By Megan Alam
In 2005 Hamdi Ulukaya founded Chobani in upstate New York. The company specializes in making Greek-style yogurt and has expanded into the international market by building off their brand of natural and healthy products. However, since its conception, Chobani has also focused on making a social impact and achieves this through several avenues including benefits for workers, environmentally conscious manufacturing, and the healthy products for customers. For these reasons, there has been a push for Chobani to become B Corp certified with considerations needing to be weighed to assess the best course of action for the company.
A certified B Corp (the “B” stands for “benefit”) is a for-profit business that is evaluated by the non-profit company B Labs on five impact areas: governance, workers, community, environment, and customers. Based on the business model, it can earn points in these areas and must earn at least 80 out of a possible 200 points in order to become certified. The process to become a certified B Corp is relatively straight forward requiring an evaluation process where an impact assessment is completed. If the company meets B Lab standards and become certified they then must pay a membership fee of between $500 and $50,000 depending on the size of the company. Businesses are re-evaluated every two years for quality assurance.
Chobani, if evaluated by B Labs, would most probably accrue enough points to become a B Corp based on its treatment of workers, commitment to green production, and the focus on health outcomes for consumers. Reasons Chobani would potentially invest in this certification is for the name recognition of being a B Corp since many consumers want the assurance that they are buying products that are healthy and socially conscious. It also acts as a network for Chobani, connecting it to other companies who might want to go into business with the company due to their shared certification. Ultimately, this certification has the benefit of keeping the company accountable, transparent and true to its roots of business for good.
Chobani has yet to apply for the certification, however, and there may be a couple of reasons behind its abstinence. Firstly, it opens their company up to evaluation and criticism that might be unwanted. Since Chobani has already been successful in building a brand that is both well known to consumers and identified as socially conscious it can avoid the auditing and does not have to pay the fee to be associated with this group. Secondly, Chobani has demonstrated itself to be worker-friendly by paying twice minimum wage, employing refugees, and giving the tenured workers 10% of the shares collectively. These shares would make some of the employee’s billionaires and many others very wealthy if Chobani ever went public with an IPO. Because of the difficulty to become a publicly traded benefit corporation from being a B Corp and what this would mean for the employees who are shareholders since the goal would shift from social impact to the most dividends for the shareholder. For these reasons and more, Chobani has abstained from becoming a B Corp.
Chobani is a company that doesn’t need an outside organization to prove their label and they have been able to create a brand that means something on their own. However, newer companies could greatly benefit from this designation if they apply early enough creating a new generation of socially conscious businesses.