I’m delighted to announce that Rising has become a Certified B Corporation®, and I wanted to take a minute to explain why.
We’re a company with a social mission. We exist to provide access to a high quality education to some of the millions of children around the world to whom it is currently denied, while also providing a satisfactory financial return to our investors. Some people would call us a social enterprise, a social business or a social venture. But even these terms are ambiguous, and mean different things in different places and to different people. The point is we are for-profit and for-purpose.
Whether non-state and particularly for-profit actors, whatever their professed motives, have a role to play in tackling the global learning crisis is controversial. (For a critical perspective, see this report by the Global Campaign for Education. For a defence of for-profit operators in education, see this article by Professor James Tooley.)
Around the world, this vigorous debate is reflected in the democratic process and the different policy choices that different countries have made about the appropriate role for private providers of education.
At Rising, we can hardly pretend to be neutral but we’ve always tried to be respectful of the strongly held views on both sides of this debate. And while we may not be able to change many minds, we believe we have a responsibility to be open about what we stand for, transparent about we do, and clear about why we believe it is possible to be for-profit and for-purpose.
But we’ve found over the last few years that when we talk to people about Rising they struggle to reconcile in their minds our status as a company with our stated commitment to our purpose. And it’s not just among the global education community or the Twittersphere. A few months ago I joined an all-hands meeting with our team in Liberia, and a member of the operations team explained that when he’d first taken a job with Rising he’d had a hard time explaining to his friends and family that, while he was joining a company, it was a company dedicated to a social mission.
"There is one and only one social responsibility of business - to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits”, wrote Milton Friedman. Nearly fifty years later and it seems his words still cast a long shadow.
That’s why we’re delighted to become a B Corp™. In so doing, we join a global community of companies, spanning 60 countries and more than 150 industries, that are committed to proving Friedman wrong - to being a force for good not just for their investors, but for their customers, employees, communities and other stakeholders.
To become a B Corp, every aspect of our business had to be assessed and audited in order to ensure that we meet rigorous standards of accountability and transparency, and that we are giving due consideration to the impact - in the broadest sense of that word - that Rising has on the world.
The B Corp designation was created by a global non-profit called B Lab®. The number of Certified B Corps in East Africa is growing rapidly, and we’re proud to be the third in West Africa to achieve the designation - and the first in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
“Show, don’t tell” is a great maxim for writers and a pretty good one for companies too. It’s what we do, not what we say, that we should be judged on. But becoming a B Corp is an important symbol - for the students and families we serve, for our staff, for our investors, for other stakeholders - of our commitment to putting purpose at the heart of what we stand for as a company.