As a partner at the law firm Moye White, I work with more than 120 employees who are all equally invested in working to sustain a healthy business, focused on serving our clients. This hard work has been rewarded with steady growth, a solid reputation and the opportunity to do good work nationally and worldwide.
That was not enough.
Over the past decade, our firm's leadership realized that our success is not merely measured by the steady increase in profits per partner. The financial crisis of 2008 made us all aware of the fragility of markets, the limits of government and the need to focus on sustaining the fundamentals of our business. A shift in the scale of problems facing the world led to reflect on our obligation as individuals to be mindful of the impact of our actions, and in turn, our obligation to understand the impact of our work.
In short, Moye White came to understand our success is also determined by how we respect our contributors, employees and contractors. We realized our success must overshadow the negative effects we might have on our environment and consider the external impacts our work can have on our neighborhoods. We run a business, and we know we can run it well. At the same time, we can also run it “for good” without compromising our commitment to our clients and generating a profit.
As lawyers, we are compelled to investigate facts and apply logic to confirm or dismiss our biases, and to create a plan for action. Five years ago, the firm came across the B Corporation certification program. B Lab, a U.S.-based nonprofit, established the standard requiring companies to meet social sustainability and environmental performance standards, meet accountability standards, and to be transparent to the public. We were curious, but not necessarily sure that certifying our business was achievable or even worthwhile. But as we investigated, the more excited we became at the possibility of obtaining certification.
B Labs states, “Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.” Certified B Corporations are diverse and include Danone North America, Patagonia, Kickstarter, Meow Wolf, Fetzer Vineyards and Colorado companies such as New Belgium Brewery, Door to Door Organics and Techstars. However, in the years since obtaining certification, the excitement of being validated for our hard work, has given way for enthusiasm to change for the good within our organization. Moye White has been recertified twice and we remain one of the few law firms of size to have obtained the certification.
There have been other follow-on effects of B Corp certification. The firm found our certification has become a helpful signal to talent – both lawyers and staff – that we’re trying to do something different. Although the effects of B Corporation certification will remain largely in the background for many clients, we’ve found that the certification allows us to communicate a degree of understanding of the mission of many new clients, especially in certain industries leading growth in Colorado, including tech and software, food and beverage, brewing, and arts and culture. We’ve also found a culture of like-spirited entrepreneurs and executives who continue to inspire us.
Small and medium-sized companies have a luxury that larger companies do not: the ability to reach consensus on mission and purpose and then act on it. In Colorado, there’s also a good deal of support. B Lab has inspired the Best for Colorado program, a program that now has a home at the Alliance for Sustainable Colorado. The program allows Colorado companies to try out the B Corporation assessment tool to confirm how well they perform. Like us, they may find that B Corp certification becomes an impetus for change.
Originally published by ColoradoBiz Magazine.