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What is a B Corp? How a Triangle company is working towards a global impact

Posted December 1, 2021 3:31 p.m. EST
Updated December 20, 2021 9:41 a.m. EST

In balancing purpose, people and profit, Certified B Corps like Participate Learning make a global impact. (Photo Courtesy of Participate Learning)

This article was written for our sponsor, Participate Learning.

In a time of social media and a 24/7 news cycle, the actions of businesses and corporations are more front-and-center than ever before. For organizations aiming to make a serious impact on the world around them, becoming a Certified B Corporation is a leap in the right direction.

B Corp-Certified companies are those that "meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose," according to the B Corp website.

So, what does it take to become certified?

"The B Corp Certification is run by the B Lab, which is a global non-profit that designed the B impact assessment. It's essentially the tool that any company anywhere in the world can use to measure their impact on the environment, communities in which they operate, their customers and their employees, as well as measures of governance, transparency and accountability. It's a robust, comprehensive and rigorous tool," said Jessica Yinka Thomas, director of the Business Sustainability Collaborative and assistant professor at North Carolina State University. "Companies actually get a numeric score in each of those five areas and an overall score designed to assess their positive impact on their stakeholders."

Companies around the world can apply to become certified through a rigorous process, from Ben & Jerry's in Vermont and Athleta in California, to local Triangle companies, like Participate Learning and Southern Energy Management. There are over 4,000 certified B Corps around the world, and in North Carolina alone there are over 50, according to Thomas.

At Participate Learning, manager of workplace experience Kerrie Frederick is helping to spearhead the company's B Corp practices.

"We've done some green initiatives, and we're actually launching a new pilot program next week. It is an infants-in-the-workplace program, where we have new parents who, when they come back after parental leave, are able to use a nursery set up in the office. We have alternative caregivers assigned if the parent has to go into a meeting, and it's a great way to help new parents feel more comfortable, but it's also so fun to have a baby in the office," said Frederick. "This company has done so many things for the employees that support the B Corp mindset of supporting people and the planet, not just profits. Everything we do feeds into our larger mission of uniting our world, and that helps employees feel like they're really working towards something for the better."

Participate Learning's global awareness is built into the company's purpose since its main mission is to promote global learning with a Global Leaders framework and dual language immersion programs, which include vetting and hiring international teachers and offering resources that support this mission, like online summer Spanish programs and virtual teaching communities with an international reach.

While being a B Corp fits naturally with Participate Learning's goals, there are other benefits that come along with the designation, as well.

"As consumers are trying to decide what products to buy, where to spend their dollars and where they'd like to be employed, prospective employees are increasingly interested in companies that care about the social and environmental impact. There's a correlation between companies that are sustainable and those companies' bottom line. Companies that are better able to manage climate change risk, labor and human rights and their supply chains, typically have more economic leadership," said Thomas. "Not only does this B Corp Certification help the bottom-line value proposition, but they're better able to attract and retain customers and employees, as well as manage risk."

The scores that B Corp Certified companies receive are public, so potential employees and customers are able to compare companies to one another and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each. Companies with the highest scores are designated as Best for the World™. Participate Learning is on this list, along with companies like Patagonia, TOMS and New Belgium.

Scores are reevaluated regularly, so Frederick and her team are always looking for ways to increase their global impact.

"Participate Learning is a group that believes in what we do and that goes a long way. Our employees and stakeholders stand by our commitment and are always looking for ways to improve," said Frederick. "We know we are doing something great, and what we're doing has a ripple effect — from teachers to students to the communities we work in."

This article was written for our sponsor, Participate Learning.

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