Northwest Permanente’s B-Corp Journey
December 4, 2017
Northwest Permanente, P.C., is proud to be the first physician organization in the nation to be certified as a B Corp — corporations that meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. The process for doing so took about two years. Why and how did we achieve this status?
The first B Corps (or Benefit Corporations) were certified by the B Lab in 2007, and by 2015 an awareness of this movement had surfaced among members of the Northwest Permanente (NWP) Board of Directors. It was felt that NWP, following the path started by its founder, Dr. Sidney Garfield, was already meeting the B Corp standards in its mission and philosophy, and its practices aligned well with the obligations of B Corp boards to make decisions based on people and the planet — not purely on profits.
In 2016, NWP began to focus on B Corp certification in earnest — a two-pronged effort that took several months to complete and that required the close cooperation of professionals across the organization. The first aspect of the process involved an assessment by B Lab, which measured five areas, included governance, workers, community, environment, and customers. Some 85 percent of companies who attempt certification fail on their first attempt, with 80 points out of 200 needed to pass. NWP managed to pass the B Lab assessment on the first attempt, with a score of 135.
Next in the process was changing the medical group’s Articles of Incorporation, which ultimately required a vote of 75 percent of shareholders. Once that vote was accomplished, in September 2016, NWP achieved official B Corp status. Portland Business Journal recognized NWP as the second-highest-scoring new B Corp to be certified in Oregon in 2016.
In January 2017, we officially filed with the State of Oregon as a Benefit Corporation. And we celebrated!
The internal audit of all our community benefit, volunteer, sponsorship and corporate goodwill activities made it clear to us that to make an impact and be most effective, we needed to organize these varied activities under one umbrella. This review provided the genesis of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Program, designed to keep track of, align, and measure these activities. Our B Corp work is included in our CSR plan. Midyear, NWP hired a Community Engagement Consultant, Perry Jaqua, to manage our work on the CSR and B Corp efforts, allowing our B Corp work to be fully operationalized.
Also in 2017, NWP participated in the B Corp Inclusion Challenge, focusing on a series of changes to benefit our workers, diversity and inclusion pipeline programs, and community volunteerism. Because of our assessment score and ongoing actions, NWP received B Lab acknowledgement as a “Best in the World” B Corp in the Overall and Workers categories. The 2017 Best for the World honorees represent the top 10 percent of all B Corporations internationally.
In September 2017, NWP celebrated its first year of B Corp certification. Now, with a forthcoming CSR plan as our guide, we look forward to our future as a B Corp and to becoming a national leader in the areas of diversity and inclusion, environmental stewardship, and community partnership.