Meet Asheville’s B Corp companies.

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Meet Asheville’s B Corp companies. Photo: Pexels
Meet Asheville’s B Corp companies. Photo: Pexels

Did you know Asheville has 8 companies that are officially a Certified B Corporation (a.k.a B Corps)? These for-profit companies have gone through a strenuous certification process to join just 2,655 companies world-wide which are legally required to “consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.”

Certified by the nonprofit B-lab, B Corp members receive a merit badge that signifies a company prioritizes social + environmental responsibility as a core part of its mission. Other things B-lab look at include a company’s involvement in the local community + legal accountability. Some of the largest national B Corp companies include Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, Hootsuite, Kickstarter, Klean Kanteen, Warby Parker + Etsy.

Companies who are B Corp certified are trying to change the world through the way they do business – whether that is in beer, chocolate, marketing or technologyall industries represented in Asheville’s B Corp companies.

Big Path Capital was Asheville’s first B Corp, certified in 2007. Since then, 7 others have been awarded the certification including the newly minted JB Media, Colorado-based New Belgium, and beloved Chocolate company French Broad.

Learn about all the Asheville-based B Corp businesses + the full timeline of the do-gooder’s certification here.

What does it mean to be a B Corp?

What does a B Corp certification mean? Essentially, it states that a for-profit company is basically great for the world + its local community. B-Corp companies are recognized for things like sustainable practices, fair treatment of employees + customers, transparency in business matters + commitment to shareholders.  

Certified by the nonprofit B-lab, B Corps receive a merit badge that signifies a company prioritizes social + environmental responsibility as a core part of its mission. Other things B-lab looks at include a company’s involvement in the local community + legal accountability.

B-lab conducts assessments of companies based on four factors:

  • Governance
  • Workers
  • Community
  • Environment

Practically, that means that B-lab looks at things like whether your employees receive regular raises + bonuses, sustainability involvement, how involved your company is with the local community, as well reviewing your company’s public transparency and legal accountability.

It’s important to note that there is a difference between a B-corps and a benefit corporation – benefit corporations self-report their practices, whereas B-corps have been independently certified as B-lab.   

A brief history of B-corps

1994: Entrepreneur and business consultant John Elkington coined the term “triple bottom line” to describe his theory that companies should craft three different bottom lines. He identified 3 Ps that became the framework for B Lab’s Impact Assessment:

  • Profit bottom line – Profit + loss margin, etc.
  • People bottom line  – The measure of a business’s social responsibility
  • Planetary bottom line – How environmentally responsible a business is

Eventually, B Labs adds a fourth P: Purpose.

2005: Jay Gilbert + Bart Houlahan founded AND 1, a highly successful sports brand. The team sold AND 1 and used the insights + parts of its business model to launch B-lab with the idea of bringing ethical companies together.

May 2007: King Arthur Flour earned the first B Corp badge.

December 2007: Asheville’s own Big Path Capital earned B Corp certification. It was the first in town to do so.

2010: Maryland signed B Corps legislation into law, which was a huge step forward in cementing B Corp’s legitimacy and reputation. Every other state followed suit within the year.

2017: The official B Corps count reached 2000 companies across 140 industries in 50 countries.

So how does a business become B-Corp certified?

Getting B-Corp certified is a strenuous process that can take months or even years. Here’s a quick breakdown of how companies go through the process:

  • Companies complete an in-depth B-Impact Assessment, which asks about things like daily operations + the overall business plan. At this stage, they receive a numerical score based on the answers. In order to proceed to the next steps, companies must score at least an 80.
  • Companies must answer a disclosure questionnaire about any fines + sanctions, and confirm that they meet the legal requirements, which include considering the impact of their decision on stakeholders. Requirements vary based on a company’s home country.
  • At the next stage, companies schedule an assessment review with a B-lab standards analyst + submit required documentation.
  • They must also pass a company background check that will review public records, news sources, founders + more

If a company’s score at the end of the process is an 80 or higher, then they become officially B-Corp certified. There’s a recertification process every three years to make sure businesses are still meeting all requirements.

Meet AVL’s B Corps

These 8 Asheville businesses join an all-roster of companies like Etsy, Ben + Jerrys, Seventh Generation, Warby Parker, Patagonia + more. You could say they’re in good company.

How Mountain Bizworks helps aspiring B-corps

Mountain Bizworks has teamed up with the owners of Asheville-based B Corps to offer support to other businesses + community partners who want to get certified. They have an online meetup group as well as in-person workshops to guide you through the certification process.  

If you’re interested in attending one of these meetings, the next one will be hosted by Pete Krull of Earth Equity Advisors on Tuesday, October 23 from 4-5:30 p.m. It’s free, but they request that you RSVP here.

DYK: Research shows that consumers are becoming increasingly value-driven in their buying choices. In other words, they are often willing pay more for products that are made with organic ingredients from sustainable practices + from companies with progressive social values.

B-Corps have a lil’ seal of approval, guaranteeing they’re contributing to better business and building community around what’s good for employees, local economy + the environment. They also reap internal benefits like an annual membership retreat and a peer network of like-minded businesses.    

These companies are ones we can be proud of in our community. Asheville is a special place, and we’re grateful there are companies here focused on loving on it as much as we are.

– Stephanie (AVLtoday intern) + AVLtoday team