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The B-Corp Clinic: Building sustainable business models

Oswaldo Silva - UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Oswaldo Silva

The first time I heard about B Corporations was in my first-year “Fundamentals of Sustainability” class at INCAE Business School in Costa Rica. We had a very well-known guest speaker talk about this global movement, with a focus on her experiences in Latin America. It was very interesting to learn that many companies use their business models to create high impact for both society and the environment.

According to the B Corporation website, “B Corps are for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”

During my time at INCAE, I was admitted as an exchange student at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. This exchange program is about more than attending classes; it also provides many opportunities for networking. At UNC Kenan-Flagler, I applied to work on a project through the Center for Sustainable Enterprise for Employ Us, a recruitment company whose business model has led to it being called “the Uber of recruitment.” My role in the project is to advise Employ Us on ways to improve their practices to become a certified B Corp.

My consulting engagement is part of the Spring 2016 B Corp Clinic, a pilot partnership between UNC Kenan-Flagler and NC State’s Poole College of Management. The idea is to engage MBA students to advise North Carolina companies on how to improve their practices in five areas of the B Corp assessment: environment, workers, customers, community and governance.

This initiative is a great way to create shared value for different stakeholders. I see it as a collaborative platform that allows students to gain expertise, improve their consulting skills and increase their knowledge about the B Corporation movement. At the same time, the client companies benefit from having an unbiased intern provide a diagnosis on what they need to obtain B Corp certification for their business model and strategy. We try to improve business practices with workers and the community, which benefits the company, as well as society.

The initiative also provides an opportunity for universities to generate closer ties with one another, as well as with potential business partners, and adds value to the student experience. My team is comprised of two fellow MBA exchange students from UNC Kenan-Flagler, an undergrad international relations student and a PhD assistant professor from NC State. We also have the support of a mentor from a well-known B Corporation. Together, we are six professionals from Singapore, India, the U.S. and Venezuela. Although we came from different backgrounds, we share a common belief: businesses can make the world a better place.

I am encouraged to know that the B Corporation movement is growing quickly in the U.S. Participating in the B Corp Clinic has not only been a good opportunity to improve my consulting skills, but also to realize that there is far more work to do in promoting this business model in my native Latin America.

I highly recommend that prospective students (and exchange students) who are thinking about attending UNC Kenan-Flagler apply to be involved in the B Corp Clinic, which offers opportunities to develop personal and technical skills and to network in a multicultural environment.

By Oswaldo Silva