Positively pursuing profit - interview with Jonathan Normand, B Lab Founder Switzerland

    Positively pursuing profit - interview with Jonathan Normand, B Lab Founder Switzerland

    B Corp is one of the most advanced corporate sustainability certifications in the world. Can you tell us a little more about its beginnings?

    B Lab, the non-profit organisation behind the B Corp certification, was founded by three college friends Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan, and Andrew Kassoy in 2006. They created the B Corp Certification to make it easier for mission-driven businesses to protect and improve their positive impact over time.

    Certified B Corps are companies that carry out a three-fold social, environmental and economic mission. They are driven to use business as a force for good.

    In 2007, the first 82 B Corps were certified in the USA and, to date, this number has risen to nearly 3’000 B Corps worldwide. This movement rapidly became an international one.

    Can you tell us a bit about your B Impact Assessment tool?

    Sure. The B Impact Assessment (BIA) is a free, confidential tool that allows companies to measure their social and environmental performances using specific metrics. Companies receive an evaluation score of up to +250 points. If they score a minimum of 80, they can receive the B Corporation Certification. If their score is lower, local B Lab teams and B Leaders help them in their journey towards certification.

    We’re committed to creating an economy that’s made up of companies that use our tool to assess themselves and to understand how to improve.

    Every 18 months, our Standard Advisory Council reviews and implements the B Impact Assessment. It’s an independent committee, composed of more than twenty representatives from the academic, public, and business communities.

    What makes B Corp different from the other certifications out there?

    First of all, the certification trust is held by a non-profit organisation (B Lab). This clearly contributes to our credibility and helps set us apart.

    It’s also distinguished by the commitment of its stakeholders through company bylaws. To explain, when a company is certified, it needs to adapt its bylaws, in a way that adds new fiduciary duties to society and the environment. To date, no other certification requires this.

    Finally, B Corp has become a global movement. This helps to develop partnerships between certified companies. The B Corp Certification has become a “trust builder”.

    The B Corp Certification has become a “trust builder”.

    Once companies are certified, how do you monitor them?

    Each certified company is reviewed every three years by B Lab, and they are monitored between their assessment periods. This revaluation period makes it possible to highlight anything that could have been implemented by the company during the three years, and allows to adjust their scores over time. If needed, B Lab can also revoke the certification if the requirements are no longer fulfilled.

    Certification is really only the starting point. There is always room for improvement.


    What is the B Corp situation like here, in Switzerland?

    Switzerland is clearly a star student thanks to our level of social benefits and stable political system. In addition to the 1,400 organisations currently using the B Impact Assessment, there are 55 at an advanced stage in the certification process. The announcement of Lombard Odier’s certification clearly boosted our requests.

    By way of comparison, 800 companies worldwide have submitted to start the review process.

    So, clearly, Switzerland is well placed to play a pioneering role, promoting a sustainable model for the economy and demonstrating that businesses can pursue both profit and purpose. With little effort, we could become one of the most exemplary countries in terms of social and environmental progress.

    Switzerland is well placed to play a pioneering role, promoting a sustainable model for the economy and to demonstrate that businesses can pursue both profit and purpose.

    How do you see the B Corp community evolve in Switzerland?

    Last year, B Lab Switzerland and the State of Geneva collaborated to launch the “Best for Geneva” engagement program. More than 350 local economic businesses and professionals used the BIA to measure their performances, and participated in various improvement workshops on social and environmental good practices.

    On the heels of this success, we are now launching the Swiss Triple Impact Initiative; this will clearly be an important accelerator in creating the B Economy. The companies participating to the program will be equipped with our training tools to measure and improve their triple impact (people, planet and profit) to accelerate their contribution to the Swiss Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This three-year program will also help build a list of sustainable Swiss companies.

    The objective is really to put the private sector in a positive light and to build a responsible economy. 

    We are at a crossroads in terms of caring for our planet. Why do you think it is essential for the private sector to join the cause?

    First of all, there are expectations. From future generations, clients and consumers, as well as investors. Today, we have a duty to work together to avoid systemic failure. The private sector can play an important role in reaching the SDGs. There is a sustainable revolution underway and it is a revolution worth investing in. This sustainable revolution is approximately worth USD 12 trillion, and potential job creation is expected to reach 180 million by 2030.

    Not opting for a sustainable approach would be a strategic mistake.

    Lombard Odier has succeeded in plugging into these realities and has positioned itself very well. Fabio Mancone (Lombard Odier’s Chief Branding Officer) did an excellent job in terms of the firm’s advertising campaign, backed by clear commitments and a credible certification. This is what society needs to move forward to build a shared and durable economy.

    And has B Lab joined the game? Are you B certified?

    Yes we have! Like any 21st century organisation, we evaluate our practices and implement improvement plans. After our last B Lab global assessment, it was identified that we could bring more diversity to the employee pool, which we did through a diversity and inclusion plan. 

    And what are you doing personally for the planet?

    I teach my children to be more conscious and not to be wasteful. That’s also how I live myself. You have to challenge yourself. Do I have to make this trip? You have to ask yourself the right questions. Restraint is not a negative thing – it’s positive. You have to get the most out of what you have. That’s the best way to do it.


    Born in Geneva, Jonathan Normand trained in mathematics and algorithmic development. He spent 12 years in international financial institutions before co-founding, in 2009, Codethic, a consulting firm in corporate governance and social responsibility. A facilitator in improving overall performance and sustainable growth, he is passionate about the development of the economy and studies its trends and disruptions.

    He sits and chairs the Board of Sustainable Finance Geneva and has co-founded the Association Demain Genève. This charity puts a spotlight on the positive contribution of ecological, energy and economic players. In 2014, he participated in the establishment of the NGO B Lab in Europe and co-founded the Swiss antenna, which he currently heads.

    Important information

    This document is issued by Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd or an entity of the Group (hereinafter “Lombard Odier”). It is not intended for distribution, publication, or use in any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, or use would be unlawful, nor is it aimed at any person or entity to whom it would be unlawful to address such a document. This document was not prepared by the Financial Research Department of Lombard Odier.

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