Event Brief: Jay Coen Gilbert February Lecture Series

On Thurs­day, Feb­ru­ary 20th, the Social Enter­prise Insti­tute hosted  Jay Coen Gilbert, co-founder of B Lab for its Feb­ru­ary lec­ture series event. B Lab is a non-profit orga­ni­za­tion that cer­ti­fies com­pa­nies meet­ing rig­or­ous social, envi­ron­men­tal, and trans­parency stan­dards. These com­pa­nies are termed B Cor­po­ra­tions, and include well-known, socially respon­si­ble brands such as Ben & Jerry’sPatag­o­nia, and Warby Parker.

Gilbert began by dis­cussing his entrance into entre­pre­neur­ship through his first com­pany AND1, a bas­ket­ball footwear and apparel com­pany, also famous for street ball and mix tapes. Gilbert noted that AND1 was suc­cess­ful because the brand stood for some­thing authen­tic, and the fact that its cus­tomers could iden­tify with the lifestyle it rep­re­sented gave it power in the marketplace.

Gilbert later spoke about dis­cov­er­ing the poten­tial for busi­ness to be used as an agent for change through AND1. With this in mind, he co-founded B Lab in 2006. To date it has cer­ti­fied almost 1,000 com­pa­nies in vary­ing indus­tries across 32 countries.

 A big gen­er­a­tional change, he men­tioned is that mil­len­ni­als care more about inte­grat­ing our pas­sions with our work­place; young peo­ple that want to make money and make a dif­fer­ence. Gilbert referred to the pair­ing of these dual motives “profit with purpose.”

Cap­i­tal­ism is the most pow­er­ful force on the planet, but today there is an evo­lu­tion tak­ing place for what is means to be a cap­i­tal­ist,” said Gilbert. “We now aim to max­i­mize shared value, not just share­holder return.”

The lack of social or envi­ron­r­men­tal stan­dards in cap­i­tal­ist economies is now at odds with a con­sumer base that increas­ingly val­ues sus­tain­abile and socially respon­si­ble busi­ness prac­tices. Gilbert cited this para­dox as moti­va­tion for why B Lab cre­ated the B Impact Assess­ment, a stan­dard­ized mea­sure­ment tool that ana­lyzes a company’s cor­po­rate prac­tices and gen­er­ates a score based on their per­for­mance. Com­pa­nies that sur­pass a par­tic­u­lar bench­mark score on this assess­ment can obtain B Cor­po­ra­tion cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Because this assess­ment is based on mea­sur­able data, B Corps can be ana­lyzed and com­pared to other com­pa­nies and are proven to be more durable, offer higher qual­ity jobs, and do more to improve their communities.

B Lab has also been respon­si­ble for spark­ing the Ben­e­fit Cor­po­ra­tion move­ment, a legal ini­tia­tive that offers busi­nesses an alter­na­tive form of incor­po­ra­tion that allows them to con­sider all stake­hold­ers in busi­ness deci­sions, rather than merely max­i­mize share­holder return. So far, this leg­is­la­tion has passed in 20 states, includ­ing Delaware, with more on the way.

Gilbert con­cluded by dis­cussing the power for cre­at­ing change that B Corps have together, which none of them would have alone. Together they stand for a new gen­er­a­tion of busi­ness, and become a mar­ket­ing machine with a reach of over 25 mil­lion con­sumers and employ­ees world­wide that have the poten­tial to com­pletely rede­fine business.