On Being a “B”: Blue Garnet’s B Corp Journey
Rebecca Castillo / March 2021
Here at Blue Garnet, we are proud to celebrate B Corp Month as we enter our 9th year as a Certified B Corp. Certified through the nonprofit B Lab, B Corporations are a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. This month, I (Rebecca) chatted with Blue Garnet co-founder Jennifer Li Shen about the company’s journey to becoming a B Corp.
“Way-Ting and I used to refer to Blue Garnet as ‘our grand experiment,’” Jenni recalled. “Could we take our business acumen, what we’d learned in serving for-profit companies, and build a firm with some of the similar aspects of strategy consulting?” When Blue Garnet launched in 2003, there were very few organizations doing similar work. “We got a lot of strange looks,” Jenni laughed. “The concept of a for-profit business exclusively focused on a triple bottom line or a double bottom line—the first line being social, the second being financial, and the third being environmental—was more of a rarity.”
In her first couple of years with Blue Garnet, Jenni attended a conference and overheard some lawyers talking about a new way to make businesses a force for good. From there, Jenni and Way-Ting watched as the B Corp movement grew and evolved. “We decided, ‘Maybe there’s something here. Maybe there are organizations like us out there.’” She was still a bit skeptical when she attended a B Lab retreat in Colorado. Yet as she met other passionate leaders and saw the types of companies involved, she quickly realized that this nascent movement had real potential.
After that retreat, Blue Garnet made the decision to get certified. B Corps commit to considering the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment—something Blue Garnet had been doing from the beginning. Certified B Corps go through a rigorous application process with the B Lab where they must complete an assessment, change their bylaws, and achieve at least 80 points out of 200 possible B Corp verification points. The application process can take between 6 and 10 months, and in the end, only 1 out of 3 companies achieve certification. Our firm officially became a B Corp in 2012 with a score of 138.6. Every three years, we reapply for the certification, providing us the opportunity to benchmark our performance and reassess our goals.
Today, Blue Garnet is one of nearly 4,000 Certified B Corps dedicated to using business as a force for good. We have been awarded a number of distinctions; most recently, we were recognized as a “Best for the World Honoree” in three categories in 2019, meaning we were in the top 10% of Impact Assessment scores that year.
“I’m very proud that we’re part of the movement,” said Jenni. “We are so blessed to be able to work with the leaders and teams that are doing the work of complex social change.” As we reflect on our B Corp journey, we count ourselves lucky to have joined such an incredible community working toward lasting social change.