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“Better" begins with a “B”

November 11, 2011

Rivanna joins the B Corp community in redefining what it means to do business.

Have you heard about the exciting new classification for corporations? Benefit Corporations and Certified B Corps introduce the consideration of all stakeholders, not just shareholders, as a legitimate basis for business decisions. With social and environmental responsibility at the core of our mission at Rivanna Natural Designs, we are proud to join the community of Benefit Corporations and Certified B Corps as of July 2011!

What is the difference between a Benefit Corporation and a Certified B Corp?

According to the experts at B Lab, “a Benefit Corporation is a new class of corporation that 1) has a corporate purpose to create a material positive impact on society and the environment; 2) redefines fiduciary duty to require consideration of non-financial interests when making decision; and 3) reports on its overall social and environmental performance using recognized third party standards.”  Benefit Corp legislation is now in effect in 5 states, and is presently making its way through 6 additional state legislatures.

A Certified B Corporation is a company that has elected to participate in a formal, rigorous review of its business goals, processes, and metrics by an independent third party, such as B Lab.  Since many states have not yet enacted benefit corporation legislation, the majority of Certified B Corps are not benefit corporations by statute. The Certified B Corp community is nonetheless growing by leaps and bounds and includes companies such as Dansko, New Leaf Paper, Method, Impact Makers, and Better World Books.

When did Rivanna become a Benefit Corporation?

Legislation introducing Benefit Corporations to the Virginia Stock Corporation Act became effective July 1st, 2011. Rivanna amended and resubmitted its Articles of Incorporation to the state and officially became a Virginia Benefit Corporation that same day.

How did Rivanna become a Certified B Corp?

Virginia law requires that an independent third party certifier review each Benefit Corporation to determine the firm’s commitment to making an impact. At Rivanna, we chose the nonprofit organization B Lab as our certifier. B Lab scrutinizes companies applying for Certified B Corp status against their rigorous definition of what makes a responsible business. Companies must demonstrate a concern for the impact of their decisions on their employees, suppliers, community, consumers, and environment. Rivanna completed the B Lab Impact Assessment in July 2011 and was approved for certification that same month after formal review by B Lab.

According to the Impact Assessment, the rubric that measures the degree to which companies meet B Corp criteria, Rivanna exceeds B Corp standards with a Composite B Score of 130 out of a possible 200 points. According to the Impact Assessment, which will soon be posted on the B Lab site, we score highest in the areas of community and employees benefits, as well as accountability. There is plenty of room for improvement, of course, and we see the Impact Assessment as a tremendous resource for learning how we can do better. For example, Rivanna already takes care to employ members of our community in most need of work, but B Lab encourages investigating supplier and employee demographics to determine how much a B Corp tries to access underutilized human capital and disadvantaged businesses. The more we measure, the more we can manage!

Rivanna has represented B Corp values from its founding in 2001, well before corporate social responsibility and sustainability became the hot topics they are today. Starting with a clear goal – to create green jobs in Charlottesville for the people who need them most – we built a company creating eco-friendly plaques and awards long before widespread recognition developed for concepts such as CSR or greening supply chains.

We have long believed in the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. As an official Virginia Benefit Corporation and a Certified B Corp, we look forward to the opportunity to lead by example, adding our voice to a community that seeks not just to do good, but to do better.

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