This article was transcribed and edited for length and clarity from B Lab U.S. & Canada CEO Ben Anderson’s statement during the B Lab U.S. & Canada State of the B event: Uniting Around our Theory of Change, on June 2, 2021. During the event, Anderson and other leaders from B Lab U.S. & Canada outlined the organization’s new Theory of Change and how the B Corp community can continue to work together on collective impact.
At the beginning of 2020, we as a community were feeling our power by deepening impact through collective action. At that time we had more formally delineated this market as a Global Partner — B Lab U.S. & Canada — to be on level footing with other global partners like B Lab UK, B Lab Europe, B Lab East Africa, B Lab Australia & New Zealand, and Sistema B that are fostering communities of B Corps around the world.
In January 2020, we began planning the development of a long-term strategy for our systems change work, yet as the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020 we put those plans on hold and rearranged our entire team to focus on the health of our community. For 15 months we’ve navigated a global crisis and untold community, organizational, and personal challenges.
Now, one and a half years later, as we begin to emerge from the pandemic we can step back and know we’ve proven our ability to handle adversity. In the B Corp community, we’ve seen financial resilience and worker resilience. Every year some B Corps leave the community, but in this period we had our highest retention in five years. This is remarkable — and no surprise. Our stakeholder governance approach prepared us for resiliency. We’ve also seen accelerating growth, which means people outside the community said, “We want to be a part of that.” They prioritized becoming a B Corp.
As we moved into 2021, through a co-creation process we created alignment with our global partners on a global strategy and we’ve articulated a living strategy for the U.S. and Canadian market.
The Change We Seek by 2025
We have a mission to cultivate, mobilize and amplify the collective impact of a community of credible, stakeholder-driven business leaders, in order to drive economic systems change to benefit all. We need to work together as our community and with other credible leaders. Partnerships and coalitions will become increasingly important.
Our impact strategy is to have collectively scaled specific transformational business practices and public policies that systemically advance our three main impact areas: climate justice, racial equity, and a stakeholder-driven economic system, by 2025.
Let’s look at those three impact areas, which are intersectional and positively reinforcing:
We always have and will continue to stand for holistic impact and high performance. Underpinning the certification has been our requirement that companies embed stakeholder consideration into their governance structure. What you may not know is many times outsiders have said this will limit our growth. But the world is now acknowledging that this addresses a fundamental problem with the system: shareholder primacy.
Stakeholder governance supports the resiliency we have seen in our community. It is also our greatest proof point that we can change the system. Not only are companies incorporating every day as benefit corporations, but this framework is now becoming integral in policy work in our market and around the world.
Since the beginning, we’ve had many environmental leaders in our community. This is a strength. Our global Net Zero 2030 campaign, catalyzed by you working in community through the B Corp Climate Collective, showed us the power of collective action that is now central to our strategy. Understanding and embedding the justice aspect is our growth area, and it is only with this shift that we’ll achieve our vision.
While the standards have always included dimensions of race and our global vision of an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economic system aligns with racial equity, we as a community have not centered this in our strategy. We have not been leaders here. There are individuals and specific B Corps that have been leaders. We will be looking to them. We will also need to broaden to follow others outside our community who have been leading and doing the work.
The system is broken. True. What else explains why 98% of private equity is controlled by white men. Think about that statistic in a reframe of the statement. The system is not broken. It is doing exactly what it has been designed to do — systematically disadvantage, marginalize and murder people though a 400-year-old racial caste system.
We see this and know this in a heavy hearted way. The 100-year anniversary of the horrific Tulsa massacre was earlier this month. And May 25 marked the one year since the killing of George Floyd. Over the last month, in Canada a mass grave with the remains of 215 First Nations children were found buried at a residential school site — a school that was systematically designed to tear them away from their heritage, communities and way of life. And another 751 unmarked graves near another residential school were found in Saskatchewan just last week.
These are not isolated murders. We have work to do personally, organizationally, and as a community to learn the history, do our own work, and put our energy, resources and talents behind those who have been leading racial equity. We need to live into our promise as an anti-racist organization. We need to listen and follow the lead of Black people, Indigenous people, Asian-American and Pacific Islander people, Latinx people and People of Color. We need to be a more diverse and inclusive B Lab and B Corp community. We need to create more equitable access to our community and need to be more relevant to diverse business leaders. We need to pilot a range of initiatives while following the leadership of people who have been doing this work, which will include partnering outside our community.
This strategy will require new people and more resources. We will share more about our diversifying organization and our evolving leadership. Next month we’ll introduce a new CEO of B Lab U.S. & Canada (and I will shift to a new role on our board, joining my Co-CEO Anthea Kelsick). We will also seek to share more about the financial underpinning of our organization and ways that you all can activate the strategy through financial investment.
I’ll conclude by sharing a question that might help provoke, inspire and focus you. Recently I had the opportunity to be in community with Jessica Norwood, founder and CEO of RUNWAY, a financial innovation firm committed to dismantling systemic barriers and reimagining financial policies and practices — all in the name of Black liberation.
She asked: What if the financial system loved black people?
What would it take? What would your role be? What would our role be? What resources can you offer? How can we change the system, together in community?
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