December Symposium Shows Pathways for Responsible Businesses

November 23rd, 2022

SANTA FE, NM — A growing number of businesses are recognizing the need to think beyond profits. On December 9, as part of our BEYOND PROFIT series with Santa Fe Innovates and UNM Anderson School of Management, the UNM Center for Responsible Entrepreneurship will convene a half-day symposium to showcase various tools businesses can employ on their responsible business journeys.

BEYOND PROFIT: Pathways for Responsible Business meets from 9:30-1:00pm, immediately followed by a one-hour meeting to discuss the formation of a B Local chapter, a group of responsible business leaders* that would work to support the growth of Certified B Corporations within the state. Both the symposium and working group are open to all who are interested in learning about best practices for future-proofing their businesses and creating a positive, sustainable impact.

“In my view, a big reason why the [responsible business] movement is gaining strength is that younger generations are expecting business to be a force for good,” says Mertz. “They expect business to not only make a profit, but to really embody a purpose in what they give back to society and how they keep our environment safe. And older generations are joining in and seeing there are a lot of benefits to that.”

The responsible business movement in New Mexico traces its roots back to 2018, when UNM Anderson professor Wellington Spetic and a group of his colleagues hosted an event for local businesses with a mutual interest in sustainable, responsible business practices. In tandem with these efforts, the global narrative was shifting. In 2019, an influential trade group, the Business Roundtable (BRT), released an official statement that declared corporations need to move away from business models that focus only on profits for shareholders, toward models that also work in the interest of “stakeholders”— the employees, the consumers, the suppliers, the environment, and the communities the corporations serve.

Consumers are also starting to hold businesses accountable for their behaviors. For example, major retail companies that ceased paying rent to local malls during the pandemic lockdowns, upon returning, “suffered cold welcomes” from local consumers, according to a report from the nonprofit B Lab, which confers an independent B Corp certification that functions like a consumer reports score for responsible businesses. Another prominent example of consumer-driven accountability was the drop in Amazon’s stock price after the company fired employees who had publicly criticized working conditions at warehouses.

Participants in the December 9 symposium will hear presentations on the current market landscape and ESG funding, the business case for becoming a Benefit Corporation and Certified B Corporation, and case studies fromUNM Anderson Business for Good Clinic, featuring two local businesses and eight students navigating the process of becoming a Certified B Corporation.

“If you really want to show that you are doing good, you can prove that,” Spetic says. “The B Corp certification is not a perfect tool, but it is the most robust tool that I know of right now in the world to separate those that say they’re good from those that are actually trying to prove they’re good.”

Spetic stresses that the B Corp certification component of the symposium will not push anyone toward pursuing certification. Its purpose is to educate those who are curious about what B Corps certification is, and what it entails.

Alice Main, a graduate student at UNM Anderson who is co-organizing the symposium with Spetic, notes that New Mexico is well positioned to become a hub for the responsible business movement.

“What I love about New Mexico is how much people are connected to place and are inclined to care about things like community and conservation,” Main says. “With this cultural makeup, the growth in responsible consumer trends, and the benefits of being in a small state, I think this movement could really explode.”

“In New Mexico in particular, we need younger generations to start businesses here to have opportunities to find jobs that pay well and companies that do well,” Mertz adds. “We need to give younger generations an opportunity to stay in our state to grow businesses that can be a force for good.”

Robert DelCampo, also of UNM Anderson, who is co-organizing the BEYOND PROFIT series with Mertz and with Creative Santa Fe, says the symposium answers the question of how to get involved in the responsible business movement.

“People attend our speaker events and they ask me how to get more involved,” DelCampo says. “For business owners, this is it. This is how to get more involved.