It sounds like a marketing cliche for a company to say they want to change the world for the better. But a growing number of companies are putting it in their business plan.
B-Lab, a global, certified non-profit organisation, launched in Australia last month, continuing the trend to become more socially and environmentally conscious.
The movement is a shift away from businesses measuring their success only by their balance sheet to measuring social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
There is a financial incentive too. The Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility found 50 per cent of the world’s consumers would pay more for products from companies that gave back to society.
Co-founded by US businessmen, Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan, and Andrew Kassoy in 2006, B Lab’s mission is to create a better world through business.
B Lab will provide businesses, who align their profit for purpose, with the opportunity to be part of a global group, said Alicia Darvall, from B Lab Australia, as well as the opportunity to trade and spend time with like-minded entrepreneurs.
The group issues “B certification” which is a private accreditation costing up to $25,000 per year for large companies.
There are now one thousand B certified businesses across 33 nations, including Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream, environmental clothing empire, Patagonia, celebrity Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company and homemade marketplace Etsy.
“Certified B businesses are recognised on a global scale,” says Ms Darvall.
“Companies must undergo rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency to be come B-certified. We’ve found that once these businesses connect with each other, the likelihood they will work together is high.”
Australian companies are jumping on board too.
Business with purpose
Following on from the success of his book, The Sixth Wave: How to succeed in a resource limited world, ABC’s New Inventors judge and former CSIRO executive director, James Bradfield Moody, began contemplating the next 10 years of his life.
“I came to the conclusion that I wanted to create a business with purpose,” he says.
“In the book, I talked about turning waste into an opportunity. I started thinking about all the waste and idle assets we all have and how this could be passed onto someone who needs it, this became the inspiration behind TuShare.”
In 2013, he joined forces with friend and colleague, Kohei Nishimiya to develop TuShare. The pair launched the online marketplace, where every item is free. To date, more than 10,000 items have been shared, making it one of the fastest growing sharing platforms in Australia.
“Our purpose was to avoid landfill and re-use items. TuShare is a place where people give things away for free. Unlike Amazon, whereby it sells lots of stuff and delivers for free. Whereas we source the stuff for free and the customer pays for delivery if they decide not to pick it up.”
Moody said that becoming a certified member was a way of asserting how serious he and Nishimiya took the business.
“I believe the future of business is to follow the profit for purpose philosophy,” he adds. “We are the first B-certified technology company in Australia. We’ve worked together with other B corporations on global sharing day. It’s great to be part of a growing community. We talk the same language.”
Disposing of waste
Over a period of twelve years in the catering business, Abigail Forsyth witnessed large volumes of disposable packaging and waste used in disposable cups.
Deeply concerned with the waste, she set on a journey to develop a sustainable and environmentally conscious way to serve drinks. In 2010, with her brother, Jamie along side, the pair started KeepCup, a reusable alternative to throw away cups.
Since then more than three million KeepCups have been sold internationally.
“People purchase KeepCups to be sustainable but they keep using them because they love the way they look and feel,” says Ms Forsyth.
“Waste, is a global problem and we’ve always had our sights set on being a global brand. We are dealing with large businesses around the world and often we’re asked, what sort of certification do you have? Today, people want evidence that you are who you proclaim to be. Becoming B-certified was a perfect way to provide independence evidence.”
Forsythe adds that aside from the global recognition the certification provides accountability to improve.
“The certification helps us stay accountable and set goals for ourselves. We will continue to improve our certification and score. We ask other companies to step on the sustainable journey.”