How can Certified B Corporations harness market, state, civil society, and consumer power to transform the global economy into one which considers more than profit?Focus question
My thesis is interested in the role of benefit corporations in transforming the liberal-capitalist economy into one which considers stakeholder needs with profit. Benefit corporations have potential to occupy a transgressive space towards a more inclusive economic system. Read my previous posts for more on transgressive spaces and ecotopianism and a discussion of green capitalism and the potential for benefit corporations to assist in the transformation to a more inclusive economic system.
The B Corp Certification assessment is scored out of 200 possible points; a company must score a minimum of 80 points to earn the certification (80 points is also the average score). The Assessment “comprehensively covers the impact of a business on all of its stakeholders, including its workers, suppliers, community, and the environment. The Assessment also captures best practices regarding mission, measurement, and governance.” In scoring, the assessment seeks to determine areas for improvement and acknowledge areas that businesses are succeeding at. B Corp Certification designs the 80 point threshold to encourage continued improvement and commitment to achieve good. The B Impact Assessment is updated every three years to accommodate new practices, corporations must recertify every three years.
I am interested in examining how scores for Certified B Corps change between recertifications. I will gather the scores of all Portland, Oregon Certified B Corporations that have recertified at least once. Using the online directory I can search by ‘region’ (Portland, OR) and ‘date certified: oldest’ to access the oldest certified businesses to the newest. The website only displays the category breakdown for the most recent certification; previous certifications display only the overall score. I have reached out to B Local PDX to determine if I can access the details of the previous certification scores- if I cannot be granted access I will create a new methodology. Once I have this information I will conduct an analysis for each qualifying B Corp to determine changes in indicator score between certifications. I will examine category totals, as well as the B Impact Assessment (if provided) to determine which components within categories saw improvements or losses.
I expect themes will emerge regarding changes in overall scores, trends regarding what categories companies improve upon most often, and reveal where companies continue to struggle. My study assumes that improved certification scores over time signals success in creating a transgressive space towards a liberal-capitalist economy which considers more than profit. If companies do not improve over time this suggests either that B Corp is not incentivizing improvement, and that certifications may be more of a marketing opportunity that provides limited space for transgressive space for a transformed economy.
Potentially, my methodology may also include a review of company CSR reports to determine what aspects of CSR is emphasized to the public, interviews with B Corp Project Managers within companies, and members of the B Local PDX Board, which will no doubt provide valuable information.
The research described above would be a valuable addition to the benefit corporation movement, and voluntary standard setting organization in general. There is currently no analysis of changes in B Impact Assessment Scores over time. This study would provide valuable information to Portland benefit corps, the B Corp Certification organization, and movements towards a liberal-capitalist economy which considers more than profit.
If the information my current methodology requires is no longer available to the public, I will reevaluate potential research opportunities. Most likely I would pivot towards a deeper analysis of a few Portland B Corps.