Why Varsity Became a Benefit Corporation
I founded Varsity with the idea that a technology company could be both innovative in working with schools and non-profits, and also profitable. Over the years, my vision for Varsity has been met with much skepticism and downright cynicism from many business people. It’s not that anyone disagrees, but for a business it is commonly understood that it has to be about profit, making it difficult for others to understand when we choose to pass on an opportunity that would otherwise bring us a gain in profit but compromise our values.
We have not changed much of our thinking in this area and still focus our services on education and non-profits. Our company continues to grow and the core values we adhere to have evolved and matured. With the evolution of this company I felt that we needed to take our commitment a step further. I wanted Varsity to be held to a higher standard and level of accountability that extends beyond myself, the founder. Becoming a Benefit Corporation (B Corp as it is commonly known) was what I needed to establish our role as a for-profit that operates with a high degree of social and environmental responsibility.
Although B Corporations have been around for many years, the fuel behind it has really built momentum over the past two to three years. This momentum gained additional steam when B Lab, the organizing force behind the B Corp movement, began working inside state legislators to have B Corporations recognized as legal corporate entities. This means that the state recognizes both the fiduciary responsibility of the executive and board of directors, as well as the community benefit that the corporation commits to fulfilling. And so, this year we completed our B Corp membership status and became recognized by the State of California as a legal Benefit Corporation.
Over the past few months we have been talking more about our legal change, and have received some interesting questions. Some have asked if the change was just for marketing. Others have interpreted it as a firm commitment reflected in our values. For us, it has always been about staying true to our identity, culture, and our people. The organization needs to continue on without a founder as its defining character and brand. For Varsity, the people have made it their own and the Benefit Corporation status now recognizes them for standing by their beliefs and principals.