“Have you heard of Benefit Corporations?” my business partner, Ken Koopman, posed. “No,” I said. “We should look into it,” said Ken. That was roughly four years ago. And little did we know that in that very moment our journey, our adventure to becoming a certified B Corp by making a commitment to use our business as a force for good, had begun with that very question.
Now let me clarify the previous statement with the fact that it wasn’t that we were using business as a force for bad! On the contrary, at that time we had already been intentionally immersed in the natural, organic and sustainable consumer products sector for close to 20 years. And, we took great pride and felt honored that we had the pleasure of helping create and grow some of the most respected change-maker brands in the business. It’s just that we didn’t know yet that there was a certifiable way in which we could make the statement or the public commitment to hold ourselves accountable to the very values and beliefs that had been a part of culture for so long. B Corp status provided the third-party certification to substantiate our beliefs. And most importantly, to monitor, validate and hold us accountable for not just words, but also for our actions in considering people, planet and profits equally.
Allow me to dig a bit deeper into our psyche and share with you the three most important reasons why we became a B Corp:
- Purpose: We needed to make a public statement of our beliefs, our values, and our purpose. We needed a way in which those on our team, those considering becoming a part of our team, our current clients and future potential clients would easily, immediately and clearly understand who we are, why we exist and why we get out of bed every day and look forward to coming to KO to engage in what we believe to be worthy work. We were in need of a defined and certifiable way in which to claim our purpose and, at the same time, to be held accountable to that purpose.
- Accountability: It’s one thing to claim a commitment to doing good; it’s another to actually walk the talk. And it’s yet again an altogether different and more difficult experience to be, publicly and annually, held accountable by a third-party certifying body that either proves or disproves that you not only walk that talk, but that you are striving, daily, to exceed the expectations you have placed upon your company culture today in an effort to create a healthier world tomorrow.
- Support: We have been big believers in B Corp’s mandate to use business as a force for good since we first heard of it more than four years ago. But we felt that of all the ways we could support the B Corp vision and commission, the most important avenue to take would be to become a B Corp ourselves – to show our affinity and our alignment with B Corp values by holding ourselves accountable to the same commission.
Make no mistake, this was not easy, nor should it be. We did not make this decision lightly. In saying “Yes” to B Corp certification we knew we were putting ourselves through a long and arduous process of not just acting like a B Corp, but more importantly, assuring that there was written documentation of our actions. In other words, it’s not just what we say we do, or even what we actually do, it’s that what we do must be written down somewhere where everyone not only knows it and sees it in action, but also has access to it.
While Ken certainly didn’t know at the time the amount of energy we were about to expend in an effort to, “…look into it,” we now know that becoming a certified B Corp is by far the best thing we have ever done to positively impact our culture, certify that we are walking what we are talking and to hold us accountable to the belief that our business, not just our incredible change-making clients, but our own business is being used as a force for good.
For more information on Benefit Corporations (B Corp) please go to: www.bcorporation.net
By Craig Ostbo, KO Co-founder and Managing Partner