Bcorps are what the World needs right now… What? Is? That?
First published in January.
Most contagious commercial constructs commence in the disunited cauldron of capitalism that constitutes America… The tech scene, the startup dream, they only reached the UK shore after years of US growth, and when their cup runneth over it does it spills into London, and from there, the rest of the UK. So what’s the next US2UK trend?
A new thing has been expanding in America since 2006, a decade time lag for the UK is about par for the course, and indeed it arrived in 2015. What is this thing? This exciting, good for everyone, World healing thing? It is, ladies and gentlemen in shorts, the BCorps movement.
The timing is absolutely perfect and as a trend it’s got Global traction already. Let’s find out more about BCorps.
Backstory: The tech and startup scene is subdivided into multiple categories, created by prefixing the first few letters of the sector with the word Tech. Fintech is the financial tech sector. Edtech, Educational technology. Insurtech. MedTech. AdTech. These are all distinct commercial sectors with their own terminology, events, conferences, publications, news sites, and even their own incubators and accelerators to grow and support the relevant fledgling companies. Stay with me.
There’s always been a card missing from this deck. Or if not quite missing, misfitting. It’s what’s been awkwardly described as ‘Tech For Good.’ It doesn’t fit the naming protocol, and it’s too…. What’s the word I’m looking for? Worthy? And non specific. And not all ‘Good’ enterprises have that much to do with Tech. So Tech for Good ended up being nothing much, something that’s never going to tip the balance against the gazillion tonnes of hardcore capitalism. It just doesn’t work, as a sector. The entire startup scene is driven by investment, not profitability; Angel investors want a financial return on their punts, as do VC’s, and every other player in funding, and ‘Tech For Good’ is the guaranteed way to make them politely disappear. In their mind, tech for good = non-profit, and most startups are non-profit making anyway and always will be.
And yet here we are in time of dire need for a better commercial mentality than ‘make money for shareholders’. And still the approach to business frequently creates a chain of problems that someone else will make a business out of fixing. The mental health of a generation of children is negatively impacted by the new generation of tech giants algorithmically designing their products to be as psychologically penetrating and addictive as possible. Good for pharmaceutical business, right?
And here’s the issue. What’s ‘Good for business’ may be ‘Bad for humans’ or ‘Bad for Life on Earth.’ It frequently is.
What’s needed is a different mindset to business that actually makes the companies more investable, more profitable, more competitive in the market, whilst they simultaneously act in the interests of employees, communities, society, and the environment.
This sounds utopian, and yes, we should be aiming to create utopian systems, otherwise our existing dystopian systems will be the alternative. We need businesses to be a force for good. A lot of them. In an ideal World, all of them. Then the more businesses there are, the more money is made, the better the World flourishes, the more the environment flourishes, the more people flourish, and the better everything gets.
It’s possible when the companies themselves are designed around an expanded set of criteria other than just trying to make money. These are now a credible and very investable sector, a certified BCorp. BCorp certification is the equivalent of Organic certification, or Fair Trade, it is a formal and legally impacting accreditation.
What does would this look like in practice? BCorp companies have a corporate requirement to act in the interests of Environment, Workers, Customers, Community and with transparent and correct Governance. It’s an official accreditation, each country has a body in charge of helping companies apply for BCorp status, the process is reassuringly rigorous and it’s not free. Companies who come out the other end with the right to show the BCorp logo are immediately more investable, and likely to be more successful, than companies without.