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Etsy Joins the B Corporation Movement

May 9, 2012

by Michelle Traub handmade and vintage goods

Today we’re incredibly proud to announce that Etsy has become a Certified B Corporation™. So what exactly does that mean? B Corporations are a new kind of company that uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. It’s like a LEED or Fair Trade certification, but for a business, not just a building or a bag of coffee. There are currently over 521 Certified B Corporations from sixty industries, such as consulting, solar energy, and law. Etsy will be among the biggest, keeping good company with Patagonia and Seventh Generation.

Why did we become B Corp certified? We believe that business has a higher social purpose beyond simply profit. The B Corp assessment gives us a framework to measure Etsy’s success against rigorous values and responsible practices as we scale as a company. Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures, a longtime Etsy investor and advisor, puts it this way: “We believe that the best long-term stewards of Internet-based networks and marketplaces will focus on value creation for all participants instead of solely on shareholders. B Corporations provide a legal foundation perfectly supporting this much more comprehensive outlook.”

The organization behind B Corporations, B Lab, was founded in 2006 by Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan and Andrew Kassoy, old friends who had made their way through the worlds of private equity and business management before deciding that they’d rather focus on how they could make the world better with business, and redefine what a business is.

The heart of B Lab is its rigorous certification process on social and environmental performance, to which any business can apply. Companies that pass often collaborate to raise money, share sustainability strategies, and publicize job opportunities. In states where legislation has passed, B Corps are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their employees, suppliers, community, consumers, and environment as well as shareholder value. Etsy is incorporated in Delaware, a state that has not yet passed such legislation, but this certification allows us to introduce conversations in the company, community, and the board room about our social and environmental impact. Katie Kerr, B Lab’s communications director reflects: “We want to reach the point where it’s strange not to be doing business this way.”

We are inspired by this movement that overwhelmingly proves the feasible harmony of business interests with social and environmental responsibility. Etsy has already organically developed some conscientious practices, such as offering loaner bicycles to employees, hiring local small food businesses that incorporate in-season ingredients, donating office compost to a Brooklyn community farm, and regulating office energy consumption. However, there is still much more to do. Utilizing independent third-party criteria for evaluating Etsy’s success in these fields can give us a dose of pride now, but more importantly, a tangible sense of the work that needs to be done for the future.

B Lab co-founder Andrew Kassoy adds: “We’re thrilled Etsy is joining the growing community of Certified B Corporations. Their business model, which supports a community of micro-enterprises at scale, is an example of the kind of business that is redefining success and building local, living economies.”