West Paw Design: B Corp Certification and Growth
(7 pages of text)
In 2016, the founder and chief executive officer of West Paw Design (WPD) was faced with a growth dilemma: how could he align WPD’s socially responsible ethos with his desire to expand business activities in the growing pet products market? Based in Bozeman, Montana, WPD developed, manufactured, and distributed pet products. The company was a certified “B Corporation,” meaning its social and environmental credentials had been verified by an external organization, B Lab. The founder had to consider his options very carefully, because some of them could undermine or negate WPD’s growth objectives, as well as its cherished B Corporation principles.
This case can be used across a wide variety of courses—including entrepreneurship, strategy, ethics/sustainability, and accounting—to explore and understand some or all of the following topics:
- Social enterprise: Entrepreneurs may opt to pursue a “blended value” or social mission-driven business model, rather than a traditional for-profit business model.
- Strategy: Opting for a non-traditional business model poses new challenges: how can such companies maximize returns for disparate stakeholders?
- Ethics/sustainability: The case highlights the costs and benefits associated with a specific form of corporate responsibility (i.e., B Corporation status).
- Accounting: This case demonstrates a working example of voluntary third-party social and environmental audits. It can also be used to show the benefits of open-book management and financial literacy.
United States, Small, 2016
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