Want to build sustainable, lasting employee engagement?
Incorporating or getting certified as a Benefit Corporation — or B Corp — is trending among for-profit companies committed to high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. It fosters engaged workforces that share ownership in this commitment!
Financial success and social good attracts and retains talented employees, according to the New Yorker article “Companies with Benefits.” Survey data indicates piqued interest in socially conscious companies, especially among young people seeking a greater sense of purpose in their work.
“As individuals, we try to make our work not just profitable but also meaningful. It may be time for more companies to do the same,” writes the New Yorker’s James Sorowiecki.
Read on for an intro to Benefit Corporations and Certified B Corps and to find out how a commitment to social good improves employee engagement.
Build Lasting employee engagement:
Benefit Corporation vs. Certified B Corp
Companies can document and commit to social goals in one of two ways:
incorporate as a Benefit Corporation or become a Certified B Corp.
Many companies choose to do both.
Benefit Corporations and Certified B Corps have similar goals, and the name “B Corp” is used interchangeably for both in casual conversation, but the two should not be confused.
Their biggest difference is legal status. A Benefit Corporation is a legal entity available in a growing number of states. Benefit Corporations are currently legislated in about 30 states and the District of Columbia.
Benefit Corporations are similar to traditional for-profit corporations but have added requirements and duties and “must adopt higher standards of purpose, accountability and transparency,” according to My Corporation blogger Deborah Sweeney.
“Incorporating as a benefit corporation legally protects an entrepreneur’s social goals by mandating considerations other than just profit,” writes Doug Bend, principal at Bend Legal Group, PC, in the Forbes article, “Why Consider a Benefit Corporation?”
In contrast, B Corp is a certification conferred by the nonprofit organization B Lab, similar to environmentally conscious LEED certification. It’s a rigorous process available in every state and requires regular recertification. As B Lab explains:
B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk. B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
B Lab reports that it’s certified more than 1,000 B Corps from 33 countries and over 60 industries.
Why B Corp Status Matters to Employees
B Corp certification demonstrates that your company gives more than lip service to community responsibility.
This is crucial at a time when the demand for corporate accountability is at an all-time high, according to Forbes’ contributor Doug Bend. More customers make purchasing decisions based on their values, and “the benefit corporation status is a great way to differentiate your company from the competition and capitalize on these customers.”
B Corp status sends the same message to employees in specific, concrete ways that hold companies accountable. For example, employee-treatment regulations are included in B Corp certification.
At the New Jersey factory headquarters of W.S. Badger Co. Inc., maker of Badger Balm and other cosmetics, being a B Corp fosters “a sense of togetherness” among employees, according to the NPR story, “Benefit Corporations Look Beyond the Profit Motive.”
Badger’s robust employee engagement commitment has paid off. In five years — during a time when many companies struggled post-Recession and laid off workers — Badger doubled in size and expanded its market to 26 countries.
It’s back to the future, according to The Atlantic article, “A New Business Strategy: Treating Employees Well.” Some of the new employee-benefit practices that B Corps have adapted are similar to post-World War II practices.
In 2013, King Arthur Flour had the second-highest score of any Certified B-Corp for worker benefits. Employees get one paid week of parental leave, 40 hours of paid volunteer time that they can take during company hours, use of on-site exercise equipment, and subsidized baking classes, health benefits and CSA memberships. At Thanksgiving, every employee receives a locally-sourced turkey or a vegetable basket.
“This used to be the standard way American companies treated their employees,” writes The Atlantic’s Alana Semuels. She cites an economist who calls the adaptation of old employee engagement practices a return to “stakeholder capitalism.”
Employee engagement built on B-Corp values has longterm value and sustainability, according to King Arthur CFO Ralph Carlton: “We’re playing long ball — we want to be around in 200 years,” he tells The Atlantic.
For more great tips and insights into building a vibrant culture of engagement and recognition, be sure to download our free e-book, “The Top 20 Employee Engagement Blogs You Should be Reading.”
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