Mil­len­ni­als eye firms that have al­tru­is­tic pur­poses

San Francisco Chronicle - - BUSINESS REPORT - By Haiy Le

Re­cruit­ing top tal­ent is con­stant strug­gle for In­ter­net com­pa­nies. But pe­ti­tion site Change.org has an ad­van­tage when it comes to at­tract­ing cer­tain can­di­dates.

Change.org is a B Cor­po­ra­tion — a for-profit com­pany com­mit­ted to so­cial or en­vi­ron­men­tal goals in ad­di­tion to its fi­nan­cial obligations. Be­cause the San Fran­cisco firm tries to ben­e­fit not just its share­hold­ers, but also so­ci­ety, Change.org is an es­pe­cially ap­peal­ing place to work for civic-minded job­seek­ers, said David Han­ra­han, head of global hu­man re­sources.

“As a B Corp, you have a leg up on other com­pa­nies be­cause you’re fo­cused on some­thing that is ex­actly what this gen­er­a­tion want to be do­ing,”

said Han­ra­han.

Han­ra­han has an eye to­ward re­cruit­ing Mil­len­ni­als, peo­ple born in the early 1980s to the early 1990s. His team has started a pi­lot re­cruit­ing ef­fort at Stan­ford called En­gi­neers for Change, in which com­pany ex­ec­u­tives have given pre­sen­ta­tions with ti­tles such as “Big Data Pre­dic­tions: Us­ing Your Skills for Good.”

In re­cruit­ing, Change.org and other B Corps are pay­ing at­ten­tion to gen­er­a­tional trends.

B (for ben­e­fi­cial) Cor­po­ra­tions are the cre­ation of B Lab, a Penn­syl­va­nia non­profit that awards the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to com­pa­nies that meet its stan­dards of so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal per­for­mance, ac­count­abil­ity, and trans­parency.

A 2014 Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion re­port, “How Mil­len­ni­als Could Up­end Wall Street and Cor­po­rate Amer­ica,” found that the “de­sire on the part of Mil­len­ni­als for their daily work to re­flect and be a part of their so­ci­etal con­cerns will make it im­pos­si­ble for cor­po­rate chief­tains to mo­ti­vate Mil­len­nial em­ploy­ees sim­ply by ex­tolling prof­its.”

Af­ter Change.org be­gan putting more em­pha­sis on its sta­tus as a B Corp, Han­ra­han says, the com­pany’s Glass­door page views in­creased by 467 per­cent in a year. Change.org also saw a nearly 50-50 bal­ance in the gen­der of can­di­dates re­search­ing the com­pany — a sur­pris­ing fig­ure in an in­dus­try where men make up a dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of the work­force.

Dian Rosanti says she was sold on Change.org’s mission. “I’ve been do­ing prod­uct man­age­ment for four years now, but when Change.org reached out to me, I was at­tracted to their mission, know­ing that I could be do­ing the same job I was do­ing but also know­ing that I could make a big dif­fer­ence in other peo­ple’s lives,” Rosanti said.

In 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown signed leg­is­la­tion that made Cal­i­for­nia the 28th state to pro­vide a legal struc­ture al­low­ing com­pa­nies to be­come cer­ti­fied B Corps. Since then, such firms have flocked to the Bay Area. The re­gion is home to the high­est con­cen­tra­tion of cer­ti­fied B Corps on the planet — with 15 per­cent of them lo­cated in the San Fran­cisco, North Bay and Berke­ley area.

On the “im­pact as­sess­ment” used by B Lab, com­pa­nies are rated in ar­eas of gov­er­nance, work­ers, com­mu­nity and en­vi­ron­ment. B Lab wants to get com­pa­nies to “not only be best in the world, but the best for the world.”

By com­mit­ting them­selves to such val­ues, B Corps and their so­cially con­scious work cul­ture may res­onate with work­ers frus­trated by Sil­i­con Val­ley tech com­pa­nies’ per­ceived lack of re­gard for their com­mu­nity.

“The peo­ple we bring on tend to be mission aligned,” said Phil Clark, chief cre­ative of­fi­cer at Exygy, a San Fran­cisco soft­ware de­sign com­pany that, ac­cord­ing to its web­site, works with the “world’s lead­ing change mak­ers.” “Com­ing into a place like Exygy, there’s a col­lec­tive un­der­stand­ing about core val­ues,” Clark said.

Not all com­pa­nies with so­cially con­scious mis­sions have raced to be­come B Corps. There’s a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion fee, which starts at $500 for com­pa­nies with less than $1 mil­lion in sales and can ex­ceed $50,000 for those with more than $1 bil­lion in sales. And ev­ery two years, B Corps be re­cer­ti­fied.

“We agree with the pur­pose-driven mission, mul­ti­ple bot­tom line ap­proach and ideas of B Corp,” said Keely Wachs, direc­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Clif Bar, an Emeryville en­ergy bar maker with a rep­u­ta­tion for en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity and work­er­friendly poli­cies. “How­ever, a cor­po­ra­tion does not need to elect ben­e­fit cor­po­ra­tion sta­tus to in­clude mul­ti­ple bot­tom lines in its ar­ti­cles of in­cor­po­ra­tion.”

Clif’s cor­po­rate char­ter in­cludes a “five as­pi­ra­tions busi­ness model,” al­low­ing di­rec­tors to take into ac­count the bot­tom lines of busi­ness, brands, peo­ple, com­mu­nity and planet.

Clif has a valid ar­gu­ment, says Ryan Honey­man, a con­sul­tant who helps com­pa­nies be­come cer­ti­fied B Corps. “If they’re al­ready be­ing so­cially and en­vi­ron­men­tally re­spon­si­ble, what’s to say that they need a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion?”

Honey­man, how­ever, touts the rea­sons for be­com­ing a cer­ti­fied B Corp. The im­pact as­sess­ment can point out ar­eas for im­prove­ment, and scores on the as­sess­ment can en­cour­age com­pe­ti­tion among com­pa­nies in what B Lab calls a “race to the top.”

Hi­lary Des­souky, gen­eral coun­sel at cloth­ing com­pany Patag­o­nia — which has long pushed en­vi­ron­men­tal poli­cies and is now a B Corp — ac­knowl­edges the ben­e­fit of join­ing a net­work of like-minded com­pa­nies. “It’s a way to share ideas and best prac­tices,” she said. “As our com­pany con­tin­ues to grow, we’re com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing that th­ese val­ues are guiding the way our busi­ness is run.”

The cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process is a way to tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween “good com­pa­nies” and good mar­ket­ing, Honey­man wrote in his book, “The B Corp Hand­book: How to Use Busi­ness as a Force for Good.”

“Many com­pa­nies want to do good, but they don’t know how to do it,” said Honey­man. “The B Corp cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process gives them the tools to do so.”

“I was at­tracted to their mission, know­ing that ... I could make a big dif­fer­ence in other peo­ple’s lives.” Dian Rosanti, re­cruited by Change.org

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