Starting off as a dream that incubated for three years, Justin Belleme’s aspiration of his company achieving B Corp certification has been hatched and made official. This month, JB Media Group became the third chamber member and seventh business in Asheville to join the B Corp ranks.
“We wanted to prove to potential clients that we are walking the walk when it comes to promoting social impact through business. Getting our B Corp certification goes a long way in that effort,” said Belleme, the company’s Founder and Director of Strategy.
Belleme first got excited about B Corporations in 2014 when he heard Kevin Trapani, the CEO of Redwoods Group speak at a Leadership North Carolina event in Raleigh. Trapani, who established one of North Carolina’s first B Corp companies, contended that a B Corp certification ensures social and environmental progress, accountability, and transparency within a company. The “B,” which stands for Benefit, encapsulates a growing movement of businesses serving as a tangible force for good.
Belleme thought it was an interesting idea and one worth exploring for his small company but said, “I didn’t expect that to happen in the next three years.”
Launched in 2011, the digital marketing agency quickly flourished into local prominence and the national marketplace. Once it started attracting more national clients, JB Media sometimes found itself with opportunities that felt in conflict with its values. Belleme, along with Director of Business Operations Adrianne Gordon, decided to take a step back and get clarity on the company’s mission and purpose. The B Corp certification process provides a very valuable road map.
“We hadn’t completed the necessary introspection yet,” said Gordon, who began work on the certification last winter. “The B Corp certification process pushed us to get really, really clear on who we are first and then we were better able to align our processes and policies with the B Corp requirements. Together, this work has made us a much more values-based business.”
In order become a Certified B Corporation, companies must score 80 out of 200 points on a rigorous impact assessment which scores everything from community service to office breastfeeding policies. Gordon shared that JB Media spent 100-200 hours completing the assessment, writing new policies and establishing the necessary tracking processes.
“It’s worth it to us,” said Belleme. “For those interested, I’d recommend creating policies with B Corp certification in mind. If you’re already established, you may have to unravel some existing policies in addition to creating new ones.”
Throughout the process, Gordon advises reaching out to other Certified B Corporations as well as reaching inward to employees for their support and assistance.
“If you involve other members of your company, the final product will be way better,” she said. “It’s okay to start and not finish. There are a lot of pieces to incorporate, and at the end of the day, it’s all just about becoming a better business and citizen for our community.”
Always looking forward, Belleme says his next goal is to spread the B Corp movement locally.
“We want to help grow the momentum of B Corporations in Asheville and help transform it into a place of B Corp density,” he said. “Ideally we’d love the number to double the current number of Certified B Corporations locally –that would place us in the same sphere of larger cities like Seattle and Austin.”