By Craig Ryan
Director of Purpose Entrepreneurship
B Corps & The Role of Purpose for Corporations
Let Me Introduce You to This Topic...
We need broadened company purpose, not virtuous side hustles or charitable doodads.
John Elkington is right. Given the magnitude of the challenges we face, we must toss anything that isn’t immediately helpful. This is why I, after three decades in the mainstream sustainability and CSR worlds, have jettisoned the traditional business case for sustainability. Why? Because in practice it remains intellectual hostage to Milton Friedman’s maxim and thus doomed to marginality.
By re-wiring the role of the corporation, we will unshackle entrepreneurs from the narrow impatience of shareholder value obsession.
B Corps won’t save the world. But they’re helping.
The idea that business can save the world is too preposterous for words. We also need robust, responsive democracies and a vibrant civil society.
B Corps are a successful global experiment of people using business as a force for good. They show us how business can help build a different, better future.
Place and human ties matter more than policymakers know.
Humans need to feel they belong to a place and community and strong communities need strong, locally-rooted economies. We need decentralized business and financial know-how. My fellow Newfoundlander Zita Cobb shows us one way how:
Be intellectually humble.
I am confident that one of today’s dominant ideas – that the private sector penchants for disruption and tech can fix the public and civil society sectors, along with many social problems the latter are trying to remedy – will one day have people hooting in derision.
Enter those sectors, too. Help build them.
Don’t move fast and break things. Move carefully and fix things.
Fix capitalism. Combat Climate change. End polarized politics.
We have a moral obligation to remain optimistic.
And optimism creates its own energy!
Craig's Reading List
The Call for a Capitalist Reformation
Jay Coen Gilbert
This short article by the Co-Founder of B Lab & the B Corporations movement summarizes well the history of Capitalism, its current failures and offers concrete solutions for a new Capitalist system. Take the time to explore the articles hyperlinked words as there are many insightful resources which will guide your thinking on a capitalist reformation.
This is the most important book written so far this century. We are in a new era of capitalism, one we must understand if we are to tackle the existential threats of inequality and the climate crisis. Zuboff, with rigour and a wry sense of humour, makes it clear.
The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming
David Wallace Wells
I’d begun to suffer from what experts call climate grief, a state of lethargy induced by the belief that we humans were never going to act decisively to brake the changing climate. This book left me feeling freshly traumatized and determined to act.
Prosperity: Better Business Makes the Greater Good
Mayer outlines how we should re-establish the corporation as a unique, powerful force to promote economic and social wellbeing in its fullest sense - for customers and communities, today and in the future. A vision of radical reform and how-to guide from a leading light at Oxford.
This is a short, moving novel about what happens when the adults responsible for a child fail. It is full of compassion and hope for its characters, a part of society that most only see in statistics. The great power of literature is that it takes us outside our worlds. We all need more of this.
J. S. Bach - Aria "Unser trefflicher" (BWV 212 "Mer hahn en neue Oberkeet")
Choeur de Chambre de Namur, Les Agrémens, directed by Leonardo García Alarcón:
When energy lags and office mates are absent, I take five to watch this. As ever with Bach, stand by for goose bumps and levitation. What’s particularly beautiful here is the performers’ energy. Normally their faces are frozen in concentration or contorted in effort. Here they're smiling widely at the joy of the music, the fun they’re having, and as they see they're acing this performance. A species that can do this can do anything.
About the Author
Craig Ryan is Director, Purpose Entrepreneurship at BDC. He has more than twenty years of experience providing strategy and policy advice to decision-makers in business, government and civil society. He never planned to be a banker but gave it a go upon learning that BDC was exclusively dedicated to people creating companies. He leads its team to help grow Canada’s national movement of certified Beneficial corporations (B Corps).
Craig has a masters in public administration from Harvard Kennedy School and sits on the boards of directors of Rise (www.risehelps.ca), a charity that provides loans and advice for people with mental health problems who are launching business projects, and NOVAlex Clinic, the charitable wing of the only B Corp law firm in Quebec.
In 2018, Craig was named a Clean 16 Honoree