Climate change, sustainability, social responsibility and going green are concepts that seem to resonate more locally than in big governments or big companies.
But some small companies, like Taos Ski Valley, and a few big ones, like Patagonia, New Belgium Brewing and Ben & Jerry’s, have come together to try to change the world under the maxim “business as a force for good”.
They voluntarily underwent extensive assessments to gain certification as a Benefit Corporation, or B Corp for short.
Certified B Corporations, according to the B Corp website, are companies that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
This is not a government designation, but rather a designation envisioned in 2006 by a private nonprofit association in Berwyn, Pa. Called B Lab. Its goal: to accelerate a cultural change to harness the power of business in the hope of meeting the greatest challenges of society.
B Lab has certified approximately 3,000 companies in 150 industries in more than 60 countries – approximately 1,000 in the United States and seven to date in New Mexico.
LongView Asset Management, an investment firm in downtown Santa Fe, and Banyan Botanicals in Albuquerque are the last two New Mexico companies to become B Corps, both in May.
The seven New Mexico companies that were certified say they’ve joined the movement to be more eco-friendly, better serve the community, improve employee benefits and be part of the B Corp family so they can see what they’re doing. other companies in the country and around the world. .
The B Corp certification has “been good for business and we are attracting travelers who want to ‘vote with their wallets’ and visit places that share their values,” said Dawn Boulware, director of human resources at Taos Ski Valley, the only ski resort with B Corp certification. “It has also helped strengthen relationships with our local community and staff. “
Meow Wolf, UpSpring, SecondMuse, and Positive Energy Solar are the other New Mexico B Corps.
“If our government was leading the way, we might feel less compelled to do so,” said David Cantor, a director of LongView. “It is up to individuals to take the lead.
Cantor estimates that LongView spent hundreds of hours answering 251 questions in a 48-page report that examined socially responsible business investments, customer education, choice of suppliers, governance, community engagement, environmental impact, investment sector engagement, employment policies and sustainability.
“We started the process in May 2018 with my 26 year old daughter [Leah Cantor, now a Santa Fe Reporter staff writer], who did an internship with us during this period, in charge of the project, ”said Cantor. “After more than 40 emails with B Lab analysts, several in-depth phone interviews and many hours, we have achieved our certification.
The New Mexico B Corps say they’ve become better citizens, employers, and businesses through the process.
For its part, B Lab says it wants to offer an alternative to business as usual.
“Frankly, the system is down,” said Hannah Munger, spokesperson for B Lab, “and we are striving to deliver a new operating system – a system that creates benefits for all stakeholders, not only for shareholders. A system where companies compete to be the best for the world, not just the world. By harnessing the power of business, B Corps uses profits and growth as a means to achieve a goal higher: a positive impact for their employees, communities and the environment. ”
Cantor said the B Corp certification process has changed the way LongView handles benefits, recycles, prints and donates to charity. It even affected the type of paper products used for the copier and the toilet.
“The main reason for me is that the model we had since the Industrial Revolution brought our planet to the brink of collapse,” Cantor said. “I think we have to have a different model if we are to survive. Personally, I don’t want to make money with guns, private prisons, fossil fuel companies. I don’t want to make money with it. companies with unfair labor practices. and companies that destroy the environment. What does that leave? Lots of tech or entertainment companies, consumer companies, medical research companies, renewable energy companies . “
B Lab certified the top 82 B Corps companies in 2007. New Mexico is in the top half of the states with the number of benefit companies certified by B Lab. Regionally, Utah has five B Corp companies listed on the B Corp website, Nevada has three, and Arizona has seven. Texas has 27. Colorado is among the leaders with 96 B Corps. .
Many states have jumped on the B Corp train, with 34 having passed legislation in recent years allowing companies to incorporate benefits. New Mexico has attempted to enact such bills, but former Governor Susana Martinez vetoed a widely supported measure in 2015. The 2017 version did not come out of its first committee and the draft 2019 law was blocked by the House Judiciary Committee.
Rep. Daymon Ely, a Democrat from Corrales and deputy chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, likes the concept of a benefits corporation, but said he opposed a provision in House Bill 118 that would provide immunity from lawsuits against a company’s actions for the “public good.” “
Ely said he doesn’t mind granting immunity from shareholder lawsuits, but not third-party lawsuits.
B Corp is a business structure behind the common terms sustainable, green, climate change and socially responsible, said Glenn Schiffbauer, executive director of the Santa Fe Green Chamber of Commerce. He plans to push legislation on employee benefits companies again in 2020.
“The message we’re touting is that it will take a lot of business action to fix these problems that we have,” Schiffbauer said. “I think there is now a corporate culture that embraces the kinds of sustainability values from an employer’s perspective. Management wants that to filter through all of their operations.”
Universities have also embraced the B Corp concept, with at least nine schools, including the University of New Mexico, establishing a network in 2016 to study the global B Corporation certification movement and benefit businesses.
The movement is still largely popular, but now is the time to bring the concept of charitable society into the mainstream, said Garima Sharma, assistant professor of strategic management at UNM and a member of the board of trustees of B academics. who studied B Corps for a few years.
“They think they’re here to change the world,” Sharma said of B Corp companies. “What attracts people is that it’s a movement, not just a certification. They see it as a mark on what they do. The biggest advantage of being certified is that it s. ‘It’s a community. They can share best practices with each other. “
An investment firm may seem like an unlikely candidate to apply for B Corp certification. Even in New Mexico, several B Corps are environmental companies. But LongView’s Cantor retorts that socially responsible investing has a deep history stretching back to the days of the Civil War and includes historical markers such as mutual funds that stay away from investments fueling the Vietnam War. and universities withdrew from South Africa in the 1980s.
“Our approach is fiduciary responsibility,” Cantor said. “We also have a responsibility towards the children of beneficiaries and the children of children and a responsibility towards the planet. Destroying the planet while investing in the future does not make sense. It’s been about 10 years. want a socially responsible portfolio. We realized that the performance of our socially responsible investments was as good as if not better than that of traditional portfolios. Currently, we only work with clients who want to invest sustainably.
Schiffbauer predicts that more New Mexico companies will be ready to go through the B Corp certification process.
“I would say that in the next couple of years we could be in 20 B Corps,” Schiffbauer said.