Comet Skateboards, located in Ithaca, Calif., manufactures custom high-performance skateboards. The company utilizes locally obtained FSC-certified flax, jute, kenaf, and rubber materials for constructing each board. The manufacturer only uses soy-based resins and paints, free from harmful chemicals. Scraps or by-products become fertilizer for gardens, heating materials for homes, media for art, and raw material for office supplies.
This type of recycled production is considered "loop manufacturing." More than a third of Comet's employees come from local low-income communities, and all employees receive a livable wage in addition to health insurance, with the majority of premiums being paid by the employer. Comet Skateboards is a B Certified Corporation.
For-benefit corporations. B Corporations use much of the money you spend on their products to change the world for the better. The "B" stands for benefit, meaning these corporations do not merely focus on profits. They take pride in knowing that company employees, the local community, and the environment benefit from the practices the corporation chooses to utilize.
By becoming B-certified, companies vow to make a positive environmental and social impact. The corporations also willingly support various charities and participate in charitable events. Benefit corporations also assist each other with charitable donations for start-up businesses, investments, material suppliers, and other services.
What it takes to qualify. Currently, more 300 corporations nationwide, in more than 55 industries, bear the B Certification stamp of approval. This number is growing steadily. Corporations elect to become certified by submitting the B Impact Assessment, receiving a B Impact Report, amending governing bylaws to include the considerations of employees, the community, and the environment, and agree to random evaluations by B lab experts.
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Assessment questions vary according to the size and type of company, but all include evaluations concerning accountability, community, consumers, employees, and environment. Businesses must also submit documentation verifying at least 20 percent of the answers given on the survey.
Companies must achieve a combined category score of 80 out of 200 to be eligible for certification. Categories achieving ratings of 60 percent or higher are considered excellent. Business by laws and regulations must meet the approval of everyone involved in the corporation, from the CEOs and board of directors to the shareholders and employees.
The B Lab Assessment, located on the B Corporation website, is free to use by any business desiring to evaluate company standards. The benefit corporations experience profits and pay taxes as expected of any business. The differences being these companies choose methods to use earnings in such a way as to benefit more people.
The beginning of B Corporations. About four years ago, Andrew Kassoy, Bart Houlahan, Jay Gilbert, and 16 employees founded B Lab, a nonprofit organization located outside of Philadelphia. The group strongly believed that business does not have to be about profits alone, but can also reflect environmental and social responsibility.
B Lab's goal was to redefine the standards of success, so the group devised the assessment and reports used to evaluate and certify businesses and corporations. Survey questions include analytical comparisons of employee wages and benefits, carbon footprint reduction practices, net profits contributed to charities, and the percentage of local outsourcing for goods and services.
Participating corporations believe third-party certification provides credibility when businesses advertise quality products. The state of Maryland was the first to allow this new class of business, and B Lab corporations are starting to influence changes in Congress.
Legislation safeguards B Corporations against lawsuits from shareholders when a company diverts profits to charities, the community, customers, employees, or suppliers. Vermont recently passed B Corporation legislation last spring and approximately 12 other states have introduced or will introduce legislation in the following year.
Good guide. The majority of B Corporations were formerly traditional for-profit companies, but some include start-up businesses opting to become B-certified. One such company is Good Guide. Founded by environmental and labor policy professor Dara O'Rourke, www.goodguide.com strives to educate the public concerning consumer products.
The site has tested more than 65,000 items, including canned, frozen, and natural foods, household cleaning products, personal care products, and toys. Scientists evaluate each item according to three categories:
• Environment: what sustainable techniques are used to obtain materials or manufacture the product
• Health: whether the item contains any ingredients that raise health and safety concerns
• Society: employee benefits, wages, and working conditions
Products receiving higher evaluation scores are deemed more environmentally and socially healthy. The idea is the consumers can direct their dollars toward products that support the causes they care about. The power of consumer choice has influenced the practices of businesses to be more conscientious and consumer friendly and B Corporations should only grow in popularity in coming years.
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