Triple bottom line businesses focus on profits, people, and the planet — not just profits as some companies do. They might not be the biggest names in the corporate world, but there are many examples of these forward-thinking organizations.
Better World Books sells used books and donates a portion of the profits to help fund literacy programs. It was started by college friends in Indiana, who first sold some of their own books online. Then they expanded and wound up selling about $10,000 worth of books. At this point, they drew up a business plan and then won a $7,000 prize for best social venture.
To date, the company has raised millions of dollars for literacy programs and kept scores of used books out of landfills. Hundreds of jobs have been created and millions of readers have been able to buy cheap used books. Better World Books is a certified B Corporation.
Green Energy Corp developed software to automate the national power infrastructure, otherwise known as the grid. Software interfaces for devices on the grid were also developed for grid automation by the company. It also has done work on local systems where energy production and load are located in the same place, also known as microgrids. We are well on the path to distributed electricity, and microgrids will become more common in the future. The company has developed 30 microgrids and has many others in the pipeline.
This North Carolina-based company produces Fair Trade, Shade Grown, and Organic coffee beans. Its facilities use solar power systems, passive solar, heating zones, rainwater harvesting, and composting. At least one of the company’s vehicles also runs on bio-diesel or used vegetable oil, so the fuel is recycled and does not involve oil corporations. Bio-diesel also produces less CO2, so there is less climate change emissions, and customers who purchase the company’s coffee sometimes learn more about environmental awareness simply by interacting with the company. Larry’s Beans is a certified B Corporation.
Method Home is a company that makes cleaning products using non-toxic ingredients. The company also uses recycled plastic to make its product containers and some portion of it comes from trash plastic collected from oceans. One of its dish and hand soap bottles is made entirely from ocean plastic, the company says. Three solar tracking trees are utilized in the parking lot and the company has its own 230-foot wind turbine. Method Home is a certified B corporation and makes cruelty-free products, meaning no animal testing is ever conducted.
Namaste Solar has installed more than 2,700 solar power systems with more than 25 MW of capacity. This Colorado-based company says it follows conscientious business practices, which means that it strives to do the right thing at all times, make a positive contribution to society, and to do the same for the environment. It functions as an employee-owned cooperative and as of March 2014, there were 45 Co-Owners / employee-owners, each with one share of stock and one vote in company matters. It is a certified B Corporation.
Yvon Chouinard started his mountain climbing gear and outdoor apparel business sort of by accident. When he was a teen he started climbing and soon became very enamored of it, along with surfing. Out of necessity, he began making his own climbing pitons out of recycled steel, and word got out that they were high quality. Eventually, other climbers started buying them, so his very small business was born. Demand exceeded his ability to make them by hand, so he invested in some machines to automate and accelerate the process. By about 1970, Patagonia was the largest climbing gear maker in the United States, but its pitons were causing damage to rock walls in natural settings, so a new technology was introduced which replaced the disfiguring pitons.
It was out of this desire to no longer damage the natural climbing areas that a greater environmental awareness was born. To date, Patagonia has donated about $70 million in in-kind services or cash to community organizations doing work on behalf of the environment. Patagonia is a certified B Corp.
This organization helps youth improve their academic performance by providing both tutoring and mentoring at the same time. This approach helps address the needs of each student on both a personal and academic level. The programs are also sensitive to gender and low-income issues. Tutor/mentors work with children in schools and community centers on all grade levels. Some of its partners are B Lab and The Hitachi Foundation. Moving Forward is a certified B Corp.
This renewable energy company makes biodiesel in North Carolina, which is made by collecting waste vegetable oil from restaurants and then filtering and processing it. It also makes small scale biodiesel plants and has delivered dozens of those. Biodiesel is typically made from food oils like canola, soy and peanut oil, but Piedmont can make it out of non-conventional materials such as poultry fat and sausage waste. The company delivers biodiesel to 7 locations in North Carolina, including for a pump at Larry’s Beans. Biodiesel is better for the environment than gasoline, because it produces less climate change emissions. Piedmont is a certified B Corporation.
Located on Martha’s Vineyard, South Mountain Company is an employee-owned construction company that provides building, engineering, energy services, architecture, and related skills for both commercial and residential structures. The company is also a top solar power integrator in the Martha’s Vineyard area. It employs environmental building practices and donates 20% of its annual profits to charities and community efforts. Some of the donations are cash and others are free or discounted work. South Mountain is a certified B Corp.
Recycle Bank provides recycling rewards programs to help prevent plastic containers from winding up in landfills. It has helped increase recycling rates in over 300 communities and it now has over 4 million members. Points can be earned for learning about recycling and doing it, which can then be used to purchase items. Greening schools is also one of the company’s programs. In addition, the company has donated almost $500,000 to help improve over 150 schools. Recycle Bank is a certified B corporation.
In case you are wondering, a certified B corp is a for-profit business that has been evaluated based on social, organizational, and environmental criteria by a non-profit organization called the B Lab. The social criteria are about things like fair treatment of supplies and employees. The organizational criteria are about things like accountability and transparency.
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