David All and Christine Deye believe we’re at the edge of a new economy.
As consumer demand for operational transparency and the desire to support businesses that support the community increases, businesses are being forced to take a hard look at how they do things. And, an increasing number of businesses are choosing to make a very public statement about their operations by seeking B Corp certification.
“We think that every single corporate business, every business type, there will be a certified B Corp alternative,” All says.
But what does it mean to be a B-Corp?
“It’s a company that in its mission is thinking not just about profit, but also about its social and environmental impact,” Deye says.
She picked up an intimate knowledge of the certification and its process, being the woman responsible for helping Jeni’s achieve their status.
Once a business makes it through the rigorous certification process, a business takes a very public pledge to uphold the B Corp standards.
“It makes your business completely transparent,” Deye says.
Every decision large and small is not just about money or profits, but has to be viewed from a comprehensive angle.
Housed under CivicHacks (which is working towards B Corp certification itself), All and Deye are presenting businesses with a trio of options to move their operations towards B Corp standards. B-celerator is accelerating startups to B Corp certification, B-Consulting is helping established businesses become B Corp certified and Impact Storytelling incorporates elements of the B mentality into big businesses.
All had been thinking of concepts to bring more social entrepreneurs into the world. The path to social entrepreneurship is often more challenging that starting a regular business – there’s added challenges of being mindful of your impact, your community, how you’re constantly improving, and what your business is doing to make a difference. And, for social entrepreneurs there’s the task of differentiation. A social enterprise’s differentiation is really only valuable if they can get their story out into the community.
Coupling All’s experience with startups and storytelling, and Deye’s background in B Corps, they have the perfect set of skills to accelerate new businesses through the process.
The B-celerator is a first-of-its-kind program for businesses of any industry.
The duo have already made an agreement with their fist company – Tiny Acres. Deye says it’s a good fit because they are a company that’s already trying to do something good. Tiny Acres aims to grow fresh, sustainable, local food in shipping containers year round. The shipping container will be outfitted with environmentally conscious features like a rainwater collector, and with its location in Franklinton, will bring jobs to the community. Over time, CivicHacks will take a meaningful equity stake in the business.
B-Consulting is for the business that’s already established but is interested in obtaining B Corp certification.
“We’ll help you get there,” Deye says.
Through B-Consulting All and Deye can help a business through everything from the certification process to building their business model.
While there are larger business that have achieved B-Corp certification, like Jeni’s, Warby Parker and Ben & Jerry’s, it’s something that’s easier accomplished for a smaller- to medium-sized operation (and still requires a major commitment, at that). That doesn’t mean bigger businesses aren’t interested in sustainability, though, especially as many are starting to aim their efforts at millennials.
“That’s how you do it, you go at them through their hearts,” All says.
Impact storytelling is designed to help these businesses accomplish initiatives like putting parameters around their philanthropy to make a more meaningful impact, or incorporating social and sustainable elements into the business model.
“Not everyone has someone on staff to do that,” Deye says. “We can help do that.”
That story and those standards also become not just an external tool for customers, but an internal tool to build engagement and drive culture.
All thinks Columbus is the perfect, and really, only, place where a concept like this could thrive. With the city’s reputation as Test City, U.S.A. All says that the challenges of communities here mirror what’s happening across the country, and if a social entrepreneur can build something successful in Columbus, it’s scaleable throughout the country.
Exploring B Certification in general also provides a good baseline for businesses interested in social enterprises.
“People that authentically want to be a social entrepreneur can look at Certified B as a framework with which their creativity can flourish,” All says.
It forces businesses to take a look at what they are doing well and areas in which they can improve. And, no matter what part of a B Corp they choose to mirror, a business owner can know they are doing something authentic.
It’s a concept that is resonating with Columbus’ entrepreneurs.
“We’ve definitely seen a lot of interest in people that we’re talking to,” Deye says.
The duo plan to test their concept with a few companies and build a solid framework for the model going forward.
For more information, visit civichacks.org.