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- Athleta Facebook
- B Corps are for-profit businesses that volunteer to be graded by the nonprofit B Lab each year to ensure they’re meeting the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.
- They’re among the most impressive of companies that are willing to conceptualize “good business” as including both profit and purpose (and have the third-party vetting to prove they really mean it). To B Corps, sustainable business isn’t charity, it’s better business.
- Below, I’ve rounded up a few of the B Corps we love shopping at most. If you like the sound of them, they’re good companies to support.
As the past can attest, not all of society’s ills can be solved by well-meaning government or nonprofits alone. While invaluable, they won’t reveal themselves as silver bullets capable of single-handedly eradicating poverty, inequality, and infusing the workforce with jobs that make workers feel their lives have dignity and purpose.
For that caliber of change, we’ll need to consider the importance of businesses. The economist Milton Friedman famously wrote in 1962 that “there is one and only one social responsibility of business…to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits”, and while that sentiment remains largely unchanged, there are companies willing to bet on a different conceptualization of “good business.”
Perhaps most impressive of this group are B Corps – businesses that volunteer to be graded by the nonprofit B Lab each year to ensure they’re meeting the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
Companies that get awarded B Corp status have committed to using their business to work towards a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Together, the companies and their communities work to reduce inequality, lower poverty levels, and create a healthier environment, stronger communities, and jobs with purpose.
In short, B Corps leverage their resources (creativity, manpower, and profits) to pay into a better world for people in general – creating a definition of success that includes the commonwealth and positive impact as necessary aspects of sustainable consumerism. It’s not charity, it’s better business.
Below, we’ve rounded up 10 companies we love to shop at that also happen to be certified B Corps. They make great stuff we love to buy, but they’re also helping drive a global movement that uses business as a force for good.
Check out 10 stores we love to shop at that also happen to be “business for good” B-Corps:
Allbirds are often referred to as the “world’s most comfortable shoes” and we’d be inclined to agree. We also love that each collection seems to get even better at optimizing natural materials – without ever raising prices or changing the quality that has made these shoes such a cult favorite.
Allbirds’ classic sneakers and loungers are made from moisture-wicking, temperature-regulating, odor-resistant merino wool that is ZQ-certified (meaning it meets stringent standards for sustainable farming and animal welfare) and uses 60% less energy than synthetics. Their second collection was comprised of sneakers and skippers made from cooling, eco-friendly eucalyptus pulp. Both collections are ultra-comfortable, low-maintenance, made from sustainable materials, and cost $95 for a pair.
The company recently expanded on their thesis of great shoes that also just happen to be good for the environment with a line of $35 flip-flops made from the first carbon-negative EVA foam ever developed – a breakthrough three years in the making for the company. The foam is made from sugar cane rather than harmful petrochemicals, and it’s not proprietary: Allbirds is making a concerted effort to encourage even its competitors to adopt the new material.
Patagonia is a beloved outdoors company for many reasons – the main two being their superior and innovative products, and the other being their conservation efforts, including giving 100% (yes, 100%) of their profits from Black Friday in the past directly to grassroots nonprofits working to protect air, water, and soil quality for future generations. In 2016, this amounted to $10 million.
Patagonia was the first California company to sign up for B certification back in 2012, and the company also participates in 1% for the Planet, meaning they contribute 1% of annual net revenue to nonprofit charity organizations focused on conversation and sustainability.
Since 1985, the company has donated $89 million to environmental work. In their 2017 Annual B Corp Report, Patagonia acknowledges that activism can be polarizing because it can cross over into what is perceived as political. Regardless, the company says “activism and advocacy are critical to achieving our mission. We’ll always act, even if we lose some business along the way.”
- Cotopaxi Facebook
Cotopaxi is an outdoors brand with social purpose built into its DNA. The gear itself is superior: clever, intuitive, and consistently bringing a fresh, necessary perspective to an outdoor staple. (I count their packable jacket and 35L travel pack as among my all-time best finds). But, somehow, it’s almost more exciting to talk about the work the company is doing outside of its own great products.
From its inception, Cotopaxi has been founded upon the idea that the interests of profit and people could not only coexist, but also enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship.
The B Corp values can be found at all levels of operation. Employees spend 10% of their work time in their local communities, adventuring outdoors, or doing service. the company donates 2% of its yearly revenue to ending poverty by funding local organizations working on sustainable solutions. Cotopaxi also puts out a Repurposed Collection of limited-edition gear made out of scraps.
The company has also created a skills-based volunteering initiative that leverages the time and talent of employees to respond to community needs, such as a card writing program that provides a paid ‘first job’ for refugees in Salt Lake City. The program provides youth with professional development, work experience, a competitive wage, and the opportunity to practice their English language skills.
Leesa is best-known for being one of the forerunners in the increasingly crowded direct-to-consumer mattress space. Its Leesa Mattress has 12,000+ five-star reviews, and both of the company’s mattresses (Leesa and Sapira) have been named best in category by both Business Insider and The Wirecutter.
The company also has three philanthropic pillars: giving one mattress for every ten sold, planting one tree for every mattress sold, and devoting resources to national and local organizations. Despite the startup’s marked accomplishments in a crowded space, Leesa’s Head of Social Impact, Jen-Ai Notman, told Business Insider the social mission would likely to still rank as the overwhelming incentive for working at the company.
Overall, Leesa has donated 30,000 mattresses to those in need, committed to planting one million trees by 2025, and makes a point to provide the opportunity for employees to feel invested in their own backyards with local volunteer opportunities.
Casper may be the single most recognizable name in the direct-to-consumer mattress space. Its classic mattress was developed in-house by a team of product engineers with experience from IDEO and NASA and has since expanded into everything from sheets to pillows to dog beds – new products which have been well-received in reviews.
Part of its B Corp status as of 2016 is having dedicated guidelines for suppliers, giving preference to those owned by women or underrepresented populations, as well as screenings of those suppliers to make sure they’re up to their code of conduct in social and environmental performance.
- Bombas Facebook
Bombas is another company that was founded with the primary directive of giving back to the community, with its actual product idea coming only second.
Regardless of order, the company still makes the best pair of socks we’ve ever tried.
Founders David Heath and Randy Goldberg told Business Insider the now cult-favorite company began as a way to address the fact that homeless shelters have a shortage of sock donations. Noticing consumers didn’t have a great option between high-end niche technical socks and a 6-pack at Target, Heath and Goldberg spent two years obsessively re-inventing the wheel with their pair of Bombas socks: adding blister tabs, a reinforced footbed, targeted areas of tension, “stay-up technology,” and contoured seaming like a Y-stitched heel to minimize bunching, sliding, and sticking. It turns out there was a lot to improve, and you can feel the difference when you wear them.
Since 2013, the company has also donated more than 8.5 million pairs of socks to homeless shelters thanks to its “buy one, give one” model.
The socks Bombas donates have been as meticulously designed for their wearers as the ones you buy for yourself. Goldberg told Business Insider they worked with their giving partners to design a sock that would “specifically meet the needs of the homeless”: darker colors to avoid visible wear and tear, added anti-microbial treatment to prevent odor or bacteria if they can’t be washed as frequently, and reinforced seams for durability. In essence, if you treat yourself to a nicer sock (Bombas’ pairs run at about $12 for ankle socks), you’ll also be treating someone else who could really use a better pair as well.
- Ethique Facebook
Ethique is a company that makes it easier for the average person to marry a desire for the best in beauty/body/hair care with a desire to not add more plastic to the earth or chemicals to their skin and the water supply.
Every bar is vegan, sustainably sourced, naturally-derived, and comes in biodegradable packaging. They also last 2-5 times longer than bottled options since they’re so concentrated (and since 70% of bottled shampoo is water), meaning you save money and contribute a smaller carbon footprint since you’re ordering less frequently. To date, the company has prevented more than 150,000 plastic bottles from being made and disposed of.
Ethique (French for “ethical”) is certified climate-neutral, cruelty-free, and donates 2% of revenue or 20% of profit (whichever is highest) to charity.
In 2015, the company was recognized as New Zealand’s most sustainable business with ‘the Best in B’ award. In its early stages, the company also attracted the highest number of female investors in PledgeMe history. (PedgeMe is New Zealand’s crowdfunding platform.)
- Athleta Facebook
San Francisco-based Athleta makes relatively affordable but premium performance clothing designed by women athletes, and it focuses most of its philanthropy on empowering girls and women.
Through the Gap Inc. P.A.C.E. program and Fair Trade U.S.A., the label supports programs impacting the lives of the majority-female workers that create its apparel and has run empowerment-focused campaigns such as “Power of She” in the past. The company also offers thousands of free fitness and wellness events each year, supporting an estimated 10,000 hours of employee volunteering in the community in 2017.
By 2020, the company has committed to a goal of 80% of its apparel being made with sustainable fibers (currently 40%), 10,000 female employees (currently 2,500+), 25% of products made using water-saving techniques (currently 1%), and 80% of its waste diverted from a landfill (currently 70%).
- UncommonGoods Facebook
UncommonGoods is a marketplace of both creative and cheeky craft-like inventions like chocolate waffle shots that make great gifts, as well as artisanal staples like the bowls pictured above. The site feels like a clean, navigable Etsy with fewer products and a more distinct thesis: utilitarian, but “unique.”
It’s unusual to see a diverse aggregator like UncommonGoods as a B Corp (Etsy gave up the distinction in 2017), but the company has been one since 2007.
UncommonGoods works with its artists to use sustainable or recycled materials when possible, chooses environmentally friendlier packing materials, and prints its catalog on FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified and recycled paper. They also founded “Better to Give” that allows customers to choose a non-profit partner for the company to donate $1 to with every order.
For UncommonGoods, the “business for good” model is working, with the company growing steadily from 5 employees to over 200 year-round. As part of their approach to business, their lowest-paid hourly seasonal worker makes 100% more than minimum wage.
- MPOWERD Facebook
NYC-based MPOWERD is a standout change-maker company making affordable, innovative products that help people fit clean energy into their daily lives. Its best-known product is the Luci, an inflatable solar light. Particularly well-loved for their versatile applications for campers and hikers, MPOWERD is an increasingly recognizable name in the outdoors genre.
True to the B Corp mindset, MPOWERD uses its impressive sales in the developed world markets to power a tangible impact in the developing world- namely, the three billion people who live without access to electricity.
Its big sales drive down costs, and those savings are passed on to MPOWERD’s clients in developing economies: “This allows anyone, no matter their circumstances, to own (or sell) our lights at prices they can actually afford.”
Through this and many other tactics, the company delivers affordable, life-changing solar lights to off-the-grid communities around the world. It has strategic NGO partnerships in over 30 countries, emergency relief sales, and a customer-driven Give Luci program that encourages shoppers to purchase units for their global nonprofit partners.