Millennials eye firms that have altruistic purposes
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,”
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