Community, Collaboration and Lots of Buzz in the B Corp Movement

(3BL Media and Just Means) - Business leaders often ask: “what’s the biggest benefit of joining the B Corp movement? If our company is already walking the talk, do we really need to pay for a certification?” I understand this skepticism. What can a certification offer if you already hold your company to rigorous environmental and social standards? The answer is simple: community. As I work through the B Lab Assessment for B Storytelling (coming your way soon: a blog series about my journey as a small company working to become a Certified B Corp!  I’m putting Ryan Honeyman’s B Corp Handbook to the test!), I’ve been connected to a global network of change agents. I’ve heard “community” as the most significant benefit of joining the B Corp movement from both small and larger companies.

But it doesn’t stop at joining a community of values-aligned, social entrepreneurs. It’s about participating, collaborating and sharing resources, too. Ryan Honeyman of Honeyman Consulting experienced this firsthand when he attended the B Corp Champions Retreat a few years ago and found himself seated next to executives from Ben and Jerry’s. He overheard their need to work with suppliers on sourcing. In a recent interview I posted previously, Honeyman said:

“I suggested they have their five biggest suppliers fill out the B Impact Assessment. This way they could see across their supply chain and see how they were doing in environmental and employee issues. Soon after the retreat, they hired me to work with these suppliers, including one of the largest chocolate companies in the world. And now, one of the largest chocolate companies in the world has taken the B Impact Assessment,” said Honeyman.

The B Corp community recently came together again for the annual B Corp Champions Retreat. Every year, the retreat reinvigorates companies in their pursuit of sustainability and commitment to “Be the Change.” And they get a chance to hear and learn from one another.

I spoke with Vale Jokisch, B Lab’s Director of Services and B Corp Champions Retreat Director, about this year’s retreat and the exciting collaboration that’s happening among the B Corp community. Several leaders gave calls to action to take efforts one step further.

“Seventh Generation CEO John Replogle committed to making all of their suppliers Certified B Corps by 2020, and called on fellow B Corps to do the same. Chad Dickerson, CEO of Etsy, issued a 5:5 challenge to his peers - do business with five B Corps and make five introductions with other B Corps. Brand Cool took on Etsy’s challenge and is close to achieving the goal of doing business with at least five B Corps, including a new 401K provider they were introduced to via Etsy,” says Jokisch.

The B Corp brand is exploding-- and not just from the initiative of B Lab. The San Francisco B Corp Community has started a training called the “B Corp Leadership Development.”

“It’s a day for employees of B Corps to learn how they can leverage the certification for their own work and professional development,” says Jokisch.

“And, what’s super exciting is that several B Corps across Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois started a conversation on The B Hive about putting on B Corp Leadership events in New England and Chicago. There are now planning committees forming in each of those regions to begin planning local, leadership events,” she adds.

That’s another big piece of news for the B Corp Community: the advent of The B Hive. Within the B Lab Assessment online platform, B Lab modulated a social media tool as a way to bring the community together. Similar to LinkedIn, The B Hive enables companies to join groups, follow one another and search for a contact list based on search criterion. The B Hive will also have a news feed where companies can use hashtags to follow conversations and posts. Though currently in beta form—being tested by the 2014, B Corp Champions Retreat attendees—the B Hive is already gaining momentum.

“The B Hive launch has been great so far. There are about 300 beta users currently on the platform connecting, sharing ideas, and asking for best practices ideas. There's a group for B Corps that is hosting "Build a Better Business" Workshops over the next three months using the B Corp Handbook. Workshop facilitators have been on the Hive sharing feedback on their events with future hosts, who are asking great questions about how to make theirs a great event,” says Jokisch.

The B Corp certification is much more than a stamp to hang on your website or a set of standards. Yes, it’s a tool that holds companies accountable to their intent to use their business as a force for good. But even more, it’s a learning community—professionals across sectors who provide one another insight into every area of business practice, from supply chains to human resources and leadership development. There’s no limit to the amount of potential collaboration and cross-pollination. The B Corp Community is the best model of B2B the world has ever seen.