Behind the B Movement Builders: the key role of multinationals in the B Corp movement to achieve systemic change

Photo by Arturo Castaneyra on Unsplash

Business is a key actor within the economic system, controlling significant resources and holding direct relationships with people, communities, and the environment. The goal of the B Corp movement is to redefine the role of all businesses, regardless of size and sector, to achieve an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economic system for all people and the planet.

Given their scale, the way multinationals operate in our society has a very wide impact, especially if compared to small and medium enterprises. When operating according to profit maximization only, the effects of their behavior can be extensively harmful considering that their operations touch on average more stakeholders within the global economic system and society (investors, regulators, workers, customers, environment, etc.) compared to smaller companies.

On the bright side, every effort that large corporations make to transform their business can have a positive impact on many different levels. Changing the culture of these companies has a ripple effect that will affect consumers’ choices and livelihoods in many parts of the world, addressing negative practices that otherwise would become irreversible. These organizations also have the capacity to influence their entire industry, helping accelerate change that is much needed on a large scale.

That’s why at B Lab we see the role of multinationals working alongside smaller organizations as a crucial element as we make a shift toward an economic system that considers all stakeholders. Including everyone in the conversation means recognizing that every business acting and participating in the economic system has an impact, intentional or not, positive or negative, and excluding companies that represent the largest revenue share globally would be a missed opportunity to unleash their potential to contribute to long-term value creation for all.

When the B Corp movement started, it attracted mainly small and medium enterprises, which still constitute the main part of the community. In recent years, an increasing number of large companies have shown interest in the B Corp movement and in the pathway towards certification. Due to their significantly more complex operating and governance structures, it quickly became evident that a specific set of additional standards and guardrails would be required for multinationals to be able to meet B Lab’s performance standards and commit to the legal requirement for certification.

To address this challenge, in 2016 B Lab established the Multinationals and Public Markets Advisory Council, a multi-stakeholder advisory body tasked with recommending a meaningful, manageable path to certification for multinational companies, and introduced additional baseline requirements for large companies (defined as a parent company generating $5B+ in annual revenue). These requirements recognize that the overall scale and influence of large companies require societal obligations that go beyond overall performance on the B Impact Assessment as well as the screens imposed by the risk assessment process, requiring that specific minimum positive practices also be in place.

In 2020, B Lab also launched the B Movement Builders Program to support private or public €1B+ companies to start the journey toward B Corp Certification.

What is the B Movement Builders program?

The B Movement Builders program is a collaborative coalition of leading large companies with a vision of scaling and accelerating global systems change to support long-term value creation for all stakeholders. This program is designed as a journey to foster real transformation and change, that is aligned with the certification process and where the potential for impact can happen along the way.

B Movement Builders is a recommended path for any eligible private or public €1B+ company to start the journey toward B Corp Certification and a requirement for all €5B+ pursuing certification. In order to be eligible, the certifying entity must be the ultimate parent of the company group and meet the regular certification requirements of being a for-profit company and interested in engaging in stakeholder governance.

Companies participating in the program have to commit to incorporating the B Corp principles into key focus areas, both at the company level and with collective actions.

For a multinational it means…

  • Align your investors to build long-term value.
  • Collaborate with peers and B Corps to make progress toward the SDGs, scale innovations, and share best practices.
  • Help accelerate and be identified with a powerful paradigm shift.

Who are the companies part of the BMB program?

Global multinationals Gerdau, Magalu, Bonduelle and Givaudan together represent the first cohort of the B Movement Builders program. They receive guidance from Danone and Natura & Co who serve as B Movement Builders Mentors.

Since 2014, the B Corp movement has continued to scale its engagement of multinational companies, showing the world that even large enterprises can be a force for good.

  • 2014 Natura becomes the first publicly traded company to certify as a B Corp.
  • 2017 Danone publicly committed to becoming a Certified B Corp by 2030.
  • 2020 The B Movement Builders program launched with its initial cohort, bringing together a group of six pioneering companies with $60B in combined revenue and 250,000 employees in more than 120 companies across five industries.

To shine more of a light on the purpose of the B Movement Builders Program, we interviewed Paulo Cruz Filho (Interim Manager, B Movement Builders Program), Anna Cogo (MNC Engagement Manager), Tatiana Mendizabal (Manager, B Movement Builders Program) and Sarah Garcia (MNC Manager, B Lab Europe), who run the program at B Lab.

Why do you feel it is important for B Lab to engage with multinationals?

Paulo: Large companies and multinationals (LC/MNCs) are one of the most influential agents in our economy and in people’s daily lives. When acting using their strength as a business as a force for good, and especially if they act together, they have the opportunity to set new standards for the planet. Since 2006, B Lab has served a global movement of people driven by this purpose, and the role and contribution of these companies is paramount. For years, the B Lab global network has been working to engage them as a leading voice for economic systems change, but we need to do more. Together, those companies and B Lab can co-create and provide robust and effective solutions in a coalition of individual and collective actions for the transition of the economy.

Anna: The focus on sustainability has increased exponentially in recent years. This is extraordinary news that highlights the growing willingness of the businesses to contribute to the creation of a desirable future. But what we are doing is not enough to guarantee us and our children a life of well-being, satisfaction and fulfillment. Not without the commitment of multinationals to become agents of change and catalysts themselves. They can inspire others to follow and demonstrate that doing business can be good for society and for the business itself.

Tatiana: Multinational companies can play a key role in influencing, advocating for systemic change, setting an example and generating impact at scale. It is clear that the challenge of the complex and multinational company is greater when we talk about the impact business model, but it is also a great opportunity for this company profile to reinvent itself and play an active role in the new economy to generate a positive impact. For that reason, it is an important audience for B Lab.

What contribution can multinationals bring to the B Corp movement, and what role can the B Corp community play in supporting multinationals on their impact journeys?

Paulo: Both multinational corporations (MNCs) and smaller companies benefit from a prosperous and inclusive economy. One of the major contributions of the B Corp movement is bringing all these companies together and converging them to a shared objective, while each one grows in their own industries. What is expected is that the companies that join the movement are engaged and truly living or desiring to live into the same B Lab’s principles, that they engage with the B Corp Movement and keep willing to partner with the B Global Network to change the economy, that are strategically aligned with our global vision, as well as interested and open to be fully engaged in the new stakeholder governance and economy. Moreover, it is expected that these companies are ready to set new standards in their businesses, industry and/or regional, envisioning becoming Certified B Corps or acting as a B Corp.

Tatiana & Anna: MNC companies have the power to influence and impact different stakeholders on a large scale. With this, they can be partners to amplify the message of the B movement, put into practice the values of the movement, and be the protagonists of systemic change. Meanwhile, B Corps are the example to be followed and show that it is possible to change the rule of the game, it is possible to put positive impact and governance for stakeholders at the center of strategy and as decision drivers. The B Corp community leads by example, by innovative solutions, and can support MNCs on this impact journey, helping to set high standards for impact across the chain, with the community, environment, consumers and all stakeholders.

When it comes to meaningful partnerships in the B Corp community, there are plenty of successful examples of how multinationals have joined initiatives by other companies scaling up their impact and introducing best practices in their organization.

Danone UK and Ireland joined an education campaign run by Too Good to Go named ‘Look, Smell, Taste, Don’t Waste’. Danone is transitioning all our yogurts to ‘best before’ dates and is encouraging consumers to use their senses to check their food and reduce their waste by adding the campaign icon to packs.

Greyston Bakery in the US, which makes the brownies that go into Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, gives job opportunities to people who face barriers to employment through a policy of open hiring. Greyston is never going to scale to a multinational level, but it’s now working with bigger companies to help them adopt similar hiring practices with their own workers. Bonduelle recently launched an inclusive hiring initiative based on the proven success of Greystone’s Open Hiring model.

What can companies expect from the B Movement Builders program? What are the biggest benefits of the BMB program?

Sarah: Business must lead the way in addressing the compounding crises facing our world: the climate crisis, racial and wealth inequality, loss of biodiversity, and more. Inspired by the leadership of the global B Corp community, B Movement Builders is a coalition of leading private and publicly traded companies taking meaningful action toward changing our global economic system. Through this program, B Movement Builder companies help create a new narrative about the role of business and affirm B Corps as leading the way to change the culture, practices, and operating system of business.

All B Movement Builders are leading multinational companies which recognize the leadership of Certified B Corporations and are committed to the principles of the B Corp Movement, as well as company-level and collective actions that bring those principles to life. Participating companies make credible commitments, identify opportunities for scalable collaboration and work internally to affect impactful transformation that accelerates a global systems change of business and culture.

By acting alongside the B Lab in the BMB Program, those companies will be able to build trust, credibility, and brand value with employees, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders. They will also increase employee engagement by providing opportunities to build their skills and network through engagement in the B Corp movement. This will result in receiving media recognition through progress on commitments and goals as well as collective actions. Internally, such commitment helps to combat short-termism by aligning your investors to build long-term value. Finally, the participating companies will be able to collaborate with peers and B Corps to make progress toward the SDGs, scale innovations and share best practices, as well as to accelerate the B Corp movement around the world that’s transforming the way business and capital markets work.

Find out more about the B Movement program here.

Ready to be a B Movement Builder? Reach out to our team at bmovementbuilders@bcorporation.net.

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