Will Unilever Become the World’s Largest Publicly Traded B Corp?
Monday, January 26, 2015
The movement to put purpose at the heart of business strategy has received a major boost with news that several multinationals, including consumer goods giant Unilever, are considering becoming “benefit corporations”– for-profit corporate entities that commit to positive social and environmental goals.
Last month, Brazil’s top cosmetics, fragrance and toiletries maker, Natura, became the largest – and first publicly traded – company to attain B Corp sustainability certification.
B Corp-certified companies differ from traditional corporations because triple bottom line accountability – measuring economic, social and environmental impacts – is a legally defined goal. B Corps are already legislated in 28 states in the US, and the movement is currently looking to overcome legal barriers to launching in Europe.
Consumer goods giant Unilever could be next. The company’s chief executive Paul Polman told Guardian Sustainable Business in Davos that becoming a B Corp would send a powerful signal that the purpose of business is not just profit, but to have a positive impact on society and the environment.
The complexity of operating in scores of countries, however, would make B Corp’s certification process extremely complex for a company such as Unilever, and becoming a B Corp would take considerable time.