For far too long brands have reported their “social good” initiatives with hollow facts. They say their “social good” actions are aligned with society, however in an all-for-profit world this is sometimes compromised. At a time when consumers are becoming more savvy and demanding more from the brands they consume, brands need to be willing to walk the walk. Fortunately for those brands ready for a change there’s a stepping stone available, one known as the Benefit Corporation.
In a nutshell, the Benefit Corporation (B-corp) is a business classification kind of like a social enterprise, but with teeth. There are three key principles for B-corp members:
- They must create a material positive impact on society and the environment- clear goals need to be declared
- They must consider non-financial interests when making decisions- two separate but equal bottom lines are established: financial and social
- And best of all, they must report their overall social and environmental performance using recognized third party standards, allowing for transparent, unbiased evaluations.
Creating a positive impact doesn’t mean brands can simply say “check please,” write an amount, reap the rewards and leave. Declaring a social goal means being part of the long haul and getting hands dirty. This involves donating time, expertise and resources, all of which are worth more than untrained money.
The establishment of two bottom lines help eliminate the “all-for-profit” issue. Now brands can focus on each as separate rather than as interconnected- both being equally important.
The last bullet point on social performance evaluations simply brings me glee. Brands are always quick to publicize their “social good” initiatives; however, are their efforts actually worthy of the recognition? It’s difficult to judge when brands are usually the ones holding the yardstick. I think a verified evaluation of a brand’s social commitment should be obtained before anything is promoted, especially if brands want to avoid misleading their customers. Believe me, consumers aren’t dumb and they don’t want to be screwed with. So if a brand is looking to do something socially responsible they’d better not mess around and back it up, or as the 90s rapper Juvenile wisely puts it, “who is you playing with, back that ass up” Different context, similar interpretation.
Even though B-Corp status is only available in a few states the same principles can be applied across the globe. It just takes some effort. The reward for action is immense. Not only does this method help the world but it also helps improve a brand’s overall reputation and consumer relationship. Acting like an actual human being will never feel better.
Welcome to the world of the social-brand partnership.