Jay Coen Gilbert: Rewriting the "Source Code" for Capitalism
Play • 38 min

In a recent New York Times op-ed, “America Is in a Disgraced Class of Its Own”, sociologist Matthew Desmond writes about the shameful amount of poverty in America, and our responsibility for it. He also writes about solutions. He points to B Corp as a beacon of light, a resource for people who want to support corporations that actually respect workers, their communities and the environment. Our guest this week, Jay Coen Gilbert, is one of B Corp’s founders. He’s also someone Abby consulted with while making her documentary, The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales. She says Jay helped her think through many complicated economic questions, especially around how to limit the power and influence of American corporations and their leaders.

According to Abby, “Jay is the rarest of creatures—a smart businessman who knows how to run a company—but he's also unashamed to say that values matter, principles matter, and that greed is—now, are you sitting down for this?—not good.”  Over the course of the conversation, Jay explains what a B Corp is and why it may hold the potential to fundamentally change the way corporations function in our culture and our economy. In most states, the law essentially requires companies to maximize financial returns to shareholders. Profit at all costs, Jay tells Abby, has become the “source code” for modern capitalism’s operating system. B Corps, he says, are attempting to rewrite that code: “they are changing the settings” he explains, so that other “stakeholders” can be included in a company’s mission. In other words, a company’s board can pay workers a living wage, for instance, or work towards a sustainable, equitable supply chain—and not be punished by shareholders for doing so, but instead encouraged to do it. Ultimately, Jay hopes that “the settings” that B Corps are pioneering will become mandatory for companies above a certain size: “at a certain point, if you're too big to fail, you're too big to not only fail your shareholders, you're too big to fail society.”

You can learn more about B Lab and B Corp at bcorporation.net, and you can learn more about Jay’s work to reset economic systems at imperative21.co.

America Is in a Disgraced Class of Its Own (NY Times)
A Friedman doctrine‐- The Social Responsibility Of Business Is to Increase Its Profits (NY Times)
Free to Choose: A Personal Statement, by Milton Friedman and Rose D. Friedman (Goodreads)
Untold: The Rise and Fall of And1 | Official Trailer | Netflix (Youtube)
Patagonia 50: Purpose Over Profit (Patagonia)
On Nespresso Controversy: Are B Corps turning against B Lab? (Fast Company)
The legal requirement for Certified B Corporations (B Lab)

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