This year I had the pleasure of a 2 month sabbatical in Europe, with a combination of travelling and cocooning and reading a big pile of business and brand writing. One thing that struck me was that from a brand perspective the time of the socially responsible company has well and truly arrived. Corporate citizenship was a re-occurring theme across so many books that I explored. One telling factor was the weight of writing marketing guru Philip Kotler, in his new book Marketing 3.0, devoted to values driven business models. In the early 90’s I remember subjecting my MBA students to Kotler’s marketing text, which was brilliantly dense in subject matter pertaining to the 4 P’s, but lacking anything like the spiritual and noble essence of his current writings. It was an amazing awakening for me to witness such a shift in emphasis from a doyen of the marketing fraternity. It reaffirmed what one has been sensing is playing out in many market categories.
In his book, Kotler makes the point that……’a growing trend in society …consumers are now not only looking for products and services that satisfy their needs but also searching for experiences and businesses that touch their spiritual side. Supplying meaning is the future value proposition in marketing. The values-driven business model is the new killer app in Marketing 3.0’.
It is therefore not surprising that we are now seeing the advent of branding to reinforce the role of socially aware organisations, with the introduction of a new certification process. Certified B Corporations are corporations which use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. B Corporations are the new black in corporate social responsibility branding. It provides a new landscape in brand management.
B Lab, a nonprofit organization, certifies B Corporations, the same way TransFair certifies Fair Trade coffee or USGBC certifies LEED buildings. B Lab promotes the fact that when you support a B Corporation, you’re supporting a better way to do business. Governments and nonprofits are necessary but insufficient to solve today’s most pressing problems. Business is the most powerful force on the planet and can be a positive instrument for change. There are over 450 Certified B Corporations across 60 different industries. Through a company’s public B Impact Report, anyone can access performance data about the social and environmental practices that stand behind the products being offered. Measures pertaining to employees, consumers, community, environment and accountability provide a well rounded assessment of each companies social footprint. It is clearly very early days, but the B Corporation strategy introduces a very positive process and branding device into the mix for communicating to the world the deeds of socially responsible companies. It represents an evolution of triple bottom line accounting, and one that has the potential to elevate the level of consciousness that companies and consumers have to such matters. But like all certification schemes it will live or die by the level of robustness and objectivity embedded in the process.
We wish the B Lab well!