Awakin Calls » Jay Coen Gilbert
Jay Coen Gilbert: Entrepreneur, Social Change Catalyst, Business Model Innovator
Perhaps you’ve seen the “Certified B Corporation” symbol on your Kleen Kanteen water bottle or on a pint of Ben and Jerry’s vegan chocolate caramel cluster ice cream. Can a capitalist model which has earned a reputation for endless consumption really evolve and even transform?
Jay Coen Gilbert believes that we must be the change that we seek. More than a hopeful adage, this is the ethic that powers his groundbreaking work in the business world and that inspires the game-changing nonprofit he co-founded, B Lab. B Lab scrutinizes and then certifies qualifying corporations based on such criteria as their positive community impact and financial transparency.
Ultimately, B Lab’s goal is to create a global economy based on businesses that increase prosperity equally for all people and the planet, not just a few elite. In fact, B Lab has created a “Declaration of Interdependence,” a vision of “do no harm.” As Jay says, "Our vision is that one day all companies will compete to be best for the world -- best for workers, best for communities, and best for the environment. Together, we will build an inclusive economy that creates a more shared and durable prosperity for all."
Recently named to an illustrious list of the "10 people transforming how we think about capitalism," Jay aims for nothing less than a capitalist reformation. He grew up in New York City and graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Asian studies. He then worked for several organizations in New York City’s profit and non-profit sectors before taking some time off in Australia. In 1993, he co-founded the basketball clothing and footwear company, AND 1, with two other graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania.
Though they began with selling t-shirts out of the back of a car, the team’s creative advertising efforts quickly launched AND 1 into a successful multi-million dollar business. After thirteen years with AND 1, Coen Gilbert, deeply inspired by the work of social entrepreneurs, realized he wanted to do more than just build companies. Seeking to counteract what he saw as the toxic effects of shareholder primacy, he began asking questions like, “How can businesses be agents of social good?” and “How might corporations be held accountable for their environmental impacts?” In 2006, Coen Gilbert and two friends started B Lab.
With B Lab, Coen Gilbert aims to transform business one corporation at a time. B Lab has certified more than 2800 companies as “B corps” which are monitored by B Lab for their impact on the environment, communities, worker satisfaction and so on.
As the global community faces its most challenging problems ever, we must ask ourselves, is conscious capitalism an oxymoron, or can it actual transform the global economy and create sustainable prosperity for all? B Lab is aiming for the latter, with a mandate to inspire millions to join its movement through compelling story-telling by B the Change Media, an internet platform full of news about inspiring forward-thinking entrepreneurs and organizations.
Coen Gilbert is the recipient of multiple awards, including a Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship and the McNulty Prize at the Aspen Institute, where he is as a Henry J. Crown Fellow. He is also Board member of KIPP Philadelphia Schools, a growing cluster of high performing public charter schools, and a former Board member of Investors’ Circle and Social Venture Network, leading national networks of social entrepreneurs and early stage social investors. For more than a decade, Jay has co-taught a class about the role of business in society at Westtown School, a 200-year-old Quaker school.
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