Positively Deviant: Identity Work Through B Corporation Certification

53 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2018 Last revised: 29 Apr 2018

See all articles by Matthew Grimes

Matthew Grimes

University of Cambridge - Cambridge Judge Business School

Joel Gehman

George Washington University - Department of Strategic Management & Public Policy

Ke Cao

Wilfrid Laurier University

Date Written: October 15, 2017

Abstract

Despite widespread and growing public interest in sustainability certifications, many social entrepreneurs have opted not to obtain such certification. Drawing on recent studies highlighting the salience of both gender and context in shaping differences among social enterprises, we develop an identity-based framework for explaining heterogeneity in the adoption of sustainability certification. We test our ideas using a sample of 1,251 U.S. firms obtained from B Lab, the organization responsible for assessing Certified B Corporations. Our results show that woman-owned businesses are twice as likely to qualify for certification and more than three times as likely to certify. Moreover, this propensity to certify is amplified in contexts where sustainability norms are weak, mimetic pressure to obtain sustainability certification is low, and woman-owned businesses are less prevalent. These findings support our central theoretical argument that certification differences are due to actors' efforts to engage in identity work, strengthening their sense of self-coherence and distinctiveness by way of this authentication process. We conclude by highlighting our contributions to existing scholarship on social entrepreneurship, identity work, and certification adoption, as well as strategic implications for B Lab.

Keywords: social entrepreneurship, B Corporations, women entrepreneurs, identity work, sustainability, certification

JEL Classification: L31, L26, O35

Suggested Citation

Grimes, Matthew and Gehman, Joel and Cao, Ke, Positively Deviant: Identity Work Through B Corporation Certification (October 15, 2017). Journal of Business Venturing, Forthcoming, University of Alberta School of Business Research Paper No. 2017-910, Kelley School of Business Research Paper No. 18-33, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3106013

Matthew Grimes

University of Cambridge - Cambridge Judge Business School ( email )

Trumpington St.
Cambridge, CB21AG
United Kingdom

Joel Gehman (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Department of Strategic Management & Public Policy ( email )

Washington, DC 20052
United States

Ke Cao

Wilfrid Laurier University ( email )

64 University Ave W
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3C7
Canada

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