In this episode, Jason Moore, founder, and principal of Fulcrum Creatives, explains what a Certified B Corporation is, how companies can qualify and what it means for not only businesses but communities.
What is Fulcrum Creatives?
Based out of Columbus, Ohio, Fulcrum Creatives is a design and creative studio with the goal of always working for clients that were doing something beyond profit. While a client doesn’t have to be a non-profit organization to work with the studio, there does need to be a mission that includes providing something to a greater good.
What is a Certified B Corporation?
A B Corp refers to a certification, designated by a non-profit organization called B Lab, that businesses can acquire based on certain criteria. More specifically from their website:
“Certified B Corporations meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”
B Corps came into the scene 11 years ago, and one way you can organize as a B Corporation is to maintain a mission-based charter. While that isn’t an option in Ohio just yet, there are people making movements toward getting B Corp legislation passed. The hold-up is mainly attributed to the base of the Bar Association, which is mainly composed of corporate lawyers whom don’t necessarily think a B Corp would be something that people would want to invest in. The interesting point is that there are no tax breaks associated with the designation. Meaning:
“There’s no reason not to have it. If you don’t want to invest in it, that doesn’t mean there’s no reason to not have it exist. Otherwise, to be a B Corporation, you would have to organize in another state and do business here.”
As of now, there are somewhere between 32-34 states where there is a legal standing for organizing a B Corp this way.
What’s the alternative? How did Fulcrum Creatives do it?
Since becoming a B Corporation isn’t available in Ohio, Fulcrum Creatives is a Certified B Corp, which Jason explains:
“There is an assessment where you have to go through and open up all your books, all your HR practices, everything about your company and supply chains—every single thing that you do receives scores. And you have to score enough points to be able to gain the certification.”
In total, there are currently over 2,500 Certified B Corporations in more than 50 countries, according to the B Corp website.
What components are looked at to become a Certified B Corp?
Every two years, a company will have to go through an assessment. One thing this assessment does is show you areas where you can improve in your business, such as energy consumption. Anything from burning incandescent bulbs to low flow toilets can affect your score. In addition to what your business does, the assessment also looks at your supply chain vendors, which is a major point for a design company like Fulcrum Creatives.
“One of the biggest areas that we could change is in print… There’s not as much print as there used to be, but if you are going to do print, you can use post-industrial, recycled waste, paper-based products and other areas of the printing industry that can be a bit more green.”
Other points considered in the assessment is a company’s client list (who are you working with, what impact are you having in communities, etc.) and transparency (equal employee pay, open books, etc.).
If Fulcrum Creatives worked with BP, for example, their score would go down. As opposed to working with people doing economic development and companies working with low-income or at-risk populations.
How does Fulcrum Creatives decide which clients to take on?
Essentially, they look at what the client is doing. For instance, Fulcrum Creatives took on a for-profit publishing company because they were doing work for higher education, so that benefits the community.
“We were approached by a brewery that was starting up and asking us if we would work with them. When I talked to the owner, I was like, you know, I would love to work with you. But… I don’t think we can work with you.”
After talking with the owner, Jason discovered that they wanted to start the brewery as a B Corp, which changed everything.
“They really just wanted to do something good and not just be a solely profit-based business… There’s one beer in their line that when you buy, money from that six pack goes to a fund, then they give grants back out into the community from that fund.”
Fulcrum Creatives helped the brewery, called Commonhouse Ales, with their naming, packaging, website, social media as well as introducing them to the B Corp community.
Why become a B Corp?
Some people may look at being a B Corp as a PR or marketing advantage, but as Jason says:
“I think that if you’re pursuing B Corp status for those reasons, it’s the wrong reasons. We really went for the B Corp certification because it’s who we were and it fit our culture. What it’s done the most for us is attract like-minded people who want to work for us, not with us.”
The certification itself is not much of a selling point in itself, at least not in the Midwest, mostly because people don’t understand what it is exactly. Patagonia is a B Corp, but you don’t see that as the selling point. Most consumers know it’s a great product first and foremost but that it also has a mission.
What personally got Jason involved in this work?
Jason came to Columbus when he was in college, initially interested in getting into advertising. He ended up taking philosophy classes that got him thinking about the purpose of art and how that concept applies to design and advertising. We all know advertising comes down to one thing: making money for someone.
“I just didn’t see that as being the most valuable place to put time. I mean it is creative and you’re an artist when you work on something you’re putting your blood your soul in it. If it’s not got a greater purpose then you’re just making shareholders or someone money.”
An interest in an anti-advertising magazine further fueled Jason to question his chosen field. Adbusters, based out of Vancouver, helped Jason to realize he didn’t really trust advertising. Now, he wanted to start an advertising agency and do things a bit different. He worked for a fairly large agency out of college, but after six months in, he realized he couldn’t do it anymore. He began working with a print shop and started freelancing, leading to great learning opportunities and connections. Eventually, he left and started Fulcrum Creatives, which was created before B Corps were thought of and social enterprise became a thing.
“We were definitely the first ones around here, you know, thinking along these lines as creatives and designers.”
Why such a negative perception of advertising?
The manipulation associated with advertising is what turns Jason off in the industry.
“There is quite a bit going on within the world of advertising—take body image and how people see themselves and what an ideal of beauty or fitness that really only exists in the movies and advertising. That’s one of the things that kind of turned me off on the overall advertising industry. It somewhat promotes a false image of us and what happiness actually is.”
The mainstream atmosphere encourages a throwaway society where you buy things you think you need, but you don’t get the results you’re promised and so now you have to buy something else.
“You’re just barraged by images every single day and messages that your mind has to filter out. Now that we’re carrying phones around in our pockets and everything all the time, it’s even more. It’s possible to pollute the mental environment with things like false ideas of what beauty is or the body types are.”
How can we change the culture of advertising?
Clearly these practices prove they can sell, otherwise it wouldn’t happen. What can change this approach is businesses choosing to do things differently. That’s where public campaigns, like Dove’s, come into play.
“I was just in Target the other day with my kids and I noticed that the photographs that were on the walls of people in bikinis were not you know, all super tiny people. There were some normal-sized people and their ads.”
For more information on Fulcrum Creatives, B Corps and other topics in this podcast, check out: