Over 30 years ago, Beatriz Fernandez would never have thought she’d become one of Colombia’s most influential changemakers when she first started baking waffles from the family’s apartment in Bogota, using her own invented recipes. Today, the popular restaurant chain Crepes & Waffles is a certified B Corporation and a landmark brand to millions of customers that eat there every day. She shares “Everybody can be a changemaker, and I’m an example that nothing is impossible when you transform a heartfelt desire into action with limitless energy”. By deciding to hire women only – most of them single mothers – it’s also empowering thousands of women to be financially independent.
Last week, over 500 Latin American “changemakers” like Beatriz came together at the Encuentro-B, LatAm’s Benefit Corporation’s annual meeting, hosted this year in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Sistema B was founded in 2012 as the Latin American sister to the B Corp movement originally founded in the US in 2007 as a private certification issued by the nonprofit B Lab). In Latin America, Pedro Tarak (co-founder of AVINA and prolific bridge builder) and other prominent thought-leaders from the private sector and civil society were exploring new models of growth for Latin America that were not solely focused on making a profit. They realized a new framework for doing business FOR the planet was needed, and that it was time to launch an inclusive movement from within Latin America, with the capacity and attraction to grow organically.
B Corps certification can be applied from startups to large corporations. To get certified you go through a vetting process that is similar, but adapted, to the process for US B-Corps certification. This is a rigorous process that requires the company to have a clear social and/or environment mission, as well as ensuring it meets “rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. As Juan Pablo Larenas, Sistema B’s Executive Director puts it: “I love my planet, and being part of the B-movement is simply a way to take care of it”
One example of “taking care of each other” is the story of Sergio Núñez from Tandil, Argentina – who one day found his son come home brutally beaten by some youngsters in the street. Instead of becoming bitter, he started to address the deeper problem that lies behind senseless violence. His research led him to start a neighborhood bike shop “El Bicicletero Solidario”, where young people at risk learn a trade, develop work experience, and work to find meaning. “We remodel old bicycles and through that, we teach that what is perceived as trash by many people can become something useful again“, explains Núñez, who still leads the workshop today. He recognized that the solution to the problem of insecurity is an equal access to opportunities, something he now helps generate.
B Corps are now emerging on all continents and becoming more mainstream. Big companies like Danone and Natura are now also represented at the conference, albeit they’re still a minority. Yet they are taking their lessons from these inspiring B Corps. Nicolas Shea, founder of Cumplo and Startup Chile says: “B-Corps won’t suddenly become mainstream overnight, but I’m convinced the days are over for those companies that do not deeply care about the environment and the society at large. There is an urgency to change the old models of capitalism and consumption that are still dominant in most parts of the world, as they inevitably lead to growing inequality and corruption.”
Marcello Palazzi, Global B Corps Ambassador says: We are scaling up this movement because not only do we deserve a better world, but indicators show that B-Corps simply perform better and are more fun to work for. This is a major consideration for companies to recruit and retain the millennial generation” Fabio Barbosa, Director of UN Foundation adds to this insight: “10 years from now, everything we do today will be judged with the values and norms of the future”. Maria Emilia Correa – cofounder of Sistema B believes there’s a role especially for Latin America here: “The capacity and resilience of the Latin America people are unbelievable. There’s a big opportunity for this region to lead a new regenerative global economy”
To do this, Sistema B is now focused on growing the movement from the thousands of changemakers we see today, to become millions of changemakers. Palazzi “After 5 years of building and grassroots development we’re now at a key pivotal point: the next 3 years will determine if B Corps will become a global movement of scale or not”
To become a changemaker you don’t always have to start a new initiative or organization. There are many incredible initiatives out there already. To multiply we need professionals from the mainstream economy to join, by tapping into their purpose, and start supporting B-corps to accelerate their impact. One way to do this is to become a B-Multiplier or to go Experteering with a B-Corps, and help accelerate their impact.
You can be a changemaker too, by empowering the B-Corp movement, and joining MovingWorlds here to explore new Experteering projects.
On the other hand, if you represent an organization looking for support you can sign up for free here
Learn more about these social impact organizations and their support needs:
- Patio Mundo from Argentina working on Sustainable Design
- Mamut from Bolivia working on Recycling and Financial Inclusion
- Nanas y Amas from Peru working on Women Empowerment
- Balloon Ventures from Chile working on Supporting Exceptional Entrepreneurs
- Someone, Somewhere from Mexico working on Financial Inclusion