The non-angry alternatives to a socio-economic paradigm that is no longer sustainable exist: they are called B Corp. Here's what they do and why

One of the symbols that could best explain capitalism, and its failure – argues economist Raj Patel –, is fast food fried chicken. The best-selling kibble all over the world is a cheap food, comes from a highly industrialized supply chain, has few nutritional properties, and takes advantage of nature, animals, workers and their families, making the company substantially and solely earn.

We just have to ask ourselves  and imagine – what could be the alternatives to a socio-economic paradigm that is no longer sustainable. Not just Occupy Wall Street or boycotting multinationals. A real transformation should be initiated in which, in addition to profit, impacts on society and the territory are obtained.

Here come B Corp. A real movement  in 150 sectors and in over 70 countries  that seeks to obtain positive economic effects on the environment and communities, demonstrable with a social balance sheet, in the name of a “value proposition” aimed at produce virtuous goods and services. “The for-benefit reality - the Harvard Business Review prophesies  represents a fourth sector of the economy that is emerging and has the power to transform the course of capitalism”.

Even if they are not ready for beatification, the B Corps continue to do their job, which is to earn in the best and most perfect version of the original capitalism, aiming to create dividends and attractive earnings for their investors. shareholders and stakeholders.

Among the main features is the propensity for innovation, especially the social one, responsibility, transparency, inclusion, regeneration. Not only. The B Corps are equipped with circular characteristics, but also with internal management systems that favour the democratization of decision-making processes, creating a fertile and welcoming environment for all workers.

In Italy the B-community – which has over 100 certified B Corp and 500 Benefit Corporations (to figure out the difference, please read here), 9000 employees for a total turnover of about 5 billion euros – has grown to become the most important and dynamic in all of Europe (we are was the first country in the world after the United States to introduce the legal form of Benefit Corporation into its own system). To the cry of #unlockthechange – a real slogan–  the movement is made up of companies of different history and size, from North to South, which sees food and manufacturing as the main sectors.

They have a dream: a planet without waste. Too Good To Go, which arrived in Italy in 2019, is an app born in Denmark in 2015. Noble intentions: the commitment to save food, raise awareness of society and preserve the environment. “Our B Corp certification is mainly linked to the fact that a substantial part is redistributed in campaigns against food waste” explains Ilaria Ricotti of the Marketing Team about the smartphone application that allows, on the one hand, merchants and for restaurateurs to put unsold food on sale at reduced prices at the end of the day, and on the other for consumers to buy “Magic Box – with surprisingly content – at one third of the selling price. “In this way there is an impact on the territory because both the territorial commercial services of the large-scale retail trade and the business of small neighborhood commercial services such as pastry shops, bakers, ice cream parlors and fruit and vegetable shops are favored”.

Each Magic Box corresponds to 1 kg of food which in turn, FAO dixit, represents 2.5 kg of avoided CO2 emissions. Of course, there is a profit, quantified at 1.19 euros for each box, everything else goes to the merchant. “We are also able to have a clear and reported impact on the circular economy. The employees are almost all activists, most are interested in the cause and see a mission in this work”.

One of the first in the manufacturing field to receive B Corp certification in Italy, in 2017, was the design company Alessi, which later, in 2020, also obtained the legal denomination of B Corporation. “It was a step that we chose to do not so much to change the way we behave with respect to social impact, but to put on paper what we have always done as a business” says Nicoletta Alessi, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager of Alessi.

“There are three pillars that have made us recognized as part of the B-community, the first is the one that is expressed through the product, that is to bring art and poetry into homes. Since we consider the design product a work of art, this is a main feature. Then the care for people who, as Kant used to say, are never just means but also ends continues on the eve of the centenary of the houseware company founded in 1921. People are first, this translates into good salaries, tools of welfare, for example, but also in courageous choices, such as the 2019 restructuring operation for which no one was fired”.

Last, but not least: the creation of economic value, fair and sustainable over time, which also falls on the community. “This is a characteristic of family businesses, that is, having an outlook against maximization in the short term. Being B Corp allows us to monitor all these aspects that are less directly linked to our business model of common benefit but which are fundamental aspects of a company's responsibility”.

A historic (and green) compromise: ethics with socio-environmental impact and business with profit can go hand in hand.




Cover photo: Calypso collection, design Serena Confalonieri.