B Corps – The Demise of a Sustainable Corporate America

Updated: Apr 16

By Lydia Knoll, Project Manager, Communities & Impact at adidas, and Next-Gen Leader Guest on THIS. with Shauna Griffiths (links to listen are below)


Let me start by saying I support Certified B Corporations. I respect companies that explicitly take on more responsibility than they’re required to, for the sake of all of us. And herein lies the problem.


The very fundamental existence of the “B Corp” gives every company the choice whether or not they will be socially responsible. It acknowledges that being socially responsible as a price for profit is not the norm and is certainly not a requirement.


According to bcorporation.net, Certified B Corporations “meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.” [1]


While these standards are great, what does this insinuate about the standards, or lack thereof, for the other 99% of Corporate America?



If B Corporations are the only entities measured against their positive impact, required to be transparent with their practices, and held legally accountable to doing so, all other corporations explicitly do not have to do any of those things. ‘Business as usual’ negatively affects people and the planet, is not asked to share with consumers to what extent and is hardly held accountable for their damages. Without the expectation and accountability for companies to deliver more good than harm to people and the planet, it’s no wonder the Earth can not sustain life the same way it used to.


In August of 2021, an IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report released by the United Nations called for a “code red for humanity,” citing human activity (specifically distribution methods and agricultural practices) as “unequivocally” responsible for warming the atmosphere [2]. Nicholas Stern, author of The Economics of Climate Change, describes climate change as an “externality,” a damage to others due to market activity whose cost is not met by those who cause it [3]. In a simplified formula of input and output, the indirect effects of production and distribution on people and our planet are not equally accounted for on the other end of the equation. This imbalance of profit over everything else fails to recognize the delayed implications of our – Corporate America’s – actions.

The cost of losing production due to drought, the cost of rebuilding infrastructure due to tropical storms, the cost of increasing medical insurance, the cost of hiring rather than retaining… all remain unaccounted for.


Social and climate justice as a requirement to profiting off the backs of people and the planet should be table stakes.



It is the only way America can sustain life as we know it, much less Corporate America can sustain business. Globally, it is the only shred of hope we have to prevent any further irreversible damages.


Shouldn’t the goal be to always do more good than harm?


Shouldn’t we aim to create a better planet, a better environment, a better standard of living for ourselves and our children?


Shouldn’t we, as consumers, employees, and citizens of Earth, expect “the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability” in all of our companies?


B Corporations are doing the work and rightfully paying part of the costs that other profitable businesses put on the shoulders of consumers. But this isn’t, shouldn't be, a gold standard. This shouldn't be a badge of honor. This is the bare minimum.


If Corporate America isn’t expected to do more good than harm, where does that leave us?


TUNE-IN TO LYDIA KNOLL ON THIS. with Shauna Griffiths.


Listen to hear about:

👉 Lydia's career evolution (so far)

4️⃣ Her four core values

👩‍👧 Generational stereotypes

🤝 Her passion for social & climate justice intersectionality between the two

💡 The type of leaders that have had the biggest impact on her.


👉 Apple Podcasts

👉 Spotify

👉 Google Podcasts




References:

“About B Corp Certification.” Retrieved April 11, 2022. bcorporation.net.


IPCC, 2021: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S.L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M.I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J.B.R. Matthews, T.K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu, and B. Zhou (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press. In Press.

Stern, N H, 2007. The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.



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