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How to launch a B-Corp that generates results

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Brian Hartz
Tampa Bay Editor

As the buying power of millennials and Generation Z increases, buzzwords like “conscious capitalism” and “triple bottom line” — people, planet, profits — have begun to shape business strategy for many companies.

Mindful of younger consumers’ desire to support brands that go the extra mile to do good deeds for society and not just make money, some companies have sought certification as B Corporations. The B Corp movement aims to create a global business community made of firms that equate profit with purpose. B Corporation certification is a private certification issued to for-profit companies by B Lab, a global nonprofit organization.

“The marketplace has shifted … the younger generations have a demand for this type of business.” Jared Meyers, founder of Salt Palm Development and Legacy Vacation Resorts

Nearly 2,700 companies — including household names such as Ben & Jerry’s and outdoor clothing maker Patagonia Inc. — spanning 150 industries and 60 countries have tweaked their business practices to conform to B Corp standards, which promote causes like carbon neutrality and a living wage for all workers.

Locally, Salt Palm Development and Legacy Vacation Club, both owned and operated by Jared Meyers, are joining the ranks of B Corporations. About four years ago, when he got into real estate development, “I started thinking about how I could use my business to make a positive impact on society,” Meyers says.

As he became more educated about the B Corp movement, Meyers realized it made sense from a purely business perspective. “It isn’t just a feel-good thing,” he says. “It causes your business to thrive, because the marketplace has shifted … the younger generations have a demand for this type of business.”

So how did he convert his companies to B Corporations and continue to succeed with them?

That sounds like a big self-inflicted wound, but Meyers sees it differently — and plans to exploit it as a marketing strategy.

“I very much believe that we will see revenue growth; we will see a new class of traveler that we don’t currently get at our properties — the traveler who cares about social responsibility and environmental responsibility. Others that we trust within the B Corp and conscious capitalism community have said this works.”

Salt Palm Development, which created the high-tech Sabal Smart Homes townhouse development in downtown St. Petersburg, is proof that B Corp status can pay off. At nearly $4 million in gross revenue, 2018 was the company’s best year to date, and Meyers says he already has sales on the books for 2019 that amount to 60% of last year’s total. B Corp status, he says, “comes up in sales conversations, and people say, ‘I love it; it’s great.’”

B Corp certification also requires payment of annual dues that can range from $500 to more than $50,000, depending on gross annual revenue and company structure. There’s also a recertification audit process that occurs every three years, and B Corporations are required to submit an annual report that’s available to the public.

“The more you are willing to divulge, the more it will help your score,” Meyers says. “And you’ll do better as a business because we’re in a world today where people really want and expect more transparency. The Internet’s done a great job of that.”

Conscious Capitalism aims to expand in Tampa Bay

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A national organization that promotes the idea that business must have a purpose beyond profit hopes to get a stronger foothold in the Tampa-St. Pete area.

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“I think there’s a lot of momentum in Florida and in Tampa particularly right now,” Alexander McCobin, CEO of Conscious Capitalism Inc., told St. Pete Catalyst in an exclusive interview at Startup Week Tampa Bay on Wednesday. “That’s one of the reasons the Florida chapter is part of Startup Week — because we want to introduce this to more businesses, both those that are already having an influence and those that are going to have an influence in the future.”

McCobin was accompanied by Jared Meyers, chairman and owner of St. Petersburg-based Salt Palm Development, a real estate firm that has become a certified B Corp. That means the company has been certified by the nonprofit B Lab as voluntarily meeting higher standards of transparency, accountability and performance.

Salt Palm also is a member of the Florida chapter of Conscious Capitalism.

The national organization works with businesses to help them run on four tenets:

Higher purpose.  That means more than just maximizing profits and trying to achieve a greater ideal.

Taking care of all stakeholders. “Instead of thinking that if they are going to benefit one group, they need to take away from another – for instance, if they are going to help employees they must be harming customers or shareholders – getting them to a win-win-win mindset where you can benefit customers by benefitting your employees and shareholders and finding those interconnected opportunities,” McCobin said.

Conscious leadership, or leaders who focus on “we” rather than “me” and bring out the best in all around them.

Conscious culture, which involves creating environments where people are able to bring their full selves to work.

National retailers, including Whole Foods Market and The Container Store, are among the partners of Conscious Capitalism. So is Echo Park Automotive, a Dallas-based used car dealership.

“What is incredible about them is this is the used car field, where you typically don’t think about conscious business whatsoever,” McCobin said. “What they did is identified their purpose was to infuse happiness in all of their employees’ lives, and they focused on building out that culture, and in doing so, created a thriving business, growing from $40 million revenue in the mid 2000s to hundreds of millions of revenue in the last couple of years, which led to them merging with a larger company to share this with other used car dealerships around the country.”

A study of 28 public companies identified as the most socially conscious showed that 18 of them outperformed the S&P 500 index by a factor of 10.5 between 1996-2011, according to a 2013 report in the Harvard Business Review.

For Salt Palm — which became a certified B Corp in March 2018 — it’s a little early to measure return on investment, Meyers said. But it’s had a personal impact on him, making him more excited about doing business.

“It’s made us a better community partner and brought more visibility to what we do,” Meyers said.

Salt Palm just completed the first phase of The Sabal, a development at 532 4th Ave. S., with four townhomes. A second phase with four more townhomes is under construction, with two of those already sold.

The company bought carbon offset credits, designed to reduce the environmental impact of the development, from Carbonfund.org for the first phase of the project and plans to do so for the second as well, Meyers said.

Salt Palm also has a standing commitment to put at least 50 percent of its profits back into the community. Last year, the company put 100 percent of its profits back, although Meyers added that doesn’t mean the company will do that every year, and he doesn’t expect other businesses to meet that benchmark.

“When buyers come in to look at our project and they hear our story, it has a feel-good element,” Meyers said. “Buyers know that the profits we generate go back to the community, and we are encouraging other businesses to adopt these business models.”

Don’t Boycott Bad Companies, Spend More With Good Ones

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Just as in political elections, people would rather take action to make a statement.

Especially this past year, the idea of “voting with your wallet” has taken on a certain cache as consumers have looked to connect their spending habits with their larger ethical stance. The #GrabYourWallet movement, for instance, took President Trump’s lewd comments as a springboard to encourage consumers not to buy from more than 50 Trump-affiliated brands. And new financial tools, like the impact measurement score from the company Aspiration, help consumers to track the environmental and ethical implications of where they shop.

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