The emphasis on corporate social responsibility has sparked a new wave of corporations – benefit corporations or B Corps, described as “a new wave of business with a soul.” Benefit corporations are different from traditional corporations in that they are required to pursue a triple bottom line:
- Purpose: have a corporate purpose to create a material positive impact on society and the environment;
- Accountability: expand fiduciary duty to require consideration of the interests of workers, community and the environment; and
- Transparency: publicly report annually on overall social and environmental performance against a comprehensive, credible, independent, and transparent third-party standard.
There are also certified B Corporations. Chartering as a benefit corporation is not the same as being a certified B Corporation. Certification is administered by the nonprofit organization B Lab, and the process takes into consideration how green the corporate building is, how well employees are treated and how transparent the corporate report is, among other things.
Is there a benefit to becoming a B Corporation? Leading B corporations such as Patagonia and Seventh Generation say yes. They each have a fiercely loyal customer base and are considered trusted brands.
Sustainability and brand trust are very much interwoven in the minds of today’s consumers. Marketing has a key strategic role as it must understand the organization’s environmental efforts and make sure they are accurately reflected in the company’s messages. In order to do that effectively, marketers must research stakeholder preferences and attitudes regarding sustainability issues in order to properly position the company for the biggest growth potential.
Does your organization emphasize sustainability? If so, is the marketing department involved to the point it can communicate the company’s goals and efforts effectively to your stakeholders?