I spoke with Prof. Christopher Marquis
, Samuel C. Johnson Professor in Global Sustainable Enterprise and Professor of Management at Cornell University. His latest research book tells the story of an ambitious certification programme that aims to signal to customers and shareholders those small and large corporations that are responsible and caring with their workers, customers, with the planet and the local communities where they operate.
Businesses have a big role to play in a capitalist society. They can tip the scales toward the benefit of the few, with toxic side effects for all, or they can guide us toward better, more equitable long-term solutions.
In Better Business: How the B Corp Movement Is Remaking Capitalism
(Yale UP, 2020), Marquis tells the story of the rise of a new corporate form—the B Corporation. Founded by a group of friends who met at Stanford, these companies undergo a rigorous certification process, overseen by the B Lab, and commit to putting social benefits, the rights of workers, community impact, and environmental stewardship on equal footing with financial shareholders.
In our conversation Christopher mentioned the origin of the book and why he believes in the work done by B Lab. The book is divided into 11 chapter and is full of interesting practical examples. In the talk we also mentioned the notion of ‘benefit corporation’, in the US and elsewhere.
I have asked the author why we should trust the founders of the B Movement and their certification programme. He answered with some examples and convincing arguments. We then focused on chapter 1, ‘Interdependencies not Externalities’, chapter 6, ‘Employees as the Heart of the Company’, chapter 10, ‘Big Isn’t Always Bad’, and eventually chapter 11, ‘Convincing Consumers to Care’. We concluded with his plans for the next book.
Informed by over a decade of research and animated by interviews with the movement’s founders and leading figures, Marquis’s book explores the rapid growth of companies choosing to certify as B Corps, both in the United States and internationally, and explains why the future of B Corporations is vital for us all.
Andrea Bernardi is Senior Lecturer in Employment and Organization Studies at Oxford Brookes University in the UK. He holds a doctorate in Organization Theory from the University of Milan, Bicocca. He has held teaching and research positions in Italy, China and the UK. Among his research interests are the use of history in management studies, the co-operative sector, and Chinese co-operatives. His latest project is looking at health care in China. He is the co-convener of the EAEPE’s permanent track on Co-operative economy and collective ownership