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Jay’s On The Case

Jay Coen Gilbert of Wayne-based B Lab is in North Carolina with a team of socially conscious CEOs, trying to repeal the bathroom law

Yesterday, we heard from Jay Coen Gilbert, one of the founders of B Lab, the Wayne non-profit behind the international B Corp movement. He is in North Carolina, lobbying legislators to repeal HB2, the law that makes it harder for LGBT citizens to sue when their human rights are violated in the workplace and requires people to use bathrooms that match the biological sex “stated on a person’s birth certificate.”

Two weeks ago, Coen Gilbert added his voice to the chorus protesting the law. Speaking for B Lab’s community of 1,700 Certified B Corporations—businesses committed to doing good and doing well at the same time—Coen Gilbert announced it was pulling its October Global Champions Retreat from North Carolina, along with B Inspired, a street festival and series of public talks; Measure What Matters, an economic development conference for city governments and impact investors; as well as a conference for university educators teaching business as a force for good. All in all, the B Lab series of events would have resulted in some 1,200 visitors descending on the Tar Heel state and dispersing in excess of $1 million in economic impact.

Speaking out in reaction to HB2 seemed like a no-brainer in light of B Lab’s commitment to values-based capitalism. “B Corps seek to build a more inclusive economy, and that is not possible with laws like HB2 on the books,” said Coen Gilbert.

Speaking out in reaction to HB2 seemed like a no-brainer in light of B Lab’s commitment to values-based capitalism. “B Corps seek to build a more inclusive economy, and that is not possible with laws like HB2 on the books,” said Coen Gilbert.

But he also pointed out that “our engagement is as critical as our withdrawal;” if North Carolina overturned the draconian law by June 30, Coen Gilbert said, B Lab would go ahead with its retreat in the Tar Heel state.

So now Coen Gilbert is there, along with a team of socially conscious CEOs, many from North Carolina, trying to make that happen. Among his posse: Liz Tracy of HQ Raleigh; Jared Burton, New Belgium Brewery; Todd Olson, Pendo; Steve Monti, Solidarity Capital; Maria Kingery, Southern Energy Management; Kevin Trapani, The Redwoods Group; Eric Henry TS Designs; Braden Rawls, Vital Plan; and Cal Cunningham, Waste Zero.

When he left Philly, Coen Gilbert sounded optimistic. “We’re seeking a full repeal of HB2,” he said, noting that one legislator, Rep. George Graham, who originally voted for the law, had announced that he’d favor repeal. In a public statement, Coen Gilbert was quick to call Graham “courageous and inspiring, showing a humanity and humility too rare today among our elected representatives.”

Alas, after a day of meetings yesterday, it seems repeal isn’t as imminent as Coen Gilbert might have hoped. “In the short run, some legislators are looking for a compromise, but those efforts seem focused on the issues around the minimum wage and the right to sue for discrimination in state courts, and not on the use of bathrooms based on gender identity,” Coen Gilbert said last night. “We may need to look to the courts to uphold the civil rights of LGBT people.”

“In the long run, a sustained civil conversation is needed,” he said last night. “We need to build bridges of understanding about the experiences of LGBT, especially trangendered, people with those who have not had enough experience and empathy for their inherent dignity and right to self-determination.”

In the meantime, Coen Gilbert is asking North Carolinians to call, email and visit their elected representatives. “Tell them that #weareonthis,” he says, “and that they must act before the cost to the state, its businesses and its people becomes too high for a few to stand on their personal principles.”

Coen Gilbert’s meetings continue today, and we’ll keep you updated. Coen Gilbert’s voice was just one of many opposing HB2; Pay Pal, The Citizen’s own Charles Barkley and Bruce Springsteen also condemned the law and either advocated for or took action to adversely impact the state’s bottom line in response to the law’s passage. But Coen Gilbert is the only one there now, engaging the political establishment and trying to cajole it to change. That’s in keeping with his philosophy that capitalism can be a force for social good. B Lab’s insignia—the B stands for Benefit—confers a type of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval when it comes to social responsibility for its 1,700 member companies, including well-known brands such as Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s. B Lab has created a new type of company, the B Corp, which extends members’ fiduciary responsibility beyond just stockholders, to stakeholders such as employees, the environment and the surrounding community.

Jay Coen Gilbert is not some wild-eyed lefty radical; he’s a pragmatic entrepreneur whose previous company—the basketball apparel company And1—had annual revenues of $250 million before he and his partners sold it in 2005. Today, he’ll continue telling elected officials that their personal beliefs are irrationally standing in the way of their own bottom-line interests, even as he realizes that more work on transforming attitudes needs to be done. “In the long run, a sustained civil conversation is needed,” he said last night. “We need to build bridges of understanding about the experiences of LGBT, especially trangendered, people with those who have not had enough experience and empathy for their inherent dignity and right to self-determination.”

The Philadelphia Citizen will only publish thoughtful, civil posts. We want to be a communal space. But that doesn’t mean you have a First Amendment right to be an idiot. Send us an insulting, offensive and/or wildly off-topic comment and not only will we refrain from posting it -- we will laugh at you before we hit delete.

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