Editor’s Note: The below post is part of our Alumni for Impact series, which features alumni who are making a difference in the social sector. Kim Coupounas (MBA 1995) is Director of B Lab, the nonprofit behind Certified B Corporations. Charmian Love (MBA 2007) is Co-Founder and Chair of B Lab UK and Entrepreneur-In-Residence at The Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. They describe in the below post how the rise of B Corporations is one of the most important business trends of our time.

Business is the most powerful force humans have ever created. It’s been the source of both enormous peace and prosperity, as well as massive social and environmental disruption. 

The challenges facing humanity and our biosphere today require that we step away from outdated ways of thinking about the true role of business in society. These challenges call us to raise our game as business leaders so we can harness the enormous power of business and wield it for a better world.

The good news? People around the world are heeding this call. It’s one of the most exciting times ever to be in business.

Just as we are seeing advancements in quantum technology which creates greater power in processing complex information by operating beyond traditional binary systems, we’re also seeing businesses reject the binary model of the past which has pitted profit against purpose. We’re seeing a rise of businesses taking a “quantum mindset,” focusing on “both/and” rather than forced and limiting “either/or” trade-offs. We’re seeing profitable, high-growth businesses that are simultaneously solving fundamental social or environment problems. 

The clearest place to see this in action is the B Corp movement, one of the most promising trends in business today. There are now over 2500 Certified B Corporations around the world from over 130 industries and 60 countries, representing over 150,000 workers and over $50B US in revenues. These B Corps span from household brands to venture-backed disruptors to multi-billion dollar businesses, from technology to textiles, energy to education, and food to finance. 

These companies have voluntarily chosen to meet the world’s most rigorous standards for social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. They also voluntarily widen their fiduciary view, amending their legal incorporation to create benefit for both shareholders and stakeholders. They are creating jobs with dignity and meaning. They’re fostering thriving communities. They’re protecting our precious natural resources. And they’re building products and companies that are regenerative. 

Every B Corp has a story to tell about how they are using their business for real and positive impact. Take for example...

  • Elvis & Kresse, a UK-based luxury accessory company that reclaims ‘rescued raw materials’ like firehose and leather and transforms them into handbags while giving half their profits to Firemen’s Charities. 
  • Greyston Bakery, a US-based commercial bakery (they make the brownies that go into Ben & Jerry’s ice cream), that practices open hiring and whose profits go to its non-profit parent organization, the Greyston Foundation, that supports the local community.
  • Domi, a Taiwan-based business which is building a movement to turn ordinary people into climate change-makers by developing a technology platform that links individuals and families with emissions-saving products, sustainable technologies, effective institutions, and one another.  
  • SilverChef, an Australian business which provides flexible funding options to hospitality & commercial equipment markets to support small business owners based on their personal and business potential.  
  • Danone North America, a multi-billion dollar food and beverage company that has made a formal, long-term commitment to balancing financial success with social and environmental responsibility. 

These companies are part of a powerful, fast-rising global ecosystem of people, businesses, governments, nonprofits, universities, and other players that is dedicated to creating an inclusive and sustainable marketplace that is working towards shared and durable prosperity for all. 

But don’t just take it from us – leaders around the world have been signalling how important the B Corp movement is to our future as a species and society. Fast Company called the B Corp movement one of “20 Moments From The Past 20 Years That Moved The Whole World Forward”, along with the iPhone, Uber, and the Human Genome project. That’s pretty good company.

So bring on the quantum revolution – but let’s not just leave it for computing. Let’s use this shift as an opportunity to bring the beyond-binary mindset to how we approach business. 

For more on B Corp Certification, visit www.bcorporation.net or log onto the free online tool at www.BImpactAssement.Net/HBSalumni.