Pure Capitalism to the B Corp
We recently caught up with Russ Stoddard, CEO & Founder of Oliver Russell, a certified B Corporation that helps purpose-driven companies create stronger brands, increase market share, and build communities of fans, followers, and advocates. Definitely a crush-worthy company mission. Even a glance at Oliver Russell’s people will put a smile on your face. The purpose-driven agency has been around since 1991, consistent with the inception of cause marketing. Yet Russ (aka: the magnet for good) has been doing this “social good” thing for far longer, 30 years to be exact. He has experienced all parts of the equation through his work inside the corporate world, as an entrepreneur, and in starting five nonprofits. We like to call this “the trifecta” as we also work to inspire people, companies, and causes at DoTopia.
As previously stated, Oliver Russell is a B Corporation. B Corps are a type of company that use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Companies like Oliver Russell have subjected themselves to being scrutinized by the nonprofit B Lab to meet high performance standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. With over 2,400 Certified B Corps today, this way of building business for good continues to grow exponentially and has reached more than 50 countries already.
Given the experience Russ has in the world of social good, he shared his thoughts with us on why companies continue to explore other purpose-driven ways to do business like becoming a certified B Corp.
Q. We know Oliver Russell is B Corp Certified. Love to see this! What events do you believe drove companies to go from Pure Capitalism to business models like the “B Corp”?
A. First, I think you have a class of company leaders that is motivated by the challenge of using business to solve social and environmental problems—these models create deep meaning and a higher purpose for people whether they’re Millennials or seasoned corporate leaders who are launching second careers. Next, governments here in the U.S. have begun vacating some of their traditional roles as environmental and social fixers, often due to lack of funding, so companies are filling this void to fulfill this mission and create a financial profit. Lastly, people increasingly recognize that the B Corp model gives you a competitive edge—its foundation is just smart business in so many ways and creates a great platform to sustainably manage a business for success.
Q. What trends are causing more companies to think about being purpose-driven?
A. I think the marketplace is working its powerful magic to pressure companies to evolve their business models: employees want to work for companies and create social impact through their work; customers are seeking out brands that are aligned with their personal values; and investors are looking broadly at “purpose” as an umbrella term for minimizing their risk around ESG (environmental, social, and governance) considerations.
Q. How far do you think building socially-conscious business will go? What do you think the future holds for this movement?
A. All indicators right now—and I could kill you with data from any number of responsible, independent sources—would say that this movement will continue to build and become part of the norm. Why?! It’s just smart business.
Q. Who are some of the companies you think are getting this right?
A. There are so many of all sizes and stripes. Patagonia, for sure, is a big-name and a model for this movement. You can find small companies in rural America getting it right as well, such as Red Ants Pants in White Sulphur Springs, Montana. Red Ants Pants makes workwear designed especially for women and they invest in their community through a mission to develop and expand leadership roles for women; to preserve and support working family farms and ranches; and to enrich and promote rural communities. They live their purpose and their customers rally around them loyally because of it.
Q. What people/leaders/CEOs have inspired you to pursue a career in this work?
A. I’ve been at this for nearly 30 years, so it’s hard for me to remember who inspired me way back then. But I can tell you a few of my heroes who inspire me today. Robert Eggers of LA Kitchen, who’s creating meaningful employment for underserved communities through healthy food; Curt Bowen of Semilla Nueva, who’s working to end malnutrition in Guatemala; Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia, because he’s blazed a principled trail for the rest of us to follow; Sarah Calhoun of Red Ants Pants, who’s empowering women through her fantastic clothing; Christopher Scott of House of Renewed Hope, who was exonerated of murder and now works to free others who have been wrongfully convicted; and Mark Lung of Eco2librum, which fights poverty and deforestation in Kenya and is the highest scoring B Corporation in the world. I could go on and on—I’m lucky to have so many heroes.
Interested in hearing more from Russ? We thought so. Check out his book: Rise Up – How to Build a Socially Conscious Business.