By Peter Croce, C2C Fellow
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Jim exploded as he leapt out onto the grass. “Just what the hell do you think you’re doing?” There, in his beautiful backyard, the mowers he’d hired were packing up their equipment in a scene that, he imagined, could be mistaken for a no man’s land of wars past. The grass looked as though it had been cut by a rather uncoordinated baboon with a machete, the sprinklers gushed and drizzled, his favorite palm tree had been inexplicably decapitated, and his flower garden, though not part of the agreed-upon maintenance area, seemed to have been the stomping ground of an extensive tribal dance.
The mowers finished packing their truck and strolled over. “That’ll be eighty five,” one of them said. Jim had the money ready and gingerly handed it to the outstretched hand. “See you next week!” Jim hollered with a smile as they drove off.
Increasingly, the American public is horrified by how businesses treat people and the environment (which are one and the same); yet by and large, we go on paying. It’s more complicated than a backyard full of negligent or malicious mowers; sometimes you need the service or product a business provides, and other times you don’t know the extent of the damage your dollars are doing. Either way, you pay, and you go about your day. But I think we can all agree: if you did know who was doing the job responsibly and they offered a comparably-priced alternative, you’d pay them instead.
His neighbor oversaw the exchange. “Hey, Jim!” the neighbor called across the fence. Jim turned from where he had begun to clean up the mess. “You don’t have to take that, you know,” his neighbor said matter-of-factly. “There are better lawn guys.”
“I know they’re not great,” Jim said “but the other guys are too expensive.” His neighbor smiled. “As a matter of fact, my guys are cheaper and they respect you and your yard – you won’t be paying the repair guys to clean up these messes anymore.”
In many cases, there are comparable alternatives to the status-quo. A number of organizations offer certifications to keep you privy to who’s who and what’s what. Within businesses, these certifications give leaders both incentive and drive to enact benevolent policies. Within the market, your decisions to pay the (certified) responsible guys give them an upper hand (and gives the “other” guys incentive to design better policies and practices).
One organization doing a fantastic job with this is called B Lab, which issues a certification for corporations that harness “the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.” Membership requirements are stringent, but admittance provides access to a vibrant and rapidly-growing community (currently 786 companies in 27 countries), money-saving partnerships (currently 80 partnerships, which have saved B Corporations more than $5M), and B Corporation labeling which is recognizable and reputable proof for consumers. B Lab is also working diligently to enact legal status for B Corps (currently law in 20 states, 11 others pending). Legal status allows business leaders of publicly-held corporations the freedom to make decisions that are not only best for their financial bottom-line, but also for the world and the people who are part of it.
B Lab is leading the way for a growing movement toward certifiable business responsibility. In fact, I will begin an Americorps position with the Clark County Green Business Program near Portland, Oregon on October 1st. It is one small government program among many other types of like-minded organizations working toward similar goals. CCGB evaluates businesses with six metrics: energy, waste and recycling, water and wastewater, stormwater, toxics, and community. Another fantastic (and larger-scale) organization is C2C Certified, which provides certifications for businesses that are working gradually toward eliminating the concept of waste within their company altogether. C2C measures businesses’ material health, material re-utilization, renewable energy use, water stewardship, and social fairness.
These organizations are emerging and growing because the American public is having the conversation: How can we live in ways that promote abundance and health? By following and joining the conversation, businesses have a unique opportunity to reverse problems while earning loyal customers. Certifications offer a method of communicating that conversation — and igniting a little more action.
Peter Croce graduated from the University of Florida with a BS and a BA. He is passionate about using business to solve social and environmental problems. Peter attended the C2C Fellows workshop in Portland, OR in April 2013. For more from Peter, check out this article and his blog, Brkfree.