EXCLUSIVE: Director Cyrus Sutton Explains Why B Corps Matter
"There's a lot of negative feelings about capitalism right now," said Kris Lin-Bronner who is the strategic advisor of Dr. Bronner's. Her words are indicative of the wide scale erosion of trust between companies and consumers. It seems that time and again we unearth ugly truths behind the products we've come to love and trust. I've been fascinated with this is for a while now. Is this a result of capitalism itself or is it the way in which capitalism has evolved?
I am first and foremost a documentary filmmaker, my latest film Island Earth examines the cozy ties between agrichemical companies and the food we eat. But I'm also an entrepreneur, I work as a storyteller for Guayaki Yerba Mate and I founded a edible sunblock company. I learned about B Corp certification through Chris Cohen, a lawyer friend of mine working for Sustainable Law Group. I was telling him about the business I was planning to start and he suggested I look into creating a benefit corporation and applying for B Corp certification. He said something like this…
"Say you have a great idea for a business—it's unique and you're committed to positive social and environmental impact. The sad truth of capitalism in America today is that if you take money from an investor to help implement your vision, the legal framework surrounding this investment can seriously compromise the original intent of your vision."
To back up, when you incorporate your company you are handing over a large degree of control to your investors to which you have a fiduciary responsibility. Ever since the Revlon Ruling in 1986, this responsibility has shifted away from maintaining the health of the company to maximizing shareholder value often regardless of social or environmental impacts. So quarter by quarter we see companies making decisions that compromise the efficacy of their intentions.
A benefit corporation offers refuge from this system. It allows the founders to essentially bake in their vision and give their higher minded goals the legal armor to weather capital raises, and leadership changes. Then, through the B Corp certification process—which is open to all businesses that meet certain standards, and not just benefit corporations—these companies can quantify and communicate their impact to their stakeholders, adding an additional layer of accountability and transparency. It seems to be working, according to B Lab's community manager Andy Fyfe, there are now more than 2,000 certified B Corps internationally. His hope is that a tipping point will be reached as literacy grows and big multi-national corporations will be pressured to adopt this framework to hold themselves accountable to a more responsible standard of operation.
In the end only time will tell if capitalism is an inherently flawed system. But I'm excited to participate in evolving the current paradigm before starting from scratch. Working at Guayaki, a twenty-one year old company that has stewarded the restoration of over one-hundred thousand acres of rainforest in South America while cultivating empowering relationships with local growers, I've seen first hand the potential for business to steer industry towards a more sustainable future. My hope is that this short film will create more awareness around the red circled "B" logo that is printed on the back of products for both customers trying to make informed buying decisions as well young entrepreneurs such as myself wary of falling into the trappings of modern business.
To learn more about Benefit Corporations visit bcorporation.net.