The B Corp Way is a Better Way
evolveEA celebrates B Corp recertification verifying high environmental achievement and social impact
When our firm decided to pursue B Corp certification, we were unsure what awaited us. We had the advantage of having built ourselves into a sustainability consulting and design firm, situated at the intersection of sustainability and the built environment, as we like to say. What could be so difficult about being externally recognized for the work that we perform every day?
evolveEA has always been rooted in a triple bottom line ethic, but we didn’t necessarily know what that meant as a business typology. We had been incorporated for five years before I heard about B Corp from Jay Coen Gilbert, the cofounder of B Lab, in Philadelphia in 2009, shortly after the launch of the program. The thing that stuck with us is that a B Corporation stands as a model of an externally-validated ethical business. Our own triple bottom line ethic implies that our decisions have to be good for the environment and be good for people but they also have to make money, hence the 3 E’s of ecology, equity and economics. While corporate industry has given us the thousands of objects and transactions that make our everyday lives pleasant, delicious and productive, we also see how the lack of ethics can also have a corrosive effect on our society. Where do we draw the line between a viable business concern and an ethical one?
In our capitalistic society, people vote with their dollars, hopefully making profitability a sign that a company is doing good things and behaving properly. Making a profit is essential to running a business, and innovation is a corollary to business operation. The rush to improve and create are the folklore of our culture, from the Model T to the Tesla. Where we take issue with this entire dynamic lies in how much can be reasonably sacrificed in the name of profits. If a company can get away with avoiding regulations, underpaying workers, dumping waste, greenwashing, cutting benefits, crushing competitors, and the like, then profits will improve, at least in the short term. Corporate structures typically keep decision makers at arms length, so that these decisions are executed by others, allowing for plausible deniability. All of this is good for the profitability, but is arguably not ethical. The B Corp way shows a better way.
By modifying a company charter from “enriching shareholders” to “enriching stakeholders,” a company looks at not only maximizing profits, but benefiting all who come into contact with the company. Stakeholders is a key term here, as a company is obligated to look down the line at who may be indirectly affected by the actions of the company, either laterally or in the future.
We are thrilled to have recertified as a B Corp this week for the fourth time, marking a decade of engagement with B Lab’s premier CSR platform, the B Impact Assessment.
The framework has helped us organize our goal setting, company operations, and documentation procedures—all critical for measuring and improving our performance across the triple bottom line. The Assessment and recertification process has provided useful guidance on scaling up business without sacrificing our values, in fact with great reinvestment in those values and progress in advancing our mission with each round of recertification. For example, we have crafted standard operating procedures and formal company policy that enable us to work more efficiently while governing the organization more equitably. And in particular, we have improved our score in the Environment category of the Assessment by 8 points, through better documentation of our own company’s impact and also that of our architecture, design, and sustainability consulting projects.
Thanks to this rigorous tracking, we can proudly share that more than three quarters of our place-based projects completed in the past two years were located in low or moderate income areas, and more than half those projects are located in brownfield or infill sites, indicating that we are fulfilling key aspects of our mission by promoting environmental justice for disadvantaged populations.
These data points are part of the B Corp Impact Business Model, tailored to organizations intentionally working to make a positive impact in the community and the environment. At our office, the Assessment was synergistic with our recent LEED for Existing Buildings Platinum certification, further validating our effort to model sustainable office practices as an added layer of education and inspiration for our corporate and non-profit clients. We value the Assessment as a legitimate verification of our initiatives, and as a benchmarking tool—over 150,000 organizations globally are using it to learn how they measure up in one or more of the Assessment’s impact areas: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers.
Having been established for over a decade, the B Corp movement is now growing at an accelerated pace and expanding its reach around the globe. evolveEA was one of the first B Corps in our region nearly a decade ago and we are humbled to see other businesses join the movement for ethical and transparent business practices. We are pleased to be recognized as a “Best For The World” company and will share our journey with those who will listen. However, we are also the first to admit that we are not perfect and are always striving to improve. With a continuously updated scorecard that is publicly accessible, one cannot greenwash their way into being a Certified B Corp. It is a process.