Consumers notice when businesses and organizations do that little something extra, often rewarding those companies with their patronage. And since going green is a hot trend, consumers are especially happy to frequent somewhere, for-profit or not-for-profit, environmentally and socially responsible - good karma for them, good money for the entity and good results for the community.
There are plenty of ways these places can be socially and environmentally responsible without negatively affecting their bottom line, starting with simple things like using recycle bins, sourcing locally and using cleaner technologies. But it can be difficult to measure successes, set goals and let the community know about their efforts and concerns.
Buffalo First works with B Lab, a nonprofit that is diligently lobbying for B Corporation legislation throughout the country, to promote the tool. Businesses' monetary goals are important, but the BIR allows companies to keep track of the other aspects that matter.
Take the BIR Survey
Like GrowWNY's "What's My Footprint?" survey, the BIR is a good way for businesses and organizations alike to analyze their social and environmental impact. It's free and easy to use - there's a link on Buffalo First's website - and doesn't take very long to complete. The survey is broken down into five categories - Accountability, Employees, Consumers, Community and Environment - and grades companies, based on answers to a series of questions, on everything from their work environment and transparency to their diversity and energy use.
The BIR is an internal tool that B Lab uses as an aggregate, measuring improvements over time. Businesses and organizations can use it as a benchmark to track their individual performance and improvements. Buffalo First encourages everyone to use the survey in an effort to increase awareness of the impact that businesses can have on the local economy.
Make B-Corps a Legal Entity in New York State
It's a simple yet ambitious vision: to create a new sector of the economy that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. B-Corps are a new type of corporation, held accountable to a triple bottom line: environmental sustainability, social benefits and monetary profit. That is important when dealing with a public consciousness worried about the environment, employment and other social concerns.
Buffalo First has been actively supporting the passage of the New York State Benefit Corporation Bill (A.11498b), which would give entrepreneurs and investors the option to establish and invest in businesses that meet higher standards of corporate purpose, accountability and transparency, without increasing regulation or impacting the state budget. Instead of sacrificing social responsibility for maximum profit, the two would go hand-in-hand.
Currently, business owners don't have the latitude to even spend funds on recycling, green appliances or a host of other simple, environmentally and socially conscious practices because such improvements don't benefit shareholders. Socially and environmentally minded companies find themselves in the catch-22 of either not being able to earn a profit or opening their directors up to possible personal liability by making decisions that do not maximize shareholder profit.
As a result, businesses are increasingly choosing to set up shop in states with a benefit corporation option. New York State as a whole, and Buffalo specifically, cannot afford to lose these businesses nor its competitive edge during such a critical time.
The bill was brought up for vote in the state senate at the end of June and passed with overwhelming support. However, it was held up in the assembly for further examination. The state government will soon vote on the bill again.
That means now is the time to get involved! You can help influence the passage of this bill just by talking. If you're a local business supporter, call your legislator and voice your opinion. If you're a local business owner, tell your customers and other owners about the bill -- make sure they know how important it is and how they can help. Word of mouth is an effective tool, and permitting the creation of benefit corporations a giant step in establishing a sustainable living economy in the Western New York area and a great help for those companies concerned about their social and environmental impact.
We stand firm in echoing GrowWNY's sentiment that "It's your backyard - you influence change."
Buffalo First will have several calls to action and public forums for concerned citizens, organizations and businesses. We look forward to working with Grow WNY and its already strong and determined alliance of socially conscious and environmentally responsible community organizations.