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30-Apr-2014
WasteCap Nebraska, B Labs provide Benefit Impact Assessment

 

Does this sound familiar? A Hastings soap company donates a bar of soap for each one sold. A local bakery purchases produce, grains, eggs and honey from local farms. A local service provider helps homeowners do energy retrofits and pay for them over time on their (reduced) energy bills. A local garbage hauler provides curbside, single-stream recycling to its residential customers. A local community college creates a 20-year sustainability plan for water, zero waste, education and awareness, health and wellness, energy and carbon, sustainable sites and landscapes, material, resources and trade, and investments.

Does your company donate to local charities, have a recycling program, or purchase supplies from a local business? Does your company set goals for environmental and social improvements? WasteCap Nebraska helps companies control operating expenses associated with energy, water, solid waste, and efficiency. In our line of work, we often find a significant number of customers, and even employees, who don’t know about an organization’s beneficial programs or practices. Frequently, this is because there are no formal policies, goals, or standards associated with such practices; so, they are never identified with the organization.

In an age where information sharing is king, one might wonder why a business wouldn’t want to exercise bragging rights about their good deeds in order to brand their company’s reputation. Forbes magazine recently ran an article that cited a study by the Reputation Institute, a private global consulting firm based in New York. The Institute invited about 47,000 consumers across 15 markets to rank the world’s 100 most reputable companies -- all multinational businesses with a global presence. They found that 42 percent of respondents based their opinion of a company on their perceptions of the firm’s corporate social responsibility (CSR).

So, what is CSR? The Harvard Kennedy School of Government has a program called the Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative (CSRI) that was launched in 2004 to “study and enhance the public contributions of private enterprise.”
They define CSR as follows: “Corporate social responsibility encompasses not only what companies do with their profits, but also how they make them. It goes beyond philanthropy and compliance and addresses how companies manage their economic, social, and environmental impacts, as well as their relationships in all key spheres of influence: the workplace, the marketplace, the supply chain, the community, and the public policy realm.” 

Corporate social responsibility, although lofty in its goals, is not merely an academic exercise. WasteCap Nebraska partnered with another nonprofit organization known as B Labs (the “B” stands for benefit). B Labs created a free, online “B Impact Assessment” for companies to measure, compare, and improve their performance on more than 170 specific measures of environmental stewardship, employee pay and benefits, and contributions to community well-being. The B Impact Assessment provides a measurable standard for companies and can lead to a B Corporation certification. WasteCap Nebraska uses the B Corporation standard to help Nebraska companies determine areas that need improvement, and offers services and training to help them achieve success. WasteCap follows the assessment with a half-day “Good Company” workshop, formerly known as “Strive Towards Sustainability."




In the workshop, companies learn the basics of a Sustainability Management System that can be applied to their sustainability projects, creating a system for continual improvement. WasteCap also offers specific services to measure performance metrics, such as waste assessments and audits, Energy Star Portfolio Manager benchmarking, water audits, and green team development. WasteCap Nebraska has been providing environmental services and resources to its business members since 1992.

B Labs was formed in 2007 to serve entrepreneurs who use “business as a force for good. ” Their mantra is to encourage all companies to compete not just to be the best in the world, but to be the best for the world. The founders of B Labs realized there were two systemic challenges for businesses that took corporate social responsibility seriously.
First, there was a lack of standards to help consumers differentiate good companies from those that merely have good marketing. Second, they realized that existing corporate law demands that businesses prioritize shareholder value over all other considerations, including social and environmental concerns.

Today, there is a growing community of more than 980 Certified B Corps from 32 countries and 60 industries working together toward a common goal of redefining success in business. A few of the better known Certified B Corporations are Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, Etsy, Seventh Generation, Method, Dansko, Warby Parker, and King Arthur Flour. The B Corporation brand tells their customers they have met rigorous standards for social and environmental performance.
There is good news for Nebraska businesses committed to CSR. 

Senator Danielle Conrad introduced a bill in this legislative session (LB751) that provides for a change in corporate law that recognizes a “benefit corporation." Benefit corporations are responsible for a double mission: 1) to earn profits for shareholders, like a traditional business; and 2) to pursue social benefits, ranging from protecting employees to safeguarding the environment — even if these goals come at the cost of short-term financial gain. A benefit corporation does not necessarily need to be a Certified B Corporation or vice versa, but in states that have adopted benefit corporation legislation, many are both. Governor Dave Heineman signed the bill on April 2.

The local companies referenced at the beginning of the article are Pacha Soap, Back Alley Bakery, Energy Pioneer Solutions*, Woodward’s Sanitation*, and Central Community College*. These organizations are all located in Hastings, Neb., While they may not be Certified B Corporations yet, they have all defined social and environmental standards under which they operate, and are fine examples of organizations that exhibit corporate social responsibility.

*WasteCap Nebraska is proud to call three of these organizations members.



About the Author

Julie Diegel
Director of Sustainability Programs, WasteCap Nebraska

Julie Diegel has created the "Good Company" sustainable business training program, partnered with B Labs to promote the B Impact Assessment in Nebraska, and manages business services for WasteCap Nebraska.


   

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