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Lights, Camera, Action: Rolling up our sleeves at the B Corp Champions Retreat in LA

Last week, I attended the 2019 B Corp Champions Retreat in Los Angeles, an opportunity to connect with people from B Corps in the United States and Canada whose companies, like 3Degrees, are united in using business as a force for good. The setting provided a backdrop ripe for discussing the power of storytelling — how that power has historically been used and whose voices have been underrepresented or even ignored. As we considered the current and future state of the B Corp movement, it also provided a reminder — both sobering and inspiring — that the B Corp movement is on its own journey to ensure that we are building an inclusive economy that works for everyone and protects the planet. So as we continue to write B Corps’ evolving story, here are some recent “takes” from the retreat to capture the work ahead.

Lights

The B Corp movement continues to shine the light on how business can be a force for good. Certified B Corporations are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. Indeed, the retreat noted that there are 1,200 American “B Corporations” certified by B Lab and 35 states plus the District of Columbia certify so-called benefit corporations. 

The broader B Corp movement is also spurring additional efforts to redefine the role of business. It was groundbreaking in August when 181 CEOs in the Business Roundtable, which represents some of the largest companies in the world, signed on to a new definition of a corporation akin to the B Corp model.

This was a historic acknowledgment that the economy is not working for everyone. Businesses (and government leaders) need to take on a new level of leadership to address the problems they have helped foster.

Camera

In the age of selfies and influencer vlogs, where do we direct our collective attention? The B Corp Champions Retreat was unequivocal that we MUST focus on climate action. For the past year, B Lab, together with B Corps around the world, has been working on a range of actions to galvanize action across the B Corp community, including plans to update the certification standards to more fully address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, policy advocacy, and employee engagement. I am especially excited about the upcoming B Lab launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Action Manager, in partnership with the UN Global Compact – another tool to help organizations quantify their impact on SDGs #7 (affordable and clean energy) and #13 climate action.

Last Friday, more than 4 million people around the world took to the streets in what was likely the largest climate protest in world history. Internationally, B Corps are standing together with the youth climate strike in demanding government action. Climate change requires our unrelenting attention in the weeks, months, and years ahead if we are to truly fulfill the demands for real action – from governments, businesses, and individuals.

Action

At the core, the B Corp community recognizes that how a business operates and who is included are critical. More than ever, we need an economy that works for everyone (inclusive) and heals the planet (regenerative). For example, we cannot effectively combat climate change (or any issue) if we do not also take action to dismantle institutional and individual biases that perpetuate inequities. It’s a tall order. And one that inspires us to do better.

Throughout the retreat, there were examples mentioned on stage and within side conversations that highlighted the capacity of the B Corp community to push us to a new standard for inclusion. During the opening plenary, James Anderson from the Yerba Mate Co. highlighted the challenges for system affected individuals such as those returning home from incarceration who encounter barriers to finding employment, a critical step for rebuilding their lives. Yerba Mate is focused on providing 10,000 living wage jobs to system affected individuals throughout the world. The harder truth to acknowledge, as fellow attendees and I discussed afterward, is how system affected candidates might fare in our own companies’ application process. We have work to do.

 

The B Corps Champions Retreat was an intense experience: a place to reflect on what it means to be a B Corp, to deepen commitments to address climate change, and to make new connections about how to build a more inclusive economy for everyone. My marching orders are to transform these “takes” from the Champions Retreat to help to craft a new narrative here at 3Degrees and beyond.