How PSU students help companies get acknowledged for their social and environmental impacts

B Impact kick-off event

As part of its commitment to sustainability, The School of Business partners with B Lab, a non-profit organization in charge of assessing corporations that want to become Certified B Corporations, a prestigious distinction that reflects a company’s passion for social and environmental sustainability. According to B Lab, B Corps (as the certified companies are called) “meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.” Currently, there are 2,500 B Corps globally, including 129 in Oregon.

Becoming certified is an involved process. Companies must complete a rigorous assessment that evaluates their performance on a wide variety of environmental and social factors, including carbon footprint, employee wellness and charitable donations. Businesses must reach 80 points to obtain certification, and it’s common for companies to spend multiple years trying to reach that benchmark.

That’s where The School of Business come in. B Impact, PSU’s chapter of Net Impact, teams up with companies going through the certification process. Assuming the role of consultants, students meet organizations where they are in the process, and help them move forward. Businesses applying for initial certification might need assistance getting acquainted with the assessment or gauging where they currently stand in meeting the standards. Companies hoping to recertify —which is required every three years — often have a specific focus in-mind, such as supply chain.

For the fall 2019 term, B Impact students are serving a diverse company cohort that includes Laughing Planet, Wild Roots, Pacific Foods, Scout Books, Passage Immigration Law, Osom Brand, Modernist Financial and Stash Tea Company. Some of these companies are pursuing certification for the first time, while others are going through the recertification process. Students will meet with these companies at regular intervals until the spring to help them secure their certification.

MBA Candidate Matthew Gibbs
Matthew Gibbs (MBA ’20)

The partnership between a company and its student consultants is mutually beneficial. Matthew Gibbs, (MBA ’20) one of B Impact’s student leaders, explains that the consulting experience helps students gain important communication and client management skills, and creates valuable networking opportunities within the Portland business community. “Becoming a part of the network is such a great tool,” Gibbs contends, “because the community is tight-knit, but open to others.” For companies, Gibbs believes electing to go through the certification process should be an easy choice. “Customer demand is asking for transparent supply chains,” as well as “[better] treatment of people and the environment.”

Customer attitudes are indeed shifting. A recent Mintel survey revealed that 44% of millennial consumers (now the largest living generational demographic in the U.S.) said that they are more likely to support a company that has eco-friendly practices, and 58% said it’s important that businesses treat their employees fairly. Researchers concluded, “Brands that can highlight fairness at all levels of the supply chain might be rewarded as consumers prioritize spending toward brands that share their values.” Companies pursuing B Corp certification have taken this shift seriously, and are transforming their practices to improve their social and environmental impacts.are acting accordingly. B Impact positions students at PSU’s School of Businessat the forefront of this movement, offering valuable consulting experience in the process.

You can network with Oregon’s B Corp community and get involved by following, B Local PDX, by signing up for its newsletter.

If you’re a current student interested in participating in B Impact in spring 2020, email the student leadership team at bimpact@pdx.edu.



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