Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of going to the B Corporation Morning Tea at the Common Room in Surry Hills, Sydney. B Corporations – and B Lab, the organisation which conceived them and is promoting them globally – turned out to be among the heroes of my new book.
B Lab was founded in Philedelphia in 2006 by long-term friends Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan and Andrew Kassoy to create a new sort of corporation designed for the 21st century: one encoded with an environmental and social purpose, as well as a profit-making one, aka the B Corporation (the ‘B’ stands for benefit). To make these new corporations legally possible in every state of the USA, B Lab is going across the country asking state legislatures to amend their corporate charters so that companies can be incorporated with explicit social and environmental ends. To date 26 states have passed benefit corporations legislation and fourteen states are working on it. New generation businesses such as outdoor clothing company Patagonia, vintage and handmade e-commerce website Etsy and icecream makers Ben & Jerry’s are all B Corporations.
In July 2013 B Lab celebrated a legislative milestone when Delaware – the US state for incorporation and home to one millions businesses – enacted benefit corporation legislation. Esquire magazine noted the potentially epoch-shifting nature of this move then it said: ‘B Corps might turn out to be like civil rights for blacks or voting rights for women – eccentric, unpopular ideas that took hold and changed the world.’
And in August 2014 B Lab arrived in Australia when B Lab Australia and New Zealand opened for business in Melbourne. Its chief executive, Alicia Darvall, ran yesterday’s meeting. She is super impressive and very inspiring. And in a nice collision of my worlds, she is (as I discovered yesterday) also on the board of the Stella Prize, an annual award which celebrates Australian women’s writing.
I plan to write more here about the fascinating entrepreneurial types who came to yesterday’s meeting, but in the meantime, here’s Alicia Darvall (black t-shirt on left-hand side) speaking to the gathering about B Corporations around the world.