RALEIGH — Folks from across the country arrived in the Triangle last week to participate in a conference. It sounds like a story that’s been told before, but these attendees were a little different.
The event was BLD Southeast, a conference for the business owners and staff of B Corps. B Corps are mission-driven companies that balance purpose and profit. These companies focus on all the ways businesses can improve the world, looking at everything from climate change to racial justice.
“Nowadays, you kind of have to be more than just a for-profit business,” said Nathan Stuck, founder & CEO of Profitable Purpose Consulting and one of the event coordinators. “You have to stand out. And to me, this is the ultimate standout.”
This shift for companies is a newer one, but is definitely a trend on the rise. According to Gartner, a “shared purpose” is one of the 5 components employees are seeking to gain more value from their jobs. Particularly for younger employees, there’s a strong desire to see concrete action at their organizations, not just corporate statements and platitudes.
The B Corp movement is all about concrete action. To become a B Corp, a company must be certified, a rigorous process that includes a minimum score on the B Impact Assessment, plus legal, and transparency requirements.
“It’s a credibility piece,” said Mel Hubner, Director of Social Impact & Sustainability for local B Corp Brand Fuel and an event coordinator. “It’s saying, ‘Hey, we’re doing the work, we are certified and being accountable for this.’ It’s making our mission very clear to customers and suppliers.”
BLD (pronounced “build”) first had an event for the southeast in 2020, but the circumstances turned it virtual. The community skipped 2021, and returned to virtual status for 2022. This year’s sold-out event in Raleigh represented the first opportunity to meet in person.
The excitement started Thursday with several networking and strategy events, plus a City of Raleigh walking tour and welcome reception. Friday’s sessions were hosted at NC State University’s Talley Student Union, in partnership with the Poole College of Management Business Sustainability Collaborative.
While there is a B Corp parent organization, B Lab, the work of bringing together the B Corp community remains a volunteer effort. The executive committee for the event included representatives from Georgia, Florida, Washington DC, and communities in the Triangle and Western NC. But the efforts were worth it for the team.
“Just looking at the room today,” marveled Stuck, shaking his head. “And not only seeing how many people were here or how diverse it is but seeing how intentional efforts and intentional networking and relationship building over the years has paid off.”
The B Corp community is still relatively small and people know each other. It was not uncommon to see scenes of friends reuniting throughout the event. And with attendees from Oregon to Louisiana to Maine, many were meeting for the first time.
The big B Corp event for 2024 takes place next March in Vancouver. In the meantime, locals can check out the robust B Local Triangle chapter for insights.
Hubner, for one, is hopeful that this event will give B Corps a big boost in the Triangle.
“Maybe now more people will get it,” she said, optimistically. “It does really feel like a fresh start for our B Local Triangle community which is really special.”