B Corp business leaders work towards a better future
A local nonprofit affiliate is helping area companies earn B Corp certification, measuring their social and environmental impacts and promoting business leaders who believe in conscious capitalism.
B Corps refers to companies that voluntarily meet high-performance standards mandated by B Lab, the nonprofit that provides certification. In addition to verifiable social and environmental performance, business leaders must demonstrate “public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”
March is B Corp Month, and Winnie Mulamba, executive director of Florida for Good, is increasing awareness for “businesses that are actually walking the talk, “who are not just there to capitalize on profits.
“It’s challenging, especially in this market of ours in Florida. We want to elevate and speak about businesses who are not being forced to do any good but are … putting money towards projects that encourage and support environmental and social issues.”
Florida for Good and its first regional chapter – St. Pete for Good – launched in 2018. The nonprofit promotes environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts throughout the business community.
It also offers free impact assessments and B Corp training classes through the University of South Florida, the University of Florida and Lynn University.
Like B Lab, Florida for Good advocates for the triple bottom line – people, planet and profits – and promotes B tourism. B Lab issued its first certifications in 2007, and over 6,000 global companies have since earned the designation.
Mother Kombucha, Climate First Bank and Salt Palm Development are among 30 Benefit Corporations and B Corps based in St. Pete. A Benefit Corporation is a legal structure that embeds a “public benefit” into a company’s Certificate of Incorporation.
Tampa Bay for Good, the regional chapter’s new moniker, and Florida for Good’s network of businesses share best practices and discuss challenges faced when implementing a culture of conscious capitalism. Mulamba noted several members recently signed an amicus brief opposing state legislation that could negatively impact diversity and equity initiatives.
“We reach out to the consumer market, letting them know that how you spend your dollars matters,” Mulamba said. “There are companies out there that are mutually producing products that are good for you and the environment and that also care about the social issues you’re going through. We have the data to support that.”
Mother Kombucha earned its B Corp certification in September 2022. Florida’s fastest-growing kombucha brewery uses regeneratively farmed organic teas, composts all waste with community gardens and offers home brewing workshops.
Tonya Donati, founder and CEO, said that while the company continuously operated with ESG values, it took four years and additional staff to earn the certification. She noted that signifies the beginning of Mother Komucha’s journey rather than the end.
“Now we get to really dig in and set goals for how we do better as time goes on,” Donati said. “And how we can magnify our impact as we grow.”
Chairman Jared Meyers noted that Salt Palm became Florida’s first real estate development group to incorporate as a Benefit Corporation. He said the designation ensures its environmental and social justice efforts survive capital raises and leadership changes.
It was also the nation’s first development company to earn B Corp certification and is a member of Conscious Capitalism International and 1% For the Planet. Salt Palm built St. Petersburg’s Sabal Smart Homes and The Royal, and Meyers said at least 50% of profits go to bettering the city and state through organizations like Tampa Bay and Florida for Good.
Like Mulamba, Meyers said many companies practice “greenwashing” through misleading marketing claims about a product or service’s sustainability. He thought that was especially true in the real estate industry.
However, he said Salt Palm’s commitments and success shows others that “businesses can be purposeful and profitable and thrive at the same time.”
“The climate crisis is one that cannot be ignored, and true racial justice and shared equity still has a long journey ahead of it,” Meyers added. “I’m motivated to conduct my business in a more values-aligned way because I feel that, even if in the smallest way, it will contribute to a more positive future for all people and the planet.”
Mulamba noted the preponderance of conscious business leaders in St. Petersburg and how the success of its regional chapter led to others in Miami, Orlando and North Florida. She said city leaders are making considerable progress in addressing environmental and social issues, and her organization hopes to elevate those efforts throughout B Corp Month and beyond.
“We can always do better,” Mulamba said. “We are entering an era where profit maximization shouldn’t be the sole reason for any company’s existence. Especially if you want to maintain a competitive edge, attract talent, grow your brand reputation and de-risk your business from the growing uncertainties.”
For more information on Tampa Bay for Good and a local B Corp directory, visit the website here.