Knowledge Institute Podcasts
Christopher Marquis on B Corp Movement
Christopher Marquis, Professor in Sustainable Global Enterprise and Management at the Cornell University Johnson College of Business, explains the rapid growth of companies choosing to certify as B Corporation and why the future of B Corp Movement is vital for us all.
Hosted by Jeff Kavanaugh, VP and Head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute.
“I talk to the students nowadays and they're really focused on finding work that aligns well with their values. And so, there's a lot of studies, surveys and other studies that show that 70 plus percent of millennials want to work in companies that have a social impact.”
- Christopher Marquis
Jeff introduces B corp movement.
Chrisopher described the B Corporation as the most impressive example of business innovation he has seen. He shares particularly pointing example.
Jeff introduces Christopher.
Christopher has been in academia for a while, but before that, he worked in banking. What inspired him to pursue this path?
What sparked Christopher’s interest in the B Corp movement specifically?
Christopher explains B Lab, their role and impact they're having.
What about the big incumbents, what's been the reception from larger companies that are public and have to answer to shareholders?
Is this the end of something with capitalism or the beginning of something else?
Jeff and Christopher talk about the role of government in this movement.
Christopher shares his experience on how do student perspectives on B Corps vary between geographies.
Christopher’s book highlights how millennials already make-up almost half the workforce and will inherit 30 trillion in the coming decades. How will demographics influence this B Corp movement?
How appropriate is the B Corp movement to China, the world's second largest economy and have they awoken from Mao's dream?
With 50% of the world's B Corps outside of the US, how appropriate is the B Corp movement to America, still the largest economy?
Talking about tipping points. What kind of event does Christopher think it will take, join those dots and move the B Corp from the margins to the mainstream?
You have a B Corp, how is that different if you had B Corp next to a traditional C Corp? What actually is different? What kind of executives are different? Processes? Christopher walks us through some of the differences.
Jeff and Christopher talk about World Economic Forum and stakeholder capitalism.
So it leads to these better benefits without hurting the financial bottom line. Is there much research on that yet?
Does Christopher think this unprecedented change that he hopes for will be exponential? And what does it take to make it nonlinear?
Starting to converge for the executive listening, what are three things they can do in their own company, which probably isn't a B Corp at this point, to take steps towards either formally or informally adopting these guidelines and principles?
Christopher mentioned several really interesting names, organizations in the book. One is Pope Francis's Economy of Francesco, which aims to make the economy of today and tomorrow fair, sustainable inclusive with no one left behind. Is Chris doing work with that organization or what caught his eye about that?
What are the books or people that stand out as significant influences for Christopher?
Christopher recommends online resources of his own sites and others for further learning.
Jeff Kavanaugh: The B Corp Movement is the most important social movement you've never heard of. So begins a Better Business, the story of the rise of a new corporate form, the B Corporation. Chris, in your new book, Better Business, How the B Corp Movement is Remaking Capitalism, you describe the B Corporation as the most impressive example of business innovation you've seen. Can you share a particularly poignant example of this?
Christopher Marquis: Sure. I've been studying businesses, entrepreneurship for 15 to 20 years now, most times you see companies, they have innovative product and they try to sell this product. It might be innovative, might not be. But the thing that really impressed me about the B Corp leaders is that they're not trying to actually sell a product, they're actually trying to change the way the economic system in the world is practiced. They take this, not just about these B Corporations or entrepreneurs, but about investors, changing investors mindset, laws in our country, and eventually consumer behavior. When I first started talking to them 15 years ago, they talked about this as a generational project, and we're about halfway there, and I think that there's been significant progress. That's one of the reasons why I wrote the book to be honest, is that the change speed on this is just growing exponentially and I think it has huge potential
Jeff Kavanaugh: And making sense of the B Corp movement is what we'll be exploring in today's conversation. Welcome to the Knowledge Institute Podcast, where we talk with experts on business trends, deconstruct main ideas and share their insights. I'm Jeff Kavanaugh, head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute, and today we're here with Christopher Marquis, professor in sustainable global business and global enterprise at Cornell University's SC Johnson College of Business. Before Cornell, Chris worked for 10 years at Harvard Business School and has held positions at the Harvard Kennedy School, Hong Kong University, Peking and others. His current teaching broadly focuses on social innovation and change and doing business in China. He's examined entrepreneurship in China, the triple bottom line and building sustainable businesses globally in competition in emerging markets. Chris received a PhD in sociology and business administration from the University of Michigan. And lastly, published in September 2020, Better Business explores the rapid growth of companies choosing to certify as B Corps and explains why the future of B Corporations is vital for us all. Chris, thanks so much for joining us.
Christopher Marquis: Thanks so much for having me, Jeff, great to be here
Jeff Kavanaugh: You've been in academia for a while, but before that believe you worked in banking, what inspired you to pursue this path?
Christopher Marquis: Yeah, I think a couple things. Interesting question. One is, even when I was working, how the social and political dynamics underlying decisions is what I found really interesting. You learn in the MBA school that everything is done based on rational financial analysis, what the internal rate of return is. But actually, what I found when I was working is that there's a lot of social dynamics, and so first I wanted to actually study that. Second, the bank that I worked at actually did a lot of things in the community, did a lot of CSR projects, really active in nonprofits, philanthropy. I felt that business could actually play a big role in society, and so that was another motivation for me to become an academic.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Well, that got you going into the academic world, what sparked your interest in the B Corp movement specifically?
Christopher Marquis: That also stemmed right from this path. I started out studying CSR, large companies, large financial firms. I did some studies in Goldman Sachs, a bank, PNC Bank, which is one of the largest banks in the US, headquartered in Pittsburgh. I was in class one day teaching a class on social responsibility of companies, and one of the students said to me, "We're studying all these large companies that have CSR projects on the side. We should really be studying companies that have a social mission embedded in them, like B Corporations." That was in 2009. I had never heard of anything like B Corporations up until that, but I went back to my office and Googled it and got in touch with the founders of B Lab, which is the nonprofit that certifies B Corporations, and wrote the first business case on them, Harvard business case, in 2010.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Got it. Well, since you brought up B Lab, can you give a little more information about them, their role and the impact they're having?
Christopher Marquis: Sure. B Lab is a non-profit organization, headquartered in the US, and they are the organization that certifies these B Corps. A B Corp is a business that's certified for it's social and environmental impact. You may think of things like fair trade, organic or lead, these are all different kinds of certifications, and the B Corp certification is the only one for businesses. You need a certifying entity, and so that's what B Lab is. They look at companies, how they treat their workers, how they treat their consumers, communities, environment, and their governance, and across all those different factors, companies answer and are assessed on a variety of different questions. Then finally, if they get above the threshold, they can become B Corps.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You can imagine how some small niche companies might take this as their mission, what about the big incumbents? What's been the reception from larger companies that are public and have to answer to shareholders?
Christopher Marquis: This movement's been around 14, 15 years now. I'd say for the first 10 or so years, it was almost all small or medium sized companies. Companies like Patagonia or Seventh Generation, these are companies hundreds of million, billion plus dollar companies, so not small, but not the large multinational publicly traded companies either. In the last number of years, there's been increasing interest among large companies. For instance, Danone, French, Paris based, health, nutrition, dairy company, it's really become very active in the movement. Over 20 of its subsidiaries are certified B Corporations, and it's committed to its global organization being certified by 2025. Its largest subsidiary, which is its US subsidiary, is already certified as a B Corp, that's a $6 billion organization.
Christopher Marquis: Other large companies, Natura, which is a cosmetics company headquartered in Brazil, owns Avon, owns The Body Shop, is a certified B Corp. B Lab recently introduced a program to gather more interest among large companies, with a pathway where they can go gradually into certification, because it's a very daunting certification, to take it on at once for a large company might be difficult. Organizations like Danone and Natura have signed on as mentors for these companies. The first wave of companies, there's about six companies that are involved in this, and I think it will only grow. So it is something that large companies are really starting to pick up.
Jeff Kavanaugh: It reminds me of the famous Winston Churchill quote, "Is it the end? Maybe not the end, or even the beginning of the end, but is it the end of the beginning?" Is this the end of something with capitalism or the beginning of something else?
Christopher Marquis: I would say that it's not the beginning of the end, but it's more like the end of the beginning. But what I mean by that is that we're, I feel, at a new phase of stakeholder oriented capitalism. For the last 50 years, we've been much more in a capitalist system that's focused on shareholders. There's this idea of shareholder primacy, which stems from a 1970 essay. In the 1970 essay published in the New York Times Magazine by Milton Friedman, where, really, companies are legally required now to put shareholders first. Think about the Wall Street movie, the Gordon Gekko character, where greed is good. He's pitching this to the board that, actually, if you look after shareholders, everything works itself out. Well, we found out that's actually not true. If you look at how inequality has increased since then, if you look at environmental degradation since then. I think it's all very tied to this idea, when you put shareholders first, there's economic incentives for CEOs and management to actually cut corners on their employee commitment and on their environmental commitment.
Christopher Marquis: So this idea of shareholder primacy, I think, is the end. Then the beginning part is the stakeholder capitalism, which, not just B Lab, but there's been a number of really important other notable events that have happened. For instance, the business round table, this organization of 200 largest CEOs in the country, just about a year ago, put out a statement that we're abandoning this shareholder primacy model. We're going to be looking out much more for stakeholders in the future. World Economic Forum has, similarly, is now focusing on stakeholders. Larry Fink, one of the world's largest investors, has been issuing letters over the past number of years, trying to convince CEOs in companies he invests in to focus much more on purpose stakeholders and broader sustainability. So I think that we're at the beginning of a period of stakeholder capitalism and the B Corp movement is an essential part of that.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Well, in some respects, and I'm not the first person to use this term, but this corporate city state, these multinational global companies that span countries, are their own entity in some respects. And they're working within these national boundaries, which again, people are trying to sort out what that means in the modern age. If they are taking steps to take on some of what governments did in the past, the social, the environmental, and basically take that mantle, does the government then... Is there some give and take to where there's additional benefit that happens? I mean, is there a government give up, or somehow... Not acquiescence, I'm looking for the right word, but that if it's a partnership that emerges, do you see any early indications of that?
Christopher Marquis: In many ways, I think the government, in a lot of places, can be an enabler of this type of activity. One of the parts of the movement that has been very encouraging to me and has had a lot of success are legal changes. I mentioned earlier that there's this fiduciary duty that directors and senior managers have, legally, such that, if they make a decision based on nonfinancial criteria, they could potentially be sued by the shareholders. In 36 US states, as well as a number of other countries outside the US, there now exists a type of corporation that puts stakeholders, like employees, communities, environment on the same legal playing field as shareholders. This is one thing I've found governments do, where they open up the possibility for companies to actually operate these triple bottom line companies in a more effective way.
Christopher Marquis: For instance, say the business round table example, I do think, though, those CEOs are very well-meaning, but when the legal DNA of the company is shareholder primacy, there's an internal conflict and alignment issue between what they're saying and doing and actually what their legal priorities are. So I think that this idea of changing the legal framework of companies, or giving companies a choice to choose a legal framework that puts other non-financial stakeholders on the same level, in some way, as shareholders, I think that's a big important change.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You've had the pleasure of serving and teaching in New York and also holding teaching positions in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai, so unique perspective. In your experience, how do student perspectives on B Corps vary between geographies?
Christopher Marquis: One of the things that I have been surprised about is the passion about this among millennial generations around the world. I've been teaching on this for 10 plus years now, I had been invited, in Beijing, it was maybe three or four years ago, to give a talk on social innovation, I think the topic was, to a class at Peking University, a new master's degree in social enterprise management they had. I brought out the old examples I had, large companies, got some Chinese SOEs in the mix, and the students afterwards came up to me and said, "We want you to talk about the B Corporation movement. This was something we saw on your resume and wanted you to talk about this." So I went back again and talked about B Corps in China, which they found to be really interesting and actually started a variety of research projects. I did a Harvard case study on the first B Corp in China, how they did it, why they did it?
Christopher Marquis: More generally, what I learned is, actually, because there's a lot more restrictions on civil society and NGO organizing in China, actually, entrepreneurs that want to make a social impact have been very creative in how they organize. There's, actually, were a lot of so-called businesses that actually existed to make a social impact in China. They would be NGOs anywhere else, but because the government limits organization of NGOs, they were businesses, so there was very fertile ground. The movement there, it's still early stages, but there's... I subscribe to the WeChat groups of organizers, and I'd say, every couple of days, there's some event where B Corp 101, or talk from new B Corp, or B Corp meetup, so it's a really growing and vibrant area. It's still early, but I think it has a lot of potential.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Once again, we're here with Christopher Marquis, Professor in sustainable global enterprise at Cornell, and author of Better Business, How the B Corp Movement is Remaking Capitalism. Chris, your book highlights how millennials already make up almost half the workforce and will inherit 30 trillion, with a t, in the coming decades. How will demographics influence this B Corp movement?
Christopher Marquis: Yeah, I think that's a really big deal. That's something I've learned about a lot through my teaching. When I first started teaching on this 10, 15 years ago, there was not a tremendous student interest, particularly in the environment and sustainability part, and actually bringing that into your career. Having a career where you work for an organization that aligns with your ideals, with your purpose, in addition to just being a conscious consumer. Over this period, the student interest has just skyrocketed. I talk to the students nowadays and they're really focused on finding work that aligns well with their values.
Christopher Marquis: There's a lot of surveys and other studies that show that 70 plus percent of millennials want to work in companies that have a social impact. Even many of them want to create a new system, actually, that is much more socially focused. I don't want to go as far to say socialism, but I think, basically, what they're saying is that they feel that the economic system is really out of balance and it needs to be rebalanced. This is definitely something that I've found, that it's really driven a lot of the founders that I've talked to, young, early stage founders. The people that even the large B Corps end up hiring, these are passionate young people that are really looking to work in companies where they can bring their values to work as well.
Jeff Kavanaugh: In 2018, you were one of only a dozen academics granted the honor of briefing the Chinese prime minister on key changes in the world that China should listen, understand and adapt. In your opinion, how appropriate is the B Corp movement to China, the world's second largest economy and have they awoken from Mao's dream?
Christopher Marquis: Yeah, it was a true honor. I mean, I think that most of the other folks that were involved were technology oriented, hard sciences, and to have someone like myself, social scientist, I think it was an honor, both to me personally, but then also, I think it really showed a lot about the Chinese were really interested in developing a much more sustainable development model. I mean, for the past 30 years, it's been growth at all costs, tremendous pollution, right, health scares regarding various pollutants in milk and other bad situations. So I think the government is really much more focused on sustainable development. I think that companies doing their part is certainly a huge part of that, and I think that, for large companies, that's sustainability programs, CSR. I do think for the entrepreneurs and the millennials there too, which are also very socially focused, starting small companies and having them grow is another avenue as well. Those can certainly be B Corps. And there's, like I said, a growing set of B Corps in China.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Back in our hemisphere here. With 50% of the world's B Corps outside of the US, how appropriate is the B Corp movement to America, still the largest economy?
Christopher Marquis: Yeah, no, I think it's still very, very appropriate. I think it's where the movement was founded, the founders are American and tuned into the American entrepreneurship, headquarters is in America, and I think there's a lot of really innovative and important social businesses in America, from Patagonia to Seventh Generation, I think I mentioned. Kickstarter is a B Corp, King Arthur Flour dates to the 1790s, an employee owned company, Eileen Fisher, there's tons of these B Corps that exist in the US so I think that, as a model of how business can have a social impact, I think the US will always be very important. I do think though, that when you look at the large B Corps, so I mentioned this program where they're trying to get larger companies involved, I think there, perhaps the balance of weight might shift outside the United States, and particularly Europe and South America.
Christopher Marquis: The economic models there are much less short-term oriented, much more community oriented. The first cohort of companies that's involved in the program that B Lab is trying to get larger companies involved, they're all either European or from South America. So I do think, innovation wise and small medium company wise, I think the US will still continue to be the real center of gravity. But as you look to large companies, I think that the initial pioneers in that will be outside the US, mostly from Europe and South America.
Jeff Kavanaugh: In your book, you say tipping points typically occur after a change has been percolating under the surface for a while and not been fully recognized. At some point though, an event connects the dots and leads to greater awareness, and to this deeper growth trajectory. What kind of event do you think it will take to join those dots and move the B Corp from the margins to the mainstream?
Christopher Marquis: It's hard to know in advance what the tipping points are. It's always very easy in retrospect to say, "Okay, that was the turning point that really led us to this fast growth phase." I think maybe getting some of these large companies on board is important. If you think about the underlying dynamics, it's really about having individuals understand the movement and know that there's this maybe B logo that connects all the companies as a possible example. For instance, when you have Danone as a B Corp, they have products that are in most American household's refrigerator, be it Oykos yogurt, or Silk soy milk, or Horizon organic milk, or whatever, lots of products, all those products now have the B Corp logo on them. People go to their pantry and they see the King Arthur Flour and a whole, actually, side panel of the flour sack has the B Corp logo and some explanatory information.
Christopher Marquis: They go to Eileen Fisher, or Athleta, yoga and sportswear brand, also a B Corp, the B Corp logo is in the tag. Now that we have all these larger well-known companies, I think that it's possible that, as people keep seeing this B, that might spur a tipping point. So, larger companies. I also modestly hope that my book can help a little bit too, because I'm busy going out talking to a lot of people like yourself. Many of them have not heard of the B Corp movement before, presumably many of their listeners have not either, and so hopefully I can also be active in spreading the word to new audiences.
Jeff Kavanaugh: In some recent research we conducted, we asked business leaders whether COVID-19 marked a tipping point towards stakeholder capitalism. 54% said yes, 16%, no, and senior executives were 83% yes, so in some respects, they certainly feel that it's pushing in that direction. What does it really mean? Put my consultant hat on here for a second. You have a B Corp, how is that different if you had a B Corp next to a traditional C Corp? What actually is different? What kind of executives are different, processes, can you walk us through some of the differences?
Christopher Marquis: Sure. There doesn't have to be differences. There's many companies that I've talked to that say, I've heard this one line, "We were a B Corp before B Corps existed." So this is something that, there's many companies that operate on a triple bottom line, have highly responsible leadership. Unfortunately, without the B Corp certification, it's hard to tell those companies from, maybe, many companies that are green washing, and they're just communicating a bunch of positive information, but actually not doing the work internally. Where I see the big difference being, from regular ordinary companies, not the exemplary ones that are doing it anyway already, are the companies have tracked, measured and reported on a wide variety of social, environmental, governance, community oriented metrics, which then are assessed against the standard. If they pass a certain level, they're certified, and they're transparent about that.
Christopher Marquis: So really, it's about, you can tell the company is the real deal and you don't have to go and look at CSR reports and dig in deeply into the company's activities to actually tell whether they're good or not, but something where you can tell by the B logo, you can have confidence that the company is authentically, socially and environmentally focused.
Jeff Kavanaugh: The World Economic Forum talked about the great reset. In fact, their great reset from January was recently reset to June, and they actually moved it back, I think, so they could have it in person the hope is. How do these metrics, ESG, triple bottom line, B Corp, play into that great reset narrative that you're hearing coming from them?
Christopher Marquis: I think it's very tightly aligned, because it's easy to say we're resetting, it's easy to say we're stakeholder driven, but unless you actually, in some ways, prove it, I think that there'll always be skeptics. So this is where I see, and I don't see it in a punitive type of way, what I see is that it provides toolkits for companies. By actually having a set of standards and metrics, it provides a way for companies to proactively be better, and learn about how to actually meet the needs of tomorrow's consumers.
Christopher Marquis: Many of the companies that I talk to, maybe a company that's very focused on their environmental impact, and they've been doing that for decades and they get certified, they take the B impact assessment, which is a certification tool. They say, "Wow, when we did this, and were able to benchmark then ourselves, not only against the standards, but we can also see where other companies fall, we realized that actually on a number of employee benefits we're really low. That actually helps us then, because we realize we can raise those benefits to actually be much more aligned with what our peer companies are doing and what standards are."
Christopher Marquis: So I see the metrics that you described as being hand in hand with the idea of the reset, both as an enabler, a toolkit to help companies understand what it actually means to be stakeholder driven, but then also, on the other side, a way for consumers and other folks like NGOs to actually hold companies accountable.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Chris, you've got a unique perspective, not just geographically, but also the fact that you were in banking, so you saw one side of it. Just take the example you mentioned a second ago, that using this criteria, a company notices benefits could increase. Well, if you do that, there's a cost to it. My broader question is, again, putting my financial hat on, have you conducted your research at cost benefit ratio, or any kind of analysis where doing some of these things formally, and measuring, leads to a better financial return, or at least it does so, it leads to these better benefits, without hurting the financial bottom line? Is there much research on that yet?
Christopher Marquis: Sure. There is definitely some research that looks at the socially driven companies. If you think about, there's a couple of different ways that it can hit the bottom line. One is through cost savings, another is through raising the top line, greater revenue. I think there's much more, counterintuitive as it is based on the example I just gave, there's a lot more evidence towards on the cost reducing side. What are the mechanisms for that? One is HR mechanisms. If you look at these companies, much higher retention, much lower attrition, obviously, and also much higher ability to attract quality talent. The retention is the easy one because you can see what the retention rate of a company is compared to its peers. Many of the companies I've studied, things like fast casual restaurants, consulting firms, manufacturing firms, and their retention rate is way higher than what is industry average in peers.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Sorry to interrupt. But you make sense, because if you just said that millennials are more than half the workforce now, and they value this, then doing what they value will retain them.
Christopher Marquis: Exactly. HR costs are tremendous in firms having to hire, recruit new people. Also, similar to what you're saying on the employee attraction side, I interviewed someone recently, head of a B Corp in a unique industry, and she told me people in her industry ask her, "Why are you a B Corp? What sort of savings or economic benefits you have?" Similar to what you asked. She said, "I never have to look for people. I don't have to think about that because everyone stays. And when I grow, I've got a line of people out the door waiting to come work for me." So I think that one of the big cost savings is around HR. There's more systematic research. I mean, I've just done mostly qualitative interview research and it's overwhelming the number of people that tell me-
Jeff Kavanaugh: In fact, the lost productivity, or the loss of productivity, because you know, you got somebody working that wasn't filled. Of course, the other is, if your employee's value it, then your customers might too, right?
Christopher Marquis: Yeah, exactly.
Jeff Kavanaugh: John Elkington, we talked to him recently, and at the end of the book, you said that I believe we are on the brink of unprecedented change for the better. Well, John told us that we need an exponential change to fulfill the UN's SDGs. I hear a lot of the similar things, just using different terms, from the two of you. Do you think this unprecedented change that you hope for will be exponential and what does it take to make it nonlinear?
Christopher Marquis: I do think things like the climate crisis potential, that suggests that we have a limited amount of time to really address some of these really systemic issues in our economy and society. So I do hope that we can make it exponential, but I think it goes back a little bit to our tipping point discussion earlier. It's hard to know when it's going to tip. I think maybe on the environment, there might be natural disasters and other problems that really bring that to the fore. I hope that we don't need natural disasters to actually get people focused on it. But certainly, people like John, that pioneer in this work, who's been doing it for decades, and very connected to the B Corp movement I should say as well, his company Sustainability was the first B Corp in the UK, and Volans, his consulting company, was the second B Corp in the UK. So I think having leaders like him keeping pushing us, and hopefully it won't take any disasters to focus us.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Starting to converge. For the executive listening, what are three things they can do in their own company, which probably isn't a B Corp at this point, to take steps towards either formally or informally adopting these guidelines and principles?
Christopher Marquis: I think they should go take a look at the B Corp model. Maybe go through, there's a B impact assessment, a quick assessment, where they can maybe benchmark their company. I think there's a lot to be said for tracking and measuring things, and that might give them some idea of like, "Okay, here are some things that might make sense to put on the agenda for things we may want to be tracking in the future." I think that's one thing. I think two, when you think about your hiring and HR systems, think about how you can factor in greater inclusion, diversity, that's a big focus of, actually, the B Corp work and movement, very important and salient today. So I think that might be an area where they can draw on that. The third item, I think the millennials nowadays are really focused around purpose, and the extent to which the company can come up with a purpose to really orient itself beyond just a CSR program, maybe taking on a specific cause as something central to the company, I think that might help with their recruiting efforts.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You mention several really interesting names and organizations in the book. One I'd like to call out, Pope Francis' Economy of Francesco, which aims to make the economy of today and tomorrow fair, sustainable and inclusive, with no one left behind. Are you doing work with that organization, or what caught your eye about that?
Christopher Marquis: Two things. One, as I was researching the book, a number of folks that I talked to, particularly from Europe, some from Italy, told me about this, that it was really very well aligned with the B Corp movement, and actually a number of B Corps were involved in this broader set of organizations that is helping sponsor some of the activities. I am actually doing some speaking, there is an event in October that's being held, that I'm speaking at, through this initiative. Then I think it's next year, next spring, hopefully we'll be able to make it in person to Italy given travel demands, which I've also been invited to keynote. It's not the main event, it's one of the events that's focused more on social entrepreneurship, but I will be keynoting that.
Jeff Kavanaugh: I'm pulling for you to be there in person.
Christopher Marquis: Yeah, I hope so.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Well, bring things in, a couple of personal questions. What are the books or people that stand out for you as significant influences?
Christopher Marquis: I guess, throughout my life, I've been really fortunate to have a number of wonderful mentors. Just two that really stand out. When I worked in banking, there was the manager that I had there. I think that he taught me to reach for the skies, in some ways, that sounds like a cliche, but really, if you set your sights low, you're not going to accomplish much, so set your sights high. I think I never would have gotten a PhD without that mentor and motivation. Another mentor I had was one of my PhD dissertation advisors. One of the things that I really learned from him is, I think in academia, it's an ivory tower, and it's called the ivory tower for a reason, there's a real interest in focusing very narrowly on niche and abstract concepts to make yourself look more smart and important to your other academics. He really oriented me into a much more practical sense, and to think about actually how my ideas impact the real world. That had a huge impact in what I studied and, actually, the fact that I've written this book.
Jeff Kavanaugh: What online resources do you recommend and how can people find you online?
Christopher Marquis: Sure. I'll just say one thing, the B Lab website, to learn about B Corporations, is bcorporation.net, I think that's a great resource to learn. There's white papers, they can do the B impact assessment, they can learn about the movement more generally. Also, my name is my web... So, chrismarquis.com. People can go there, there's a page specifically for the book that has descriptive information, the endorsements. Then also, because I really want this book to be a useful resource for many different audiences, I've written a discussion guide for people to talk about it, teaching guide, so if you're a professor or other teacher that wants to teach on it, there's a teaching guide on the website, and a variety of business guides for entrepreneurs. So people should take a look at that too.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Great. Everyone, you can find details on our show notes and transcripts at infosys.com/iki, in our podcast section. Chris, thank you so much for your time and a very interesting discussion.
Christopher Marquis: Great. Jeff, thanks so much, really like to talk to you.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Everyone, you've been listening to the Knowledge Institute, where we talk with experts on business trends, deconstruct main ideas and share their insights. Thanks to our producer, Catherine Burdette, Kerry Taylor, and the entire Knowledge Institute team. Until next time, keep learning and keep sharing.
About Christopher Marquis
Christopher Marquis, Professor in Sustainable Global Enterprise and Management at the Cornell University Johnson College of Business. Before Cornell, Chris worked for 10 years at Harvard Business School and has held positions at the Harvard Kennedy School, Hong Kong University, Peking and others.
His current teaching broadly focuses on social innovation and change and doing business in China. He's examined entrepreneurship in China, the triple bottom line and building sustainable businesses globally and competition in emerging markets. Chris received a PhD in sociology and business administration from the University of Michigan. And lastly, published in September 2020, Better Business explorers the rapid growth of companies choosing to certify as B Corporation and explains why the future of B Corp Movement is vital for us all.
- Christopher’s personal website
- Cornell University's SC Johnson College of Business
- What is a Certified B Corporation?
- About B Lab
- What is a Corporate Social Responsibility report?
- The Economy of Francesco
- World Economic Forum
- John Elkington and “triple bottom line” concept of people, plant, profit
- Infosys Knowledge Institute podcast- “John Elkington on the Emergent Future of Sustainability” August, 2020
- United Nations Global Sustainable Development Goals or “SDG Targets”
Selected links from the episode