July has been B Corp month.
If you are a B Corp, it’s been a celebration of all that’s good and noble about what B Corp certification means. For those that don’t really know what being a B Corp is about, B Corp is essentially a measure that any business can meet about how you can be a better business, for good.
Marlin is one of around 3,500 certified B Corps in the world.
It sounds impressive—and I think it is.
However, over the course of the past few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on why we initially decided to become B Corp certified and what difference it makes. In particular, the broader context within which this sits today, and within the enormous amount of uncertainty that currently surrounds us.
Today, I find myself asking a basic question, does being a B Corp really matter?
More than ever, my answer is categorically and definitively; yes.
It’s safe to say, that most people seek simplicity. Our search for simplicity is in response to the complexities and uncertainties of our world. We think in binary choices; we like and want to reduce these complexities and our decisions to a simple choice. It makes thinking and choosing easy.
Of course, this search for simplicity is incredibly dangerous. It ignores and discounts complexities and allows poor decisions. It disregards that there are a natural range of other choices… or the fact that there is a spectrum of greys; not just black and white.
By limiting and grounding our choices in a strictly binary-framework I think that as a society the choices we move to are those that tend to be more extreme. It’s hard to make ‘grey’ distinctive. It’s hard to convey that there can be a simple solution, to complex problems.
Pure extractive capitalism is inherently evil. Its natural tendency is to concentrate wealth, glorify the individual—and an individual’s efforts. It miss-prices social externalities. It turns us all from citizens into consumers. It is a system that benefits just a very few. It is designed that way.
The system that extractive capitalism thrives on is one that has allowed and fosters the vileness of racism and prejudice; the degradation of minorities; the utterly dreadful extremes of income and wealth inequality; the destruction and degradation of our environment. It perverts our society into ‘us and them’.
How is it possible that in a country as wealthy as Australia, one in six children live in poverty? What kind of system allows that to exist? What kind of economic story have we been telling ourselves, and accepting, that such a statistic is tolerable?
Yet, despite its many ills, our market-based system is also pretty much the only economic system we’ve got that kind of works.
Over the past few months, we’ve also experienced a complete shock to our social systems. We’ve seen that what is communally held has a much greater value—our health care systems are the perfect example of this. We’re seeing that what constitutes an ‘essential’ worker is actually not reflected in our economic systems; think of teachers, childcare workers, nurses, cleaners, train and bus drivers etc etc.
Today, I find myself—along with many thousands of others—also asking; how much has the economic system we’re working in contributed to this distortion?
And so I’ve come full-circle, to B Corp, and why we sought this certification in the first place and what difference does it make. I firmly believe it was based on a profound wish to seek balance.
B Corp is the framework for an economic system that still has a profit incentive—and yet also ‘prices’ social externalities—the things that our staff, our clients and our community value. Things like fair and decent conditions, time with family, a responsibility to the environment, sustainability and our broader community.
All these things have a much greater value, than mere money. All these things are greater than the individual and their sense of self—they speak to what we all value.
In a very real sense, the B Corp framework is the ultimate expression of idealism—one that’s rooted in pragmatism.
I don’t think that I am being panicky when I write about the many dire social issues that surround us—the climate crisis, wealth inequality, entrenched racism—and I believe that if we allow the status quo to continue, then the prognosis for all of us is very grim.
However, that’s not the picture that I want to buy into—I don’t want such grimness—I don’t want to know what I’ve got to fight against, I want to know what I am fighting for.
It would be a shame for July to pass into August and for my belief to become a yearly anniversary that marks B Corp month; if you really want to right the wrongs of many numerous ‘larger than self’ issues—then you’ve got to begin with the organisation you currently work in.
This is what B Corp is all about. It’s the economic system that we all need right now. More than ever, this is why we are a B Corp.