What is a “B corporation?” As the Community of Certified B Corporations puts it, “B corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee.”
In other words, it’s a way to tell the world that your organization adheres to certain rigorous standards demonstrating its status as a cause-driven for-profit business.
Perfect for certain PR clients, right? But what about PR agencies?
ScoutComms of Fredricksburg Virginia–a firm that specializes in veterans’ affairs– recently earned the B corp certification, and CEO Fred Wellman thinks other firms should follow suit. (A few have already done so.)
We spoke to him to find out why.
What made you decide to go for the B corp certification?
“The B corp movement is based on the idea that a business isn’t just a bottom line; it can have a social focus. We were already acting like a B corp…focused on doing things for veterans, working with clients, doing pro-bono work, volunteer time, etc.
I’d heard the term ‘social enterprise’ for several years and stumbled onto B Lab while researching a mission.
I called my lawyer, who said he had never heard of anyone doing that.”
What did you have to do?
“The process is pretty expansive…you have to compare highest and lowest-paid employees, recycling practices, electricity tracking practices, etc. And you have to get a score. (Ours actually went up during the assessment process.)
You then have to make a commitment…do an annual report on social impact and publish it publicly.
It’s much more transparency than a private company would be subjected to.”
What are the benefits?
“It differentiates us in the space–it shows [potential clients] that we are mission-based like they are.
For me, the key benefit has been employees…who want to be part of an organization with a mission. Our last three hires have all been because of the B Corp classification.
It encourages a culture of giving…a culture of being different from the rest of the world.”
Why should other agencies follow suit?
“Any agency can do it.
If you care about more than just the bottom line then you should do it too. At least take the test–even if you don’t make the certification it can show you how to do things better. 1300 organizations are currently certified, but 25,000 have taken the test.
If you’re passionate about what your agency is doing, see it as a statement that you’re serious about this mission and mention it in biz pitches right up front. You’ll get the logo and everything; it’s almost like ‘organic,’ a designation for a company that cares.”
Pic via ScoutComms (L to R: Brian Wagner, Margaret Clevenger, Gary Sinise, Lauren Jenkins, Fred Wellman)