Amanda Rinderle and Jonas Clark were entrepreneurs with a clear vision: create superior quality shirts while using fair labor practices and reducing environmental degradation. They knew that they wanted to have a positive impact on the apparel industry, but also knew that they would have to turn a profit in order to scale their business. Starting a nonprofit wasn’t an option, so they decided to become a Certified B Corporation with their company, Tuckerman and Co., in New Haven, Conn.
B Corporations (B Corps) are for-profit companies that pledge to meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, in addition to their business goals. In other words, these companies explicitly value doing good just as much as doing good business. Currently, there are more than 1,400 certified B Corps around the world, including method (cleaning solutions), Patagonia (outdoor clothing) and The Honest Company (eco-friendly baby products). Each must submit a rigorous application to the nonprofit B Lab in order to become certified, and must continually benchmark their social and environmental impact against similar businesses in their industries. In some U.S. states, companies can also take the extra step to incorporate as a “benefit corporation.”
I had the opportunity to speak with a few small businesses that also happen to be B Corps. Here’s what each one had to say about Tuckerman and Co. and why they decided to join the B Corp movement:
Jonas Clark, Tuckerman and Co.:
Troy Marcyes: What are the benefits of being a B Corporation?
Jonas Clark: We started Tuckerman with the goal of creating a brand of “clothes made right.” We always knew that we wanted these values to be at the center of what we do, so being a B Corp was a great way for us to put those values right into the company charter.
TM: What do you think differentiates you from other ‘traditional’ businesses?
JC: I think we’re on the cusp of a pretty serious change in the apparel industry. People are more and more interested in how their clothing is made and the process behind it. Of course, the product still has to be great – a subpar product with a great story isn’t going to last long – but I think when you make that additional promise to the customer, it can really be powerful. You’re telling them, “We’ve put in the time and energy to make this great thing, and what’s more, we stand behind how it was made as well.” That’s big.
Jessica Lyle, One Village Coffee, in Souderton, Pa.:
TM: Why did you choose to become a B Corporation, instead of a nonprofit?
Jessica Lyle: Being a B Corp places us within a community of other companies and individuals with similar values and goals. We all have the unifying concept of “using business as a force for good,” which continually inspires us. Another benefit of being a B Corp is that it helps us find new companies to work with and customers to find us.
TM: What makes One Village Coffee stand out from other companies?
JL: Being a B Corp requires a vulnerability and an openness that other businesses don’t have because the application process requires it. As One Village Coffee grows, we are always thinking of how we can do better – roast better coffee and be better stewards. We are here to guide our customers and provide a human connection to something bigger: community of growers, roasters and coffee drinkers (we like to call it our village).
Jill Robbins, Homefree Treats, Windham, N.H.:
TM: What inspired you to start Homefree Treats?
Jill Robbins: I founded Homefree Treats not as a good idea for a business, but rather, in order to provide a service and to meet a need – a need for inclusion. As the mom of a child with food allergies, and as a clinical psychologist, I wanted a way for kids, like mine, to be part of the group when treats were served.
I have learned, over time, that I need to be a good businesswoman in order for the company to succeed, but “business” is not part of the company’s roots.
TM: Why become a B Corp?
JR: We became a B Corp because I believed in it and wanted to support the mission. I think that the more companies do that, the more normative B Corp values and participation will become, and I wanted to help that happen. I also hope that our certification leads some socially conscious shoppers to purchase our products.
Britta D’Anna, Threads 4 Thought:
TM: What makes Threads 4 Thought stand out as a mission-driven company?
Britta D’Anna: By using sustainable materials, and working with factories that treat their workers ethically and humanely, we’re at the forefront of changing an industry that has long been recognized as one of the dirtiest in the world. Threads 4 Thought donates 10% of the retail price of its core basic items to the International Rescue Committee’s New Roots program, which provides economic opportunities to underserved populations that have fled conflict and natural disasters.
TM: Why was it important to your company to gain B Corp certification?
Becoming a certified B Corp is a validation of the mission that engendered the brand. Our mission has always been to be a voice and a force for change, and becoming a B Corp has helped us do that.
Fred Greenhalgh, Revision Energy, in Portland, Maine:
TM: What are some of the perks of being a B Corp?
Fred Greenhalgh: Our B Corp certification helps us stand out in a cluttered marketplace of other solar businesses. We are in the renewable energy sector, which itself is very different from ‘traditional’ fuels such as gas, coal and nuclear. We design and install solar energy systems, and pride ourselves in having the very best customer service and quality of installation to be found. Among our peers in solar, we have these added commitments: giving back to our local community, putting our employees first with very generous revenue sharing and other benefits, and ‘practicing what we preach’ by using the clean energy systems, which we install. We are trying to be the leaders in our region’s transition to a 100% renewable energy powered economy.
To learn more about B Corporations, visit the following links: