Integrity is component of triple bottom line

June 18, 2012
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Grand Rapids Business Journal this week reports in depth on community sustainability practices with updates on leading architectural firms and practices.

Readers may be surprised to learn of a somewhat controversial split between those who see LEED certification and its exacting process as fundamental, and those who believe such standards are now common practice and that designations are less costly to obtain through other processes, such as that offered by the Society of Environmentally Responsible Facilities or SERF.

Some unexpected controversy also has surfaced surrounding legislation pending in the State House and Senate to create B Corp corporate licensing structures.

Both issues seem incongruous in a community widely respected for its pathfinder status in sustainability efforts. However, while one process is a choice of the business customer, B Corp legislation is a new economy choice for all businesses, especially as recruitment of the creative class is urgent.

Companies and entrepreneurs advocating the “triple bottom line” would have no special tax favor in B Corp legislation, but it does enable company leaders to advocate the social responsibility aspects of the business to shareholders — and assure that any future company owner follows the same principles.

Companies seeking B Corp certification must prove the triple bottom line to the national certifying group B Lab. The certification process has been described as more onerous than ISO-type certifications. Companies must prove positive impact on society and consider how their decisions affect their employees, community and the environment. Moreover, they must publicly report on their social and environmental performances using established third-party standards, according to B Corp definitions.

Five states have already passed such legislation. Cascade Engineering is one of two firms certified in Michigan, with others in process. Mark Jensen, R-Gaines Township, has sponsored the Senate bill.

Both the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Small Business Association of Michigan are conspiring against the legislation, complaining that preference among these company owners would somehow pit all other professional corporations in Michigan against B Corps, creating some imagined meaning that the others are not “responsible.”

Both issues are a matter of integrity. Building and property owners will continue to determine what factors are most important in environmental considerations and certifications. Business owners should be free to determine the status of the corporations they own.

The Michigan legislature should continue to write the B Corp legislation heralding the new millennium choice for business owners and entrepreneurs. Legislation should mirror good business practices.

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