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    Best for PHL: How Philly Businesses Are Getting on Board “for Good”

    Think businesses typically are only focused on the bottom line?

    That mindset is quickly changing. For SBN members and thousands of companies worldwide, missions go beyond the financial impacts. And the results are worth the effort.

    For one, millennials and younger workers want to buy from and work for companies that align with their values. Plus, there’s environmental and social equity when companies consider effects outside the bank.

    Locally-based B Lab has established B Corp as the official certification to show a business is dedicated to the triple bottom line: people, profit & planet. There are 2000+ B Corps, which includes the ranks of Patagonia and Etsy. (Pro Tip: Look for the seal – “B” with a circle – on websites and products.)

    However, there are a few drawbacks to becoming a B Corp. It’s time-consuming, a little expensive and rigorous certification process to obtain and maintain a B Corp certification.

    But businesses don’t have to be B Corp to prove they’re doing good. Here’s where ImpactPHL comes to the rescue: they’re helping more companies be aware of their social impact – and inching them on the scale to become a better business for consumers and the local region.

    How ImpactPHL Helps Philadelphia

    Let’s step back: What is ImpactPHL?

    ImpactPHL is a coalition of investors and engaged community partners who want to increase investment in Philadelphia’s impact companies. ImpactPHL has five high-level goals, including strengthening collaboration in Philadelphia’s impact community, increasing impact enterprises, attracting investors to the Philadelphia region, increasing awareness and participation and positioning Philadelphia as a leading center of the impact economy.

    When both businesses and investors consider social returns in addition to the financial, the Philadelphia region can improve on several levels.

    To help fulfill these goals, ImpactPHL became the driving force behind the Best for PHL initiative.

    B Lab is working with several US cities for “Best For” programs. Although the program piloted in New York, there are now four regions doing similar work – in Philly, Colorado and Rhode Island. As Executive Chair of ImpactPHL’s Steering Committee John Moore, proudly shares,

    “One of the things that we’re really excited about (Best for PHL) is that Philadelphia is leading the nation in this space.”

    So how does Best for PHL compare to B Corps?

    If B Corps are the Olympic Athletes of the for-profit world’s social impact movement, Best for PHL companies are the Rec league. As Moore explained, they both work hard, but it takes more effort and resources for a B Corp. “Best for” programs are still serious about impact but on a smaller scale – it just doesn’t take “24/7” training required for a medal. (However, my kickball statue may beg to differ…)

    How Best for PHL Works

    Best for PHL is a way for companies to consider their business practices within the wider scheme. The Impact Assessment takes you through a series of questions to see what is needed to build a better business. After taking the evaluation, you’ll see how your company is doing overall, and how your business compares with similar organizations in your industry.

    Questions range from using local providers, energy use, financial practices (Do you bank locally?) or you have a mission statement that includes spelling out an impact. At the end of the assessment, businesses take a pledge to change one thing, which is a big difference from the B Corp strategy. Once a business changes one aspect of their business, they can pick another item to work on. “We’ll get to an annual campaign type of approach where we ask them to re-up every year,” according to ImpactPHL Program Manager Cory Donovan.

    As Donovan explains, Best for PHL is careful to distinguish the lines from B Corps to encourage more participation as some companies may be turned off by the B Corp standards. As Donovan says, “becoming a B Corp is a heavy lift. Even B Lab admits that.”

    Over 150 local businesses have participated in Best for PHL, with an anticipated 200 companies to be complete by the end of the year. Businesses who have been involved locally include leading companies Curalate and RJ Metrics and included a range of industries including restaurants, coffee shops, landscaping, financial services, marketing/PR and more.

    As a result of their assessment, several businesses have pledged to change their banking and implemented changes to their employee benefits. One easy environmental modification? Change your business’s energy supplier to clean energy. Another easy win is assessing supply chains and switching to a local supplier.

    Over 50,000 companies have taken the Impact Investment (compared to 2000-3000 B Corps) in the US. If every business even pledges one small change, that can start adding up to considerable differences. “If that many companies can move forward in a small way, it’s just as significant as 2000 companies moving forward in a big way,” says Moore.

    What’s Next for ImpactPHL & Best for PHL

    For entrepreneurs and the city, ImpactPHL is starting to get results. ImpactPHL Ventures recently announced a pledged $15 million to Philadelphia’s local impact investing scene. Also, SocEntCity ranked Philadelphia 12th place for social enterprises, where we didn’t even rank last year.

    How to Get Involved for Best for PHL

    Step one of taking the Best for PHL Challenge is to take a workshop. The Best for PHL workshop is FREE – and several dates are coming up. Find them at Best for PHL’s website.

    Julie Hancher

    About Julie Hancher

    Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake.

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