The PBEye

Pro Bono As We See It
May 12, 2011

A Better Way to Do Business?

Google Maps can tell you what restaurants are nearby but it can’t tell you which one treats its employees well or which one has taken meaningful steps to reduce its environmental footprint;  B Lab can. 

B Lab is a nonprofit that designates companies as Benefit Corporations (B Corps) if the company meets defined standards regarding how it treats its employees, the environment, and the community.  Additionally, shareholders must agree to revise the company’s bylaws to allow business decisions to consider greater societal impacts in addition to minimizing costs and maximizing profits.  This allows socially responsible decision-making without fear of shareholder lawsuits.   B Corps meet rigorous and independent standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.   Sounds good to us!

Their ambitious goals are: for individuals to have greater economic opportunity, for society to move closer to achieving a positive environmental footprint, for more people employed in great places to work, and to bolster stronger communities at home and across the world. 

Why are B Corps needed in order to achieve these goals?  The designation has been designed to address two critical problems: (1) Current corporate law makes it difficult for businesses to take employee, community, and environmental interests into consideration when making decisions; and (2) The lack of transparent standards makes it difficult for all of us to tell the difference between a “good company” and just good marketing. 

Some states support B Corps with legislation, and the city of Philadelphia has provided tax breaks, but the motive behind B Corps is to create a relationship among socially responsible businesses and consumers.  The B Corp designation is tangible proof that the company has institutionalized social responsibility.  (Hmm, this reminds The PBEye a bit of the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®, which provides law firms with an opportunity to make a sustained institutional and visible commitment to pro bono – in other words, tangible proof that the law firm has institutionalized pro bono.)

How can law firms and pro bono lawyers support the broader corporate social responsibility movement?  We want to hear from you . . . leave a comment and share your thoughts on this relatively new advancement to the “triple bottom line” (people, planet, and profit).

Hat tip to PBI intern Elly Bennett for her help with this post.

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