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Article
Publication date: 27 September 2022

Elzbieta Lepkowska-White, Amy L. Parsons, Bridget Wong and Alexandria M White

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…

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.”

Details

Corporate Communications: An International Journal, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1356-3289

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 11 December 2020

Jitong Li and Karen K. Leonas

The purpose of this study is to investigate the sustainability performances of apparel, footwear and accessory (AFA) B Corps, providing companies, especially micro, small…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to investigate the sustainability performances of apparel, footwear and accessory (AFA) B Corps, providing companies, especially micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, with reasonable suggestions on how to incorporate the concept of sustainability efficiently.

Design/methodology/approach

This study focused on 117 AFA B Corps. B Corps’ overall sustainability performances consist of their performances in the five areas of governance, workers, community, environment and customers. First, the 117 B Corps’ performances in these areas were compared. Second, multiple regression models were built to predict the B Corps’ sustainability performances based on their inherent characteristics (headquarter location, age, size and industry sector). Third, according to the B Corps’ performances in the five areas, the B Corps were clustered using the hieratical clustering method.

Findings

This study found that the B Corps’ performances in different areas were significantly different and their performances in the area of the community were better than in the other four areas. The B Corps’ characteristics were correlated to their sustainability performances. For example, company size was positively related to the B Corps’ performances in the area of workers. Additionally, Clusters 1, 2 and 3 were identified and characterized by their competitive performances in the areas of governance, workers and community, respectively.

Originality/value

This study contributes to the knowledge of AFA B Corps’ sustainability performances, identifying the weakness and strongness of the sustainable practices accepted by existing AFA B Corps and lending insights regarding how to predict and improve sustainability performances.

Details

Research Journal of Textile and Apparel, vol. 25 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1560-6074

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 5 September 2018

Andrea Romi, Kirsten A. Cook and Heather R. Dixon-Fowler

The purpose of this paper is to examine whether B corps’ (for-profit entities whose owners voluntarily commit to conduct business in a socially responsible manner, beyond…

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine whether B corps’ (for-profit entities whose owners voluntarily commit to conduct business in a socially responsible manner, beyond traditional CSR, that generates profits, but not at the expense of stakeholders) commitment to social issues influences two aspects of financial performance: employee productivity and sales growth.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper is an exploratory analysis of B corps. This paper examines B corps with B Lab’s B Impact Assessment reports and PrivCo financial data, for descriptive information. This paper also analyzes the financial impact of obtaining and reporting on excellence in both employee and consumer focus, as well as the differences in financial growth between B corps and non-hybrid peers.

Findings

Overall, results suggest that, among B corps whose treatment of employees (consumers) is recognized as an “area of excellence,” employee productivity (sales growth) is significantly higher. Additionally, sales growth is significantly higher for B corps relative to their peer, non-hybrid, matched firms.

Practical implications

Results from this study inform states considering the adoption of the B corp legal status – this legal status does not hinder firm profitability, but instead enhances long-term firm value while allowing firms to beneficially affect their communities, consumers, employees and the environment.

Social implications

Results from this study provide important insights regarding the current paradigm shift from the traditional business focus on profit maximization to a fruitful coexistence of profits with social interests and initiatives, within a structure of dissolving national boundaries and increasingly divergent logics.

Originality/value

This paper provides an initial empirical examination of B corp performance.

Details

Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, vol. 9 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-8021

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 15 August 2022

Patrizia Gazzola, Daniele Grechi, Matteo Ferioli and David Slavata

The purpose of this article is to investigate whether the corporate social responsibility (CSR) and innovation activity of Certified B Corps® is comparable to listed…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this article is to investigate whether the corporate social responsibility (CSR) and innovation activity of Certified B Corps® is comparable to listed companies in the Italian fashion industry.

Design/methodology/approach

The study includes a systematic literature review performed on Scopus® and combining keywords related to CSR and the fashion industry. Moreover, the literature review involves empirical analyses performed using a mixed-methods approach. First, a text-based content analysis was carried out on the companies' sustainability reports using the keyword scoring approach. The innovation index was then calculated, and multiple ordinary least squares (OLS) linear regressions were performed.

Findings

Based on the data available, it has emerged that Certified B Corps® who pursue a more significant number of SDGs are more likely to implement circular economy principles. Moreover, Certified B Corps® that have higher transparency standards and assume social responsibility practices also have higher innovation activity; in contrast, companies who used CSR only as a marketing tool have lower activity.

Research limitations/implications

The analyses were influenced by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, revealing weaker relationships between the variables, as the analyses involved 2020 data. Furthermore, although the analysis considers the entire population of Certified B Corps® and listed companies in the Italian fashion industry, the size of the sample analyzed influenced the results and insights. Therefore, the analysis does not allow for generalizability. Finally, the study was conducted on a single country whose economic and social contexts have influenced some variables.

Practical implications

The paper highlights some managerial implications. Managers should consider CSR to be an investment and an opportunity to survive the post-COVID-19 pandemic by applying the triple bottom line (TBL) approach in formulating strategies and increasing investments to develop sustainable innovations.

Originality/value

The article explores B Corps, which has received minimal attention in the literature, to propose a deeper understanding of the topic.

Details

Kybernetes, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0368-492X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 8 February 2022

Wendy D. Chen and Christopher Marquis

This article examines the relationship between stakeholders and shareholders and identifies the key lessons from the B Corp movement that serve as practical tools for…

Abstract

Purpose

This article examines the relationship between stakeholders and shareholders and identifies the key lessons from the B Corp movement that serve as practical tools for businesses – not just B Corps – to be more stakeholder focused.

Design/methodology/approach

This article uses an in-depth interview with the author of Better Business: How the B Corp Movement Is Remaking Capitalism.

Findings

This article focuses on the pros and cons of the B Corp movement. One key point of discussion is that because B Corps focus more on stakeholders in general, they are more likely to attract likeminded employees who also support the companies’ missions, which also leads to greater retention rates. There is also growing interest from the investment community in B Corps and stakeholder-driven companies generally. However, a big challenge for B Corps lies in customer awareness. While many consumers may be buying products from B Corps, they do not know about the certification that links them together. A further conclusion is that even if a company does not want to be a B Corp, they can still benefit from the different stakeholder management tools and processes the movement has developed.

Practical implications

The article argues that businesses can – and should – be responsible and accountable to any stakeholder beyond shareholders. While they do not necessarily need to become B Corps, they can use the accountability and governance tools - like the B Impact Assessment (BIA) and benefit corporation governance - as guides to better manage their businesses to be more sustainable and resilient and to contribute to a better society.

Social implications

The B Corp movement has emerged as a powerful voice calling for businesses to balance financial returns with environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance. The B Corp model shifts conventional business from a shareholder primacy to a stakeholder focus, through novel corporate governance and accountability mechanisms. This article investigates the key lessons that all businesses can learn from the B Corp movement to make the world a better place to live.

Originality/value

This article takes a pracademic approach using academic research on the B Corp movement to generate actionable lessons for businesses.

Details

Management Decision, vol. 60 no. 11
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0025-1747

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 14 September 2015

Kathleen Wilburn and Ralph Wilburn

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the value of the Certified B Corporation (B Corp) structure for a long-term commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the value of the Certified B Corporation (B Corp) structure for a long-term commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) achievements. Organizations of all sizes are now focusing on commitment to achieving social purposes beyond philanthropy and on reporting their CSR performance as a means of accountability.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors studied 45 Founding Certified B Corps to check how many had maintained their certification by filing B Impact Reports with B Lab, how many Impact Reports they had filed and if the reports showed progress toward CSR goals.

Findings

The results showed that all Founding B Corps submitted multi-year B Impact Reports, made progress toward CSR goals, maintained their commitment to a social contribution and made profit from 2010 to 2015. The B Impact Reports identified their goals and progress in the five Impact areas that were then assessed by B Lab.

Practical implications

The Certified B Corp structure can be confidently used by small companies that desire to do good and want an outside assessor to help establish CSR goals and provide a method for accountability. The reports are published on the B Lab Web site, providing an additional means of publishing CSR accomplishments.

Originality/value

This research provides information for those businesses, particularly small ones, that wish to establish their commitment to CSR in a public way and are certified by a third-party assessor.

Details

Journal of Global Responsibility, vol. 6 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2041-2568

Keywords

Book part
Publication date: 14 November 2017

Ke Cao, Joel Gehman and Matthew G. Grimes

To fulfill their economic and social missions, it is imperative yet challenging for hybrid ventures to demonstrate legitimacy (fitting in) while simultaneously projecting…

Abstract

To fulfill their economic and social missions, it is imperative yet challenging for hybrid ventures to demonstrate legitimacy (fitting in) while simultaneously projecting distinctiveness (standing out). One important means for doing so is by adopting and promoting the recent B Corporation certification. Drawing on a comprehensive analysis of the emergence of this certification, we argue that when it comes to promoting their businesses, hybrid ventures should not adopt a one size fits all approach. Rather, their promotion strategies need to be adapted to their specific contexts. We theorize and develop a typology of certification promotion strategies for hybrid ventures based on the relative prevalence of other hybrid ventures in the same regions and industries. We conclude by articulating why the B Corporation movement is a rich and underexplored context for scholarship on hybrid ventures, and highlight several promising future research directions.

Article
Publication date: 23 August 2017

Ieva Zebryte and Hector Jorquera

The purpose of this paper is to address the question of how social entrepreneurs achieve the desired impact-based model of business.

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to address the question of how social entrepreneurs achieve the desired impact-based model of business.

Design/methodology/approach

Qualitative research design included semi-structured in-depth interviews with entrepreneurs of three Chilean Tourism B Corporations (B Corps), participant observation of the Latin American B Movement, and print, digital and social media clippings.

Findings

This research unearths the practices by which entrepreneurs implement their aspirations of balancing profit and social impact obligations within their business models.

Research limitations/implications

Though an intentional sample is not representative in quantitative terms, the employed research design allowed the authors to deepen the understanding of the processes which are taking place in Chile, Latin America, and on the Global scale. The authors concluded that social benefit commitment guides innovation in business models of Chilean entrepreneurs seeking to have a broader positive impact on vulnerable communities and the society at large.

Practical implications

This research shows that traditional businesses have the possibility of hybridizing management, combining the necessary organization that defines its mission with social or environmental purposes. The latter is likely to open up new markets for traditional businesses.

Social implications

Social entrepreneurship is the principal means for new generations of entrepreneurs to make changes in businesses and in vulnerable local communities through global aspirations. But the need for more open political discussion within the B Movement is clear, especially regarding the nexus between the “negative externalities” of the traditional economy and social or environmental problems which the B Corps intend to solve. Such debate would allow companies and the movement to more easily identify new courses of action.

Originality/value

This study gives account of regional nuances of social entrepreneurship and social innovation phenomena. In particular, there has been a surge of impact-oriented rather than profit-oriented innovation initiatives in neoliberal-oriented Latin American states, such as Chile. These initiatives offer us a wealth of empirical information about the development of alternative business models.

Details

International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research, vol. 23 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1355-2554

Keywords

Book part
Publication date: 14 May 2018

Caddie Putnam Rankin

This chapter outlines the nascent history of the Benefit Movement, discusses the theoretical implications that predict the long-term success of movement goals, and…

Abstract

This chapter outlines the nascent history of the Benefit Movement, discusses the theoretical implications that predict the long-term success of movement goals, and provides recommendations for firms who seek to safeguard practices of corporate social responsibility (CSR). The chapter provides an overview of Benefit forms and describes the indicators of Movement success. For the Benefit Movement to achieve success, it must establish legal options in all 50 states for Benefit incorporation, pave the way for both publicly and privately held organizations to incorporate, and mobilize diverse organizational actors with high levels of commitment to sustain contention for Movement goals. The chapter provides a framework to understand how the Movement can achieve its goal of safeguarding the effective practice of CSR within firms and across the planet.

Article
Publication date: 9 October 2020

Lisa Baudot, Jesse Dillard and Nadra Pencle

Building on the research program of Dillard and Brown (2015) and Dillard and Vinnari (2019), specifically related to an “ethic of accountability,” this paper recognizes…

Abstract

Purpose

Building on the research program of Dillard and Brown (2015) and Dillard and Vinnari (2019), specifically related to an “ethic of accountability,” this paper recognizes accountability systems as key to how organizations conceptualize their responsibility to society. The objective is to explore how managers of hybrid organizations conceptualize responsibility and the role of accountability systems in their conceptualization.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper studies hybrid organizations that are for-profit entities with explicitly recognized non-economic imperatives. Semi-structured interviews are conducted with managers of organizations that pursue certification as a B-Corporation, often in conjunction with a legal designation as a benefit corporation.

Findings

Managers of the hybrid organizations evidenced a broader responsibility logic that extends beyond responsibility to shareholders. This pluralistic orientation and broader set of objectives are expressed in a set of certification standards that represent an accountability system that both enables and constrains the way responsibility is understood. The accountability system reflects a “felt” accountability to the “other” manifested, for example, as generational accountability, with the other (re)created relative to the certification standards.

Research limitations/implications

Certifications and standards represent accounting-based accountability systems that produce a type of accountability in which the certification becomes the overall objective nudging out efforts to take accountability-based accounting seriously (Dillard and Vinnari, 2019). At the same time, the hybrids under study, while not perfect exemplars, incline toward an ethic of accountability (Dillard and Brown, 2014) that moves them closer to accountability-based accounting.

Originality/value

The findings reveal perspectives of managers embedded in hybrid organizations, illustrating their experiences of responsibility and accountability systems in practice (Grossi et al., 2019). The insights can be extended to other hybrid contexts where accountability systems may be used to demonstrate multiple performance objectives. We also recognize the irony in the need for an organization to be required to attain a special license to operate in a more responsible manner.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 35 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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