By Lindsay Key

Elevating a company to B Corp status is a rigorous process that should not be taken lightly, according to Dr. Kathy Miller Perkins, a faculty member and career coach with the Master of Natural Resources program. B Corp status is a certification awarded by B Lab to for-profit companies based on their social and environmental performance. The organization’s global community includes 6,300 B Corps in more than 85 countries and 160 industries, according to its website. Many companies use the status to market their product to socially responsible consumers.

Kathy Miller Perkins
Kathy Miller Perkins

Perkins’ company, Miller Consultants, earned B Corp status in 2019 after a nearly year-long auditing process. B Lab requires company owners to provide specific information about water and energy usage, supply chain and input materials, charitable giving, and employee compensation and benefits. Kathy hired a consultant to help walk her through the assessment and certification steps.

“It’s a very stringent process. Anybody that has a B Corp certification, you can bet that they’re being honest and transparent because there’s no way not to be,” she added.

Helping leaders develop sustainable organizational cultures

Miller Consultants specializes in helping other companies develop sustainable cultures, said Kathy. This means connecting people, systems, and initiatives with business strategies, creating workplace environments that ensure collaboration and innovation, and linking company purpose and values to everyday work. 

The company uses an assessment tool developed by Kathy and colleagues at Harvard Business School nearly 13 years ago to assess the company culture on all of the dimensions significant to superior sustainability performance. The team spent a year validating the instrument by comparing the cultures of the best sustainability performers to those less successful in attaining their targeted sustainability outcomes. By comparing the cultures of the leading companies with the laggards, they teased out exactly what cultural factors support the best sustainability outcomes. 

Now Miller Consultants has administered the tool to more than 5,000 people globally, in companies varying in size and geographic location. They use the results of the assessment to offer solid, data-driven consultation to leadership about what is working well and what they could strengthen in their sustainability cultures.  

Cultivating a community of purpose-driven people

Given her own company’s mission, it just made sense for Kathy to apply for B Corp certification. Although B Lab sets a high bar, when the certification requires a change in process or policy, business owners are given a time frame by which they can make the improvement and still receive certification, said Kathy. Certification expires after three years, and companies must go through the process again to become recertified.

The rewards that come with achieving B Corps designation make it all worth it, says Kathy. But for her, the best reward has been the deep sense of satisfaction that comes with aligning with her personal values, as well as a sense of belonging to a vibrant community.

“I was personally really committed to businesses guided by purpose, and I wanted to participate in a community of like-minded leaders,” she said. “I wanted to be in the middle of it because I admire other companies that do these sorts of things, and I wanted to learn from them.”

In 2020, Kathy joined WetheChange, an organization of women leaders of Certified B Corporations and other purpose-driven enterprises. “We have various commitments and projects that we do together, and the group meets once a year face-to-face,” she said. “It’s an amazingly supportive community.”

Other business leaders considering applying for B Corp certification should expect to be challenged, but also enlightened in the best way possible, said Kathy. “The process itself really helps a company become more responsible.”