“B”-ing the change: building a tech startup as a B Corp
In 2015, I launched Open For Service as a campaign to combat the negative perceptions that RFRA created for the State of Indiana. Once I realized that businesses around the world wanted to be a part of Open for Service, I made the decision to form a 501c3 so we could better support a growing community.
Over the last three years running Open For Service, it became increasingly challenging to find advantageous fundraising channels and ways to engage businesses outside of just buying a sticker. After a request to help the City of Indianapolis and It’s My City, I was inspired to build an initial version of a platform that I had in the back of my mind to help connect businesses with nonprofits in new, innovative ways.
This is how Selfless.ly was born. We are currently Beta testing our minimum viable product (MVP) software platform with some amazing organizations and businesses to help bridge this gap.
When Selfless.ly launched as a “Certified B Corp (Pending),” I was inundated with questions about the structure of a B Corp and why I ultimately chose this structure for Selfless.ly. These individuals were curious what being classified as a B Corp meant.
Indiana is one of 34 states that allow businesses to register as a “Domestic Benefit Corporation.” This means that Selfless.ly can incorporate specific social and environmental missions into our corporate structure. As a part of our filings, we will provide quantifiable data supporting our positive social impact.
To become a “Certified B Corporation” involves approval from B Lab, a third-party nonprofit which has created a standardized certification program for companies that are or intend to be a force for good. There are a little more than 2,100 certified B Corps around the world. Indiana currently has five (and one pending). Selfless.ly is pending because we have not yet been in businesses for over a year; in August, we intend to complete our review and earn our full designation.
The certification assessment consists of 259 questions. You must earn a score of at least 80 out of 200 points to achieve your certification. Recently, B Lab created an online Impact Assessment so anyone can pre-test to see where they rank. It’s incredibly easy and doesn’t require much time to complete. The assessment is broken up into five sections: Governance, Workers, Community, Customers, and Environment. A lot of the requirements come from internal policies and procedures, with a focus on diversity and inclusion, employer to employee transparency, great benefits, and the intention of using environmentally-friendly products, services and vendors as much as possible.
Once completing the online assessment, the next step is to register your organization with B Lab. Your will experience a comprehensive review of your company and operations to pave the way towards the official certification.
Once your company is certified, you receive a coveted Declaration of Interdependence, and you’re all set!
Certified B Corps enjoy discounts and special benefits from companies, access to impact-minded investors, a valuable attraction to potential talent and proof that you are running your business in a way that benefits others while at the same time returning a profit.
Do I think that being a certified B Corp means exponential revenue? Possibly, though it’s too soon for us to know. I do know that where we have excelled in points will not end up eating a significant amount of profit like people think.
The B Corp certification makes a strong statement about how Selfless.ly operates, the culture that surrounds our team, and the accountability we have to others to help make the world a better place. The type of environment we create and the impact Selfless.ly can make are on my, and my co-founder’s, shoulders. We do not take this lightly. The required criteria that are measured by being a B Corp is exactly how I want to run Selfless.ly. A Certified B Corp status sets the standard for expectations from our Board of Directors, and it raises a bar that all businesses should truly be operating by anyway.
I firmly believe that the example set by a being a Certified B Corp leads directly to profitability. By building the business around the Impact Assessment, we can engineer the change we want to see in the world.
Sound interesting to your company? Learn how to get started.
We’re building Selfless.ly to be a resource to help businesses migrate into a B Corp and we track a lot of analytics that can be used to help get you more points in your assessment! Check us out at www.selfless.ly to learn more.
About the Author
Joshua Driver is the co-founder of Selfless.ly, a platform to connect businesses with nonprofits, residents with communities, and causes with commerce. He was named Community Champion of the Year at the 2017 Mira Awards.