When I chat with prospective clients about what makes Abacus a different sort of financial advising company, one thing I always say is that we’re a Certified B Corporation.
Often, I’m met with a wide grin and enthusiastic nod of approval. “Wow, that’s amazing!” those familiar will say.
But sometimes I’m met with blank stares.
Sensing this, I pause and ask, “Are you familiar with what a B Corp is?” Relieved, they reply, “No. Can you share what it is?”
As Director of Impact, I love to explore this with prospective clients. As I explain what it means, I can see them feel the same excitement and pride that I feel to be with such a company. Why?
Because they are likely part of the 80% of global consumers who believe that business must play a role in addressing societal issues. They are likely themselves one of the 86% of employees who believe it’s important their own employer be responsible to society and the environment.
This is precisely what a B Corp does.
What is a B Corp?
A B Corp is a private certification (comparable to the LEED certification in green building or Fair Trade certification goods) that signals a company meets a threshold for environmental and social performance. It also means the company has integrated a commitment to stakeholders (wider than shareholders) in its governing documents to balance purpose and profit.
Abacus was among the 20 trailblazing companies across many industries who were the first to be certified in the summer of 2007. This made us not only a founding B Corp, but also the first financial services company to be a certified B Corp.
Today, the B Movement spans 50+ countries, 100+ industries, and 2,500+ companies.
The History of B Corporation
The B Corp movement was born when two friends founded a company that was later acquired by a large corporation. Through the acquisition, they saw how their model of sustainability they had worked so hard to integrate into the company (like caring for employees) was dismantled. Together with another former college classmate, they began working on a new way of understanding the fundamental flaws of shareholder capitalism. They ultimately created new tools to help socially and environmentally conscious companies stay true to these core values while also flourishing in the marketplace.
How Companies Become B Certified
To become a certified B Corporation, companies must take the B Impact Assessment. Any company can take the assessment for free. Using five categories (community, customers, environment, workers, governance) and 200 questions, the assessment helps a company see where it’s making an impact and where it can improve on its social and environmental factors. A company receiving a minimum verified score of 80, and who pays an annual fee based on revenues, becomes certified and their impact report results are made public on bcorporation.net. This tool gives companies metrics to compare their performance to others and identify and track how to improve.
Every year, B Lab honors top-performing Certified B Corporations in each Impact Area and overall on their annual Best for the World lists. We are proud to have been recognized for 7 consecutive years, and continue to strive to improve our Impact Assessment.
For Abacus, being a B Corp firm means we:
- Use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems
- Meet rigorous standards and are re-certified every 3 years
- Are a part of a global movement to use business as a force for good
Why is Being a B Corp Important to Abacus?
Embodying integrity is central to our mission of ‘expanding what’s possible with money.’ Walking the talk not only helps us guide our clients to investing in impactful enterprises, but also continually improve our own impact across all operations. As we continue to grow, it also helps us attract and retain values-aligned humans (clients and talent) who are drawn to our B Corp-inspired policies. These include:
- Parental leave
- Women in leadership
- Pro Bono planning
- Employee ownership
- Time off
- Diversity, Equity & Inclusion infusion across all of our divisions
These values naturally help align our company’s values with client values, fostering a common purpose and humanity that is often overlooked in finance.
Why is Abacus being a B Corp important to our clients?
There are five main areas highlighting why being a founding B Corp is essential to our clients:
- It sets us apart from the crowd of financial advisors
- It shows we are authentic in our vision to align money with values; we are not greenwashing nor new to this work
- It signals stronger values alignment with the right clients
- It signals we are a firm with intentionality and foresight in how we show up in the world
- It situates us inside a wider values-aligned business ecosystem
Abacus is an active member in the B Corp community. For example, our firm banks with fellow B Corp member Beneficial State Bank. We have also collaborated with Beneficial to host Pro Bono Financial Planning sessions. Additionally, we’ve offered Pro Bono Financial Planning for other fellow B Corps and their staff. Abacans are also avid lovers of many products from fellow B Corp companies. Our offices are stocked with snacks and drinks from Certified B Corporation vendors, and we prioritize purchasing cleaning products and office supplies from fellow B Corps as well. It’s important to us to support our B Corp colleagues who are using their business as a force for good.
How Abacus Continues to Level Up
Every time we update our B Impact Assessment, we are shown clear metrics where Abacus is leading and where we have strategic room for improvement. For example, Abacus is a leader in the B Corp ecosystem (and the wider financial services ecosystem) for our low carbon footprint, along with the percentage of our assets held in environmental, social, and governance-friendly screened investments. We are a leader for women in management and leadership positions, including on the firm’s board of directors. Our assessment also shows we can improve most in strengthening our accountability structures across firm divisions related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Our Path Forward
In the coming years, Abacus will continue to strive towards mindful impact — as a financial planning firm, an employer, a voice in the financial industry, and as a business in our local, national, and global community. We are committed to the B Corp movement’s values, and to the methodical, thoughtful, and transparent way it helps us demonstrate these values every day.