This article was submitted to the Winter 2019 edition of the PEN, but there wasn’t enough
room for it! We’ve published it here, and it will be appearing in the Spring 2019 edition as well. Thanks to Mike Gifford of OpenConcept Consulting for preparing the piece.
Imagine that business was motivated by more than just profit?
Yes, it takes a bit of effort to shake off decades of experience and education, but allow yourself to extend beyond bottom lines to a place where business has built in incentives to be better for their staff, their community and everyone’s environment. Imagine businesses collaborating together, while also finding ways to compete to be the best they can be. Imagine having a structure which allows groups of individuals to measure their total impact in the world against their history as well as against their peers.
Now this might sound like a crazy vision, but there are companies who are already doing this.
Businesses are working to make critical changes on carbon emissions and fight for protected species, while creating something that protects us. Corporations are working to build a more inclusive community and reduce inequality, while delivering useful services. These are organizations that are working against crime, recidivism, poverty, food insecurity and homelessness, while at the same time making something people love. What these business have in common is B Corp certification.
Certified B Corporations (B Corp) like Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, Greyston Bakery, Fetzer Vineyards, Plum Organics, Bullfrog Power & MediaStyle all work to make a profit, but they don’t stop there. All of these companies make products or sell services that are available in Ottawa. They are all making a positive influence in the world and are an example of organizations that work to maximize purpose as well as make a profit. Together along with close to 3,000 other companies around the world these businesses are trying to find ways to be responsible members of their community.
My business, OpenConcept Consulting, is lucky to be part of a network of companies that are working for positive change. We have all changed our Articles of Incorporation to expand our definition of shareholders beyond just literal investors. Every three years we complete an impact assessment that addresses a wide range of environmental and social goals. Companies that score high enough on these assessments can become certified by paying an annual membership fee.
With that membership we have more than just a certificate, though: we have opportunities. Opportunities to learn, to be part of a network that is learning and rethinking how to do business, to share best practices, and to challenge our teams to do better. We can talk about challenges that we are having, campaigns that we want to start, and even look to others for support when disaster strikes. B Corps are building a global community of people who want to make business a force for good.
OpenConcept is a web development firm. We built sites for non-profits like Amnesty International, unions like CUPE & a range of government agencies including the Governor General. We address all of our Scope 1 and 2 emissions through Bullfrog Power, pay for offsets for flights & out-of-town transportation, and have moved our servers to carbon neutral data centres. We are working on other issues to minimize our environmental impact further.
Unfortunately there are only a few Ottawa-based B Corp. Beau’s All Natural brewery and the Business Development Bank of Canada both have a presence in Ottawa, but are based outside of it. Fortunately, by joining EnviroCentre’s Carbon 613 program we are able to take advantage of a local network of organizations working to reduce their CO2 footprint. Imagine, though, if there were enough incentives for sustainable businesses to be the norm? What if Invest Ottawa and Startup Canada were actively promoting businesses to become Carbon Neutral? What businesses, and the people they employ, would be able to take a leading role in making Ottawa green?
Ok, we’re not there yet. It is however worthwhile looking at the New York City Economic Development Corp’s work with the Best For NYC campaign (http://BestFor.NYC). This campaign realized that the more B Corps were in the city, the better it would be for the local economy and the local environment, and the more businesses would help build a more inclusive and equal community for their citizens. Good businesses can be good for everyone.