The speed of change does not seem to be letting up. We now have a new class of corporation ‘the B Corporation’ that represents a genre of capitalism whose mission includes an attack on social and environmental problems, accountability and transparency, in addition to the old profit for shareholders shtick. It seems to be catching on all over North America even in Delaware the epicenter of Corporate America.
The rules, oh yes there are still rules, for these hybrids are made and administered by B Lab a nonprofit organization that has the power to certify these benefit corporations. They also must undergo annual audits to make sure they stay on the straight and narrow.
The goal is to use business as a man made force for good in other ways than solely for the formation and preservation of capital. For instance employees are paid a percentage over the local living wage and the business must be run on a sustainable basis. Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia are examples, also Green Mountain Power in Vermont that qualifies because it is a subsidiary of a renewable power source company.
Looking behind the rhetoric and hoopla this looks to me rather like deja vue and reminds me of the early days of organics and other feel good stuff. Most times it will prove that when the smoke clears these vehicles are a thinly disguised excuse to charge the customer more for the same product or service and to split the proceeds between the shareholder and the employee. The challenge is how to lay it on the customer to come through with the money. This is where the overworked words like sustainable, green, organic, fair trade, and transparency are rolled out.
More interesting is that the efficacy is left to a judge and jury in the form of the B Lab rather like the seal of good housekeeping was back when people actually stayed home long enough to keep house. I also notice that the founders of B Lab all come with a lot of money and so can afford the luxury of being wrong once in a while.
There are lots of things wrong with the corporate world as it exists. I am not different when I rant against the likes of Walmart, but I have a choice that being not to patronize those I do not like. No so unfortunately for the oligopolies that exist across the corporate world, that I am on about all the time.
I am also reminded that it has been old type corporations such as Microsoft,Apple and a host of others that have created through the digital revolution more wealth than in the entire history of civilization. They are by no means perfect and have been used frequently to shield bandits from their just rewards, but they are rather like democracy, a lousy form of government until it is compared to everything else.