In the midst of capitalism’s timely self-evaluation, a group of companies including Allbirds, Patagonia and Beautycounter have a message for JP Morgan Chase & Co. chief executive officer Jamie Dimon and his cohorts: join the club.
On Sunday, the fashion brands joined more than 30 B Corporations — companies certified by the nonprofit organization B Lab Co. for meeting its standards to have a social purpose beyond just profits — advertised in a full page in The New York Times in response to corporate America’s recent shift in rhetoric.
“As you know, with continued resistance from investors on this new definition of business, we’ve got work to do to help them see that stakeholder governance builds trust and builds value,” the brands wrote in the letter that ran in the paper Sunday morning.
The subtext is that traditional American businesses may be acknowledging the public discontent about their role in exacerbating income inequality and climate change, but that they should now take cues from a consciousness-minded business community that has already been laying the groundwork.
Dimon and The Business Roundtable, the group he leads of ceo’s of close to 200 American companies, had issued a statement earlier this week declaring their vision “to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders — customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders.”
That message has been at the heart of Pennsylvania-based B Lab’s mission since it was founded in 2006 to recognize companies that meet “the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose,” according to the group’s web site.
Over the past decade, B Lab has also lobbied for so-called benefit corporation legislation, which allows companies to formalize a social mission in their governance documents. The thinking behind this legislation is that doing so would legally allow them to prioritize causes beyond shareholder returns, by allowing shareholders to hold them accountable to their stated mission.
“We want to underscore that there’s an option that currently exists to solidify a stakeholder model, so managers are responsible for the public benefit that they state in their charter,” Joey Zwillinger, cofounder and co-ceo of Allbirds, said in an interview Friday. Allbirds is a public benefit corporation.
“We are operating in a model that we think is walking the walk, and we would hope to see a lot more companies take that approach, rather just saying it,” he said.
Beautycounter founder Gregg Renfrew echoed the sentiment.
“I think we believe that we’re stronger when we work together, and that we’ve led by example,” Renfrew said in an interview. “And we want to join forces with some of these companies that are talking about this now, and to have [them] move beyond talking about this and into taking action.”