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Ever heard of a B corp?

April 12, 2011

A Scorecard for Companies With a Conscience – NYTimes.com.

Does this ever happen to you?  You just started writing a scathing piece about some issue or other, and already have the conclusion set-up, but need to check some of the facts as you work through the post.  Suddenly, something really bad happens, the facts don’t match your conclusions.  Uh-oh, even worse, the facts are the complete opposite of your argument, making the whole post you started pretty much worthless.  Having suffered through this a couple of times (hey don’t blame me, sometimes I think I am smarter than I actually am), I am now pretty cognizant of the need to check the facts BEFORE I start writing something.

It appears such was the case for Tina Rosenberg in her opinion piece for the NY Times:

Eleven years ago, the Vermont-based ice cream-maker Ben and Jerry’s found itself in a position other companies might have found enviable. Several firms were bidding to buy it. The top bid was from the Dutch conglomerate Unilever.

But Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenberg didn’t want to sell to Unilever. They had built the company with the mission of serving what has come to be known as the “triple bottom line” — profits, people and planet. The company offered voter registration along with its ice cream, paid employees living wages and good benefits, donated 7.5 percent of its profits to charity, and bought Brazil nuts from a cooperative of indigenous Amazon farmers and brownies from a bakery famous for hiring people fresh out of prison. Ben and Jerry worried that a Unilever-owned company would quickly become focused purely on profit.

A couple of notes on this lede.  First, what a smorgasbord of social silliness!  But guess what, I don’t have one freaking problem with it.  And more amazing, they can do all this “social responsiblity” nonsense WITHOUT the government forcing them to – wrap your head around that one progressive mouth-breathers!  Also, I wonder if any of the brownies from the Beagle Boy’s bakery are packing a chisel?  Oh, and lastly, is it me or is Tina setting this story up for what can happen when the small, socially responsible company gets taken over by the greedy, rich uber-evil megacorp?

To find the answer to that question, we must drop down five paragraphs.  The road signs on the way point to other small, dare I say progressive, companies gobbled up by Earth killing, poor exploiting, profit mad megacorps.  Ahh, here we go, back to Ben and Jerry’s:

Under Unilever, Ben and Jerry’s has hewed pretty closely to its original mission. The company no longer calls all its ice cream “all natural” — ingredients such as partially-hydrogenated soybean oil have crept in. But the company uses humanely-produced eggs, is moving towards all fair trade ingredients, and its foundation gives away about $1.8 million annually. It publicly celebrated Vermont’s gay-marriage law with the temporary renaming of its Chubby Hubby flavor as Hubby Hubby. And of course, Butter Pecan became Yes, Pecan! to mark Barack Obama’s election.

Ohhhh, so nothing really changed?  What a pity, her lede was so grand, setting us up for the home run that was to prove how Unilever gut the soul of the House that Ben built.  Okay, that ain’t fair, some things have changed, I mean they use partially-hydrogenated soybean oil now, the evil bastards!  But seriously, “Yes, Pecan!”, I mean nothing expresses more the wittiness of a bunch of washed up 60’s hipsters than a wistful play on words, what fun!

So the outcome didn’t fit the story she was planning on telling, no problem, just move along.  Let’s talk about this B corp thingy.  A B corp is apparently a new “type” of corporation that subscribes to an arbitrary set of standards designed to bring them in line with “the triple bottom line” – profits, people and planet.  I will throw them a bone here, at least they prioritized those three properly – I guess even the commies understand you can’t take care of the peeps and the planet without some pesos.

The B corp status is not a government recognized classification, so I guess these folks truly are a bunch of rebels, though certain states are starting to make laws with regards to them:

Four states have so far passed legislation backing B Corps: Vermont, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia. The city of Philadelphia gives tax breaks to B Corps. B Corps can exist without such laws, but the laws give increased legitimacy and longevity to the concept and add legal clout to the revised by-laws.

Yay for Virginia!  I love it when my home state has laws I never even heard of!  So how does one become a B corp?

To become a certified B Corp, or benefit corporation, a business must pass an examination of how it treats its employees, the environment and the community. A non-profit organization called B Lab sets out the requirements and certifies businesses that meet the standard. The idea is that while any company can claim to be a good corporate citizen, a B Corp can prove it — something valuable for consumers and investors.

Okay, so if you want to become a B corp, you pay this non-profit company anywhere from $500 to $25,000 a year to obtain the certification, which is basically a questionnaire that they then require 20% of the questions answered to be verified by paperwork.  The questions vary from general “best business practices” common sense stuff, to other questions about providing your employees with a living wage ($30.16 an hour for me), or how much of your product is designed to enhance social equality.

Something I found interesting – one of the groups of people who helped develop this questionnairre are what they dub as “thought leaders”.  Pretty neat huh?  How does one become a thought leader?  Apparently you have to think like Joel Kurtzman, who coined the term.  Here’s a clue, if you want cap-and-trade, you just might be a thought leader.

Let’s talk more about this non-profit B labs, according to Tina Rosenberg:

B Lab was founded in October 2006, and the first B Corporation was certified the next year. The nonprofit was the brainchild of three longtime friends: Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan and Andrew Kassoy. Coen Gilbert and Houlahan had founded and run AND 1, a highly successful basketball shoe and apparel business. Kassoy was a private equity investor. “AND 1 would have been within sniffing distance of a B Corp on employee ownership and charitable giving, but it was not created with the express intent of creating a positive impact,” said Coen Gilbert. “We were doing the best we could within a business model not set up for it. When we had a chance at act two, we said ‘wouldn’t it be cool to work with entrepreneurs who had that express purpose.’ ”

Man I need to get in on a gig like this.  If one looks a little deeper than Tina did, guess what you can find out?  The United Stated Agency for International Aid (of Pakistani Big Bird fame) is a major funder of this NPO, to the tune of $1-2.5 million.  Considering the United States is the largest polluter, the biggest human rights violator, and generally the most icky place to live on the planet, I would say B labs is being a little hypocritical in taking our money.  Nah, I am just splitting hairs.

Needless to say, I will not be actively seeking a B corp out to do business with, I could care less about how you run your damn business.  If you make a product I want to use and sell it at a competitive price, then I will buy it, regardless of what you then end up doing with those profits.  Okay, that ain’t fair, if you then use those profits to support socialist scumbags for office, then I will definitely stop buying.  It should be no surprise I have not had the pleasure of a pint of Hubby Hubby or Yes, Pecan! grace my socially irresponsible blasphemous lips.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 13, 2011 8:16 am

    Nope, I had never heard of a B corp. What a load of BS. Creepy how, I finally start reading Atlas Shrugged (thats right, I’ve never read it folks), and it sounds like the stuff that’s happening right now. The whole “corps have a social responsibility” theme in this particular case.

    In unrelated news, you really must repost Gourdie’s mohair post. Based on the title I thought he was writing about you!

    • April 13, 2011 9:30 am

      Oh wow, Atlas Shrugged is fantastic! I read it in high-school and it blew my mind. It is amazing and somewhat humbling when we read from the past that they truly had pretty much the same problems we have to do. Frightening too, because obviously no progress has been made fixing them.

      Yeah, I should repost Jim’s piece, maybe I will do that today, lol.

  2. JustFacts permalink
    April 13, 2011 8:43 am

    I commend Ben & Jerry’s for their committment to whatever causes they believe and think that all corporations and their executives should be as bold in advertising their beliefs. By doing so, the public can make a decision as to whether purchasing their products or services is in keeping with your values (i.e., voting with your pocketbooks). For instance, after finding out that the CEO of Costco was a major funder of moveon.org, I shredded my Costco card and sent it back to them. I did the same with my AARP card (and yes, I am over 50) when they started looking after the bottom line and social engineering, rather than the interests of the senior citizens the ostensibly support. I refuse to get quotes for Progressive Insurance (no matter how attractive Flo or the gecko makes their product sound). Chairman of the Board of Progressive is Peter Lewis, major contributor to moveon.org, America Coming Together, Media Matters, and Democracy Alliance. All BIG left-wing organizations. Guess where the name “Progressive Insurance” comes from?

    We can all make a difference if we VOTE with our pocketbooks. Let these people know that you support them when they do the right thing and especially when they do the wrong thing. No matter how they try to hide their motives with their social awareness campaigns, all corporations are in business to make money. Even ones run by bigtime left-wing hypocrits. If enough of us make it known that we are watching what they are doing, it might make a difference.

  3. April 13, 2011 9:40 am

    Add Heinz ketchup to the list, yeah I still won’t eat that mess.

    I agree with your points exactly, but should we just stick to our own personal pocketbooks? Many conservatives are reluctant to pull out the perennial threat of the left, the boycott, because….umm….not really sure why? If we can all agree Moveon.org is pretty freaking bad for America, or we can all agree Media Matters’ new mission is the destruction of the only mainstream news source that is not in the pocket of the progressives, should we not be emboldened to an organized effort to expose and defund the people and businesses who actively seek to enervate these organizations? Glenn Beck is against boycotts, but he is pretty much an information source, I don’t look to him for leadership because he is a bit of a lilly-livered pansy in my opinion.

    Maybe you can explain it to me, but why not boycotts?

    • JustFacts permalink
      April 13, 2011 9:49 am

      I agree that boycotts should be a weapon in our arsenal. One thing, boycotts get media attention. That’s the whole problem with all of this. The media does not cover the strings that are attached to all of this campaign/social awareness spending unless it is by the Koch brothers.

    • JustFacts permalink
      April 13, 2011 9:57 am

      Oh yeah, forgot about Heinz. Don’t you know that the late Republican Senator H. J.Heinz III is rolling over in his grave watching as Theresa and John Kerry (who served in Viet Nam) trash his conservative legacy and company. I refuse to have any Heinz products on my shelf.

      • April 13, 2011 10:10 am

        Considering Hunt’s is the leader in canned tomatoes, I don’t even understand Heinz’s domination of the ketchup market. I use Hunt’s or the storebrand.

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