Social enterprises have become something of a trend. From Norwegian-style hotels that are completely energy self-sufficient to a reclaimed straw-weaving workshop in Miaoli County’s Yuanli Township and an eco-factory within an African refugee camp, all are examples of companies with business models that provide solutions to social problems. Although the definition of a social enterprise is somewhat loose, in recent years the standard has become stricter with the emergence of B Corporations (B Corps). B Corps have made a big impact and Taiwanese B Corps are at the forefront of the movement in Asia.
The B Corp movement, still in its infancy, dates back to 2007 when it was founded by two US entrepreneurs. Ten years later and there are more than 2000 certified B Corps in over 50 countries worldwide. It all started with a basketball. Jay Coen Gilbert and Bart Houlahan founded basketball clothing and accessories company AND1 in 1990 from a shared love of the sport. While running the company, they placed an emphasis on staff benefits, installing breastfeeding rooms and a basketball court. The office was also home to eight dogs and even provided basketball lessons to residents within the local community.
“It doesn’t seem so special today, but 30 years ago it was way ahead of its time” says Chloe Huang, director of B Lab Taiwan. Huang adds that by 2005, AND1 was the number one basketball brand in the US with a market value of US$250 million. However the company was no match for the likes of Nike and other sport retailer giants, and the business ended up changing hands. In the short space of three months, there was practically nothing left of the company’s original philosophy and culture. Staff benefits were pared back and social participation programs were terminated.
Photo courtesy of Twine
The company’s founders felt as if the child they had nurtured had been harmed and started to consider how to protect the founding philosophy of companies from being destroyed following a change of management. In 2007 they invited Andrew Kassoy, who was working at a private equity fund, to join them in promoting a B Corp movement and started by working on accreditation and legislation. The “B” in B Corp stands for “best for the world,” but also symbolizes “benefit.”
The movement’s accreditation organization, B Lab, carries out evaluations looking at five main competency areas: corporate governance, employee care, environmental friendliness, social care and customer impact. The total application process takes a minimum of half a year to complete, but can take over one year.
Huang says that the assessment is like a sort of health check up for companies and the process does not end once accreditation is granted. Certified companies must renew their B Corp accreditation every three years.
Photo courtesy of Greenvines
B Corp isn’t just about pursuing profit to satisfy shareholders; instead a greater priority is placed on benefiting the environment, employees and the community. Many people worry that the increased costs of running a B Corp company will mean sacrificing profits, but the reverse is actually true. In Taiwan, skin-care brand Greenvines and fair trade clothing and accessories brand Twine have both developed a loyal following among younger consumers.
“Who says you can’t make money from doing good?” says Chang Ta-wei, former director of B Lab Taiwan, who believes customer loyalty increases through identification with a company’s philosophy, while word of mouth attracts even higher levels of participation. There are currently 80 accredited B Corp companies in Asia, and 23 of them are based in Taiwan.
(Liberty Times, translated by Edward Jones)
「B型企業運動」的年紀很輕，二○○七年才由兩位美國企業家發起；十年後的今天，全球已有逾五十國兩千多家企業通過認證。這一切，都從一顆籃球開始。傑伊（Jay Coen Gilbert）和巴特（Bart Houlahan）因為熱愛籃球，一九九○年代創辦了籃球鞋及服飾品牌AND1 ；經營事業的同時，也重視員工福利，設置哺乳室、籃球場，辦公室還養了八隻大狗，更提供社區民眾免費籃球課程。
B指的是Best for the world（對世界最好），也代表Benefit（利害關係人的利益 ）。
1. AND1 was an American retail company that produced baseball clothing and accessories. True or false?
2. AND1 was sold to Nike in 2005. True or false?
3. Accredited B Corp companies prioritize social good over maximizing profit. True or false?
4. It can take up to half a year to achieve accreditation as a B Corp company. True or false?
5. What is the difference between a social enterprise and a fair trade company?(Edward Jones, Taipei Times)
1. business model phr.
(shang1 ye4 mo2 shi4)
2. social enterprise phr.
(she4 hui4 qi4 ye4)
3. staff benefit phr.
(yuan2 gong1 fu2 li4)
4. change hands phr.
5. shareholder n.
6. fair trade phr.
(gong1 ping2 mao4 yi4)
7. word of mouth phr.
(kou2 er3 xiang1 chuan2)
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