By Thomas Kemper
Oct. 20, 2011
There is a movement afoot - “doing good” has not just become a feel good sentiment, but a for-profit business model. Benefit Corporation (known as B Corp.) is a new type of corporation that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. This trend in social entrepreneurship is allowing businesses to make a significant social or environmental impact while still turning a profit.
Dolphin Blue, where I am CEO and founder, is an online retailer of environmentally sustainable “green” office products and printing. It recently joined nearly 500 other organizations using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems, while turning a profit. In attaining B Corp status, Dolphin Blue scored high in meeting the criteria inherent in a “Triple Bottom Line” (People, Planet, Profits) business model. Our B Corp certification came naturally because of our commitment to operate and grow in a sustainable manner. Everything we provide must be made in the USA from post-consumer recycled content.
Commitment to environmental stewardship can also attract the attention of government buyers who are increasingly looking to procure green services and products. In the past three years, Dolphin Blue achieved significant growth in its government business thanks in part to its green products. Dolphin Blue’s green business also piqued the interest of American Express OPEN, the small business division of the financial services company. They offered us a free mentorship opportunity as part of their Victory in Procurement program, which helps business owners get contract ready and find contract success. I suggest to any company considering government contracting to diversify their revenue streams to find free resources and mentorship opportunities - they are out there.
How to Get There
Much like becoming a GSA Contractor or a certified HUBZone business within the federal contracting realm, attaining certification as a B Corp takes commitment on the part of any company or organization pursuing certification. The initial assessment takes many hours of preparation, and documentation supporting the application process. I suggest to any company considering B Corp certification to first attain letters of supply chain to document Country of Origin. This will substantiate the environmental claims associated with your product, determine its ecological footprint, as well as validate its post-consumer recycled content.
In addition, you will need to perform an in-house inventory of your carbon footprint, and determine what, if anything, your company is doing to minimize or offset the carbon emissions associated with your organization. For instance, internal lighting, electricity and gas, power consumption of systems and equipment, environmental attributes of product (products manufactured without toxins, reduced emissions, reconditioned, remanufactured, re-used), commuting, telecommuting, should all be included in your company’s carbon inventory. The end result will determine the areas where your organization and its suppliers/vendors can improve.
Lastly, you will need to evaluate how your company compares with industry competitors. Are the wages offered to your workforce comparable? Does your company offer benefits to its employees? These criteria will be reviewed throughout your assessment to ensure that your company conducts business for the benefit of its employees, and the planet.
Tom Kemper is CEO and founder of Dolphin Blue, which recently certified as a B Corp. (Benefit Corporation). He can be reached at www.dolphinblue.com. More information on becoming a B Corp. is available at www.bcorporation.net/about.