The CEO who used soup to stave hunger for profit.

A corporation has a single core obligation: to make money. But some companies are signing a deal, promising to create not only profit but also a tangible benefit to society and the environment.

In the tiny town of Gilsum, N.H., you’ll find the headquarters of W.S. Badger Co. Inc. The company makes all-natural cosmetics marketed under the name Badger Balm.

“Early on, I started making soup on Friday. And I loved what happened to the company, seeing everybody sit down at the same time,” CEO Bill Whyte says. That sense of togetherness extends to the company’s 70 employees today and that seems to pay off for the business. Badger has doubled in five years, expanding its market to 26 countries, and they’re a good example of what’s called a benefit corporation. This is a type of company certified as being motivated by more than just the hunger for profit.

Think of it this way: USDA certifies organic foods, and Good Housekeeping puts its seal of approval on quality products, like washing machines and skillets. And since 2006, a nonprofit organization called B Lab has been certifying corporations it deems to be concerned about their communities and the environment.

In 27 states, legislatures have created a legal status for benefit corporations. The bill in New Hampshire originated with Badger.

So why would a company want a new law? It’s extra work, and there are no tax breaks. Tim Frick from MightyBytes, a tech company in Chicago, says being a benefit corporation is “being part of a larger global movement of making sure that business is being used as a force for good and not for evil.”

Erik Trojian, the director of policy, says B Lab measures just about everything the company does: “Supply chain, their interaction with the community, [and] the environment.” But he adds it’s also a way to “bake your morals and your missions into the DNA of your company.”


Photo licensed under Creative Commons from Rian Castillo on flickr


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