Does your CSR consultant live their values?

Or Do They Just Sell Them?

I just returned from the 2019 B Corp Champions Retreat, the annual gathering of Certified B Corps and their allies. It’s impossible not to be inspired by a group of 650 other people passionate about using business as a force for good. Just being in the same room as representatives of Dismantle Collective, Patagonia, and Spring Bank serves as a reminder that Valor CSR is in good company and this is the way business needs to be done.

The downside of a conference filled with people like this is that everybody is so interesting, knowledgeable and friendly that you spend three full days introducing yourself to new people. Here’s what I said about 200 times:

“I’m Andy. I’m the founder of Valor CSR. We’re the only Certified B Corp in Las Vegas, although I’m working to change that soon. We do CSR consulting and transition companies away from shotgun philanthropy -- most organizations realize that there are better ways to create both social and business value than golf tournaments and gala events. We also set up corporate foundations and help with employee giving and hardship programs.”

One reaction to my intro was unexpected: “A lot of people here seem to be doing the same thing.”

At first, I felt a little defensive and competitive. She’s right! There are a lot of people here with companies that work on some aspect of social responsibility. Attorneys that help you with pro-social governance, experienced consultants that help you become a Certified B Corp, companies with products to manage critical impact aspects of your business like employee giving, or sustainability, or public relations, or managing your 401(k). Is the market saturated? Are we redundant?

The answer came to me on the way back to Vegas. Of course there are a lot of Certified B Corps in the CSR consulting space. Anybody who trades on the premise that being socially responsible is smart business must be a Certified B Corp. It’s not merely a badge of honor, it’s a definitive, third party certification that your company’s business practices are good for customers, employees and the environment. If as a CSR consultant you’re selling that to your clients then you need to prove that you believe it, too. Every consultant working in the CSR space should be a Certified B Corp.

Authenticity mismatch

If you’re looking for a company that wants to help you with any aspect of corporate social responsibility, including employee engagement, environmental or governance performance, social impact, or corporate philanthropy, ask them this:

“Are you a Certified B Corp?”

If the answer is, “no,” ask “why not?”

Honestly, I can think of only one legitimate answer. Certified B Corps need to score at least 80 points on the B Impact Assessment, the (free) online survey that “provides a judgment (via an objective, comprehensive rating) on how significant a company’s current impact is.” Getting to 80 points is challenging — as of 2018, the mean score for all 60,000 companies that had taken the assessment was 55. And each year, to reflect evolving standards of performance, those 80 points become harder and harder to get, supporting the premise that Certified B Corps are truly best for the world. Today there are 3000 Certified B Corps.

Authenticity is important. By selecting a Certified B Corp to assist you with your CSR activities, you can be sure that you’re choosing a company that embodies and invests in their values, instead of just selling them.