Meet B Lab’s Insights Team
Since the foundation of B Lab in 2006, the global community of Certified B Corporations has grown to over 5,300 companies around the world. B Corps receive their certification by making a legal commitment to stakeholder governance and meeting high standards for social and environmental impact within their business practices. But what impact are B Corps are having on the broader world — and how can analyzing this performance help companies of all kinds work towards economic systems change?
This is the question addressed by B Lab Global’s newly formed Insights team. Director of Insights Joachim Krapels, Senior Data Analyst Michele Bradley, and Head of Standards and Insights Dan Osusky are working together to analyze the world’s largest dataset on the behavior of privately held businesses, drawn from the responses of the 5,300+ B Corps and 200,000+ additional companies that have engaged the B Impact Assessment and SDG Action Manager to measure and manage their impact.
Below, the Insights Team introduce themselves and their work, and share what they hope to demonstrate by crunching the numbers on the B Corp movement.
You all come to this work from a wide range of experiences — inside and outside of B Lab. What professional backgrounds do you bring to the Insights team, and how do you hope to apply this to looking at the data on B Corps?
Dan Osusky, Head of Standards and Insights: I’ve been with B Lab for more than nine years, starting out as an analyst verifying the performance of companies pursuing B Corp Certification before helping set up the Standards team, whose responsibility has been to maintain and continually improve the standards themselves. Through that journey, I’ve come to recognize the importance of insights and data not only to drive the improvement of our standards, but also to improve the work of B Lab as a whole, ensuring that we are an organization that is rooted in integrity and impact. In contrast with the team I’m honored to work with, I am not a data person; I’m actually a philosopher by background, but they put up with me anyway.
Michele Bradley, Senior Data Analyst: I studied Statistics and Data Science and was always interested in how we could use these tools for improving the world, either through promoting sustainability or through improving the lives of everyday people. Before working at B Lab, I used statistics and data science in the energy sector, using data to find ways for buildings to reduce their energy use. Now, on the Insights team, I use statistics and data science to help our organization better understand all of the impact data we collect, and see what we can learn from it all. It’s super interesting work and I’ve loved applying my past experience to uncovering these insights about B Corps.
Joachim Krapels, Director of Insights: I’m a sociologist by training, and have always been fascinated by the ability of evidence and research to inform decision-making for a greater good. Over the past years, I’ve worked in that space in relation to government policy, international development, and philanthropy. That we now have a team dedicated at B Lab to harness the power of data and evidence to support our Theory of Change and wider movement is hugely exciting. It is a privilege to be part of this team.
What does an Insights team do?
Joachim: Our vision is that the Insights team will be a real contributor to the systems change we seek at B Lab. As such, our mission is: to study, measure, report on, and understand how the economic system can be transformed by the B Corp movement in all its diversity, and to contribute to it through data, analysis, and research. In practice, this means we will work on organization-wide monitoring, evaluation, and learning (MEL); on thought leadership through studies of our own and external collaborations; and on providing the organization with data and business analytics, among others.
Michele: As the data analyst on the team, I am almost always either using our database, using Tableau, or working in a Google sheet — digging into our data to try and find interesting insights and snippets about B Lab’s work. This could be about finding the right data and insights to support how we share the story of the B Corp movement, or it could be helping our internal teams answer questions to improve their processes. Just yesterday I was analyzing the average time a company is in a stage within the Certification & Verification process to help our digital products team find and improve on bottlenecks within the B Impact Assessment.
Dan: We hope this will not only allow us to continuously improve our own work at B Lab — making sure that we inform our standards, strategies, and tools by real evidence of their impact — but that it can also help create more data-driven knowledge for everyone outside of B Lab who cares about creating a more just economic system.
What do you hope to learn about the B Corp movement?
Joachim: High on our learning agenda are two main priorities. First, we want to focus directly on B Corps, and explore how they are different from other businesses: what impact they have on outcomes that matter to us, such as the environment, community, and justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. Core to this work is growing our understanding of what business leadership in these areas looks like in practice. Second, and more broadly, we will seek to understand how we, as a global movement, are contributing to a transformation of the economic system. What is our role in system change? Under what conditions are we able to make a contribution? These are some of the long-term questions we hope to grapple with.
Dan: Through this work, we’re asking — is the B Corp movement making a difference? And if so, how, where, and in what ways? Is it as impactful as it could be? What else, or what more, needs to be done? Looking at data on B Corps and drawing out these insights will help inform these broader questions.
What data will you be drawing on?
Joachim: For the study of B Corps, and companies more broadly, we primarily focus on data collected from the B Impact Assessment. This is the world’s largest dataset on the behavior of privately held businesses and will provide us with rich data on business practices.
Michele: To give some depth to what this data entails, 200,000 companies use our tools to measure and manage their impact. These companies answer a plethora of questions related to their environmental, social, and governance (ESG)-related questions, providing us with rich data about many different important issues related to sustainability, equity, and resiliency within a business. We’ve used this to understand and share how B Corps perform or act differently compared to non-B Corps. For example, when it comes to environmental impact we’ve found through our data that B Corps are more likely than ordinary businesses to use 100% renewable energy, or have carbon-neutral business practices.
Joachim: When it comes to the broader study of system change, we need to cast our net more widely. We will bring together data from a range of sources to understand our progress. For example, we will be interested in policy activities and results, in legislation progress, and in changes in corporate culture.
What are some of the most interesting insights that you’ve found so far?
Dan: Last year, we produced a report analyzing how businesses were approaching the SDGs. Not surprisingly, while we found that a lot of businesses are engaging and contributing to them, that contribution was limited in its strategic focus and overall significance of impact. This is an insight that I suspect we will continue to see in a variety of ways — there is a mix of positive and negative findings in the space — and even leaders can improve.
Michele: I love anytime we get to uplift stats on what B Corps do that make them exceptional. In last year's Annual Report, I worked on capturing statistics such as “B Corps are 4 times more likely to hire the majority of their managers from local communities” or “+60% of B Corps tie executive leadership compensation to achieving specific social and environmental metrics.” I think seeing what B Corps do gives us a better understanding about what it means to be a great company, and how they show up to better their communities.
I've also had the pleasure of working with researchers by creating datasets that allow them to do research on our movement. One amazing team we worked with from Argentina, Chile, and Canada-based scholars highlighted a “B Effect” for women workers in Latin America — that B Corps in the region are driving more positive outcomes for workplace gender equality than ordinary businesses. It was incredible to have the research community be our partners in creating insights.
What do you think the world needs to know about B Corps?
Joachim: With a growth of interest in ESG globally, and with a related growth of ESG labels and standards, it can be tricky to understand how B Corps are different. Our data will allow us to tell, show, and evidence the unique leadership journey of B Corps — both where they are strong, and where they face challenges. The data will allow us to move beyond case examples, and investigate what real business leadership looks like in practice, as demonstrated by B Corps.
Michele: B Corps are super diverse, and while it’s one of more challenging concepts to grapple with from a data analytics perspective, it’s also one of the most interesting things about them. They work in so many different industries and geographies, and focus on so many different things. In a world where no one solution, person, or company can fix all of our problems, it’s truly inspiring to see companies and people from around the world trying to be better, and showcasing what being better looks like.
Dan: At the same time, it’s also important for us, B Corps themselves, and the world to have the humility to acknowledge where things aren’t going well. B Corps are not perfect companies, and while they are all high-performing leaders, thorough analysis can help us convey that humility and also help us, and others, identify what actions actually work and have an impact, and therefore should be shared and encouraged by other businesses, as well as inform how our standards can be improved in the future.
What do you see as some potential future projects for the Insights team?
Joachim: We at B Lab have front-row seats to a unique global attempt and experiment to change the economy. Many of our future projects on the Insights team will seek to capture what we can learn from that. Not just for the benefit of B Lab, or B Corps, but for the benefit of all who want to understand how practically, and under which conditions, systemic change can be catalyzed in our current economic system. This learning ambition will bring us specific topics, such as the contribution businesses can make to JEDI or the climate crisis; as well as to large-scale topics such as policy and legal change. It all touches on our Theory of Change, and so we are interested in all of these aspects!
Michele: B Lab’s Theory of Change believes that through our work in standards, policy change, and culture change, we can transform how businesses make decisions. Our current capitalist economic system prioritizes profits instead of people and the planet. However, at B Lab, we believe that this can change, and that companies can (and should) prioritize everyone that is impacted by a business instead of only its profits. While not all companies can become B Corps, all companies do have the power to positively impact their circle of influence. Understanding how that change takes place in a company — and how B Lab can encourage companies to do this — is an incredibly interesting question, and one I’m excited to do more research on.
Dan: We hope that, over time, we are able to support the development of some pretty interesting macro measures to understand if we are progressing to a more stakeholder-driven economy, and whether that is actually helping address the world’s problems. That’s obviously something really difficult to measure, and also extends far beyond the impact of B Lab and Sistema B as a single network, to include various collaborators and others who are helping achieve similar goals. In addition to that, we have also found that — while there may be frequent conversations about what “best practice” looks like for business — those conversations are not always as informed by robust research into the practices that have the most impact. With that in mind, we think there is a lot to learn from insights work in other arenas, like in the policy world.
We also hope to support the creation of research where there may be existing gaps. For example: what workplace practices actually contribute most to employee well-being? Whether performed by B Lab, or researchers in collaboration with B Lab, this type of information can inform the improvement of our standards and help drive conversations and corporate action towards the things that are most effective, and can be done so efficiently at scale.
B Lab Global’s Insights team has created a report that leverages the thousands of users (and data points) of the SDG Action Manager to conduct a comprehensive analysis of where companies are prioritizing actions on the SDGs, how they are performing, and what they are looking to improve upon.