Ellen Chisa tries to create change and joy in unexpected ways. She is currently the Dean of the Awesome Foundation in Seattle, and Curator of the Seattle Global Shapers Hub. Previously, she was a Program Manager for Office Mobile at Microsoft.
I’ve always been a skeptic of company values. Too often, they turn into vague platitudes that no one could disagree with, and also that no one takes action on.
I’m happy to say that the tide seems to be changing. Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the XOXO Festival in Portland, OR, USA meant to showcase independent creators and platforms. One of the talks during the event was by the Etsy CEO, Chad Dickerson.
Etsy views itself as “the world’s handmade marketplace,” enabling individual craftspeople to sell their works worldwide. Etsy is also a 2009 World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer. I was happy to see that rather than focusing on the product Etsy has created, Dickerson spoke with detail about Etsy’s values.
I learned that in addition to a values statement, Etsy has an official B Corporation Certification from the B Lab. The certification requires a self assessment that covers financial aspects including governance, pay ratio between the highest and lowest paid employees. It also covers job creation, energy usage, waste management, and even compensation for volunteer hours. The standard for the certification is rigorous, requiring an organization to earn 80 points on the 200 point assessment. Each year, 10% of the self-assessed companies are also audited by the B Lab. Then, certification details for each company are publicly available online. While the certification does not have any governmental standing, it is available worldwide, and comes with a variety of services provided by the B Lab.
From doing some research after the event, I learned that an alternative way to demonstrate company values is through governmental certification. In the United States, Benefit Corporation legislation is gaining popularity. Since Maryland was the first state to pass legislation in 2010, eleven states have created official policies for Benefit Corporations. The distinction of a Benefit Corporation is that it allows a company to indicate their accountability to all stakeholders, not just stockholders. Benefit Corporations define their stakeholders and goals when registering, and are accountable to publish their progress based on those starting goals.
The benefit of both the B Corporation and Benefit Corporations is requiring accountability and transparency for a business against all their values, not just financial ones. This aligns with the Forum’s goal of having companies, civil organizations, and the government working together to create strong communities. Hopefully, through these programs and others, company values will impact corporations the way they ought to.