leadership

As you may have heard, there is a new kind of business model that is centered around building better company structures, social enterprises and corporate policies. It is a model that allows environmentally conscious businesses that place a high priority on their people and community to label their activities and brand their values.

B-Corps” are leading the way towards a different type of commerce, one that enhances the business paradigm through innovative leadership that addresses the environmental and social problems created by traditional business models.

As Elsa Jagniecki explains, B-Corps seek to change corporate laws, standards, systems, and cultures in ways that foster the evolution of capitalism into a system that will provide greater value for consumers, companies, and other stakeholders.

I attended a presentation by owners of established B-Corps earlier this year and was fascinated by the vision and purpose behind the model. I was truly amazed by its strict criteria and the comprehensive requirements of the certification process. Simply put, it is not easy to become a certified B-Corp.

Inspirational Leader Speaks

Elisa Miller-Out, CEO of Singlebrook Technologies, was one of the presenters that night. She is the winner of the 2011 B Corp Supply Chain Award, the 2010 B Corp Policy Champion Award and the 2011 NYSAE New Star Synergy Award. Elisa has been featured in Forbes, the New York Times and USA Today, among other publications.

Like other B-Corps, Singlebrook is leveraging the B-Corp model to maintain an engaging corporate culture that provides a higher purpose to its employees while proactively addressing solutions to environmental and community issues. Easier said than done.

Meeting the requirements of the B-Corp criteria while managing a successful business is not a small undertaking. It requires a real commitment to meet the leadership challenges involved in achieving and maintaining B-Corp status.

I was thrilled when Elisa agreed to do an interview with me to share specific information on the specific challenges her company faces and how she leads through the obstacles of transforming her corporate structure.

Branding Values

Once you listen to Elisa, it is easy to see how the values of the B-Corp movement have ignited her passion and motivated her to lead her company to meaningful change. Her commitment to the B-Corp movement is evident and authentic. There is no “greenwashing” at Singlebrook. Elisa and her colleagues truly live by their values.

“Singlebrook already had the values”, Elisa explained, “but the B-Corp model allows our company to put a label on our actions and the ability to measure and improve our efforts.” And their efforts are significant.

Among other initiatives, Singlebrook pays all employees to volunteer their time in community improvement projects, provides gym memberships for all staff, and offers a 6-week paid maternity program. In addition, Singlebrook provides pro-bono programming support on large scale sustainability projects with a broad scope of impact on the quality of life in our society.

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When I asked about the inspiration for these efforts, Elisa was quick to point out that many of their ideas stem from the company wide holistic evaluation process required by B-Corp criteria, as well as the example, set by established B-Corps leaders, such as Patagonia.

She explained that one of the many benefits of becoming a B-Corp is access to exemplary role models who support and encourage leaders like Elisa to accomplish their visions at every corporate level.

What About Costs?

Yes, implementing programs that support community efforts, doing pro-bono work on large social projects and implementing staff policies that ensure work-life balance can be costly.

Even so, Elisa explained that their evaluation of all business processes has led to substantial costs savings and, as a B-Corp, they enjoy many discounts from business partners.

There are also intrinsic financial benefits her company enjoys as a direct result of following the sound business strategies that successful B-Corps have implemented, as well as potential tax credits in the future (something that has already materialized in the Philadelphia area).

Effective Leadership Resources

As you can imagine, running a small B-Corp in this economy requires superior leadership, so I was not surprised to learn that Elisa proactively uses leadership tools and resources to help her meet the challenges Singlebrook faces on a daily basis.

Elisa relies on support and inspiration from a Social Venture Network peer circle as well as strategic advice from an executive coach.

She also credits her strong partnership with Co-Founder and CTO Leon Miller-Out as a critical resource in balancing their project commitments and the community activities all employees support. In addition, Singlebrook maintains current and relevant strategic plans, and the company follows a strengths-based leadership model.

Taking Care of Our Community, Our People and Our Planet

Is it easy to lead a B-Corp? It certainly is not. Leading change seldom is, and that is exactly what Elisa Miller-Out is doing. She is a recognized advocate for changing the prevailing business model in the Upstate New York region and an inspiration to many leaders who are witnessing the results of her superior leadership.

“This is a revolution that is changing business from the inside out,” explains Elisa, with her usual excitement and “can-do” attitude. “We need to address the problems created by our current model and take care of our community, our people and our planet.”

Keep on rocking, Elisa – we need more leaders like you!

How Does the B-Corp Work With Leadership?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Al Gonzalez
Al has worked for 16 years helping others maximize the quality of their leadership at Motorola, CBS Sports, and Cornell University. He’s used these experiences to develop trust-based leadership tools for all levels of management.

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