The Philanthropy #BehindtheB
B Lab drives forward economic systems change by working with the for-profit sector. We create standards, policies, tools, and programs that shift the behavior, culture, and structure of the global business community, from Certified B Corps and benefit corporations to any company using the B Impact Assessment or SDG Action Manager to better align their mission with people and planet.
Yet B Lab is not itself a business. At the center of the B Global Network, B Lab Global operates as a 501(c)3 non-profit registered in the United States. Transparency is a core value of the B Corp movement, and we want to demonstrate the same level of openness about funding and financial operations we expect of our community. So in honor of B Corp Month 2022, we went #BehindtheB with B Lab’s Strategic Growth team to talk about philanthropy at B Lab, why it’s key to our work, and how our standards and certification process remain accountable and independent — regardless of who is providing us financial support.
As a standards organization, earned revenue from companies that receive B Corp Certification makes up the majority of our funding — about 75%. This revenue stream differentiates us from a “typical non-profit,” explains Sarah Schwimmer, Head of Strategic Growth. “But that alone does not pay for all the essential work we do to leverage this community for collective action.”
The remaining quarter of B Lab’s funding comes from mission-aligned individuals and foundations, largely based in the U.S. and Canada, with growing representation from Europe. It’s this last 25% that truly provides the momentum to power a global movement. All the work we do to drive systems change outside of B Corp Certification — including our policy engagement, narrative development around the shift to stakeholder capitalism, and improvement to our standards — “that is largely made possible by philanthropic funding,” says Schwimmer.
Philanthropy helps B Lab “bridge the gap,” says Molly Uxa-Chakravarty, Senior Development Officer & Operations Manager for Strategic Growth, noting that since “the cost of certifying small companies is greater than the cost of the program fees these companies pay to B Lab,” our certification program in fact often operates at a loss.
Yet this model is very much intentional. “Small and medium businesses have been the bedrock of our B Corp community since our founding,” Uxa-Chakravarty says; they continue to be critical to our movement. With philanthropic funding, we’re able to “allow our certification, standards, and programs to be as inclusive and expansive as possible” — as well as innovate and develop new offerings to serve businesses of all scales and across industries.
B Lab’s standards and certification processes are central to all of our work, and it’s critical that they remain uninfluenced by the interest of any related parties, including funders. “As a network, we have a global strategy about how to create change,” says Jessi Longe, Strategic Growth Coordinator. “We then look for funders who understand and support that strategy” — not who are looking for an opportunity to advance their own cause or agenda. Read more about Standards Development and Governance at B Lab and our independent Standards Advisory Council.
The Strategic Growth team is primarily tasked with fundraising for B Lab Global. Yet as fundraising strategists at the central coordinating body of the B Global Network, supporting a community of nearly 4,700 B Corps in 78 countries, their work extends to providing resources for Global Partners as well.
“The way we support each partner looks different, depending on the regional and local landscape and our partners’ needs,” notes Liz Seok Derfler, Senior Development Officer. “We actively raise awareness and funding for our partners wherever possible. We also serve as a resource and thought partner in their local fundraising efforts. As we build our fundraising infrastructure, we are building the foundation to fundraise globally.”
Communicating the global nature of our work is critical to identifying funders who are aligned with B Lab’s mission and vision. “Our partners embrace or are willing to learn more about the concepts around trust-based philanthropy and community-centric fundraising and illustrate commitment to Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in their operations as well as their grantmaking practices,” says Aysegul Ekmekci, Senior Development Officer. The goal is to find individuals and organizations interested in making a long-term philanthropic commitment to “an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economic system that works for all people and the planet.”
Interested in learning more about B Lab’s funding? Read our 2020 Annual Report.
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