Taking the LEAD: ACE Talks B Corp Movement at Leadership Engagement and Discovery Conference
February 12, 2018
For-profit colleges have earned a fair amount of negative attention in recent years, but Vice President of Human Resources and B Corp Benefit Officer KK Byland dropped the mic for American College of Education during the (B)enefit Corp Panel at the 2018 Leadership Engagement and Discovery (LEAD) Conference on Friday.
Rounding out a group of social innovators that included Vicki Bohlsen, founder of the Indianapolis-based marketing and advertising firm, Bohlsen Group, and Josh Driver, the pathfinder behind the new startup, Selfless.ly, KK explained how ACE has harnessed the power of business to propel social change and become a B Corp and Certified Benefit Corporation.
“We were looking at ways… to fight the battle between being a company that is doing something socially conscious and [being] put in the same bucket as some of our [peer] colleges, and becoming B certified was one of those [ways],” she said.
“What I liked most about the assessment was it not only concentrates on your business, but it concentrates on your employees as well as your constituents. For us, that was validation that, okay, this is truly something that can separate us from the fray of the for-profit sector. It’s evaluating our student outcomes, and this really does mean something.”
But leading the charge for ACE to earn B Corp certification was about more than just easing prospective students’ concerns about the college’s financial model.
“Our whole mission is to provide affordable, quality education to teachers,” KK said. By becoming a B Corp and publicly asserting the college’s commitment to social impact, ACE was merely living out that mission–with an added layer of accountability.
But what about for other institutions? Is the B Corp movement just a flash-in-the-pan?
“I feel like this is where we have to go as a community, as a world,” Josh noted.
“It’s not just a fad or something to follow,” KK agreed, describing the growing attention paid to the B Corp movement by the agricultural and higher education sectors. “We’re ingraining this sense of business and purpose that’s going to continue and be a part of our workforce.”
What’s it going to take to catapult the movement to a global stage?
Vicki posits that it’s all about awareness. “When we were first certified, people were [going], ‘What is it? What is it?’ …I think eventually, there will be more knowledge because so many more people are talking about it.”