Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan, and Andrew Kassoy, B-Lab Founders – Heroes of Conscious Capitalism
Few people set out to change the world the way Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan, and Andrew Kassoy did when they founded B Lab. Seeking to change nothing less than world business practices and the system of capitalism itself, Jay, Bart, and Andrew have enlisted over 20,000 businesses spread across 50 countries and 130 industries in their efforts to make conscious capitalism global. B Lab is most known as the certifying agency for companies “who meet the highest standards of verified, overall social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.” By building a community of Certified B Corporations, and by pushing for the use of stakeholder governance tools like the benefit corporation legal structure, and stakeholder management tools like the B Impact Assessment, B Lab aims to help capitalism work for the long-term to the benefit of all.
As more businesses join B Lab’s communities, the better they are able to support each other, one of example of which is the B Corp Handbook which is crowdsourced with tips, advice, and lessons from the many companies that have already completed certification.
Jay, Bart, and Andrew created B Lab with the belief that business needs to work for everyone. B Lab seeks to build an inclusive economy that will create a more shared and durable prosperity for all. B Lab’s uses Impact Assessment and Analytics tools help companies measure their impact and develop plans to improve. In the long run, B Lab wants all companies to compete not only to be best in the world, but best for the world – best for their workers, best for their communities, and best for the environment. The stakeholder governance tools like the benefit corporation legal structure that B Lab has developed allow companies to take actions for reasons beyond maximizing shareholder value, such as improving labor or environmental standards in order to pursue long-term private and public profits. In states and countries without such laws, companies legally only exist for the benefit of their shareholders and therefore cannot always pursue other goals without worrying about short-termism or takeovers.
B Lab has continued to gain traction and is getting the attention of policy circles. The Brookings Institution invited Jay, Bart, and Andrew to write a policy paper on their thoughts to help a more conscious capitalism fulfill its promise to create a shared and durable prosperity; benefit corporation laws have been passed in 35 U.S. states and Italy, with bills pending in more than a dozen jurisdictions around the world; and B Lab worked in a successful coalition to drive ERISA reform that makes it clear that the managers of more than $7 trillion of U.S. pension fund assets to invest in entities with best in class ESG governance practices like B Corps and benefit corporations.
When asked why they are doing this, one thing that Jay, Bart, and Andrew note that such changes are not only necessary, but that they are actually demanded by younger global generations. According to a Deloitte report, “Millennials will grow to 75% of the workforce by 2025, [and] 77% say their ‘company’s purpose was part of the reason they chose to work there.’”
As Jay put it during one interview, “B Lab’s three cofounders… 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.” As B Lab helps certify corporations it accomplishes two major things. First, it helps improve consumer information and transparency by making it clearer to customers and clients which corporations credibly walk their talk. Second, as companies adjust to new compete on these news metrics of success, business and consumer culture will shift and the overall market needle of what companies do, for whom, and why is moved. Over time these changes are transformative.