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Street Cred

Making a difference while you make a buck? Prove it.

With the environment and the economy leading discussions these days, more companies are re-evaluating their business practices, putting into effect double- and triple-bottom line initiatives that measure their environmental and social impact.

But because green and socially responsible spaces lack clear, all-encompassing standards, it's hard to tell the difference between a good company and just good marketing. That's where B Labcomes in. Founded in 2006, the organization created a certification to identify companies that are socially responsible. To earn its B corporation certification, a company must meet at least 80 of B Lab's 200 standards and amend its corporate charter to include the interests of its employees, its community and the environment. "We look at the whole company," says B Lab co-founder Jay Coen Gilbert. "To be a B corp, you can't be a perfectly green company and do nothing else well."

"[Companies can] look at areas where they have a deficit and address those," says Bryan Stubbs, director of entrepreneurship at Chicago Community Ventures, an economic development organization that consults with B corp-type companies. "As companies see the value, these concepts become part of best practices."

Renewable every two years and subject to random third-party audits, B corp certification helps companies differentiate themselves. "Consumers and investors want to support good companies," explains Coen Gilbert. "Now they have a way to identify them."

One of those companies is Comet Skateboards, an Ithaca, New York, manufacturer of high-performance skateboards. The 10-year-old company, founded by Jason Salfi, 37, and Jonathan Reese, 39, uses sustainable, eco-friendly supplies and processes, so becoming a B corp was simple. Since certification, Comet has formed a joint venture with eco-friendly company e2e Materials, maker of the soy-based composite used in Comet's skateboards. Salfi is hopeful for the future of B corps like his, which projects sales of $2 million this year. "As more companies commit to these standards," he says, "we'll be able to measure the collective economic strength of all these companies and see how the business community at large is thinking about its future."

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This article was originally published in the July 2008 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Street Cred.

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