If you haven’t heard us say it before, Aunt Bertha is a certified B Corporation and a public benefit corporation.
These are two designations we’re extremely proud of because they define our business and guide our work so that it benefits the customers and partners we serve, our employees, and the communities and environments where we operate.
Because the B Corp movement is still relatively new — though rapidly growing across the globe — we still meet folks who don’t quite understand what these designations mean or how they impact what we do.
In celebration of B Corp Month, we want to offer more insight into the B Corp landscape and share how this defines our efforts to help people (Seekers) across the country find the social services they need, with dignity and ease.
“Organizations change over time — and cultures change,” says Aunt Bertha founder and CEO Erine Gray. “We sought B Corp certification because I wanted to ensure that public benefit was built into our DNA from day one. The principles outlined by B Lab and the B Corp movement gave us the structure to ensure that the idealism we had when we started is etched into our culture for years to come.”
What is a B Corp?
The B stands for benefit, meaning the company holding a certified B Corp designation doesn’t exist just to make a profit, but to make the world a better place.
The B Corp movement officially began in 2006, with the creation of the nonprofit B Lab, which provides third-party certification for socially responsible businesses. B Lab was founded by three friends who left the business and private equity sector with a shared goal of helping mission-driven companies protect and improve their positive impact over time.
B Lab created the B Impact Assessment, which measures a company’s social and environmental performance on a 200-point scale. Our current score is 124.6 — our highest yet — and a company must score at least 80 points to receive certification. We earned Best Overall awards from B Lab in 2018 and 2019, and Best for Customer awards each year from 2016 to 2019.
To remain a certified B Corp, we undergo the B Impact Assessment every two years to review our standing among all of our stakeholders — not just owners, but employees, customers, our local community, our suppliers’ communities, and the planet.
“As a B Corporations and leaders of this emerging economy, we believe: that we must be the change we seek in the world. That all business ought to be conducted as if people and place mattered. That, through their products, practices, and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all. To do so requires that we act with the understanding that we are each dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations.”
~ The B Corp Declaration of Interdependence
In other words, companies that have been certified by B Lab have met rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. The B Corp designation is similar to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for green buildings, or the HITRUST certification for privacy and security standards in the healthcare industry — another certification we hold at Aunt Bertha.
There are currently more than 3,700 certified B Corps worldwide — like Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, and Seventh Generation — in 70 countries and 150 industries, from banks to energy companies to chocolate manufacturers and phone companies.
What’s a benefit corporation?
While a certified B Corp has gone through the B Impact Assessment process through B Lab, a benefit corporation has filed legal paperwork in a U.S. state or other nation to become a “benefit corporation,” a relatively new corporate governance structure based on the B Corp idea.
This new corporate status originated through the advocacy work of B Lab to help businesses acquire a legal designation that enshrines their “public benefit” status for the long haul, regardless of changes in ownership. When a business files as a benefit corporation, its public benefit is memorialized in the company’s Articles of Incorporation. The stated public benefit of Aunt Bertha is to increase accessibility of human services information to people and programs.
“When benefit corporation status became possible in Delaware, where Aunt Bertha is incorporated, we jumped at the chance,” says Gray. “A business’s charter is essentially the corporate version of our nation’s Constitution. Adding to our official starting documents our company’s public benefit and why we exist was important to us so that our mission — to connect all people in need and the programs that serve them (with dignity and ease) — is ingrained in our business at every level.”
There are increasingly more states in the U.S. and countries around the world where benefit corporation status is possible, including Louisiana, South Carolina, California, New York, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, as well as countries like Italy, Ecuador, and Canada.
How does Aunt Bertha live up to this designation?
The efforts of our entire business are centered around widespread benefit to people across the United States. We created our search platform findhelp.org to help anyone and everyone across all U.S. ZIP Codes find free and reduced-cost social services that provide food, housing, financial assistance, legal assistance, health care, counseling, and more.
Our B Corp status means we are also working to create benefit for all stakeholders in our company — not just customers and investors, but our community at large. Here’s a look at some of the initiatives we’re undertaking to advance our impact in the categories outlined in the B Impact Assessment:
- In 2020, we hired a Vice President of Public Benefit to oversee and guide our broader efforts to live up to our mission to impact all stakeholders as fully as we can.
- Aunt Bertha’s board of directors includes one independent member and has voting seats representing employees, as well as community stakeholders.
- We have an internal minimum wage of $15 per hour for our hourly employees, compared to $7.25 in our home state of Texas.
- We provide a low-cost employee benefits package, including parental leave and mental health support; employees across the entire company receive the same benefits regardless of seniority.
- We meet quarterly with our Customer Advisory Board to solicit feedback and identify top customer priorities so that we can refine and improve our platform in direct response to our users.
- We provide affordable pricing options for nonprofit organizations so they can utilize our search tool to better assist their clients, provide referrals to other organizations, and track client connections.
- Our search tool findhelp.org is free and anonymous to anyone at any time in any ZIP Code.
- We are proud advocates for innovation in social care, using our standing in the community to draw attention to issues of data privacy, user security, and choice flexibility for social service organizations.
- While our entire staff is now working from home, before the COVID-19 pandemic, we implemented in-office composting and recycling programs, including electronic waste, like batteries.
- We support a Green Team composed of Aunt Bertha employees who are focused on sustainability education within the company and new areas for growth.
Where do we go from here?
One of the exciting aspects of working within the B Corp community is that our work is never done. B Corp status is not a one-time benchmark, but an ongoing process of accountability and transparency. It further motivates us to mark new achievements, and work toward new aspirations that increase our positive impact for customers, communities, and employees.
We recently celebrated 10 years in business, and as we look ahead to a new decade pursuing our mission, we’re interested in not only increasing our B Corp Assessment score, but doing the work to identify areas of growth so that our positive impact keeps expanding year after year.
“Many of the best performing businesses over time are those driven by a mission,” says Gray. “They put their customers first — and did things for the long run. When we first started, we knew we wanted to help people but didn’t have a well-defined business model to follow. We knew we wanted to put Seekers first, always, prioritizing the person seeking services above all, and that has guided us every step of the way.”
After a decade doing this work, we’ve connected with so many partners, customers, and nonprofits who are helping Seekers every day. Our goal is to understand these organizations and their needs as they serve their clients, patients, and members, and build the best tools possible to help them in their mission.
Our status as a B Corp and benefit corporation will continue to guide us as our platform evolves, as our partners evolve, and as the world evolves. It’s our goal to not merely grow in reaction to what we see, but to help grow the future we want to be a part of. Being part of the B Corp movement allows us to learn from other great businesses out there and do more to serve our customers, partners, employees, suppliers, and communities — today and into the future.
Want to learn more?