At its second Wine Country Luncheon on June 27, the Livermore Valley Chamber of Commerce addressed the theme, “B Corp Businesses — a Force for Good.” Around 140 people attended the event held at the Robert Livermore Community Center.

“The goal of Certified B Corporations (B Corps) is to balance purpose and profit,” said featured speaker and moderator Jennifer Cantero. “B Corps are required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment. It is a community of leaders driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good.”

Business in the 21st century has seen a strong shift from traditional capitalism that exclusively maximizes shareholder value to capitalism that simultaneously creates shareholder and social value. Two leading reasons for this shift are climate change and consumer demand, with 80 million millennials driving the movement.

“According to Nielsen’s ‘The Sustainability Imperative,’ consumers will pay more for sustainable consumer brands,” said Cantero, marketing director at Sensiba San Fillipo, an accounting firm in Pleasanton that is the first, and currently the only, B Corp accounting firm in California. “For Sensiba San Filippo, the B Corp certification helps us to better assess how our core values are aligned with our daily operations, and where to improve. Saying you walk the talk is one thing; having a third-party come in and review you actually walking the path you say you are on, is another.”

To earn B Corp status, businesses must meet high standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability. To start the process, businesses take an impact assessment and are then audited and verified by B Lab, a third party nonprofit. B Lab started in 2007 with 19 certified companies. Today, it includes more than 2,700 companies (like Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, Seventh Generation, and Stumptown Coffee) in 64 countries.

“I work for Beneficial State Bank, a community development bank headquartered in Oakland,” said luncheon panelist Andrea Walker. “We offer services for individuals, businesses and nonprofits with all the things you’ve come to expect from a big bank, but our mission and our focus is totally different. The community is our shareholder. We make sure, at all times, that 75% of our loans are in industries that are solving our society’s biggest issues, whether it be clean energy, youth programs or restoring the environment. We felt like it was our responsibility to show up as a B Corporation.”

Each B Corp business is charged an annual member fee that is based on a sliding scale, said Cantero, which amounts to less than one percent of the business’s revenue.

“I first learned about B Corps in 2008. I wasn’t exactly quite sure what they were — they were still so new,” said panelist Carolina Miranda, founder and CEO of Cultivating Capital, which helps small businesses implement sustainable practices. “My entire focus in my professional career, and my personal life, is looking at how we use business to do good. There were two things that really caught my attention: they were trying to drive systemic change, and were growing awareness about climate change. They said, ‘Here is an independent set of standards that we compiled that you can use to benchmark your practices.’ There was never a doubt in my mind I would become a B Corp. Yes, it’s a certification, but it’s also a movement.”

Panelist Emily Allbritten, manager of strategic initiatives for Athleta, a producer of women’s athletic wear, agreed.

“This is a concept about thinking about people and the planet, not just about profit. Athleta was doing so much of this already, but I don’t think we were getting credit for it. That’s a really powerful thing — B Corp certification offers credibility. Our focus has always been on empowering women and girls to reach their limitless potential, and part of that is protecting the earth in which we live. If you go into our stores – our local one is in San Ramon – you’ll see a giant poster that says, ‘B Corp.’ We’re pushing the awareness factor. We wanted to be a part of that movement.”

The next luncheon, “State of the Economy,” will take place on Thursday, July 25, at Garré Vineyard & Winery. All are welcome to attend; tickets are $55 for Livermore Valley Chamber members, and $65 for non-members.

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