105, Jay Coen Gilbert, B Lab | Business as a Force for Good

What if we could utilize the power of business as a force for good? What would that make possible?

Jay Coen Gilbert knows how to scale a business. As a cofounder of AND1, he grew the company from selling t-shirts out of the back of a car to a global basketball footwear and apparel brand worth over $250 million. When he sold the company in 2005, Jay took the time to think about his experience. He and his friends Bart Houlahan, and Andrew Kassoy met with purpose driven businesses to talk about the potential of business as a force for good.

Based on these conversations, they recognized that, just because a company talked about social and environmental purpose, did not mean that they executed with the same fervor. What was missing was a third-party verifiable assessment to distinguish between those who are “walking the walk, not just talking the talk.”

B Lab is the nonprofit behind the BCorporation movement. BCorps are global business leaders who are using business as a force for good. There are over 1,800 certified BCorps in over 150 industries in more than 50 countries.

A Community Using Business as a Force for Good

Certified B Corporations differentiate themselves in the marketplace by measuring their impact. They make it easier for consumers to find their products and services. You can find a B Corp by industry or location by going here.

By becoming a B Corp, companies can also attract investors who are looking to make an impact with their money. And, certified B Corps can attract talented individuals who want their work to matter.

Also, by becoming a certified B Corp, business leaders join a community of like-minded individuals and companies who want to use the power of business as a force for good.

Measure What Matters

The B Lab allows anyone to measure what matters through their B Impact Assessment. The assessment allows companies to assess themselves in five key areas: governance, workers, community, environment and impact business models. Any company that scores 80 or above can apply to be a certified B Corporation.

Based on thousands of assessments, B Lab also provides comparative data through the B Analytics. This data can be used by investors, supply chain managers, business networks, and governments to help measure and improve their positive impact.

Achieving Mission Alignment

The community of B Corps are making it easier for the next generation of companies to ensure that their impact lasts. They have lobbied for legislation to allow for a new form of business. In the past companies have had an option to create one of several legal entities – LLC, Partnership, S-Corp, C-Corp, etc. One limitation to these types of entities is that courts have ruled that companies have a primary and almost exclusive obligation to shareholders, despite the impact to other stakeholders, such as employees, society and the planet.

By working with legislators, many states and countries now provide for new forms of business, the Benefit Corporation. These businesses bake into their founding documents the intent that they will use their business as a force for good, therefore providing legal protection from activist shareholders.

Not all countries and states allow the Benefit Corporation form of corporation and not all companies need to seek this particular legal form. Still, for those who seek to use their business as a force for good, the Benefit Corporation is a powerful option.

Quotes from Jay Coen Gilbert

“Nonprofits and government are necessary but insufficient to the task to solve our most challenging problems.”

“While there are hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, and investors who are interested in using their businesses as powerful forces for good, there are a few systemic challenges.”

“There is a lack of credible, transparent standards to distinguish those who are talking about this stuff from those who are walking the talk.”

“They recognize that social change is a team sport.”

“If the first rule of business is that you manage what you measure, then we ought to be making sure we measure what matters, what’s most important, which is the positive impact we can have with our businesses on all our different stakeholders.”

B Corporation Resources:

About the Author
Tony Loyd is a TEDx speaker, podcast host and the author of Crazy Good Advice: 10 Lessons Learned from 150 Leading Social Entrepreneurs. He is a former Fortune 500 executive with extensive experience in strategic planning, talent management, and leadership development. Tony is the host of the podcast Social Entrepreneur where you can hear the stories of changemakers who are making an impact on the world.

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