Jay Coen Gilbert and the Search for the Beneficial Corporation (Part Two)

TreeHugger: A lot of the people listening will be familiar with GOOD magazine, and they may have noticed, a couple issues ago, that if you flip the magazine over and then turn it upside down there's the beta version of a joint project between GOOD magazine and B Corporation. Can you tell us about that?

Jay: We're huge fans of the folks over at GOOD. We think they do a phenomenal job and seem to be a great partner for us to create a media platform to amplify the voice of Good Business. At B Lab is we're representing this community of B Corporations, so we created a partnership with GOOD magazine to create Good Business—and that existed both in print as well as a bunch of video content that was created for the web, and then a nice event presence at Green Festival out in San Francisco last fall.

The video stuff was phenomenal. There were, in addition to that some print coverage of Comet Skateboards, Greyston Bakery, and Ice Stone (a manufacturer of high quality counter tops made from recycled glass and concrete), there were also these really cool two to three-minute videos. One was focused on good business and poverty, which talked about Greyston Bakery and their open hiring policy in Yonkers. The other was on good business and environment, which focused on Ice Stone and its cradle-to-cradle manufacturing process. The other was on Comet Skateboards, focusing on good business and community, talking about Comet's decision to foster regional manufacturing hubs, and their work to do community based programming through the Hood Games.

And so each of those was illustrative of one of the narratives in the overarching notion of good business. How does good business alleviate poverty? How does good business restore the environment? How does good business strengthen local communities?

And those three certified B Corporations became standard bearers for each of those narratives. We're going to continue that partnership with Good Business in 2009 by integrating Good Business into each issue of good as well as greatly expanding what's happening on the web.

And so we're going to continue that partnership with them in 2009, and the main objective here is to really create a dedicated media platform for this story of good business. Since all too often, folks that are covering this community treat as like a cute little sidebar. So the essential narrative of business is about maximizing profits, and it's about what's happening with the stock market, and what's happening with large companies. And then you get like a nice little sidebar on a green issue, or a nice little doing-well-by-doing-good pat on the head. And what's lacking is a media platform where the central narrative is around companies whose central purpose is to maximize their positive impact on society, not just to maximize their own private wealth.

And by focusing on that upper right-hand quadrant of the chart (where the company is both creating shareholder value and social value) this partnership hopefully creates a media platform for print, for web, for live events that really amplifies the voice of this business community.

TreeHugger: What advice would you give to the entrepreneur who thinks that they'd like to start a company for the sake of making the world a better place?

Jay: There are two things from my experience as an entrepreneur, my experience as an investor, and then my experience with B Lab. The first and most important thing is to surround yourself with people much smarter than you. And no matter how talented you are, it is a very rare entrepreneur that can do any of this alone. In a previous life I was running the basketball company [And1], and back in the day even MJ couldn't win a championship until he realized that he had to play with the whole team. So advice number one for any entrepreneur—whether it's a social entrepreneur or a traditional entrepreneur—is to find great partners with whom you share a common vision, who hopefully have totally complimentary skill sets, and then figure out what you're going to do together, because the truth is the ideas can change. But it's ultimately the team that makes it successful. So that would be the first thing.

The second thing (particularly for a social entrepreneur) is to make sure that you are baking your social mission into the DNA of your business from the start—that you're building your company with the legal infrastructure that makes it built to last. Nothing would be more frustrating than all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into building a successful early-stage social enterprise and then, because you need to scale it to increase your impact in the world, attract outside capitol, etc, you end up losing control of the very mission that motivated you to bust your butt in the first place.

And so, the first piece is to make sure you find the right partners. And the second piece of advice is to make sure you bake in the DNA from the very beginning.

Tags: Corporate Responsibility | Economics | Environmental Certifications | Environmental Footprint | Ethical | Fair Trade | Greenwashing | TreeHugger Radio


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