For many companies, it’s the holy grail: grow revenue, increase jobs, and be socially responsible at the same time. Sometimes, social responsibility is sacrificed in the name of keeping companies afloat. But these six companies, dubbed Rockstars of the New Economy by B Lab, have achieved three to 100 times revenue or job growth while maintaining a high environmental and social impact. That’s success.
Sungevity is part of a growing group of companies—including SunRun and SolarCity—that lease solar systems to customers, instead of forcing them to purchase the often-quite-expensive panels. In the past year, the company has tripled its staff to 300 employees. It has also installed solar panels on over 3,500 homes (generating 8,500 kW of power) since its founding in 2007.
This company, which partnered with the Nest Collective accelerator for children’s wellness food brands after it was founded, reached $50 million in revenue in 2011—increasing its revenue by 100 times over the past five years. Revolution Foods, which serves healthy school lunches to kids, has dished out over 30 million affordable meals to public school students since 2006.. A sample meal: honey-glazed chicken with roasted potatoes and garlic braised collard greens. Delicious. Revolution Foods was one of Fast Company's 10 Most Innovative Companies in Food for 2012.
Lumni, a company operating in Chile, Colombia, Mexico and the U.S., "creates funds that invest in the human capital of low-income students," according to founder and CEO Felipe Vergara. The company’s social investment funds invest in college students, and in return, the students commit to paying back a fixed portion of their income for six months after they graduate (they don’t have to pay if they’re unemployed). Over the last five years, Lumni grew from $1.5 million in assets under management to $25 million. In 2011, it reached 2,500 students. Lumni USA recently financed its first class of American students.
Better World Books collects and sells books that libraries and colleges are otherwise going to toss in the trash and sets aside part of each book sale for its nonprofit literacy partners, including Books for Africa, Room to Read, and Invisible Children (that last one may be questionable in light of recent discoveries). In the past five years, the company increased its revenue by five times, growing to $50 million in 2011. Better World Books has donated over 5 million books (for every book sold, a book is donated).
A coffee importer that emphasizes transparency across the entire supply chain, Sustainable Harvest reached $76 million in revenue in 2011 (a rate of five times growth in the last five years). It has also brought over $200 million to rural coffee farming communities over the past 15 years. And as we noted in a recent post, Sustainable Harvest is introducing the iPad to coffee farmers in an attempt to increase efficiency and traceability.
Like Better World Books and Tom’s Shoes, Warby Parker uses the "one for one" model—for every pair of glasses sold, the company gives a pair to someone in need via its nonprofit partners. Founded in 2010, Warby Parker now has 50 employees and has given away over 100,000 pairs of glasses.
These six companies are obviously not the only ones doing well by doing good. They are all B Corporations, which are required to meet legal accountability, environmental, and social performance standards upheld by the nonprofit B Lab. Other notably successful B Corporations include Patagonia, Method, and RecycleBank (see this post on the 20 Best Businesses for the World). There are 517 B Corps in total, but plenty of successful and socially responsible companies have yet to join.
Regardless of whether they are B Corps or not, Lumini’s Vergara believes that it’s "essential for every business to have a purpose that can connect people, staff, customers and partners with that mission." And if these businesses can make lots of money while doing that, even better.