Does B Corp Work for Multinationals and Publicly Traded Companies?
Large companies, including multinationals and publicly traded companies, have many opportunities to take part in the growing B Economy.
Some of these pathways include becoming a Certified B Corporation, incorporating as a benefit corporation, helping promote the movement to others, and using the B Impact Assessment and/or B Analytics to encourage key stakeholders to improve their social and environmental performance.
Another path to getting involved with the B Economy is to acquire a B Corp subsidiary.
For example, Unilever, the consumer goods multinational, has gone on a recent spate of B Corp acquisitions.
In 2016 and 2017, Unilever acquired five different Certified B Corps, including Mãe Terra, Pukka Herbs, Seventh Generation, Sir Kensington’s, and Sundial Brands. This was in addition to Ben & Jerry’s, which was acquired by Unilever in 2000 and became a Certified B Corp in 2012.
When we look at any of our acquisitions, one of the main considerations is always whether it is a good fit to Unilever. We look for companies that have similar vision and values to ours. That is critical to success of the partnership. B Corp companies come with many of the attributes that fit with our long-term goals and our culture, and therefore it is no surprise that some of our recent acquisitions, such as Seventh Generation, Pukka Herbs and Teas, and Sir Kensington, have been B Corps.
Paul Polman, Unilever — United Kingdom
Other large multinationals, such as Anheuser-Busch, the Campbell Soup Company, Coca-Cola, Group Danone, the Hain Celestial Group, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Rakuten, SC Johnson & Son, and Vina Concha y Toro have acquired Certified B Corp subsidiaries in recent years.
Some of the large companies with B Corp subsidiaries include:
Danone Leads by Example
Danone is a great example of a publicly traded multinational that is heavily involved with the B Corp movement on multiple levels.
At the company’s 2017 annual shareholder meeting, Danone CEO Emmanuel Faber announced Danone’s intention to become the first Fortune 500 company to earn B Corp certification.
In addition, once Danone decided to get more involved with the B Corp movement, the organization started helping several of its subsidiaries make progress toward B Corp certification.
By using the B Impact Assessment, Danone was able to determine which subsidiaries were ready to move toward certification and which first needed focused improvement work.
“The B Impact Assessment represents a set of demanding standards, which some of our businesses are able to meet already,” explains Blandine Stefani, B Corp community director at Danone. “For some others, becoming a Certified B Corp is an ambition that will require some changes to their practices, with the support of B Lab.”
Through a cohort process facilitated by B Lab, the subsidiaries completed the B Impact Assessment together, allowing Danone to monitor their progress and improvement using B Lab’s B Analytics tool. For a large company like Danone, the Impact Management Cohort made pursuing B Corp certification for subsidiaries easier, faster, and more transparent.
As of 2018, Danone has nine subsidiaries certified as B Corps, is making use of the benefit corporation legal structure in the United States, is assessing and educating more business units using B Lab’s impact management tools, and is taking a leadership role to create more pathways for multinational engagement.
Reducing the Cost of Capital
In an innovative approach tying the cost of capital to environmental, social, and governance benchmarks, Danone partnered with twelve leading global banks that agreed to lower their loan rates if Danone increases its verified positive impact in the world.
The percentage of Danone’s sales from Certified B Corp subsidiaries was one of the environmental, social, and governance measurements.
In other words, the more they sell from subsidiaries that are B Corps, the lower their cost of capital.
The deal on Danone’s $2 billion syndicated credit facility was led by BNP Paribas and includes Barclays, Citibank, Crédit Agricole, HSBC, ING, JPMorgan, MUFG, Natixis, NatWest, Santander, and Société Générale.
The result is that the heads of corporate and institutional banking for a dozen of the world’s largest credit providers — notoriously the most fiscally conservative people in any boardroom — have affirmed that becoming a Certified B Corporation reduces risk and can help you save money.
This article is an excerpt from the new Second Edition of The B Corp Handbook. If you would like to learn more, get your copy of the book today and/or sign up for the online launch event on May 30, 2019. You can also sign up for the LIFT Economy newsletter and follow Ryan on Twitter (@honeymanconsult) to stay up to date about the book and the B Corp movement.