BGI Change Agent: Jay Coen Gilbert

Jay HeadshotWhat comes to mind when you hear the names Ben and Jerry’s, Patagonia, or Seventh Generation? Well, if you are anything like me then you think of the time when you spilled a little Cherry Garcia on your favorite Patagonia shirt, and you used Seventh Generation laundry detergent to wash it out. In reality, the names of these companies are associated with a new business entity called B Corporations, where they are using the power of business to solve some of the world’s social and environmental issues. Ben and Jerry’s, Patagonia, and Seventh Generation are just a few of the 728 companies that are leading the charge to transform the way business is done.

At BGI’s April Intensive, we were introduced to the world of B Corps, and B Lab, the nonprofit that certifies and supports B Corps, by the co-founder of B-Lab, and our Change Agent In Residence, Jay Coen Gilbert. Prior to co-founding B-Lab, Jay helped found a basketball apparel company called AND 1. He and his partners grew the company and sold it for $240 million. Jay, in my opinion, may qualify for the “Most Interesting Man in the World”. He has traveled the world, is a board member of KIPP Philadelphia, a dad, a husband, and a business superhero. I, like many at the Intensive, was blown away by how accessible he made himself. He was willing to listen and converse with us about our business ideas, and find ways to help either make the idea better, or connect us to people he knew could assist in bringing the idea to fruition. It was the first time I, personally, saw a Change Agent In Residence actually do something like that.

During the Fireside Chat, Jay said many interesting and thought provoking things, but the key lesson that stuck in my head was from a story he shared about his time at AND 1, when he and his partners were faced with growing the business or selling it. Growing it would mean some of the co-founders would not carry on into the future of the company, and in that lay the potential to destroy friendships that originated from childhood. Selling AND 1 would mean the business would carry on and they could remain friends. They chose the latter. He said the friendships were more important than the business, and I really respect that. If faced with the same circumstance, I don’t think many people would do the same.

At his Saturday afternoon presentation, he gave more information about what a B-Corp is, how to become one, and why they’re important. He spoke of how his team has been working with states across the country to change legislation to offer B-Corps a legal entity. They have been successful in 12 states, and will soon extend into Delaware. He mentioned the importance of passing B-Corp legislation in Delaware since over 60% of Fortune 500 companies incorporate there. This is mostly due to the face that corporate statutes developed in Delaware are modern and up to date. Delaware essentially sets the standard for the rest of the nation and helped pave the way for many states to model their statutes after that of Delaware’s. So, it is easy to see why passing B-Corp legislation in Delaware would be so significant.  This could be a game changer for all stakeholders in the business world.

There were many great takeaways from his presentation. One that comes to mind is that “entrepreneurs are the agents of change.” To me that means we, as entrepreneurs, have a huge responsibility to use our influence to better the world we live in, and create businesses that make a positive impact. Jay ended his presentation with the most impactful statement: “B-Corps are part of a movement to redefine a successful business [where] companies compete not to be the best in the world, but to be the best for the world.” I know I am not alone in feeling that the time shared with Jay at the April intensive was not only valuable, but life changing. Our world needs more revolutionaries/Change Agents like Jay Coen Gilbert, a man who is “Changing Business For Good.”

about the author

Snow Montemayor is a Cohort 11 candidate for BGI’s MBA in Sustainable Systems from San Antonio, Texas. He believes in making a positive impact on his community, and his biggest hope and dream is to use his sustainable business degree to solve local social and environmental issues. Snow looks to do this with hard work, good humor, and a lot of fun.

Discussion

  1. Kevin Adams Wed, Oct 2, 2013 at 10:38 pm · Reply

    Hi Snow,

    My name is Kevin Adams and I am a C12 student. Great write up on B Corps and Jay’s presentation. I literally just learned about B Corps/B Lab today while visiting the HUB in SF. After reading their 2012 Annual Report, all I can say is “Wow”! I wish I was there for Jay’s CAIR presentation.

    I currently work at Costco Wholesale and am not sure where to start intersecting B-Lab and Costco for obvious reasons. All I know is I want to be a part of it and it needs to happen! If a large company like Patagonia can do it, why not Costco? And if Costco could get on board, then B Corps will grow exponentially! Do you have any insight into how I should go about this or who I can talk to? Thanks and I’m sure we’ll meet next week at the first intensive.

    Kevin

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