Have you heard about the B corporation certification? How do B Corporations get certified? What is the history behind the B Corp movement?
In this podcast episode, Alison Pidgeon speaks about B corporations with Sarah Payne.
Podcast Sponsor: Brighter Vision
When you’re in private practice it can be tough to find the time to even review your marketing efforts, let alone to make improvements where needed.
Whether you are a seasoned clinician with an existing website in need of a refresh, or a new therapist building a website for the first time, Brighter Vision is the perfect solution.
By first understanding your practice and what makes it unique, Brighter Vision’s team of developers are then able to create you a beautiful website that will attract your ideal clients and get them to contact you. Better yet, they also provide unlimited tech support to make sure it’s always up-to-date, and professional search engine optimization to make sure you rank high in online searches – all at no additional cost.
But best of all, we’ve worked with them to create a special offer just for Grow a Group Practice listeners. Get your first 3 months of website service completely FREE. To take advantage of this amazing deal, head to brightervision.com/joe.
Meet Sarah Payne
Sarah Payne is the Impact Consulting Manager at ASSETS. Through her experience working with nonprofits and for-profit businesses to create change in both local and global contexts, she furthers her passion for deploying collaborative strategies to build a more just, equitable, and sustainable world.
Sarah focuses on developing and operationalizing strategies that equip companies to improve their social and environmental impact in order to enhance their competitive advantage and build a better world. Sarah holds a Bachelor’s degree in World History from Messiah College and an MBA in Economic Development from Eastern University.
Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn.
In This Podcast
- What are B corporations?
- Some history behind B corporations
- Look for B corporations as a consumer
What are B corporations?
They are companies that are committed to the highest levels of social and environmental performance, accountability, and public transparency. (Sarah Payne)
A company is certified as a B corporation when they meet a variety of requirements demonstrating that they are about creating a positive impact.
The company has to take a B impact assessment and answer a litany of questions across topics like governance, employees, communities, customers, and the environment, and pass a certain bar of excellence within these aspects.
So, B Corp certification is pretty much the gold standard of responsible business … the B Corp certification applies to the entire business [showing that] this business does give back to the world, does good for the world, and has a positive impact. (Sarah Payne)
Some history behind B corporations
The B corporation certification has been around for almost two decades.
They were started by a group of people that were coming out of a career in the private sector. A group of three guys who had started a business together … they wanted it to be created for that positive impact. (Sarah Payne)
They made sure to visit their overseas suppliers to make sure that human rights were being respected, they offered yoga and wellness to their employees on-site, and offered their employees 40-hours of paid leave to do volunteer work in their communities.
The company was therefore based upon positive impact, employee satisfaction, and doing good work for both the company and the community wherein it operated.
However, new owners of the company dropped the principles that these past owners had instilled. This inspired action to create a system where future companies would operate the same even under new management.
Look for B corporations as a consumer
If you as a consumer want to minimize the negative impact on the environment and spend your money wisely, choose to work with certified B corporations wherever possible.
Choose to purchase B Corp products and make use of B Corp services when you can to act by your principles.
Useful links mentioned in this episode:
- Get your first 3 months of website service completely FREE with brightervision.com/joe.
- Visit the ASSETS website and connect with them on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and LinkedIn.
Check out these additional resources:
- Hire the Right Team to Grow Your Group Practice, with Jenny Walters GP | 109
- Group Practice Launch Free Webinar March 2nd, 2022: How to Make Bank
- Group Practice Launch
- Group Practice Boss: www.practiceofthepractice.com/grouppracticeboss $149 a month
- Email Alison: firstname.lastname@example.org
- PoP Group Practice Owners Facebook Group
- Free resources to help you start, grow, and scale
- Work with us
- Consult With Alison
- Alison Pidgeon on Therapy for Your Money Podcast
- Practice of the Practice Network
Meet Alison Pidgeon, Group Practice Owner
Alison Pidgeon, LPC is the owner of Move Forward Counseling, a group practice in Lancaster, PA and she runs a virtual assistant company, Move Forward Virtual Assistants.
Alison has been working with Practice of the Practice since 2016. She has helped over 70 therapist entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, through mastermind groups and individual consulting.
Transformation From A Private Practice To Group Practice
In addition, she is a private practice consultant for Practice of the Practice. Allison’s private practice ‘grew up.’ What started out as a solo private practice in early 2015 quickly grew into a group practice and has been expanding ever since.
Thanks For Listening!
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[ALISON PIDGEON] You are listening to the Grow a Group Practice podcast. Whether you were thinking about starting a group practice or in the beginning stages, or want to learn how to scale up your already existing group practice, you are in the right place. I’m Alison Pidgeon, your host, a serial entrepreneur with four businesses, one of which is a large group practice that I started in 2015. Each week, I feature a guest or topic that is relevant to group practice owners. Let’s get started.
Hi, thanks so much for listening. I’m Alison Pidgeon your host. So we achieved a very important certification in my practice. The very end of 2021, we became what’s called a B Corporation and we earned that certification through a process that took us about eight or nine months. I posted it on LinkedIn and Facebook and just said I’m really proud and excited we earned this B Corporation certification and a lot of people had no idea what it was. It is something that is somewhat new and so I invited Sarah Payne, who is the impact consulting manager at an organization called ASSETS, which is actually local to me here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to come on the podcast and talk about what are B Corporations, how do you become one, what are some examples of B Corporations and why would a company want to go through the long process of becoming B Corp certified?
We had so much to talk about that we split this episode into two. So if this is a really interest topic, definitely check out the next episode, which is part two coming out next week. Let me tell you a little bit more about Sarah before we jump into the interview. Like I said, she’s from an organization called ASSETS and she has experience working both with non-profit and for profit businesses to create change in both local and global contexts. She also has a background in working for AmeriCorps Vista. She’s worked internationally on various economic development initiatives.
She has a bachelor’s degree in world history from Messiah College and she has an MBA in economic development from Eastern University. So Sarah definitely knows her stuff, and she does a great job explaining everything about B Corp certifications, which is why I invited her to come on the podcast. She actually helped us start the process of becoming B Corp certified. That’s part of her job and what she does so I thought she was the perfect person to explain this all to us and why you might want to consider having your practice become a B Corporation. So here is my interview with Sarah Payne.
[ALISON] Hi Sarah. Thanks so much for being here.
[SARAH PAYNE] Hi, Alison. So great to be here. Thanks for having me.
[ALISON] Can you introduce yourself to our audience?
[SARAH] Absolutely. I’m Sarah Payne. I’m the impact consulting manager at ASSETS in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I work with companies to help them measure and improve their social and environmental impact.
[ALISON] Excellent. We invited you to come on today, because we wanted to talk all about B Corporations. That is something I think that isn’t very common yet in our field of mental health private practices. My practice just went through this process in 2021 and at the very end of 2021, we got our B Corp certification. So we are very excited about that. All that being said if people aren’t familiar at all with what a B Corporation is, can you explain to them the overview?
[SARAH] Yes, of course. Congratulations on becoming a certified B Corporation. It’s a pretty arduous process to meet these really high standards for businesses. So just kudos to you and to your business for really holding up those values that make B Corps what they are. So what B Corps are, is they are companies that are committed to the highest levels of social and environmental performance, accountability and public transparency. These are companies that meet a variety of requirements that demonstrate to the world that they are all about creating a positive impact in society.
That’s across a variety of areas. They have to take a performance assessment called the B Impact Assessment and answer a litany of questions across the areas of governance, employees, communities, customers, and the environment. Basically, you pass a certain bar to attest that they have an impact on all of those areas. So B Corp certification is pretty much the gold standard of responsible business. Unlike some other certifications like Fair Trade or Organic that apply to products of a business, B Corp certification applies to the entire business, certifying that this is a business that really does give back to the world and does good for the world and has that overall positive impact.
[ALISON] That’s a great description. Can you give us some examples of some of the standards that a business has to meet? I know there’s a lot of moving parts because you can have scores based on various aspects and you have to at least meet a minimum score of 80 to be certified or to be considered to be certified. Maybe you could just give us some examples of what some of the things are that businesses have to show they’re doing in order to get their score up high enough.
[SARAH] Yes, absolutely. There are a variety of things. So the B Impact Assessment asks hundreds of questions about the operations and about the business model of the company. Some examples of that would be, for employee does, the company pay living wages? They use a living wage calculator to basically calculate can employees of your company really thrive on the wages and the salaries that you provide to them. It asks a variety of questions around benefits, including some pretty innovative benefits around health and wellness, making sure that you’re going above and beyond for your employees, that you’re providing high quality jobs.
Other questions are around your supply chain, so whom you work with, do you work with women-owned businesses, other diverse businesses to help underrepresented entrepreneurs. There’s a variety of questions around the environment. So do you manage your environmental impact? Whether that’s you’re a small company or a large company, depending on your size, it will ask questions about how you manufacture products, if you are that kind of company. It will ask questions about your customers and what is the value that you give to your customers. So it’s a variety of questions, it’s everything from do you recycle as a company to do you give back to the community through donations or pro bono times? It really runs the gamut of those five different stakeholder areas that I’ve described. But those are some examples of questions that they would ask businesses.
[ALISON] I wanted to say too, just having gone through the process recently that I think some of these changes, as a business owner are pretty simple to make. Like when they ask you about do you buy the majority of your, whatever that you buy in your business from minority owned businesses, it’s like, oh yes, I could be doing that. It may take a little bit more effort, but not really. So we ended up, for example giving the staff this year, the option for their holiday gifts, usually I would buy them something or people give up bonuses, all kinds of different things.
So we gave them the option of they could have a piece of jewelry from an organization called Revolution Lancaster that helps women with transitional employment who are homeless. They make the jewelry and they get paid to make the jewelry. They could either have that or we could donate money to charity in their name. So just little things like that I was going to spend that money anyway, but it was just, it just felt like such a win-win to be able to to do it that way. I think that’s just a good example of it doesn’t have to be difficult. Just be a little bit more creative.
[SARAH] Yes, a little bit more creative and just that added layer of intentionality. Sometimes all it takes is to be asked a good question. We’ve seen that over and over again. We’ve worked with a number of companies in Lancaster County on the B Impact Assessment and on becoming certified. That’s a common refrain that we hear; is that some of these things I just didn’t think about, but now that I know that that’s a good practice for a business, I’ll start that. So I’ve found, especially with that purchasing question of just with that extra layer of intentionality who you can choose to buy from, and your example is so perfect and so amazing.
But things like that or whether it’s a policy, writing a policy is sometimes a fairly easy thing to do, but it has great ramifications. It’s something that the company is now committed to in writing and as it grows, it’s going to continue that policy. So yes, definitely some things that are not super challenging to go above and beyond as a business to do. It’s just being asked that question and choosing to connect your values as a leader, as a person, as an entrepreneur to that impact that you could create. Every decision that you make in your business has that potential for positive impact. So it’s just being asked that, being inspired to do that and then having the courage to do it and just committing. Again, kudos to you.
[ALISON] Thank you. It’s interesting that you brought up about the policies, because we found that as we were going through the process that we were doing a lot of the things that were in the questions we just hadn’t written a policy about them. So it was just like a no brainer like, well of course, we’ll just do that and then we’ll be able to count that on the assessment because we’re already doing it. We just never wrote it down. So I think it’s just the simple process of formalizing some of those things too.
[ALISON] Can you tell us a little bit about the history of B Corporations? Is this something that’s relatively new? Has it been around for a while?
[SARAH] Yes, definitely. So B Corporations have been around coming up on two decades I suppose. They were started by a group of people that were coming out of a career in the private sector, a group of three guys who had started a business together and they really put their hearts and soul into this business. It was called And 1. It was popular back in the 1990s and a basketball apparel and footwear company. The owners of this company, these three guys that were coming out of college and starting this business, they wanted it to be really created for that positive impact.
They were creating and designing these products, but they did it with an eye towards how they were being created. They were very intentional with their suppliers. They would go and visit their overseas suppliers to ensure human rights were being respected. In terms of the actual premises in the offices, they were doing things like offering yoga on site before that was a super trendy thing to do. They were giving their employees 40 hours a year of paid time to do volunteering in the community. They were doing a lot of these things that had a positive impact for the company. It really showed that that was the good for the people that worked there and motivated them.
They built a really successful thriving company that was based on these values and had this really positive impact. It grew financially to be really successful. So years down the line of that journey with their company, they had an offer from invest to buy the company. What often happens, and this is sort of the American entrepreneur’s dream is that you build the company, you build it really well and then you’re able to sell it and you make your money and you ride off into the sunset. They decided to accept the offer to sell their company butt unfortunately within a few months of that point of sale, they watched as the new ownership stripped away all of those unique things that they did in terms of impact and watched those fall by the wayside, that extra layer of intention to all details; so their suppliers and their workers and the environment.
They were pretty disillusioned after that experience and really put their minds to thinking about how could they create an avenue for a for-profit company to preserve its values, to preserve who the company is at its heart, even if there were changes in ownership to the company that happened over time? So after that experience, they set up this nonprofit called B Lab and this organization was going to be dedicated to that cause of figuring out how we can make it possible for companies to live into these values, to really enshrine them in a company’s DNA and they set themselves to work on that problem.
The result of that was the Certified B Corporation Movement. So basically coming up with this whole idea that there could be a certification process to attest to a company’s positive impact to really build into the operations and the DNA of the business and to hold them accountable and to make their impact transparent to all stakeholders. The other innovation that they came up with was a governance entity, similar to a C corporation or an S corporation called a benefit corporation. This is separate from the certification. It’s an entity, a corporate entity that basically when you create it in your corporate governing documents that outline the identity and the mission of the company, they are committing themselves to serving all stakeholders and to creating a specific, impactful purpose through their company. They’re then bound to do that because it’s in their founding documents as a corporation.
That was the other thing that they came up, was to really as a safeguard against other external forces causing the business to lose its heart. So that’s what they did to create B Corporations. Since then it’s really grown. The first early adopters of the B Corp movement were largely smaller businesses, social enterprises, companies that were already very bought into the ideas and took up this new form that was available. But what we’ve seen over the years is that it’s really grown as consumers, as workers, as investors and other stakeholders have seen that this is a really cool thing. It’s grown across the world. So there are thousands and thousands of B Corps now in a wide variety of industries over 70 countries; so this great diversity of businesses that’s really thriving, but again, with this one unifying mission that’s been there since day one, which is to redefine success in business.
[BRIGHTER VISION] When you’re in private practice, it can be tough to find the time to even review your marketing efforts, let alone to make improvements where needed. Whether you are a seasoned clinician with an existing website in need of a refresh or a new therapist, building a website for the first time, Brighter Vision is the perfect solution. By first understanding your practice and what makes it unique, Brighter Vision’s team of developers are then able to create you a beautiful website that will attract your ideal clients and get them to contact you.
Better yet, they also provide unlimited tech support to make sure it’s always up to date and professional search engine optimization to make sure you rank high in online searches all at no additional cost. But best of we’ve worked with them to create a special offer just for Grow A Group Practice podcast listeners. Get your first three months of website service, completely free. To take advantage of this amazing deal, head to brightervision.com/joe. Again, that’s brightervision.com/joe.
[ALISON PIDGEON] Nice. Yes, I didn’t know that story so that’s really great to understand the origins. That started like the beginning of the 2000’s? They established the B Lab?
[ALISON] Cool. So how many B Corporations now are there across the world? Do you know?
[SARAH] There are nearly 4,000 at this point by my latest count and they continue to grow day by day. There has been such demand for it, especially in recent years, just flooding B Lab with the applications, which is so great to see that people are really resonating with the concept of the B Corp. So yes, over or around 4,000 as of today. Again, just want to emphasize that that’s in so many different countries around the world. That’s in so many different industries. They really created something that could be used by a wide variety of businesses. It’s not just for one specific type of business. You could be a sole proprietor with a fairly straightforward business in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and you can be certified, or you can be a large company with multiple manufacturing facilities.
Even public company have become certified B Corporations. So it just speaks to really the intention of the thought that went behind crafting this movement to make it accessible to all these different types of businesses. How they do that is that there be impact assessment, that tool that we talked about earlier is designed to fluctuate depending on the company that’s taking it. So if it’s a manufacturing company, the environment section more heavily recognizing that that company is going to have a much greater impact on the environment than say that sole proprietor who isn’t producing a physical product. So they really put a lot of thought and intention into how they could make this work for a variety of people, which I think is great.
[ALISON] What I tell people is that if you’ve never heard of B Corp before to start looking at even groceries, products on the shelves, because you’ll start to recognize the B Corporation logo. It’s amazing, like once you recognize it, how many places you see it.
[SARAH] Totally. Just keep popping up.
[ALISON] Yes. You’d be like, oh, they’re B Corp certified. Cool. And I know that because ASSETS, the organization you work for helps people with B Corporations, it seems like there are a large number of them here just in central Pennsylvania. Is that true
[SARAH] Yes. Over the past few years we’ve been really fortunate to work with entrepreneurs in our community that this was a concept that wasn’t totally new. In Lancaster County, we have this rich tradition of entrepreneurs with these strong values, really wanting to use their business to create a strong community. So not a hard pitch here in Lancaster County. We’ve been fortunate to work with over 20 of these businesses to help them become certified, which has just been so gratifying to see them really latch onto this concept and have it become something that’s talked about in the community and to have these businesses now in our local community that are this lighthouse beacon, as an example to other businesses of this is what wholehearted, holistic good business looks like.
So it’s been really exciting to be part of that growth. When I started at ASSETS just about four years ago, they were four B Corporations. Now we’ve helped over 20. So really cool to see that growth and to see these values resonate with the local community has been super exciting. But I agree, as soon as you see the logo, you can walk into even a Target and you see it on so many different products which is great. So as a consumer, one of the most helpful things is that logo. It’s a signal to consumers that this is a brand you can trust. This is a brand that has been vetted across a variety of areas to have a positive impact. So if you, as a consumer, for example, want to reduce your environmental impact in your home or in your office, if you see a B Corp product, whether that’s a cleaning product or an office product, you can feel good about that purchase knowing that you’re living out your values as a consumer by doing that. Yes, just a really great thing to keep your eyes peeled for to support B Corps, wherever you see them.
[ALISON] That was actually something I was going to ask you, was how does that resonate then with consumers? Do people, who understand what a B Corporation is, do they tend to want to buy those things or use those services over something else or like, do people just not notice it, or what’s been your experience with that?
[SARAH] Definitely in recent years, I will ask groups of people, have you heard of B Corps and the hands that go up have increased each time. So it’s definitely something that’s becoming more recognized. I do think that there is a preference for these kinds of products by one statistic. 66% of US consumers are willing to buy a socially or environmentally responsible product, even if that product costs more. Generally these products too, this intention that goes into creating good products, to creating a good business often means that you’re doing things like paying your workers, paying your suppliers higher wages, things that do drive of the cost. But what we’ve seen across the country and now across the world is that people understand what that means and they’re willing to pay more if they can be assured of the fact that people and planet are being respected and treated well in the creation of these products.
So it’s up to me so that I personally, as a consumer really look for and I do think more and more consumers are looking for and are recognizing it. I should mention that B Corps aren’t only product manufacturers or those kinds of companies, but they can be service companies. So for example, there can be certified B Corp restaurants, breweries, photography and design studios, lots of different kinds of businesses. Even those two as a consumer, you can think about if you’re deciding between two options and one certified B Corp. I think that does really mean something to a consumer that wants to do well in the world in terms of their own purchasing. So that’s really a benefit of the B Corp movement, is that it does help consumers to live out their values and I think to challenge other businesses to do the same.
Because once one business in your industry is doing that and is being lauded as this great example it stimulates that competition among others and spreads the word about it. So yes, I think it’s really exciting when we see that happen. That certainly happens in Lancaster as more and more companies get certified. Other companies are like, “Hmm, what’s this thing?” They’re seeing the positive PR around it. So it’s that good competition and accountability that I think is really spreading it.
Certainly we’ve seen with the companies that we’ve worked with on B Corp certification, the employees really get involved and are educated about what the company is doing and they get excited about it, which is cool. It can be an employee engagement tool. I think it’s just great to be an employee of a company that’s willing to do this, willing to put in the work and the effort because it is a long process. I know we make it sound a little bit easy at times, but it’s a pretty arduous process, especially if you’re a company that’s not already doing all of the right things. So seeing your employer do that is really cool. If they’re committed to this, then they’re pretty committed to us and to doing well, which is great.
[ALISON] Well, I wanted to say thank you one more time to Brighter Vision, our sponsor for today’s episode. I have a Brighter Vision website. I’ve always been very happy with it. We actually have recently refreshed our website because it was made back in 2016. So we went in and modernized it and I’m really happy with the results. If you are ready to get an amazing website and get three months free, take advantage of our deal over at -brightervision.com/joe. That’s J-O E.
I’ll talk to you all next time.
Thank you so much for listening. Like I said in the beginning of the podcast, if you are really into this topic, definitely check out part two of this interview, which is going to air next week; so the episode right after this one. Thank you so much for listening.
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This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regards to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guests are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.