For most of the business world, the bottom line still reigns. But over the past several years, an alternative movement of companies dedicated to improving their social and environmental performance at the same time they focus on profit has emerged.
An ever-growing number of these businesses have been certified as B Corporations (not to be confused with benefit corporations, which can legally pursue values-driven businesses without worrying about legal repercussions). This means that a nonprofit called B Lab has certified that they’re able to meet exacting standards on social and environmental performance.
Every year, B Lab releases its Best for the World list of businesses that rank in the top 10% of companies that have gone through the B Corp assessment and certification process. But you won’t find much in the way of bold-faced names on the list–at least, not yet.
In 2012, the first year that B Corp released this list, there were over 500 Certified B Corporations in total. This year, there are over 1,200. The 120 companies that make up the Best for the World list span sizes and industries. They include d.light, which offers cheap solar solar solutions in the developing world; Alter Eco, a food company that sells fair trade chocolate and quinoa; and Roshan, a telecom company that is the largest private employer in Afghanistan.
One change from past years is that there’s a larger percentage of international companies on the list. “It’s great that we’ve gone from only U.S.-centric companies to a global movement,” says Katie Kerr, director of communications at B Lab.
More recognizable companies show up on B Lab’s lists of top performers in specific categories (environment, community, workers). These include Natura, the largest cosmetics maker in Latin America and the first public company to receive certification (another company, Rally, received certification before going public); New Belgium Brewery; and King Arthur Flour.
Besides Natura, public companies have been hesitant to sign on for certification. But in the U.S., Etsy–a big-name B Corp that just went public–could lead the way. If a public company could remain so committed to its social mission that it lands in the overall “Best for the World” list, that would be truly impressive.