It takes commitment to be a certified B Corporation, balancing profit with purpose - Technical.ly Delaware

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It takes commitment to be a certified B Corporation, balancing profit with purpose

John Williams, the president of Delaware's first B Corp, offers a look on how Inc. Now stays focused on community, sustainability and fitness.

Inc. Now President John Williams.

(Photo via LinkedIn)

Delaware has hundreds of public benefit corporations — businesses that make community outreach, sustainability and equity an ingrained part of their business model. Then there are certified B Corporations, a kind of verified public benefit corporation that are required to show their work to sustain certification. Delaware has two.

These companies have been approved by the Berwyn, Pennsylvania-based nonprofit B Lab to be purpose-driven by achieving a minimum verified score on its rigorous assessment of impact on their workers, customers, community and environment. They are also required to amend their legal governing documents to prioritize a balance profit and purpose.

According to the B Corporation Directory, Delaware’s two certified B Corps are Frey, a laundry products company in Lewes that plants a tree for every product purchased, and Inc. Now, a digital incorporation services company in Wilmington that was the state’s first in 2019. Inc. Now was recently honored for the second time with the Best for the World B Corp in Governance honor.

Inc. Now’s commitments range from building a positive workplace for its employees — many of whom are involved with competitive rowing — to pro bono clean water advocacy, including sponsoring watershed cleanup initiatives and conservation in Delaware’s nature preserves, such as a monthlong virtual cleanup of the Christina River. (Frey didn’t respond to an interview request.)

Inc. Now President John Williams told Technical.ly that helping other public benefit companies and B Corp is another priority. Many of them are clients who have incorporated using Inc. Now’s digital incorporation services.

One of those companies is Newark’s Green Pesa, a public benefit corporation and green energy company that does energy audits and tree plantings. Inc. Now was one of Green Pesa’s first clients.

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“We worked with [Green Pesa founder Robert Ddamulira] on a carbon footprint of our business,” Williams said. “It was interesting, because it included how far employees live from the office, how they get there and how often they come to the office. They’re all things we’re looking at as a B corp, including reducing emissions.”

Why are there so few Certified B Corporations when an increasing number of companies prioritize sustainability and balancing profit and purpose? Well, the process is long and complex.

Inc. Now has also been working with with the local Second Chances Farm and NERDiT NOW — “younger, more innovative types with different demographics,” Williams said.

The company also donates to charitable causes. When the team heard that Newark nonprofit Breaking Barriers Rowing and Fitness run by Dwayne Adams, Sr., a shooting survivor who went on to be a member of the 2002 U.S. National Adaptive Rowing Team, didn’t receive the Paycheck Protection Program funding it needed to continue its fitness training programs for people with physical disabilities, under-resourced kids and senior citizens, Inc. Now made a contribution to help the org stay afloat.

Williams describes a B Corp as having some of the attributes of a nonprofit, along with for-profit attributes that make it possible for the company to do things like sponsor employee trips to the likes of Portugal and Hawaii for rowing events.

Why are there so few Certified B Corporations when an increasing number of companies prioritize sustainability and balancing profit and purpose? The process is long and complex, Williams said, and it doesn’t necessarily result in more business. Companies certify to show commitment, not to increase profits.

“There was an initial application with 150 questions, documents, interviews. It’s a complicated seven-month process,” he said. “Then you have to re-certify every three years.”

In addition to his work in conservation and supporting local entrepreneurs, Williams is also president of the board of the Downtown and Walnut Street YMCAs, which went into overdrive to support the community during the pandemic, especially at Walnut Street, which serves children exclusively.

“The Walnut Street Y never closed, and they’ve done a lot of outreach to help kids with remote learning during the pandemic. If they didn’t have the technology at home, they could go in and use the computers, with barriers between the desks for safety,” he said. “They’ve done a lot with food insecurity, they’ve handed out food bank boxes to people and backpack lunches to kids for the weekend.”

As COVID-19 restrictions let up, Williams said he expects that Inc. Now’s own work in fitness and the rowing community will return after a challenging year for supporting the University of Delaware rowing team and coaches.

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