Last month, New York City launched Best for NYC, a multi-year campaign to encourage the city’s businesses to improve their social and environmental impact. Created by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Office of Workforce Development, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), and the community of New York’s certified B Corporations, Best for NYC is the first partnership of its kind, and a model for cities around the globe.
At the heart of Best for NYC are the impact assessments created by B Lab, the nonprofit that helps advance business as a force for social good, and a winner of last year’s Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship for “fueling a global movement to redefine success in business, so that all companies compete not only to be the best in the world, but the best for the world.”
Using a customized and simpler version of the B Impact Assessment (the original is used to certify companies as B Corporations), New York City is challenging local businesses to measure and enhance their social and environmental impact to help low-wage workers get better jobs and improve the quality of life in underserved communities. For example, questions in the evaluation related to workers focus on things like living wages, family leave, flex time, training, and employee ownership.
The idea also draws on the power of the annual B Corp Best of the World list (this year’s is out on April 14th), which shines a light on profitable companies across the globe that are doing well by their workers, communities and environment, to create a similar impact incentive and profile for New York businesses.
A number of the city’s certified B Corps, including Hugo Neu,Uncommon Goods and Cooperative Home Care Associates have joined the challenge to jumpstart the campaign. So too has Rhys Powell, the CEO of Red Rabbit, who explains, “our business’s mission to give all children access to nutritious meals in school depends on our commitment to a diverse and collaborative workplace. Best for NYC provides all companies with an innovative tool to identify new opportunities to nurture talent and tap the full potential of our business.”
Best for NYC also marks an important evolution for B Lab. Founded in 2006 by Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan, and Andrew Kassoy, B Lab has developed assessments, standards and certification as a way to build a community and a global movement of certified B Corporations. Today there are more than 1,200 B Corps across 38 countries and more than 100 industries.
B Lab has also strengthened the sector’s policy architecture, helping to pass benefit corporation legislation in 26 states, which removes legal and fiduciary barriers for entrepreneurs and investors to scale social purpose businesses.
With this legislative infrastructure in place, B Lab has turned to platforms and programs – campaigns like “Measure What Matters” – to encourage all companies to consider the social and environmental impact of their policies and practices. Accordingly the B Impact Assessment is now free, confidential and easy for any company to use – particularly the Quick Impact Assessment version – regardless of whether it pursues B Corp certification; to date there are approximately 20,000 businesses doing just that. B Lab’s vision? “One day all companies will measure their social and environmental impact with as much rigor as their profits,” says Kassoy.
Partnerships like Best for NYC allow B Lab to reach an even broader universe of businesses and further expand the movement. “Cities around the world can look to New York City as a model for how to engage their business communities to create higher quality jobs and improve quality of life,” Kassoy explains. What’s best for NYC may also be best for others.
This post originally appeared in New America’s digital magazine,The Weekly Wonk. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
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Author: Georgia Levenson Keohane is a contributing writer for New America.
Image: A ship travels north on the Hudson river past the Manhattan borough of New York City, as steam rises from buildings in frigid temperatures on Thursday morning. REUTERS/Mike Segar.