To read this content please select one of the options below:

Building a socially responsible global community? Communicating B Corps on social media

Elzbieta Lepkowska-White (Management and Business Department, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, USA)
Amy L. Parsons (Department of Business and Management, King's College, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, USA)
Bridget Wong (Management and Business Department, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, USA)
Alexandria M White (Management and Business Department, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, USA)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Article publication date: 27 September 2022

Issue publication date: 3 January 2023

137

Abstract

Purpose

Research shows that the majority of investors, consumers and even younger consumers who are interested in social responsibility are unaware of B Corps. Companies spend significant time and money to obtain B Corp status that B Lab, the non-profit that certifies companies, wants to use as a force for good. Using signaling theory and corporate communication theory, the study examines whether B Corps market their B Corp status effectively on B Corps' social media sites to determine whether brand equity is being built there for the B Corp label by the B Corp companies themselves.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors content analyzed social media activity of 100 randomly selected US B Corps ranging in size and industry type over a two-month period on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. The sample was selected from the listing of the B Corporations on the B Lab website using a skip interval method. The authors searched for preselected keywords within two main categories, one directly mentioning B Corps (such as B Corp logo and B Corp name), and another discussing company social responsibility activities that directly relate to what B Corps do but did not mention the B Corp name.

Findings

The study finds that half of the B Corps had no social media presence. Of those who were active on social media, most B Corps did not mention B Corp status while many of the B Corps discussed social responsibility activities that directly talked about workers, environment, community, and governance, the areas that B Corp certification covers.

Research limitations/implications

The study indicates that reverse decoupling might better explain communication of B Corp certification on social media than signaling theory. The finding is consistent with more recent research on certifications that shows that obtaining certifications by companies does not have to be followed by marketing certificates even when that could be beneficial. On the other hand, communication of general pro-social claims is consistent with the assumptions of the signaling theory and often used by B Corps. The study suggests why companies market general claims but not a B Corp label. Findings also suggest that when promoting the B Corp label is not done, a firm's internal values are not being expressed externally but when social responsible activities are promoted, a firm's internal values are being expressed externally. The research points to a missed opportunity for B Corps that spend significant resources to get certified. Future studies should employ larger samples with and international companies and venture into other forms of marketing through which B Corp status may be conveyed.

Practical implications

B Corps can easily connect information on the socially responsible activities of B Corps with B Corp status on social media and reap the benefits of B Corps by creating equity for B Corp label on multiple levels. This would also help B-Lab that strives to develop a stronger brand for the B Corps' certification. When consumers know what B Corp stands for, consumers are willing to pay premium prices. Investors are also increasingly interested in companies that care for stakeholders and the environment and are governed in transparent and socially responsible ways.

Social implications

B Corps are described by the B-Lab as a “force for good” that benefits communities, environment and society. Understanding how certifications such as B Corps are communicated to the public and improving how they are communicated can help businesses reap more benefits from B Corps' socially responsible activity and help consumers and investors become educated about such companies so that B Corps can support them. This is important as B-Corps certification is still not well known. Marketing B Corp certification more effectively can help develop a wider and stronger network of businesses that want to do good, investors that want to found socially responsible companies and consumers who want to buy from B Corps. To create such a marketplace B Corps need to be better marketed online.

Originality/value

The study shows that the authors cannot assume that the certifications that companies obtain, often using significant resources and potentially offering many benefits for building brand equity, will be communicated to the stakeholders to reap these benefits. The study provides possible reasons for why companies may not market such endeavors. The study questions assumptions implicit in signaling theory and by using reverse decoupling the study explains why companies may pursue certifications but not market that the companies obtain them even when pro-social certifications have a great potential to differentiate a company among stakeholders that look for socially responsible firms. The study questions what this means for creating a change in business to become a “force for good.”

Keywords

Citation

Lepkowska-White, E., Parsons, A.L., Wong, B. and White, A.M. (2023), "Building a socially responsible global community? Communicating B Corps on social media", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 28 No. 1, pp. 86-102. https://doi.org/10.1108/CCIJ-01-2022-0005

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles