As financial advisors, we understand that a business is much more than a set of numbers, more than a bottom line. A business affects many stakeholders, including its employees, vendors, customers, and community, as well as the environment and society. The impact of production, trade, and employment ripples through almost every aspect of a community, providing businesses with the opportunity to act as good citizens. At North Berkeley Wealth Management, considering the broader impact of our practices and services is part of our journey.
Intentionality: Born a B Corporation
In 2005, our firm was founded on the belief that a properly run business meant being financially and ethically sound. Some refer to it as the “triple bottom line,” focusing on the planet, people, and profit, emphasizing long-term sustainability and not short-term returns.[i] In our early years, it was just better business and a way for our small firm to stand out from large, institutional choices. Intentionality and putting our clients’ needs first came naturally to us. And thanks to a very people-centric vision from our founders, the well-being of all stakeholders were considered equally important for success.
We grew our business with a focus on connection and impact, improving the ways we provided our services, encouraging the growth of our team members, and engaging with the community. We learned that certified B Corporations are businesses that balance purpose and profit, requiring thoughtful consideration of the impact of their decisions on employees, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment and were inspired to join the growing number of businesses seeking to be certified as a B Corp.
We recognized that we had essentially conducted ourselves as a B Corp from day one. The B Corp Certification offered us verification that we met the highest standards of performance.[ii] It also offered entrance into a community of businesses like Patagonia, Allbirds, Danone, Ben & Jerry’s, and Eileen Fisher that share the primary goal of using business as a force for good. Unknowingly born in the model of a B Corp in 2005, we officially certified as one in 2013.
A New Lens: The Spirit of Continual Improvement
The initial B Corp certification process affirmed many of our business practices. We treat our team with respect, providing living wages, health care coverage, access to our services, and paid volunteer time. It strengthened our resolve as a fiduciary for our clients, using our expertise to help them live more sustainable financial lives. It deepened our commitment to provide socially responsible investment options. But, the process was more than a warm hug and a job well done. The start of our journey as a B Corp led us to evaluate our performance, exposed areas of improvement, and built a sense of what the Japanese call kaizen, continual improvement.
Receiving the B Corp certification gave us a way to look outward and reminded us that our impact travels in many directions, reaching well beyond the walls of our office. As a result, we became more intentional around our community engagement and created a giving program and engagement report. We embraced our role as experts in impact and ESG investing and provided a more comprehensive range of investment options for our clients. Our growth in many ways echoed the growth of the B Corp movement and the broadening awareness of the role of business in our society.
As we continue to mature as a company, the expectations of being a B Corp helped make us a better steward and presented us with a challenge of excellence. It also bolstered a commitment not to be complacent and to respond to new challenges with the same vigor as the day we opened or became certified.
Recertification: Facing New Challenges
North Berkeley Wealth Management is currently in recertification. The process happens every few years to guarantee that companies live up to B Corps’ high standards. It comes at a moment when a pandemic is raging and as we collectively face the harsh truths of racial inequality, police brutality, and social injustice. The weight of the moment reminds us how vital the role of business is in enacting change. For us, our team will examine the issues of justice, equality, diversity, and inclusion in our community, our industry, and our workplace. We will continue to put people first and adapt our services and practices in response to social and environmental concerns celebrating the principles embraced by our founders over 15 years ago.
March is B Corp month. To honor the occasion, we reflected on our journey as a B Corp. If you have questions about B Corps, want to learn more about the certification process, or discover B Corps in your area, please visit their website. Learn more about our certification.
This commentary on this website reflects the personal opinions, viewpoints, and analyses of the North Berkeley Wealth Management (“North Berkeley”) employees providing such comments, and should not be regarded as a description of advisory services provided by North Berkeley or performance returns of any North Berkeley client. The views reflected in the commentary are subject to change at any time without notice. Nothing on this website constitutes investment advice, performance data, or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. North Berkeley manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed in the commentary. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.