Seeing Change as a B Corporation

c|change

8. Decent Work and Economic Growth

Overview

Recently, c|change has decided to make the important changes necessary to achieve B Corp certification so that they can continue their practice of world-building in an even more sustainable, effective way.

Author

Sarah Nikolanci

Sarah Nikolanci

School

Loyola University Chicago

Loyola University Chicago

Professor

Nancy Landrum

Nancy Landrum

Innovation

c|change’s road to B Corp certification began a year and a half ago when their VP of Marketing & Digital Strategy, Adrian Gershom, went to the owner of c|change and proposed the company take the steps to attain the certification. A B Corporation is a business that has attained their B Corp certification, recognizing that they have met the high standard necessary to verify their social and environmental work, transparency, and legal responsibility to match their profit and purpose. B Corp certification is an important step for sustainable businesses, as it reflects a company’s positive day-to-day impact, as well as the positive impact of their business model as a whole. Upon completion of B Corp certification, a company’s positive impact is reflected through a numeric score. Each B Corporation must complete the B Impact Assessment (BIA), which precisely measures the positive impact of a company on its employees, community, customers and the environment. This BIA is then made public, and is updated every three years, ensuring transparency with the public. c|change is looking forward to finalizing their certification next month, officially recognizing them as a sustainable B Corporation.

Adrian has been what is called a “B Local Leader,” for about nine years, and, as such, he “volunteers to help raise awareness about B Corp certification” and helps businesses navigate the steps toward certification. Adrian’s experience as a B Local Leader allowed him to recognize the positive impact that c|change was already making, leading him to advocate for and guide the process of B Corp certification within the company.

Seeing Change as a B Corporation

Inspiration

Almost immediately after beginning to work at c|change, Adrian noticed that the company was already “pretty well aligned” with B Corp standards. Adrian recognized that a B Corp certification was a way to quantify their positive impact, as well as a way to discover where they could improve. He felt inspired to bring the idea of applying for B Corp certification to c|change’s owner. Adrian was specifically motivated by the company’s positive impact on their workers, noting that “c|change was remarkable...in how well they were taking care of their employees.” Employees are one of the key stakeholders in any business, and c|change was already ensuring proper training, benefits (healthcare), a living wage, a path to career growth, as well as regularly assessing employee satisfaction, even before Adrian recommended B Corp certification.

Although there were many reasons to become a B Corp, the primary reason that Adrian and c|change are seeking to attain B Corp certification is because “it’s necessary for the planet.” Secondarily, c|change knows that B Corps attract better employees and increase marketability as consumers care more and more about working with sustainable companies. The B Corp certification will allow c|change to quantifiably demonstrate the value of the planet and its workers to potential clients as well as potential employees.

Overall impact

Due to the fact that, as a marketing agency, c|change is in the service industry, their environmental impact is much different than other B Corps and other companies in general. c|change does not produce a large number of physical outputs, as they are not in the business of manufacturing physical goods. The company's impact on the environment, both positive and negative, remains small. While c|change’s primary focus is on their business and societal impacts, they still work to make the workplace environmentally sustainable in several ways, including recycling and composting. c|change is also working to establish carbon offsetting to combat its carbon footprint.

c|change has seen a unification within the workplace as employees have bonded over their shared values and conviction to make a difference. Rather than shy away from it, the employees at c|change have embraced the challenges and changes necessary to achieve B Corps certification. c|change is also working to shape its business model to be more impact-driven. For example, Adrian noted that c|change is “trying to amplify the corporate social responsibility parts of our clients..and [is] being very selective of our clients.” They are working to assist clients in identifying their own sustainable practices and providing them ways in which they can further improve those sustainable practices.

The impact of c|change’s journey to B Corp certification has not been limited to the confines of the company, though. In the future, they also hope to impact other businesses in Chicago and inspire them to become certified B Corps as well, through competitive pressure.

Business benefit

c|change’s decision to formalize their mission and values through their pursuit of B Corp certification has unified their workplace through a positive goal and shared values, allowing them to work more collaboratively and improving the overall culture of the workplace. Although some may not recognize the importance of a healthy and unified workplace culture, there are several “studies that show how much culture means in terms of a business’s ability to be more profitable and to be a more healthy business.” This concept of a healthy workplace culture is made even more beneficial by the fact that c|change works with clients who share the same values of sustainability, allowing for the cultivation of even more positive change.

Social and environmental benefit

By putting its mission and values at the forefront of its business model, c|change has found ways to benefit society and the environment. c|change has annual pro bono projects with the central goal of shining a light on sustainable causes. In 2019, its project “Clouds of Change” was created to spread awareness of the issue of climate change with an interactive, Augmented Reality book. The book won the 2019 American Web Design Award from Graphic Design USA, but more importantly, it brought more attention to the current climate crisis.

c|change's current project, “Lifted Heads, Lifting Voices,” publicizes local businesses that are facing the difficult economic effects of COVID-19. Each week, c|change is designing a new poster to advertise a different Chicago business and selling them, with all of the money raised going to the business in question. c|change has also made the important decision to focus on Black-owned businesses to recognize and support a community that has faced a multitude of injustices.

Although c|change is still at the beginning of its journey to sustainability, it is making the necessary steps that many businesses must do in order to preserve the planet and ensure healthy living for all.

Interview

Adrian Gershom, VP of Marketing & Digital Strategy

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c|change

c|change

Chicago, IL, US

Business Website: cchangeinc.com

Year Founded: 2001

Number of Employees: 11 to 50

The marketing agency c|change has been operating in Chicago since 2001. They work with businesses to create campaigns for events, projects, and improve the overall sales and marketing performance of the business as a whole. It distinguishes itself from other agencies with their emphasis on world-building, not simply storytelling when it comes to marketing for their clients.