Up Close And Conscious With Alicia Darvall Executive Director B Lab Australia & New Zealand

B Lab is a nonprofit that serves a global movement of entrepreneurs using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. B Lab serves these entrepreneurs through three interrelated initiatives that provide them with the legal infrastructure and support to attract the customers, talent, and capital to scale.

Where do you see the opportunities for businesses seeking a different approach to the conventional profit driven model?  

I see our opportunity for the next decade is to harness the power of business and finance to deliver a more sustainable, equitable and prosperous world for all.

I believe we will need to rethink our not for profit sector and its reliance on government funding and philanthropy. I believe many of our big social issues are beyond the scope of the not for profit sector and the role of business will become more and more essential to solve the ‘wicked problems’ we face in Australia.

We need to evolve capitalism from a focus on the financial gains of a company to one where the long term impact on the planet and people is forefront of every business decision.

I believe we need to shift the current focus on return to shareholders as measure of success of business to one where all stakeholders are equally considered. I believe a business should be considered successful when it embraces its responsibility to its employees, community and environment.

I believe we need to create a generation of conscious consumers, employees and investors who make decisions about what they purchase, where they work and how they invest based on the impact of a business to society and the environment as well as how well price, salary and financial return.

Why did you choose to work at B-Lab?

My current role is focused around creating workable solutions for businesses with a social and environmental mission. At B Lab we support a global movement of people using business as a force for good. Our vision is that one day all businesses will compete not only to be best in the world, but best for the world, leading our society to a shared and durable prosperity for all. I am responsible for building this movement in Australia and New Zealand with the B Lab team and the B Corp Community.

We’re building this movement through several interrelated initiatives that serve, engage, and highlight the leaders, while providing all people with the concrete tools, products, programs, and partnerships to use business as a force for good.

  1. B Corp Certification – a community of over 1,300 Certified B Corps in 120 industries and 41 countries are leading this movement by meeting higher standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.  There are 69 B Corps in Australia
  2. Mission Alignment – tools to help businesses maintain their social mission as they scale, including making themselves legally accountable to consider their stakeholders, not just their shareholders.  IN the US B Lab has led the passage of benefit corporation statutes in 30 states that allow companies this flexibility, which is now used by nearly 2,000 businesses.   In Australia we are drafting our model legislation for a new corporate form and are starting to lobby for the change to be made to Federal Law in the next 3-5 years.
  3. Measure What Matters – a campaign that is equipping all companies to measure and manage their impact with as much rigour as they manage profits.  Already, there are 30,000 businesses using the B Impact Assessment and 150 partnering investors, governments, and business associations accelerating the adoption of this campaign using B Analytics.  In Australia we have just partnered with NAB to pilot the program with their suppliers later this year.

Also in Australia I have coordinated a coalition of not for profit organisations working in this space. We meet quarterly as a think tank to grapple with how we can play a leadership role in creating opportunities for  ‘Better Business” and finance to contribute positively to business and the environment.

Where did concept of B Corps originate?

The B Corp movement started in the US over nine years ago. B Corps are a new type of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. B Corp certification is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or chocolate.

Click here to see our founder, Bart Houlahan describe how the movement was formed.

What have you learnt about small business and consciousness during your time at B-Lab?

Working with a group of over 60 entrepreneurs (the B Corps) I am regularly exposed to innovative leadership in small business.

Abigail Forsyth from KeepCup invented a reusable barista cup to reduce the waste from disposable coffee cups in her sandwich shops.

James Meldrum and his wife created new kids snack products to offer parents alternatives to sugary junk food.

James Moody from TuShare created an upcycling site that reduced the barriers to donating unwanted goods buy building a complex consumer to consumer courier system cutting out the need to go to the post office. He has subsequently spun the courier system out to a new business called Sendle which is taking on Australia Post.

Do you have any perspectives on the role of technology in supporting the evolution of conscious businesses?

We believe the B Corps really embrace technology when it comes to creating conscious product offerings or business models. For example Studio Thick, a B Corp in Melbourne partnered with KeepCup to create a platform called Reuse Revolution HQ. The platform allows consumers to measure their environmental impact when they regularly use their KeepCup.

Website – bcorporation.com.au