If you follow Clean Currents, chances are you know that we are a B Corp and a Benefit LLC. We love to tell people about this because we really believe in what it stands for. Becoming a Certified B Corp and a Benefit LLC enables us to show that we take our commitment to social and environmental values seriously, by placing them into our operating agreement and corporate charter. Clean Currents officially incorporates the interests of our societal stakeholders, including our employees, the communities in which we operate, and the natural environment, into the structure and operations of our business. The B Corp community is a good fit for us because we would like to see companies do more good in the world and help solve pressing environmental and social problems.
Last week, Clean Currents attended the B Corp Leadership Summit, which gathered dozens of the nearly 500 B Corps from all over the US. This was our first big B Corp event, and we weren’t sure what to expect…would it be just another boring conference with the requisite cookie cutter power points and horrible coffee?
Fortunately, it was nothing like that! From the opening reception, we felt like we were heartily welcomed by the B Lab staff (B Lab is the non profit that runs the certification and organized the conference) and the community of business leaders who share our ideals that business can create a positive impact for society. It was incredible to hear about what fellow B Corps were up and to exchange ideas to help our businesses grow.
In fact, one of the most interesting sessions was on growth and whether it was better to be a “kayaker” or a “surfer”. A “kayaker” focuses on resiliency and steady growth. A kayaking business sets goals and achieves them in stepwise increments. A “surfer” holds in position, waiting for the big wave. A surfer is much more focused on explosive growth. A lot of VC investors these days are looking for companies that demonstrate the surfer mentality. They want to see big growth fast. But in our discussion during this session, the B Corp crowd came to the conclusion that successful companies have to exhibit characteristics of both Kayakers and Surfers – resilient and steady like a kayaker, but ready take off when the right wave comes along, like a surfer.
For socially minded companies, the waiting is important, because the type of growth matters. It not enough to just amass more market share and gain customers, B Corps have to stay true to their commitment to sustainability and society at the same time. That’s why there might be some waves that B Corps have to pass on to stay true to their mission. This session was led by Vince Siciliano of New Resource Bank. His bank is a smaller community bank that focuses on sustainable growing businesses and made the decision to be much more of Kayaker in an industry of Surfers. Their values are more important them than just sheer growth numbers. And this fact in turn helps them grow because their customers are drawn to this mentality. Especially in the background of Occupy Wall Street, New Resource Bank is attracting more and more notice from consumers fed up with the “growth only mentality. Check out this great article from the New York Times on New Resource Bank and other community lending organizations.