LEO Students Consult with Companies to Deliver B Impact Assessments

For business owners and managers, identifying and measuring specific non-financial impacts of their operations is quite challenging. While accurate and accepted financial metrics are commonplace, measuring a firm’s social and environmental impacts is only recently becoming feasible. Over that last two decades, the promise of a comprehensive performance assessment for business—a “triple bottom-line” evaluation of a company’s economic, social, and environmental performance—is now coming to fruition. Students in the Leadership, Ethics, and Organizational Sustainability (LEO) program are now providing companies these missing social and environmental pieces of the triple bottom-line evaluation.

Through their LEO 495 applied capstone course, teams of seniors are consulting with live companies, guiding them through a unique evaluation tool provided by the nonprofit B Lab, an independent organization dedicated to “using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.” The B Impact Assessment is a data-driven, standards based, and benchmarked evaluation tool that measures a company’s impacts in four areas: governance, employees, community, and the environment. Companies obtain an aggregate score across these areas out of 200 possible points.

Producing a score of 80 or more allows a firm to apply for Benefit Corp Certification (B Corp). This is an opportunity to become publicly recognized for the social and environmental benefits generated through a business’s practices and results. Similar to Fair Trade coffee or LEED green building designations, B Corps competitively differentiate themselves in the marketplace as companies that not only integrate corporate social and environmental responsibility, but are held accountable for their actions through public and transparent reporting.

Students have facilitated B Impact Assessments at two companies.

Judy Ward’s (EMBA, ’07) Advanced Enviro Systems, which was featured in our inaugural issue of the Arrupe Advisor, provides organizations “innovative solutions for waste reduction and recycling.” Matt Conforti (LEO ’13) describes the process of taking the company through the B Impact Assessment and B Corp Certification: “We engaged Judy and explained the benefits of participating in the assessment and aspiring to B Corp status. Already grounded in an environmentally sustainable mission, benchmarking information from the assessment would assist Judy in taking her company to yet another level of positive environmental performance. Analyzing other data measured (governance, employees, and community) would be useful in further developing impact strategies in these areas. Relative to assessment scores of current B Corps across all industries, Advanced Enviro Systems received a very strong composite score of 115/200. Our next steps are to guide Judy through the B Corp Certification process, make actionable recommendations on how she can increase her business’ social and environmental impact, and assist her in redrafting the company’s mission statement to more explicitly reflect its new B Corp status.”

Judy reflects on her experience: “At Advanced, we’ve always believed that being a good neighbor, good employer, and good partner was simply good business. The B Impact Assessment validated that belief by providing a benchmark against which to measure our social and environmental performance, within our own organization, our industry, and among the business community in general. As a business that helps other organizations design and implement environmental initiatives, the B Corp Certification will not only help us stand out among our peers, but will give us a tool with which to measure our clients’ progress, as well.”

Students have also begun the B Assessment and B Corp Certification process with SAFE-TEC® Clinical Products, LLC. SAFE-TEC is “a medical device manufacturer dedicated to supplying safe and simple solutions to blood handling hazards for disease testing on an international scale.” Tim Ring (LEO ’13) who will be working full-time at the company after graduation, talks about the impact of his major: “When I came to Saint Joseph’s University I knew one thing: I wanted to learn how to make the most money in the most ethical way possible. Our world is full of ambiguity, corruption, and all manner of moral pitfalls. It was not until I enrolled in the LEO major that I realized how to accomplish my task. Now, as the final chapter of this personal journey called undergrad comes to a close, tangible, real world applications learned in the LEO major can be incorporated into the workplace.” As for his future employment with SAFE-TEC, Ring sees the inspiring integration of business and ethics: “It is paramount in our modern society that potentially life threatening diseases are accurately diagnosed to promote proper treatment and control the spread of disease. With such an ambitious and worthwhile endeavor before me I can truly say that I am ready to ‘do well, while doing good.’”

Based on the success of these projects for companies and the learning they provide students, the LEO curriculum now incorporates this experience for seniors each spring semester. Dr. Steingard envisions the possibility of engaging more and more companies with this assessment and certification process: “There are definitely unmet needs of businesses who want to move to the next level of corporate social and environmental responsibility, but are unclear about how to proceed. We invite companies to engage our students and receive valuable assistance for moving their firms forward in making a difference.”

If you or your company would like more information about how to get involved with these student projects, please contact Dr. Steingard at steingar@sju.edu.

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