Good business goes beyond bankroll
By Sandra Reimer | Thursday, November 10, 2011
Nolan Andres (left) and Bruce Taylor (right) head up B Corporations, companies that aim to make a positive social and environmental change.
WATERLOO, ONOntario business leaders Nolan Andres and Bruce Taylor put their faith into action when they joined a group of entrepreneurs who harness the power of business to make a positive social and environmental change. These businesses are known as "B Corporations."
By law, traditional corporations are required to maximize profits for shareholders without necessarily taking into account social and environmental consequences. By contrast, B Corporations must make decisions that are good for both shareholders and society.
Started in the United States in 2007, there are currently 468 B Corporationsincluding 20 in Canada. Among these are now PeaceWorks Technology Solutions, led by Andres, and Enviro-Stewards, owned by Taylor.
In order to achieve certification, companies must complete a free online B Impact Assessment quiz by answering 170 questions measuring performance in five categories: accountability, employees, consumers, community and the environment. Businesses that score at least 80 points out of a possible 200 have their assessment reviewed by B Lab, the certifying body. Companies must also enshrine B Corp values in their articles of incorporation and pay a $500 fee to be certified.
Andres' company, PeaceWorks, provides affordable IT consulting and software development for charities, social enterprises and businesses. One project they worked on was designing software used for managing the distribution of mosquito nets to vulnerable populations in Tanzania.
PeaceWorks immediately met enough of the stringent standards to qualify because the B Corp principles reflect the way they have done business since the company was founded 15 years ago. Structurally, the 40-person company is close to being a worker cooperative.
"I have often described myself as an activist in entrepreneurial clothing," jokes Andres.
The application process was more challenging for Taylor's Enviro-Stewards. A colleague in the environmental consulting field told Taylor that B Corp certification would be a good fit for Enviro-Stewards because of their joint focus on people, the planet, and profits.
But Taylor, who says he values doing good more than appearing to do good, was hesitant because of the $500 annual fee, an amount that would buy five biofilters to purify drinking water. However, once these concerns were expressed, a colleague, himself an owner of a B Corporation, offered to pay the $500 and buy five biofilters. Taylor stopped objecting.
In addition to helping businesses reduce costs as they increase their environmental sustainability, Enviro-Stewards weaves volunteering and charitable giving into the fabric of the company. Weekly, Taylor volunteers 10 per cent of his time working with local people in poverty. And each year, Enviro-Stewards employees do a group service project like building a house through Habitat for Humanity. The company also provides funds and technical expertise to an orphanage, an agricultural cooperative in El Salvador and an NGO that manufactures affordable drinking water treatment systems in South Sudan.
"Biblically, I don't see any mandate to maximize profit," says Taylor. "We do need profit. But it's a vehicle, not an end."
Traveling to poor countries inspired both Taylor and Andres to do business differently.
Taylor, who has been to El Salvador and South Sudan, says, "It's very important to travel and see how 90 per cent of the world lives."
For Andres, the process started in Guatemala. There, he and the group he was with prayed, "Break our hearts with the things that break God's heart." As he met people in poverty and experienced their lives, his perspective was changed.
But Andres doesn't spend all his time in other countries. He believes North America is the mission field. "This is where things need to change."
Taylor adds, "When God breaks your heart you react, you do something." For both men, having their hearts broken by God means taking care of people and the earth while they run successful businesses.
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