Seventh GenerationDo you get a warm fuzzy feeling when you open your cupboards? If you use products made by companies like Method, King Arthur Flour Company, and Seventh Generation, you're doing more than just washing dishes, baking food or cleaning up spills: You're supporting businesses officially certified as do-good corporations.

Companies like these represent the leading edge of a dynamic movement that's brightening our dismal economy. They defy traditional expectations that corporations should exist only to maximize profits for shareholders. Shareholders certainly matter to the people who run these businesses, but as certified B Corporations -- the "B" stands for "benefit" -- they honor allegiances to their employees, their communities, and other stakeholders as well.

To become certified B Corporations, businesses must meet the nonprofit B Lab's standards for worker treatment and environmental and community impact. These companies also must get shareholder approval to change their bylaws to allow functioning with all those stakeholders in mind.

There are currently 422 B Corporations in 54 industries, collectively racking up $1.94 billion in revenue. According to the B Corp website, these companies are "using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems." That's where the benefits come in.

The perils of traditional bottom-line thinking

Corporate entities that can and should seek to do the right thing for the long haul -- not simply the most profitable thing for the short term – represent a long-overdue shift in corporate thinking.

We saw the flip side of such thinking all too well during the financial crisis. Businesses' poor decisions and ruthless pursuit of short-term profits left innocent shareholders suffering, and taxpayers footing the cleanup bill.

Many traditionally minded investors may balk at the idea of a company that isn't solely concerned with bottom-line profitability, and takes its hybrid purpose seriously enough to legally change its bylaws. But there's more to this story than simple big-heartedness.

B Corporations' commitment to their workers, their communities, and the environment has far-reaching benefits. After all, those very same stakeholders are the life's blood of commerce. They're customers, employees, and citizens; their well-being, financial and otherwise, helps build a healthier, more sustainable economy for businesses.

Doing good goes mainstream
What sounds like an interesting but minor niche is actually making headway into the mainstream. Products from Method, King Arthur Flour, and Seventh Generation command shelf space in major U.S. retailers like Whole Foods Market (WFM), Target (TGT), Safeway (SWY), and Wal-Mart (WMT).

Alongside their products' mainstream appeal with shoppers, B Corporations are becoming more accepted in the business landscape, too. Vermont, Maryland, Virginia, and New Jersey have been the earliest supporters of this innovative new model, passing laws that codify B Corporations' embrace of multiple stakeholders.

How to support corporate good
Unfortunately, we investors can't invest in any B Corporations; right now, they're still all privately held. However, we can vote for better corporate citizenship with our investing and purchasing dollars.

Even without B Corporation status, many companies already operate in admirably responsible ways. Publicly traded companies with major social or sustainability initiatives built into their corporate DNA include Whole Foods Market, Google (GOOG), and Chipotle (CMG).

And of course, many traditional businesses bring plenty of social good to the world in different ways. Adding jobs, and bringing better, more affordable products to the marketplace, generally benefits society, as long as they don't stem from any harm the company's doing elsewhere.

Who knows what the future holds, though? Increasing numbers of investors may realize this mind-set actually benefits the traditional bottom line -- even if it doesn't focus on it.

Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax owns shares of Whole Foods Market. The Motley Fool owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill, Wal-Mart Stores, Google, and Whole Foods Market.


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chris1011

Remember Jim Jones and the congregation he led from San Francisco to northern Guyana? Remember how he reacted to members of congress that came to investigate him? He murdered many. Then, all his followers drank the cyanide poison, most by obedience and some by force. It is a testimony to some 200 people's choice to embrace blind obedience, stupidity, and paranoia.

For years I have been claiming that the present Republican party is no longer Republican. It has been kidnapped by a group of extreme ideologues that uses the Republican name to fool people. Quite successfully.

Grover Norquist, a fundamentalist conservative, has had all Republican Congressmen, but 13, sign a pledge to never raise taxes or eliminate tax loop holes. Never, never, never. Thus, when it comes to taxes (and women's rights) those who sign the pledge have relinquished their independence, their intellectual abilities, and their loyalty to the constitution. Notice how often Republican congressmen vote unanimously on an issue. When two Republicans from Maine refuse, it becomes national news. They risk internal punishment from their party.

David Brooks, a conservative columnist for the NYTimes, wrote an article entitled, "the Mother of All No-Brainers,"on July 4. He concludes that the present group of uncompromising "Republican fanatics" are "not fit to govern."

Richard Cohen of the Washington Post wrote "the G.O.P......has become a political cult. The hallmark of a cult is to replace reason with feverish belief. It is the redoubt of certainty over reason, and in itself (is) significantly responsible for the government deficit that matters most: leadership."

These columns were written to illustrate why no compromise with President Obama is possible, regardless of the issue or the number of meetings.

I hate to think that we average citizens will allow this to continue. We can't wait for the next election to select independent thinkers. We must speak to our congressmen NOW, THIS WEEK. America needs her thinking, realistic citizens to reject these extremists. That is, while we still can.

July 13 2011 at 10:31 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to chris1011's comment
nomorebarry7

Copy paste Ozombie crybaby

July 13 2011 at 11:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
vcadcs

Sounds like a bunch of 'do-gooders'

July 13 2011 at 8:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
alucky1128f8@aol

OBAMA, OUT IN 2012 !!!!!!!, HE DON'T SCARE ME !!!!!!. I'M A MEMBER OF THE TEA PARTY AND HIS 16 MONTHS LEFT ARE DRAWING NEAR !!!!!!!. THANK GOD !!!!!!!!!.

July 12 2011 at 10:55 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
savemycountry911

I'm skeptical.

July 12 2011 at 9:56 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply