B Corp month: How to talk about purpose

A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”

Lines like that abound at times like this. It’s B Corp month, after all, and those of us who care about such things want to inspire each other to believe that business is more than just an exercise in profit maximisation.

You need more than inspiration though. The messy reality is that running a business for more than profit isn’t easy. It’s something you have to negotiate every day, in ways that don’t always allow for an easy answer.

As you may know, we recently became a Certified B Corp, a process that requires independent auditing of our impact on people, planet and communities. Sometimes I find it hard to make noise about trying to do the right thing when I know we’re not perfect and don’t have all the answers.

But we’re always looking for ways to do better, and as part of that I wanted to share a brief reflection.

To change how you think as a business, you need to change the questions you ask. ‘What’s the expected ROI?’ is as important here as it is anywhere but I believe being a B Corp gives people permission to ask other questions that are equally important.

‘Does this hurt anyone?’ ‘How does it help our local community or the environment?’ ‘Is it fair to our staff?’ Those are harder to dismiss when the business has made a formal, public, verifiable commitment to being human-centric.

Doing so both puts your flag in the ground and raises the bar. Once people see that you are willing to turn down an opportunity because it’s not consistent with your values, then they’ll know those values mean something more than a brightly coloured plaque on the wall with a pithy quote attached. They’ll start standing up for your stakeholders without being asked to.

So while it may be difficult to talk about purpose, it’s worth trying, so long as you’re willing to back it up, and to be held to account when you don’t.

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