Why evaluate the impact of the whole company
History repeatedly teaches the business world that there are often unintended, negative consequences of focusing on a single objective. This principle is just as relevant amongst social enterprises. It is not uncommon to observe businesses that bank to the poor but pay below market wages to their employees or install solar panels that were made using toxic metals; often the positive impact create on one constituent comes at the expense of another.
We believe that the power of private enterprise is not only capable but best suited out of all forces in society to achieve multiple social and environmental objectives. As a result, the B Impact Assessment is designed to simply show businesses what is possible across all dimensions of sustainability, without prescribing specific practices. Just as society encourages students to study both the sciences and the humanities, we hope to encourage a business society that has a more holistic set of objectives. Some argue that striving for multiple social objectives dilutes the effect of the individual goals due to time or resource constraints. We do not doubt that there is often a tradeoff between two financial or social objectives. But this also does not mean that business owners are incapable of at least considering these tradeoffs by way of assessing the company’s performance against these parameters.
We believe that widening the lens on impact measurement will only help the company achieve its long term objectives instead of harm.