be brought to
    bear by willing individuals and companies to social benefit, so much the
    better. Moreover, this activity must be recognized and supported at
    government policy level as a badly needed, essential, and entirely
    legitimate enterprise activity.”

    From there focus turned back toward Eastern Europe where the focus became children abandonded to state care.

    Founder Terry Hallman died om mission in August 2011 and going through his original paper I found the recurring themes of love and compassion in the influence of humanist psychologists like Erich Fromm, Rollo May and Carl Rogers.

    In 2009 becoming aware of the B Corps I contacted B Labs and proposed collaboration.

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