Building a Regenerative Economy Through the B Corp Community

June 29, 2022

B Lab U.S. & Canada Builds on Collective Action Dialogues at 2022 State of the B

The recent State of the B event offered an opportunity for B Lab U.S. & Canada and the Certified B Corporation community to reflect on the past year and refresh for what’s ahead. With a focus on building community and growing together through healing and action, the message was grounded in the reality of current challenges but fueled by hope and collaboration. 

As the B Corp community grows at a record rate in the U.S. and Canada and around the globe, new challenges and opportunities continue to emerge and evolve in the work to create a more inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy. 

The past year included collective action dialogues with members of the B Corp community and the B Lab U.S. & Canada team, including new CEO Jorge Fontanez. The nonprofit organization that powers the B Corp movement in the U.S. and Canada plans to build on the common themes that emerged during those discussions — and lean in to B Corp values to better support the growing movement of businesses shaping a more inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy, Fontanez said.

“Today is an invitation for you to begin a new kind of journey with us, not just as individuals in this movement, but as part of a greater ecosystem that is looking to fulfill our vision of economic change,” he said, calling out the values embedded in B Lab U.S. & Canada’s Theory of Change:

An economic system that is inclusive, equitable, and regenerative

Keep reading for excerpts from Fontanez’s remarks during the State of the B on June 15, 2022, or watch here.

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An Invitation for Learning Journeys to Shift Power and Create a Regenerative Economy

In order to continue to celebrate this movement that you all have contributed to, it’s important to acknowledge how we got here and all of the many issues that we’re also confronting today: Disrupted supply chains. The war in Ukraine. Increasing degradation of individual rights of women and LGBTQ communities. Potential continued erosion of our democracy and voting rights. 

How do we as a movement come together to acknowledge historical harms and wrongs, but also come together through collective action in order to show that business can continue to be a force for good against all of these challenges? I believe we are a resilient community, and I’ve seen it in action in this very short time since I joined as CEO almost a year ago. 

These world events are challenging. And I’ll just share a little bit of how I stay grounded in these moments. Thich Nhat Hahn is a Vietnamese monk who recently passed but left us with amazing wisdom. He spoke about what it means to create true peace in the world. The premise is: True peace begins with me; it starts within ourselves. And if we can create that peace within ourselves, we can extend that to our families, to our communities, and to society writ large. 

Slide of Thich Nhat Hahn quote: “True peace is always possible. Yet it requires strength and practice, particularly in times of great difficulty.”

Today is an invitation for you to begin a new kind of journey with us, not just as individuals in this movement, but as part of a greater ecosystem that is looking to fulfill our vision of economic change. 

During the collective action dialogues in the last year, one of the central questions was: What is it that we need to do to heal? What does healing look like in a community and in a business community at scale?

Why are we asking ourselves this question? 

I joined a community that’s largely been white-led, whose founders are three white men, and who today are beginning and continuing to relinquish power and distribute leadership. Just this week we brought on a new woman lead executive for B Lab Global. Her name is Eleanor Allen. Under her leadership as one of seven sister organizations, Eleanor is helping us realize this vision. 

My seat today is as a result of others redefining how they view power, including Ben Anderson, the previous CEO of B Lab U.S. & Canada. We opened up a conversation not only about how I might show up as a leader in this organization but also begin a conversation about some of the challenges of what it means to shift power. We’re continuing to work through that and want to share back what that looks like. Because that’s leaning in to a key principle of the way forward for B Lab, and that is to model the change that we want to see happening in the world. 

Join a Learning Journey

B Lab U.S. & Canada’s Racial Equity team is developing a Learning Journey of trainings that will allow the B Corp community to strengthen its knowledge of racially equitable and inclusive business practices.


A Business Community Built on Sharing Best Practices and Pursuing Continuous Improvement

And that, in fact, is one of the insights that came out of what we heard in the collective action dialogues. We were asking ourselves in this moment, “How fast should radical change happen? And what do we need to do to advance our anti-racism commitments that we made back in 2020?”

So many business leaders are asking themselves how they need to show up in this moment. We see this as an opportunity, and we heard from you that, in fact, we have a responsibility to model the change and to create the roadmap for that way forward. 

What we learned through an emergent research approach is that B Lab is the convener and connector for you all. 

The best role that we can play is to help us learn from one another to ensure that those companies large and small, whose practices are more inclusive, more equitable, and more regenerative, are being shared so that others may adopt those same practices. We’re not just talking about a set of standards anymore. We’re talking about how those standards come to life and how we think beyond what the standards tell us. Because the certification is not just a badge; it is a mechanism and a lever for continuous improvement. 

It’s also important to say that we heard you say to us, that in order to lead this movement, we need to communicate authentically in order to stay relevant. And so my commitment to you, and our commitment at B Lab U.S. & Canada, is ensuring that we’re living these values and showing you how we might realize this vision as well. You’ve seen us model the change online if you participated in the tour. Now, you participated today as well. And we want you to take this energy that you’re feeling.

We had about 150 B Corps represented on the tour, half of which were B Corp founders and CEOs. We met with the leaders of We The Change; we held three specific conversations with B Locals in Canada; we talked to B Corp Climate Collective, all with the intention of listening to how our theory of change is landing with you. This is really an opportunity to not only tell you what we’ve heard, but also to tell you what we’re going to do about it. Because we are a movement that’s about action.

If there’s a message that we want all of you to carry from this, it’s that B Lab is leading a movement for economic systems change and we are helping corporate American become anti-racist. This is part of our calling, and this is what is embedded in our Theory of Change

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Modeling the Change at B Lab U.S. & Canada with a Focus on Growth and Well-Being

So how do we do that? We start by modeling the change. We are investing in our team first and foremost — the well-being of our workers. It’s really important for us to acknowledge the real challenges that we’ve faced in the last couple of years. The real lack of connection despite how good technology is. 

The truth also is that we have not equitably invested in ourselves as an organization to help us build this future that we’re imagining. To support this movement and the well-being of our team, this too is a conversation that we need to have: About how much the demand for certification and verification has not only impacted the opportunity — on the positive side — but how we grow in a way that is manageable and sustainable for our organization as well. You can’t create change unless you’re healthy. This is the fundamental premise also that goes back to what Thich Nhat Hahn was telling us. 

What’s Next? Moving Forward While Centering Healing and Taking Action 

I want to close by asking you to reflect on just a few questions for how you might begin to center your own healing and the healing of your organization and of our community. 

I want to invite you to think about, for yourself and your organization: 

  • How would you describe where you are in your journey? 
  • What must you do to lean in to this vision of the future? 
  • How are you finding nourishment and stability in this work? Where are you overstretched? Where do you need to find balance? 

We’ve been through a couple of challenging years, and we may never see “normal” again. In fact, when we think about the theme of regeneration, it may be that we don’t want to go back there; that this is an opportunity to think differently.

What is it that we might create anew together as a movement headed toward action?

As we deepen our community connection and move more closely to action, it’s important that we continue to ensure that our energy matches the forces that are sometimes feeling like they’re going against us. One way that we’re going to deepen our action and commitments is through learning journeys. 

When we think about regeneration and what that means, it means that we are building while we are dismantling the culture of white supremacy. That we are also uncovering what’s been lost in the process and being really conscious about what we do to replace that. And that we ask ourselves how we heal from historical practices of extraction and exploitation and create an economy that is truly regenerative and equitable.

How B Corps Can Take Action

  • Join a Learning Journey. B Lab U.S. & Canada’s Racial Equity team is developing a Learning Journey of trainings that will allow the B Corp community to strengthen its knowledge of racially equitable and inclusive business practices. 
  • Be a part of Champions Retreat 2022. Set for Nov. 29-Dec. 1 in Philadelphia, this B Corp community event hosted by B Lab U.S. & Canada will provide a space to build community, regenerate, and catalyze movement building. 

Watch B Lab U.S. & Canada’s CEO Jorge Fontanez’s full address.

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