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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Do-Gooder: Jay Coen Gilbert, Co-Founder, B Lab

Jay Coen Gilbert is Co-Founder of B Lab, a nonprofit organization that is striving to redefine success in the business world for corporations to compete not only to be the best in the world, but to be the best for the world. Prior to B Lab, he co-founded and sold AND 1, a basketball footwear company. He is also a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute and a graduate of Stanford University.

What was your inspiration to start B Lab?

B Lab's co-founders, Bart Houlahan, Andrew Kassoy and I, all share a passion for using market forces to address society’s greatest challenges. Government and nonprofits are necessary but insufficient. We founded B Lab to serve those entrepreneurs who are using business as a force for good and redefining success in business.

What are its objectives?

We identified two systemic challenges that we’re hoping to address through our nonprofit B Lab. The first is a lack of standards to help us tell the difference between good companies and just good marketing; and the second is that existing corporate law demands that business prioritize shareholder value maximization to the exclusion of the value created for all stakeholders.

Perhaps B Lab’s best-known initiative is the creation of Certified Benefit Corporations (B Corps). Tell us about B Corps.

B Corporations are a new type of company using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. B Corp certification is to sustainable business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk. B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

What’s the growth trajectory like?

The community of B Corps has seen considerable growth over the years. Today there are actually over 650 B Corps from 20 countries across 60 different industries. In the past year we have expanded internationally, attracted larger companies, including Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia and Cabot Creamery, and grown the community by about 30%. We hope to continue this growth in 2013 by expanding the community to other regions of the world and reaching a total of 750 Certified B Corps globally.

State by state, you’re working on passing legislation to have benefit corporations legally recognized. How’s that going?

I’m happy to say benefit corporation laws have been enacted in 12 states and are moving forward in 16 others. Legislation has enjoyed overwhelming bi-partisan support (including 12 unanimous votes) because the legislation is 100% voluntary and costs states nothing. Benefit corporation legislation not only gives businesses the freedom and legal protection to pursue the triple bottom line, but it gives individual citizens something positive for which to advocate.

The only remaining question is when Delaware, the home of corporate law, will hop on board - and if they don’t, how many companies, like Etsy and method, will leave.

B Lab also developed the Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS). How does GIIRS work?

GIIRS is a ratings agency and analytics platform for impact investors. Like Morningstar ratings and Capital IQ analytics, GIIRS gives investors the tools they need to analyze the impact of their investments with the same rigor as they analyze their financial risk and return.

Since launch in fall 2011, there are already 66 funds and 350 companies from 30 countries in the process of being GIIRS-rated, and 22 institutional investors have declared an investment preference for GIIRS-rated investments in their impact investment portfolios.

Who are the most progressive nonprofits and leaders you know? 

I am a huge admirer of Bill Drayton at Ashoka, David Levin and Michael Feinberg of KIPP, Wendy Kopp at Teach for America, and Alan Khazei and Michael Brown of City Year.

You co-founded and sold AND 1, a basketball footwear and apparel company. How’s your game?

Weak; my 14 year old has more range and better handles.

Who’s your favorite NBA team? Player? Or are you more of a college hoops guy?

Don’t follow the NBA. Love March Madness.

Favorite color?

Blue. No, green. Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh . . . . . . . . . .

What’s on your gift list?

Full recovery from knee surgery.

Who are you listening to right now?

Jack White.


I always read one of the gospels over Christmas break.

Who inspires you?


Who are you following online?

Not a big user of social media.

What’s one question you’d like to ask yourself?

Why can you be so quick to anger?

How should people connect with you on social media?

People can follow our work at B Lab on Twitter and on Facebook. They can also get involved and join the movement by signing up to B the Change.

Any secret you’d like to share?

I miss my parents.

-- Interview by Chief Do-Gooder Russ Stoddard

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