Why should a business organisation be concerned about the common good, the improvement of society? Why should it invest part of its earnings in an area far removed from its business?
These are legitimate questions posed by CSR sceptics, yet they fail to consider a decisive factor: cost-effectiveness.
A socially responsible approach is cost-effective for everyone in the company’s orbit: workers, investors, stakeholders.
The examples are countless, and the frontiers of CSR are vast.
The panorama was recently enhanced with a new development: the B Corp.
As seen in a previous article with an interview with expert Giulio Graziani, B Corps are companies of any legal form that obtain voluntary Benefit Impact Assessment ( BIA) certification from B Lab, a no-profit body in the USA.
And it was in America, in 2006, that the initially somewhat utopian, but now extremely concrete idea that business could be used to resolve social problems, first emerged.
Today, there are more than two thousand B Corps in 50 countries and 130 sectors, with revenues totalling 22 billion euro, an average of 11 million euro per organisation. Italy is the country experiencing the strongest growth in the number of B Corps: 46 are already operational, and the figure is expected to rise to 150 during 2017.
Looking more closely at this new development, the question to ask is, what lies behind the decision to become a B Corp?
Light is shed by a fascinating survey conducted by Alice Pellegatta for Secondo Welfare, who interviewed 11 American certified B Corps to investigate the benefits and difficulties of the project.
The interviewees motivated their company’s decision to undertake the certification process in the founder’s commitment to the cause in question. So for everyone, the origin is a sort of “vocation” for the common good, which proves to be a decisive element.
All the interviewees said that they had applied for certification in order to be perceived as more sustainable and to have a real communication tool to make the most of this distinguishing characteristic.
Some entrepreneurs also said that as a B Corp the company had won new customers, who are attentive to sustainability and CSR issues.
Finally, reputation plays a crucial role: being part of a business community with players who share the same values and the same innovative approach enhances the company’s reputation and ability to attract investors.
Yet this element is the one with the greatest pitfalls: in order not to compromise the credibility of individual companies and the community, the interviewees want B Lab to exercise greater control of the answers companies provide in the Benefit Impact Assessment.
«We have to be the change we want to see in the world, all companies should be managed in a way that creates well-being for people and the planet. Through products, practices and earnings, business organisations should aim to provide benefits for everyone.”
This is the commitment of the companies that become B Corps, signing a solemn declaration.
Midway between a dream (the common good) and a challenge (business), this fascinating hybrid seeks to re-write the economy.
The stakes are high. And each player has to decide whether to raise them, or pass.