B is for B Corps

Last week, Lucy Bernholtz, president of philanthropic consulting firm Blueprint Research & Design, spoke with Marketplace (download the audio from the link) on “Philanthropy’s Big Buzzwords of 2009.”

Between impact investing and mergers, Bernholtz talked about B Corps, the designation for businesses holding a social good certification (think LEED for social enterprise) from a group called B Lab.

B Corps screenshot

Of the 240 businesses are certified in the U.S. as B Corps, nine in Philadelphia have an additional reason to pay a tenth of 1% of their net sale to hold the certification. Last Thursday, Philadelphia’s City Council unanimously approved a bill to give a sustainable business tax credit to certified sustainable businesses in the city. The first financial incentive for sustainable businesses in law in the U.S., the new bill allows twenty-five companies in Philadelphia to receive the tax break.

Co-founder of B Corporation, Jay Coen Gilbert describes amending a company’s articles of incorporation to include B Corps “changing the DNA of a company.”

Individually, each certified company is a B Corp—together, they are B Corps.

As the “corps” entry in the online dictionary Wordnik (watch Wordnik Founder Erin McKean’s 2006 PopTech talk) aggregates definitions, synonyms, images, tweets, tags, and etymologies about different meanings and content around the term, we hope that sustainable businesses for social good will continue to find new reasons to become, as the American Heritage Dictionary defines “corps”: “a body of persons acting together or associated under common direction.”

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