B Lab is a huge asset to companies of all sizes that want to identify, scale, and celebrate their impact. Their founding team and staff bring a wealth of experience to all partners that become certified and even companies that do not can benefit from their impact assessment. It was a pleasure of mine to be acquainted with their analysts and professionals throughout our journey and I thought it would be good to tell some of the individual stories of people there that are making change happen on the front lines. Below is a Q&A we did with Andy Fyfe from the business development team at B Lab.
1. How did you first get involved with B Lab?
I started at B Lab about 7 years ago and it was following both a university education that fostered a sense of skepticism of “ business as usual” as well s some long travel through Latin America doing a little farming and learning about microfinance. When I returned to San Francisco, I learned of a community workspace called Impact Hub and joined their team as they launched it. It then opened the door to B Lab, which I had never heard of before. Although I had always worked in the non-profit sector, B Lab has a unique position to support scaling movement of people using business as a force for good. I was really drawn to that. I wanted to be a part of the backbone behind a lot of the companies that guided my own purchasing decisions and I was inspired by.
2. What were you doing before you joined the team?
I worked in court-dependent child advocacy in San Francisco, managed a non-profit and bed and breakfast there as well, and spent a few months in Chile learning about microfinance in the Valparaiso Region.
3. What has been the most surprising thing you have learned on the job?
The camaraderie of the community of companies using business as a force for good, large and small, of all types, around the world. It’s that spirit of not wanting to go at it alone and if we want to go fast we go alone, if we want to go far we go together. And seeing this in the business community, when traditionally we think it’s survival of the fittest, B Corps and companies that act like B Corps continue to inspire me the way they work together toward a shared vision.
4. What is your view on the direction of socially conscious companies today?
We talk about purchasing with purpose or conscious consumption. We talk about more and more investors looking at shared value, rather than short-termism. We see more and more entrepreneurs starting companies looking at more bottom lines than just profit. What I’m seeing is that these factors of behavior change are beginning to shape into more normative and institutional change. It’s turning into new corporate forms available state by state. We’re seeing procurement preference. ERISA has been reformed back to what it used to allow. For this ‘movement’ to not be a trend, it needs to be institutionalized, just like renewable energy, so that it’s not an alternative, but the new norm.
5. What do you suggest for new B Corps to make the most out of relationships with other B Corps?
I would say it’s a give and take and the more creative the ask, the more likely the relationship can be built. Every B Corp is wrapped up in their day to day and the spirit of the B Corp community, and even the assessment that companies use to certify, is to take the horse blinders off. The more you can inspire fellow B Corps to think differently and more creatively about the impact they can create, the more prosperous the relationship. Oh, and send some chocolate. There are some good chocolate companies in the community. Mailing a little to a fellow B Corp never hurts.
6. Are there any projects you are working on right now that have you particularly excited?
We have launched the B Corp Inclusion Challenge, encouraging all B Corps around the world to identify at least 3 metrics from the assessment that deal with inclusivity at the workplace and to improve upon them over the next 12 months. We have had about 250 B Corps take the challenge already and it’s a testament to our collective vision. If we want society to see a shared and durable prosperity for all, we need an inclusive economy.
7. What companies in the B Corp community should we know about?
So many! I’m a big fan of Klean Kanteen. They’re doing some amazing work and really creative in how they work with fellow B Corps and approach retail.
8. What’s the most challenging about what you do?
Learning to say no. We will always be over-opportunitied and under-resourced. It’s hard to recognize that. I think another challenge is that we often remind ourselves that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. However I feel some urgency in our work with the current events in the world.
9. How do you grow B Lab?
Continue to certify more companies and raise strategic funding to reach financial sustainability.
10. Where can we find you online?
11. Would you like to make a call to action?
B the Change