Insights //

Our thoughts about things that interest, inspire, and motivate us.


Authors: Melinda Felso, David Nicholas Oswald

Busi­ness lead­ers of all sorts are faced with the same ques­tion today: can I run a finan­cially suc­cess­ful busi­ness but also real­ize suc­cess in terms of pos­i­tive social and envi­ron­men­tal out­comes? The answer to this is an emphatic YES. The B Corp model is one such way that com­pa­nies are show­ing that we can do well while doing good: (1)

The pub­lic, con­sumers, employ­ees, as well as investors are becom­ing increas­ingly aware of the global envi­ron­men­tal and soci­etal chal­lenges we are fac­ing. They want more respon­si­ble prod­ucts, ser­vices and work­places that serve the sus­tain­able devel­op­ment agenda, but don’t really under­stand what this entails or where to turn for reli­able infor­ma­tion that is devoid of “green­wash­ing” (2)

Green­wash­ing can be exactly that — an untrue claim. B-Corp and other stan­dards help to bring rigour and legit­i­macy to ‘green’ state­ments (3)

The DE team had the plea­sure of talk­ing with Craig Ryan of the Busi­ness Devel­op­ment Bank of Canada’s (BDC), where Mr. Ryan is the Direc­tor of Cor­po­rate Social Respon­si­bil­ity. BDC is a gov­ern­ment owned bank ded­i­cated solely to small busi­ness entre­pre­neurs, and the first Cana­dian finan­cial insti­tu­tion to become a B Corp.


Craig Ryan, Direc­tor, Social Entre­pre­neur­ship, BDC

Mr. Ryan argues that the B Corp cer­ti­fi­ca­tion can remove that grey area, and states that because the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion requires a com­pre­hen­sive assess­ment of com­pa­nies’ gov­er­nance, social and envi­ron­men­tal poli­cies, it ensures that they under­stand such issues and work to ame­lio­rate them. He adds that, as the B Corp cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process is very rig­or­ous, trans­par­ent, and requires bian­nual recer­ti­fi­ca­tion, sup­port­ers of B Corps can be assured that these com­pa­nies are very well man­aged, and will likely be in busi­ness in the long run (Per­sonal Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Decem­ber 5, 2016).

Why would a bank want to pro­mote the B Corp move­ment? Mr. Ryan says that in addi­tion to BDC’s ded­i­ca­tion to entre­pre­neurs and its banker’s love of well-managed com­pa­nies, BDC applauds the inno­v­a­tive­ness of the peo­ple who use com­pa­nies to cre­ate ben­e­fits for soci­ety as a whole. “We really admire their busi­ness cre­ativ­ity and resource­ful­ness. And their suc­cess!” says Ryan.


Some of the sev­eral out­comes of B-Corp actions: edu­ca­tion, renew­able energy, socially equi­table employ­ment (4)

So what con­sti­tutes this new notion of suc­cess? For small busi­ness owner Anie Rouleau, who owns an envi­ron­men­tally friendly clean­ing prod­uct com­pany called Baleco, it is going home every night, sleep­ing with a clear con­science, wak­ing up every morn­ing and going to work ful­filled and happy, know­ing that every day she is closer to leav­ing a legacy to her chil­dren and to the world (Per­sonal Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Decem­ber 8, 2016).

Baleco _Anie

Anie Rouleau, Founder & CEO of Baleco, a Montreal-based com­pany that is a cer­ti­fied B-Corp pro­duc­ing envi­ron­men­tally friendly clean­ing prod­ucts. (5)

With her envi­ron­men­tally friendly ingre­di­ents, refill sta­tions that cut down on plas­tic waste, local sup­pli­ers, and scent­less prod­ucts that pro­mote bet­ter health, she is going in the right direc­tion. Although cer­ti­fied, she laments that she is not yet able to ful­fill the com­mu­nity involve­ment part to her sat­is­fac­tion, as most of her extra profit and efforts go into mak­ing her prod­ucts cleaner. Nev­er­the­less, being a B Corp helps her to be trans­par­ent and increas­ingly attract more clients.


Baleco’s envi­ron­men­tally friendly clean­ing prod­ucts (6)

How does one design a com­pany to become a B Corp? Mr. Ryan, who through BDC helps com­pa­nies obtain cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, advises that com­pa­nies start­ing out should define their pur­pose, how they can cre­ate tan­gi­ble value, and estab­lish how the own­ers are going to be proud of their com­pany in the future. Even if not intend­ing to be cer­ti­fied right away, com­pa­nies can go through the B Lab’s com­pre­hen­sive assess­ment for guid­ance. Mr. Ryan con­cedes that the main con­straints com­pa­nies may face is that they fall back into con­ven­tional busi­ness think­ing of mak­ing money with­out clear com­mit­ment to other fac­tors, and to stray from the big pic­ture of com­pre­hen­sive­ness, where every­thing, employ­ees, com­mu­nity and the envi­ron­ment are equally impor­tant. Ms. Rouleau shares that her main dif­fi­culty in cer­ti­fy­ing was the exten­sive paper­work, to have all her val­ues and processes writ­ten down and doc­u­mented, how­ever, being a small com­pany with 5 employ­ees, it is easy to make sure that those val­ues and processes are being adhered to.


B-Corp Val­ues and Prin­ci­ples (7)

In all, B Corps are here to ame­lio­rate soci­etal and envi­ron­men­tal issues at hand, as well as meet­ing a vari­ety of strict stan­dards. Their main goal in the end is to rede­fine busi­nesses to help and do what’s best for every­one. This is well explained through Craig Ryan’s knowl­edge of what is done at BDC, as well as look­ing at what Anie Rouleau has done for her own per­sonal business.

1. What are B-Corps? (2016). Retrieved from
2. Gilbert, J. C. (2010 Decem­ber). Jay Coen Gilbert — On bet­ter busi­nesses [Video file]. Retrieved from
3. Retrieved Jan­u­ary 7, 2017 from
4. Image of solar pan­els retrieved Jan­u­ary 7, 2017 from ; Image of school­child­ren in green uni­form retrieved Jan­u­ary 7, 2017 from: ; Image of farmer with seedlings retrieved Jan­u­ary 7, 2017 from:

5. Image of Anie from Baleco retrieved Jan­u­ary 7, 2017 from:
6. Image of Baleco bot­tles retrieved Jan­u­ary 7, 2017 from:
7. Image B-Corp col­lage retrieved Jan­u­ary 7, 2017 from: