B Corp Champions Retreat Recap: Getting to the Heart of Matters

With the theme, Towards an Inclusive Economy, the 2016 Champions Retreat in Philadelphia, PA brought together more than 500 attendees from B Corps all over the world.

I booked my trip in June, right after we found out that Koopman Ostbo had been certified. Along with education, the 2016 Retreat brought music, awards and celebration, if not much sleep, and I emerged savvier, more joyful and more hopeful about the promise of business to change the world.

Here are a few of the things I learned from the global B Corp community at the retreat:

B Corp stands for things, not against anything. During a Town Hall, Bart Houlahan, B Lab Co-Founder, said that B Corp stands for things, not against anything. This year’s event kicked off a new approach in standing for things. For the first time, B Lab called upon B Corps, more than 1900 businesses as of today, to take part in a collective challenge focused on building Economic Inclusion. The underlying belief is that we must create inclusive economic opportunities for all if we are to achieve durable prosperity. Those who accept the challenge, like we have at KO, will seek to improve their scores on at least three inclusivity-related metrics in the B Corp Assessment. And while B Lab concedes that the path to inclusion will take a larger revolution than B Corps alone can make, they also point out that, “…making 3 impactful improvements for nearly 2000 supply chains, in over 50 countries, affecting 150,000 employees, is a meaningful place to start.”

Becoming certified has its benefits. Ask any B Corp about the benefits of certification, and you’re likely to get at least half a dozen examples within one breath. For one, you learn a ton about how to make your business more socially and environmentally responsible, but you can also email someone you’ve never met at a fellow B Corp and know they will probably be excited to respond to you. It’s hard to appreciate until you experience it. By the time you’ve completed the certification assessment and attended the B Corp Champions Retreat, you feel like you’ve completed a mini master’s program for making a difference through business.

Be prepared to start with a revolution of the spirit. I had the opportunity to moderate a group conversation about “Freedom from Fear,” a 1990 speech by Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s current leader who had been held in house arrest by the state for 15 years. Of the many stirring phrases in her speech, one that stood out for me was: “Without a revolution of the spirit, the forces which produced the inequities of the old order would continue to be operative.” In other words, despite all our policies, regulations and laws, without personal consciousness and commitment, we will fall short of producing real, lasting change.

I think she means that we have to start with our hearts if our actions are to really matter. I feel hopeful that behind B Corps are people who have been moved to take action and make a dent on the things that matter most.

B Corp is a certification for companies that seek to use business as a force for good. B Lab, an independent nonprofit, verifies and certifies B Corps through a rigorous assessment and interview process. Every year, B Lab invites all certified B Corps to attend the B Corp Champions Retreat.

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