There is hardly a problem on Earth that business, and the business of capitalism, has not played a role in creating or exacerbating.
Climate change, absolutely. Human trafficking and modern slavery, irrefutably. Corruption, political instability, economic and social inequality, without a doubt.
Whether it’s the exploitation of natural resources, wielding power and privilege to push a strategic agenda or the prioritisation of profit over all else — we must never lose sight of the fact that many of the systems and structures responsible for wide-scale devastation and destruction were forged in the name of free trade and commerce.
With great power comes great responsibility
Of course, business is responsible for so much good in the world too, and it is neither inherently unethical nor intrinsically immoral.
We must also remember that businesses are made up of people, and we have them to thank for a great many inventions, innovations, and solutions to the vast global challenges we face. Because without business, we might not have the internet, renewable energy, vaccines, MRI machines, infrastructure, and many everyday products and conveniences that we’ve come to rely on for our health, safety and enjoyment. The B Corp movement is testament to that fact.
You break it, you buy it
With more than 6,000 Certified B Corporations on this planet, we are starting to bear the fruits of business’ enormous capacity and potential to contribute to a thriving planet. Whether it be by supporting local economies, contributing to social causes, or promoting environmental sustainability — businesses really do have the power and the resources to do it all.
But does that mean businesses must take sole responsibility for addressing the world’s biggest challenges? Of course not. That is a responsibility shared by governments, civil society, and each and every one of us.
However, given the disproportionate role that business and our current economic system has played (and continues to play), in creating or exacerbating preventable global challenges, we are arguably the ones best placed to address them.
Beyond coffee breaks and take, take, take
Using business as a vehicle for environmental and social change is not a new concept, but one key difference that separates this movement from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs of the past is that B Corps are fundamentally designed to change the system itself.
B Corps are grounded in the knowledge that we are responsible for each other and future generations, and this is a community that is deeply aware of our interdependence and shared responsibility to do better.
Going beyond business as usual — for good
Not exclusively focused on a single social or environmental issue, the verification and certification process is deliberately rigorous and requires deep engagement across all levels and all stakeholders. That’s what it means to go beyond.
Beyond business as usual to proactively meet high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency — that’s the B Corp ‘MO’. But beyond these bold claims, how are B Corps *actually* going beyond? In what ways are they shifting the dial from ‘start with why,’ to ‘here’s how’ and paving the way for a different kind of business? And not just a different kind of business but a different kind of economic system — one that is more kind, equitable and regenerative; one that benefits all.
To that end, we asked six B Corps in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand what going beyond ‘business as usual’ means to them and how they are doing it in their corner of the world. Here’s what they shared.
Who Gives A Crap is showing what’s possible when we do
There is a huge opportunity for businesses to leverage their business model to drive change. Businesses have the power to create real impact when they balance profit with purpose.
We started Who Gives A Crap after learning that over 2 billion people don’t have access to a functioning toilet. That was roughly 40% of the global population, and it still means that around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That’s almost 800 children per day, or one child every two minutes.
For those who do have toilets, many people massively underestimate the impact traditional toilet paper production has on the planet. Every day over 1 million trees are cut down to produce traditional toilet paper. We’re literally flushing one of our most precious resources down the toilet. Why cut down trees, when there are eco-friendly alternatives to produce toilet paper, like bamboo or recycled paper?
We saw the opportunity to develop an eco-friendly product that we all use every single day to help bring an end to this issue and to engage people in a conversation about one of the most off-track development goals in the world.
Image: Who Gives A Crap
By donating 50% of our profits to a series of WASH (water, sanitation, hygiene) non-profit partners globally, we want to help give everyone in the world access to clean water and a toilet by 2050. To date, we have donated over $11m, but we need to do much more to reach that big audacious goal.
Beyond the social impact, we have the opportunity to change industry standards. Providing people with an ethical option can change the way people buy products and the impact they can have to make the world a better place.
Businesses have the responsibility to implement sustainability practices that reduce their impact on the environment.
#GoKindly is making the world a kinder place
There is a growing number of businesses with a socially responsible business model, and we love reading about other ethical and responsible businesses so here’s what we have to share.
#GoKindly creates high quality Australian made bedding, donating 50% of profits and bedding to support women experiencing housing stress. But beyond business as usual and beyond donations, we provide employment opportunities for women and business mentoring for those who are interested in launching their own business.
We’re motivated by making the world kinder, and by striving to be better people. We operate in a ‘Kindness Circle’ – at each touchpoint we aim to be kind and tread lightly. We support women, pay fair wages, use no single-use plastic packaging and manufacture locally. And every year we commit to recording and demonstrating the value we create from #GoKindly.
Your Hart2Hart is rebuilding our connection
Your Hart2Hart started as a way to bring people with disabilities into our society and out of the shadows. When we began our work as counsellors there were few NDIS options for group activities, but most disability organisations were relegated to taking clients through the same public parks, over and over again. We knew there had to be a better way.
We provide a range of disability support services including therapies, respite options, and unique guided group activities that give participants an organised group environment in which they can socialise, explore, and grow. It’s an opportunity for participants to get out into the world and to share new experiences with friends, and to enjoy the activities and culture that most of us take for granted.
One of the ways we go beyond is through our innovative, stakeholder-driven and community-focused short-term housing support program. Designed to meet the needs of our clients and provide valuable care breaks for carers, our team of ‘Joymakers’ offer holistic, innovative and essential short-term housing support to those in need.
Although many of us continue to struggle processing the challenges and stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people with disabilities were particularly affected as a result of pre-existing health conditions that demanded greater caution and less time spent outside the home or with family and friends. Loneliness increased dramatically during this time and many people with disabilities continue to struggle in the wake of these disruptions.
We also provide counselling as part of our range of support services, and we’ve helped many people living with disabilities to understand, process and adapt to the rapid changes of the last few years.
Green Island Creative is inspiring the next generation
We like to think of ourselves as a brand and marketing agency, without the big agency ego. Our services are what you’d expect of a creative agency, but our ethos is not. Based on Yuin Gadu, Sea Country, on the South Coast of NSW, Green Island Creative overlooks the iconic surf spot and our namesake, Green Island.
Image: Green Island Creative
We give at least 10% of our time to community projects (often as high as 25%!), and 2% of our annual revenue to initiatives that benefit coastlines, culture and community, including our local community garden, ORRCA, Green Connect and a cultural women’s health service.
We go beyond business as usual and have delivered storytelling workshops, developed programs that weave First Nations culture, language and sustainability concepts into marine education, and helped create an immersive exhibit that recreates the experience of sitting on Country with a First Nations elder and listening/yarning.
This project — ‘Sea Country Stories‘ — involved designing, producing, building (with our own hands!), and launching an exhibit at the South Australian Maritime Museum. This enchanting display offers the experience of being on Country, linking ancient and modern fishing cultures and inspiring the next generation of Sea Country custodians.
Good Empire is gamifying doing good
The way we see it, it’s time to save the f*cking world. That’s why we are gathering, uniting and empowering 100 million individuals and organisations to have meaningful impact, on a global scale.
In the hands of an individual, Good Empire is sort of a social app for good that challenges us to level up for people and planet, built around eight core drives of human motivation. Users set impact goals aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, take action as part of global challenges connected to those goals around the world, and track and share their progress in real impact measures, not just contributions.
In actuality, it’s organisations that are the lifeblood of Good Empire. We’re building the next generation of Impact Engagement SaaS — a powerful software platform to help organisations set their impact goals across the SDGs, track and measure in real impact metrics, and properly engage their teams, customers and community to amplify their social and environmental impact.
Large enterprises, small businesses and everything in between – can harness the Good Empire platform to engage their people and level up their impact. That’s how we go beyond business as usual.
Image: Good Empire
Throughout the year we focus on different SDGs, and this year it’s clean oceans. We set an impact goal (save 1 million ocean-bound plastics) and engage individuals and organisations to help us reach that goal. Soon we will be launching a reforestation-focused challenge in a similar way.
This is a new era. The rise of the conscious consumer and the activist employee. In the 2000s it was CSR. In the 2010s it was ESG. It’s the same thing. It’s all impact. And purpose and impact are becoming more and more important to a company’s relevance and future success. What an opportunity…
Circularity makes business better as their day job
As a carbon-positive B Corp, at Circularity we measure our success on our ability to help businesses unlock solutions that are better for people and for the planet, faster than ever before. Making business better is our day job.
Business as usual consumes nearly 100 billion tonnes of so-called virgin extracted resources, contributes to half of the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and more than 90% of biodiversity loss and water stress come from resource extraction and processing.
So by making the shift to a circular economy, our impact is measured by increasing the circularity of resources and use of renewables, designing out waste and emissions, and regenerating living systems through the activation of human potential and agency.
We know the science, the solutions exist, we just need people to make it happen.
In just two years, 20,000 people have participated in our programs, webinars, business mentoring, and circular solution design. We have delivered 850 pro-bono hours to organisations, events, and policy submissions to support the transition to a circular economy in Aotearoa.
From this collective effort, we have designed 86 circular products, systems and services that have the potential to reduce landfill by 756,000 tonnes and keep 45,500 tonnes of materials like timber, wool, plastic, glass, soil, textiles, and food in flow, and in our economy by being redesigned, reused, regenerated, repaired, and repurposed. That’s going beyond.
Going beyond to transform our economic system
It’s clear that superficial changes to ‘business as usual’ like an extra coffee break, company yoga at lunch or bringing your pet to work cannot create the transformative change we need. But neither will the products we make, the services we provide or the slogans we share. The world needs more. It demands more. And we desperately need radical transformation of the business models and accountability mechanisms themselves.
Again, this demand for a more holistic, wide-ranging, transparent, and interdependent way of doing business is exactly what the B Corp movement was founded on. And that’s what it means to go beyond.
Thank you to these six B Corps for sharing how they go beyond business as usual, beyond expectations and beyond empty promises to make their mark on the world.
Find out more about the businesses going beyond and get involved in this month’s B Corp celebrations by visiting: bcorpmonth.com