Consumers are increasingly pushing brands to live up to higher ethical standards. One 2019 survey by communication specialist Hotwire found 47% of internet usersstopped purchasing from a brand because it went against their values.
Companies that want to live up to these standards have plenty of options to grow, and one of the most effective ways is B Corporation certification. Being certified as a B Corp requires organizations to meet strict criteria in areas such as sustainability, transparency, diversity, and social impact.
But becoming a B Corp is no mean feat. To be certified, companies must adhere to certain commitments, adopt a specific legal framework, and pass an interview.
That’s where MBAs such as Nathan Stuck and Emylee Connally come in. During an MBA at the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business, both got involved with a project to help local companies achieve B Corp status.
Paving the way for social impact
Nathan (right) decided an MBA might give him some clarity about where to go next professionally, and he decided to pursue it at the Terry College of Business. While doing his MBA, he threw himself into working with local companies seeking B Corp status.
A few years later the college started offering B Corp projects to Georgia MBAs so they could gain the same incredible experience as Nathan.
After his MBA, Nathan wanted to learn more. Looking for a way to support ethical organizations, he came across the local tech firm Ad Victoriam Solutions. Ad Victoriam is a tech consultancy with a focus on sales solutions, aiming to support its clients as it leverages tech to provide consumers with a better service.
Modules in strategic management, risk management and applied marketing at Terry are useful to students like Nathan who want to launch a consulting career.
Terry MBAs who want to better understand corporate social responsibility (CSR) can also choose the social innovation focus, which gives them the chance to take part in an applied learning experience in the social impact space, whether through the B Corp project or working with a nonprofit.
Helping Ad Victoriam affirm its values wasn’t just important for internal morale—it also improves its reputation with consumers, Nathan notes.
“Consumers now care about where what they buy comes from and the impact that has,” he says. “You have to share that and be transparent about it.”
Since graduating, Nathan has worked with Ad Victoriam Solutions full-time. He’s still deeply involved with the company’s ethics and sustainability, overseeing corporate social responsibility initiatives to ensure the company’s strategy stays in line with its B Corp values. His time at Terry helped him develop the skills needed to succeed in the role.
“The MBA encourages you to ask inquisitive questions,” Nathan reflects. “And the B Corp project provides you with practical consulting experience.”
In fall 2021, Nathan will teach a course on ethical business and B Corps for local companies at the Terry College of Business.
Hands-on experience in social impact
By the time Emylee enrolled in the Terry MBA, the B Corp project Nathan pioneered was in full swing.
During the B Corp project, she worked with a local outdoor equipment provider, Wander North Georgia, to help it become a B Corp.
Wander North Georgia began as a hiking blog by Georgia natives Josh and Alex Brown, who left the bustle of city life in search of a more tranquil existence.
The blog explored the beauty of Georgia, encouraging people to get outdoors and appreciate the environment. What started as a blog became a local store, offering hiking clothes and equipment in the foothills of the Georgia mountains.
When it came to its CSR efforts, Wander prioritized local suppliers, donating profits to the community, and using its profits to help get underrepresented groups into outdoor activities. It used a range of sustainable materials and prioritised keeping its surroundings beautiful alongside those who want to explore it.
Josh and Alex wanted B Corp certification to prove their morals and values were sound. If they were to be a community hub and respect the environment their business depended on, they would need to prove it.
With her classmate Alex Foye, Emylee joined the team at Wander to help it reach B Corp status. Emylee found the teamwork and leadership skills she learned in her MBA course worked perfectly with her B Corp project, as she managed several undergraduates working on the project. She had to make sure their eye was on the long-term achievement of certification while also dealing with the day-to-day tasks it involved.
“It’s stuff you should be doing, as good humans—but having to prove it and log it for B Corp certification motivates companies to do it,” Emylee reflects.
Working toward an ethical future
Since graduating with her MBA, Emylee translated her B Corp experience into a brand management role with soft drink giant Keurig Dr Pepper.
She found the teamwork and leadership skills she developed during the MBA stand her in good stead and working on the B Corp project gave her a sense of how CSR plays out in the workplace.
She’d highly recommend the B Corp project to other MBAs. Working with companies driven by more than shareholder value can be a real inspiration for future business leaders who want to combine profit with purpose.