Better Banking Blog

B Corps Earn an A on Social and Environmental Performance

Oct 28, 2021

Karen Parolek sits at her desk in a blue sweater in front of a blue wall with a white bicycle painted on it.

Opticos Design and its bank, Beneficial State, are both certified B Corps, dedicated to helping communities and protecting the planet.

In recent years, more and more corporations have declared their commitment to social and environmental causes. But, many of them have yet to follow up on their promises.

However, some companies — certified as B Corps — have walked the talk, and set the standard for being a “good business.” B Corps are independently evaluated and certified by the nonprofit B Lab, having proven their commitment to a more inclusive and sustainable economy for all.

B Corps help our communities thrive. Take Opticos Design, based in Berkeley and a certified B Corp since 2007. Founded in 2000, they believe that walkable places are critical for healthy, resilient, and equitable communities. Through the expertise of their urban designers, architects, and strategists, Opticos introduced the concept of Missing Middle Housing. That’s a transformative idea that highlights the need for diverse, affordable housing options in walkable urban places.

Recently, Opticos became part of Plan Downtown Oakland, supporting a vision for a vibrant downtown that will benefit the entire city and region. That includes expanding safe, comfortable bike infrastructure and converting I-980 from a highway into a boulevard.

According to Operations Manager Amanda Wiltz, “We think about things like: How will communities be able to have the most optimal mobility choices and how can we as a company generate a sense of community in a sustainable way?”

Internally, Opticos also prioritizes pay transparency for its employees and opts for suppliers that support women- and minority-owned businesses. This is all part of the B Corp’s triple bottom line: paying attention to social and environmental impact, as well as financial performance.

When Opticos was looking for financing, that triple bottom line commitment informed their choice of bank. They eventually decided on Beneficial State Bank — which is itself a certified B Corp. Wiltz says, “We were looking for a bank that shared our values. Knowing Beneficial State was a B Corp meant that we didn’t have to worry about spending a lot of time doing background research to ensure values alignment.”

In fact, Beneficial State Bank is one of only eight B Corp-certified banks in the United States. They are also one of several values-based banks that are transforming the financial sector by investing depositor money into organizations that nourish our communities. To that end, they support small businesses, nonprofits, and B Corps like Opticos with financial services and more.

“Banking with Beneficial State gave us access to even more B Corps,” says Wiltz. “They sponsored a B Corp fair before the pandemic and it was amazing to meet different types of B Corps that all strive to use business as a force for good.”

As a banking customer, you can help businesses like Opticos that look beyond a financial bottom line. Working with a values-based bank is a great way to manage your finances while ensuring your money makes a positive impact.

And there are three easy steps you can take to get started:

  1. Educate yourself on how banks use your money. If you already have a bank, you can check its website or ask where the bank invests your money and how it actively supports local communities. Good sources of information include: Mighty Deposits, Green America, and Rainforest Action Network.
  2. Select a bank that invests in doing good. Values-based banks demonstrate that a bank can generate positive social and environmental impact while remaining financially sustainable.
  3. Encourage friends and family to put their money to good use. Let them know that where they bank matters — their money can be used to help, or harm. Beneficial State has helpful resources on how to move your money, and Stop the Money Pipeline has a useful checklist, as well.

There’s a better way of doing business, and there’s a better way of banking. When your banking choices align with your values, you can be confident your money is doing good — for our economy, for our Oakland community, and for the world.

Originally posted October 2021: The Oaklandside "B Corps earn an A on social and environmental performance"

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We lend over $1 billion to support a brighter tomorrow, including affordable housing and the environment. When you bank beneficially, you choose to support people and planet.