BC Greens make history with socially responsible business legislation

On June 30 2020, British Columbia became the first province in Canada to implement legislation enabling companies to legally register their commitment to socially and environmentally responsible ventures.

It’s all thanks to the hard work of the BC Green Party, championing businesses that seek to be a force for good.

The legislation, tabled by former BC Green Leader Andrew Weaver, is the very first private member’s bill from an opposition party member to be passed directly into law in British Columbia.

It amended the Business Corporations Act, to enable companies to incorporate as benefit companies in BC.

An end to “profits over people”

In my 16 years as a legal assistant, before starting my own business, I incorporated hundreds of other companies who were focused on one thing alone: shareholder financial return on investment. 

"Prioritizing profits over people has come at the expense of our communities and environment, but BC has a new wave of companies taking responsibility for worker rights, climate change and rising inequality."

That is where registered Benefit Companies and certified B-Corps  play a key role.  

They set a new standard for responsible business practices that respect all stakeholders including workers, suppliers, customers, investors, communities and the environment. 

Although the names and purposes are similar, these are two entirely different company designations, but go hand in hand in creating socially and responsible companies.

What is a Benefit Company?

A benefit company is a for-profit corporation committed to a “Triple  Bottom Line” approach to doing business: people, prosperity and the planet; and, has registered its commitments under the new legal framework through the Business Corporations Act.  

Andrew Weaver tabled legislation in 2018 to amend the Business Corporations Act to enable companies to incorporate as benefit companies in BC. This legislation came into effect on June 30, 2020. 

Companies registered as benefit companies are committing to operating in a socially responsible and environmentally sustainable manner, to promote specific public benefits, and to report their progress against an independent third-party standard, such as B Labs’ B Impact Assessment (see more below).

Registering as a benefit company also helps mission-driven companies demonstrate their commitment to accountability and protects investors by providing certainty about the legitimacy of mandates that veer away from traditional profit driven norms.

What is B Corp Certification?

B Corp certification is the voluntary gold standard for businesses that meet the highest requirements of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and accountability that balances profits and purpose. B Corps have been in existence since 2007 and are gaining popularity as businesses look for ways to measure and grow their social and environmental impact and demonstrate business practices based on inclusion, diversity, justice and equity. Certification provides a third party stamp of approval that companies are performing at the standards they claim.

B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. 

To obtain B Corp certification, companies must complete an online assessment through the non-profit certifying body,  B-Lab. They must receive a minimum “score” of 80 for their performance based on the UN Sustainability Goals, including: governance, workers, community, environment and impact, and adopt the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence.

Millennials and Gen Y expect sustainability and social responsibility in business

A 2015 Nielsen poll found three quarters of millennials and 72% of Gen Zs are willing to pay more for sustainable products that meet their values. 

"three quarters of millennials and 72% of Gen Zs are willing to pay more for sustainable products that meet their values"

Over the next 30 years, an estimated $50 trillion will change hands in North America as the older generation passes its wealth down to the younger generation. 

B Corp certified companies and benefit companies can provide certainty and trust as the market embraces values-based business solutions.

Recognizing and incentivizing businesses that give equal value to people, planet and prosperity will help us meet BC’s Climate Action and UN Sustainability goals. 

As leader of the BC Greens, I will encourage all levels of government to adopt internal procurement policies that give preference to benefit companies and B-Corp certified companies. 

It’s a big win for the BC Greens, and for employers, employees, climate action and the environment.