01 Dec Veterinary Practices and Doing Good for the Community as “Certified B Corps”
By Brian L. Anderson, DeWitt Ross & Stevens S.C.
If you believe that besides providing quality animal health-care services, your veterinary practice has a responsibility to the broader community (i.e., a responsibility to improve society and the environment), then you may want to publicly show that responsibility by having your veterinary practice become a “Certified B Corp.” Doing so could help you obtain clients and increase your employee satisfaction.
According to Wikipedia, as of August 2018, over 2,600 Certified B Corporations exist across 150 industries in 60 countries. Some well-known Certified B Corps include Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, New Belgium Brewing Company, Etsy and Warby Parker. They also include many smaller professional-service businesses, including architecture firms, law firms and dental practices. Veterinary Specialty Center, Inc. (VSC), in Buffalo Grove, Ill., is the first veterinary hospital in the U.S. to become a Certified B Corp.
To obtain B Corp certification, a business goes to the B Lab Company website (bcorporation.net) and evaluates itself through the “B Impact Assessment.” B Lab Company is a Pennsylvania-based 501(c)(3) organization that provides the certification, similar to the “Fair Trade” certification that can apply to coffee, the “USDA Organic” certification that can apply to milk, and the LEED certification that can apply to buildings.
The “B Impact Assessment” measures the positive impact of the business in areas of governance, workers, community and the environment. Businesses that score at least 80 (out of 200) points then undergo an assessment review process, consisting in part of a conference call in which the claims made by the business are verified. Businesses are required to provide supporting documentation and pay a certification fee that varies by size of company.
To obtain certification, a business might be required to modify its articles of incorporation or other organizational documents. For example, it might be required to become a “benefit corporation” as provided by Chapter 204 of the Wisconsin Statutes, which became effective in February 2018.
The VSC website describes the veterinary hospital’s social and environmental mission as (1) using the resources of VSC to raise the standard of living in its community, (2) creating local jobs, (3) supporting local businesses, (4) prioritizing selection of vendors that share VSC’s values, (4) providing a living wage for staff, (5) supporting the professional goals of staff, (6) donating time and resources to community organizations, local charities and animal shelters, (7) having a positive effect on the environment, (8) emphasizing a culture of diversity and inclusion, (9) providing continuing education to share experience and knowledge with practicing veterinarians and support staff and (10) supporting families faced with difficult decisions or grieving the loss of a pet. Many veterinary practices could pursue a similar social and environmental mission and become Certified B Corps.
Why go to the trouble and expense of becoming a Certified B Corp? Certification helps a business stand out, create a brand identity and thereby attract customers. A Certified B Corp might also attract employees who support social and environmental causes and would prefer to work for a business with an announced broader mission aligning with those causes.
The B Corp movement does not appear to be a passing fad. It seems to have increasing momentum, perhaps driven by younger generations of people who seek more meaning and purpose behind the businesses they patronize and the employers they work for.