Businesses Publicly Engaging Their Values


For many impact-oriented companies, creating positive change in the world means more than making conscientious business decisions – it means taking a stand on mission-related issues. A number of popular brands are beloved for showing up publicly for their values.

Some of the better-known, long-outspoken brands and causes include Patagonia’s ongoing dedication to environmental protection; Ben and Jerry’s public political protests and activist campaigns; and Seventh Generation’s #ComeClean campaign.

Of course, not every company raises its voice in the same way. This week, we present a few examples of how businesses are taking public action on behalf of their values.

Standing tall,
The Team at B the Change

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Exposing Your DNA

If conscious capitalists are thinking more deeply about the activist shareholder pressure that catalyzed Whole Foods’ sale to Amazon, they might be asking if conscious capitalism (or other similar “business for good” 2movements, like the work of The B Team and impact investors) can survive in the public capital markets over the long term. One of most powerful tools available to conscious capitalists who seek to put these principles into practice is to adopt a corporate structure like the benefit corporation. The benefit corporation legal structure, as described in this piece by B Lab co-founder Jay Coen Gilbert, modifies a company’s DNA by expanding the fiduciary duty of the corporation’s board of directors and officers to include all stakeholders.

Danone recently adopted the benefit corporation legal structure for its U.S. subsidiary, DanoneWave –an entity with more than $6 billion in revenue, created after Danone acquired WhiteWave for $10 billion last year and merged it with its existing U.S. business. WhiteWave is the owner of brands Silk, Horizon Organics, Wallaby and Earthbound Farms. Danone also became the first Fortune 500 company to publicly state its intention to adopt this legal standard as part of its long-term goal to become a Certified B Corporation.

Rather than waiting for his company to become a behemoth like Danone, Davis Smith, founder of outdoor gear and apparel e-commerce brand Cotopaxi, wanted to incorporate his business as a benefit corp from the beginning. He sought the freedom and security to pursue more humanitarian goals without fear of being sued by investors for not immediately raking in profits. Smith’s attorney thought launching as a benefit corporation was a risky move, but Smith did it anyway.

He founded Cotopaxi in 2013 as a benefit corporation, and began to raise venture capital funds from there –  Cotopaxi is the first of the approximately 4,000 existing benefit corporations to take that route. “One of the biggest ideas behind Cotopaxi was the belief that I could have a bigger impact by building a business than I could if I just did humanitarian work on my own,” Smith says. “If there’s an investor that won’t invest in me because I founded a benefit corporation and am giving some of my money away from the get-go, that’s not the right investor for us.”