In an age where climate change is one of the first things mentioned in political campaigns and global warming updates are plastered all over the news, people have grown infinitely more aware of the environment. This shift toward an eco-friendly lifestyle has opened up a slew of opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to change the planet and capitalize on the green scene.
Starting a business as a benefit corporation and being completely transparent about your environmental performance could pay dividends, not only for the environment but for your business’s bottom line. According to a 2013 Nielsen study, 50 percent of global consumers surveyed are willing to pay more for services and goods that give back to society.
Better still, there are opportunities available in every industry to start a green business. Eco-friendly companies are no longer limited to organic farms or natural product lines. You can even leverage your expertise in a career you’re passionate about and turn it into a green endeavor with a few simple changes. Check out these ideas for starting a green company in an ordinary, everyday field.
Jenelle Isaacson, owner of Living Room Realty
As our B Corp interview series comes to a close, we’re excited to end the series on a strong note for businesses that decide to file as Benefit Corporations by featuring Jenelle Isaacson, owner of Living Room Realty in Portland, Oregon. Living Room Realty has the distinction of being the first real estate company in Oregon to become B-Corp certified and today, we spoke with Jenelle about how she hopes Benefit Corporations will be the future norm for business and how her company believes in building both business coupled with community – “one great neighbor at a time.”
1) How did you get started with your company?
I was getting ready to have a baby and wanted to leave my current office anyways so I could have my own place I could easily bring my baby in if I needed and have control over the environment of my office. I was nesting. I wanted my own space, with my favorite teas, assurance the office was cleaned with natural products and was somewhere as comfortable as my own living room if I would be balancing two children under two years old and a thriving real estate business.
Senen Garcia, Esq. of SG Law Group
Accountant, attorney, and B Corp movement supporter Senen Garcia, Esq. got his entrepreneurial start at an early age. The sole owner of two businesses before completing his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Entrepreneurship and International Business, Garcia opened his accounting and tax practice before receiving his undergraduate degree. While running said business, he completed his Graduate and Juris Doctorate degrees and now operates SG Law Group in Florida which assists clients with their corporate, real estate, estate planning an property insurance claim needs.
Today he’s giving us a look at how he got interested in the B Corp movement, what he believes Benefit Corporations need in order to succeed and why the real benefit behind the B Corps has a lot to do with marketing.
Lisa Garrison, Attorney, Smith Moore Leatherwood
At the firm of Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP, Lisa Garrison maintains an active business litigation practice advising and representing clients in anything from claim appeals to multiple jury trials, but she also has an active presence with companies that have socially beneficial missions. Lisa serves as the founder of the firm’s “Benefit Corporation Team” or the “B Team” which focuses on exploring and serving the legal needs of aspiring or existing “benefit” or “B Corp” companies – for-profit businesses that seek to better the world through identified social missions and by focusing on sustainability and TPL/3BL (the “triple bottom line” pillars of profits, people, and planet).
Today, we’re discussing with Lisa how the “B Team” came to be at Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP and the assistance it provides Benefit Corporations in need, the financial advantages that come with forming a B Corp, and why every entrepreneur needs to read up on the pros and cons of Benefit Corporations before starting one up.
Jay Coen Gilbert, B Lab Cofounder
When we first started taking a closer look at benefit corporations, we were really building off of the momentum that began with B Lab, the nonprofit that pushes for Benefit Corporation legislation and certifies B Corps. Little did we know, we’d be interviewing Jay Coen Gilbert, one of the three cofounders of B Lab, on our blog! We were so excited, we added a few extra questions in today’s interview where Jay tells us about the benefits forming a B Corp brings to society and the environment, and that for all companies, it’s most important to take the first step and see where you stand.
1. What’s the source of your passion and inspiration that drove you into your leading role in the Benefit Corporation movement?
B Lab’s three cofounders, Bart Houlahan, Andrew Kassoy and I (Jay Coen Gilbert), all share a passion for using market forces to address society’s greatest challenges. We’ve worked in business for most of our careers and hope to harness the amazing talent, passion and resources we’ve seen there to make a better world. Ultimately, we founded B Lab to serve those entrepreneurs who are using business as a force for good.
Lisa Fournier, Founder of Norfolk Fair Trade Co.
Lisa Fournier isn’t your average B-Corp business owner. The founder of Norfolk Fair Trade Co., she’s also the author of “The Barnabas Effect,” an entrepreneurial blueprint for communities and entrepreneurs on how to work together to build a stronger and more successful society. It’s not often that we get to interview with business owners turned authors in the B-Corp community and today we got the chance to chat with Lisa on her entrepreneurial roots, the trends she believes will impact benefit corporations, and why her next step forward involves education on stakeholder networks.
Our blog has taken a turn for the Benefit Corporation lately, inspired by the momentum started by B Lab, the founders behind the movement, and this month we’ve created an infographic on how this fairly new entity has been taking the nation by storm. 20 states, along with Washington D.C., have passed Benefit Corporation legislature and our infographic goes in depth to discuss the growth of the B-Corp to come, a look at a few famous companies that you might not know are B-Corps, and a timeline that looks into how long it took states like California, Maryland, and Delaware to enact Benefit Corporation legislation.
Famous for Disney World, being bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, and a collection of particularly colorful news headlines, Florida has never been known as a shy state. However, there has long been some dispute about whether Florida can be considered a business friendly state or not.
With all this “B Corp” buzz in the air, it’s time to get one thing straight: the Benefit Corporation and the “B Corp” are not created equal. The terms are often used interchangeably, and it’s not necessarily wrong to say “B Corporation” or “B Corp” to informally describe a Benefit Corporation either. People understandably confuse the two, since both similarly aspire to cement a social or environmental purpose in a company’s mission and corporate governance structure.
But there is still a key difference between the pair: the benefit corporation is a legal entity recognized under a state’s corporate laws, while the “B Corporation” (or B Corp) is a certification conferred upon a company by a certifying organization. A company can be a B Corp without being a Benefit Corporation – and vice versa – but it’s important to know that while these two sound similar enough at first glance, they actually function fairly differently from one another.
Entrepreneurs, take note! There’s big news on the B Corporation front – this August, Delaware became the 19th state to enact benefit corporation legislation, a move that signals the new business entity’s staying power.
While it’s true that 18 other states and D.C. are already on board the B Corp train, Delaware has an especially longstanding, notable reputation as a corporate haven, and as an important and influential player in the business community. In other words, people in business pay extra attention to Delaware, and when Delaware passed benefit corporation legislation, it was a very big deal. The state’s legal recognition of benefit corporations will spark more momentum for a movement that aims to sink legal teeth into the notion that companies should mold their missions to benefit society as a whole, instead of primarily focusing on maximizing profits for shareholders.