Voting with your wallet is real. Have you noticed how giant brands in the food and drink industry—including PepsiCo and General Mills—are making changes in order to bring healthier options to the masses? That’s because consumers have made it clear that, when they go shopping, they’re looking for more: more freshness, more whole ingredients, more sustainability.
These new demands from consumers are changing not just the items on store shelves, but the way companies are being structured down to the core. Now, not only are shoppers looking for brands to be healthy and environmentally friendly, they want them to give back to the planet even more than they are taking out. Enter: the rise of Certified B Corporations.
Companies that are Certified B must prove they are using their company as a force for good—and not just in a way that sounds nice in publicity materials. According to the official B Corp website, “B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk.” And to be approved, companies must meet “rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”
“Where we’re heading, companies are going to have to give back more than they take out.” — Diane Hatz, Change Food founder
Activist Diane Hatz, who founded Change Food, says the shift toward demanding more from companies is the result of a progressive awareness, especially with younger generations. “Now, if someone is going to feel really good about what they’re buying, they want to know it’s benefiting the planet or someone else in a bigger way,” she says. This goes beyond just buying a product made out of recyclable material or designed locally. “Right now, people are trying to put back what they take out. Where we’re heading, companies are going to have to give back more than they take out.”
You’ve heard of going green? This is going blue.
Hatz names the beverage company Rebbl as an example of an organization that’s going the extra mile. “It’s a for-profit company that was founded to raise money for a non-profit committed to ending human trafficking and their proceeds go toward that,” she says.
Hatz says that while becoming a B Corp isn’t the only way for a company to “go blue,” it does show that its level of commitment to do good is woven into the company’s DNA. When Athleta received this distinction earlier this month, it made major news because it’s a step not many large fashion brands have taken. “We’re incredibly impatient with ourselves at Athleta, and I think that’s exactly the right mindset,” the brand’s CMO, Andréa Mallard, says. “The world would be far better off if the entire fashion industry—or frankly, any industry—believed they could never do enough to serve the world.”
“The customer has spoken loudly and clearly. She is demanding this change, and the companies who ignore her do so at their peril.” — Andréa Mallard, Athleta CMO
Mallard says there are infinite ways brands can work giving back into their mission. For Athleta, it’s using highly sustainable fabrics, but she says another company may choose to focus on conserving water in a really unique way. “We’re proof that [giving back] can be done while growing enormously as a business,” Mallard says.
Similarly to fashion, the supplement industry is another section of the wellness world where many brands have yet to step up and commit to contributing to the greater good. Mari Mazzucco, a marketing manager at Olly, says she was surprised to only see a few supplements on B Corp’s website when she was working on the paperwork for Olly. “It’s something we’re really hoping to lead the charge with and hopefully other supplement companies will follow suit,” she says.
Mazzucco says Olly has been a public benefit corporation from the beginning—which she says is similar to being a Certified B Corp—so the changes the company had to make were minimal. “We already had these great benefits in place, but many employees didn’t know about them. So part of what we had to do was make [everyone] more aware,” she says. One such benefit: Ensuring each employee knew they had allotted money specifically for health and wellness related activities, like a gym membership or SoulCycle classes.
Similarly, Just Water CEO Ira Laufer says when they filed for certification in December, not many changes needed to be made because the company was founded with transparency and public good in mind, though he did say the process was quite vigorous—something he sees as a good thing. “They have an ‘impact assessment’ and really decry every step of the process, looking at, for example, how we treat our employees and vendors, how we buy our ingredients and raw materials, and making sure our paper is sourced from rainforests alliances,” Laufer says.
Laufer says it was important to the company to show their customers exactly how they give back. “A lot of brands say they have some sort of give-back component, but many don’t actually deliver,” he says. “Having the certification is a transparent and tangible way that’s easy for the consumer to see and identify.”
“The customer has spoken loudly and clearly,” Mallard, at Athleta, says. “She is demanding this change, and the companies who ignore her do so at their peril. Customers are researching products and companies like never before, and are very happy to force a change with their wallets. B Corp is a clear signal to customers that you’re committed to being on her side—and the right side of history.”
Speaking of giving back, even Queen Elizabeth is making eco-friendly changes. Plus, are “meat taxes” the next soda tax?
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