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Springsteen, Barkley, B Lab to NC—No Way!

The Wayne nonprofit behind the B Corp movement moves its 1,700-company retreat from North Carolina in opposition to discriminatory law HB2…Let’s host ‘em in Philly!

PayPal was first, reversing its decision to build a $3.6 million plant in North Carolina after the passage of 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.”

Let’s pause here to note that, in addition to the offensive discrimination—can there be any doubt this law targets gays and the transgendered?—HB2 represents some stunning leaps of legislative logic. Who, after all, goes to the bathroom clutching a copy of their birth certificate? And to whom, precisely, would we show said certificate? Is this really economic development, North Carolina-style, a plan to deploy public bathroom attendants throughout the state whose job it is to make sure that our genitalia match the description on our certificates?

Not surprisingly, a chorus of critics has emerged. The Citizen’s own Charles Barkley joined in: “As a black person, I’m against any form of discrimination…So I think the NBA should move the All-Star Game from Charlotte.”

Kenney should seize this opportunity. B Lab stands for the proposition that one can do well and do good at the same time. Wouldn’t it be cool if Philly became known for standing for the same thing?

Then headlines were made when the Boss added his voice: “Some things are more important than a rock show and this fight against prejudice and bigotry — which is happening as I write — is one of them,” Bruce Springsteen posted on Facebook, explaining that the passage of HB2 left him no choice but to cancel an April concert.

Perhaps most importantly, the pornsite XHamster.com—which had 400,000 “transsexual” searches in March from North Carolina IP addresses—is denying porn to its North Carolina customers until HB2 is overturned. If you’re in the Tar Heel state and you log onto XHamster, all you’ll find now is a black screen. “I think that porn has the power to do what Bruce Springsteen can’t,” says XHamster’s top pornographer.

Now comes Wayne nonprofit B Lab, the driving force behind the international B Corps movement. 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 shareholders, to stakeholders such as employees, the environment and the surrounding community.

On Tuesday, speaking for its community of 1,700 Certified B Corporations, B Lab 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 co-founder Jay Coen Gilbert.

“Our engagement is as important as our withdrawal,” B Lab said in a statement explaining its decision. So the nonprofit is amping up its efforts to work with like-minded North Carolinians in an effort to get HB2 reversed. If that happens and HB2 is overturned by June 30, B Lab will reciprocate and go ahead with the October event in North Carolina. But don’t hold your breath. Governor Pat McCrory’s response to the outcry so far has been little more than public relations posturing.

Meantime, the Kenney Administration should seize this opportunity. B Lab has been contacted by numerous cities expressing an interest in replacing North Carolina as host of the B Corp gathering, including a pitch from a Montana state representative selling the benefits of Bozeman.

Speaking out in reaction to HB2 seemed like a no-brainer in light of B Labs’ commitment to values-based capitalism. Now the nonprofit is amping up its efforts to work with like-minded North Carolinians in an effort to get HB2 reversed.

But nothing yet from Philly, which is odd, because as a Councilman in 2009 Jim Kenney passed the nation’s first B Corp tax break. I know, I know. The administration is busy trying to tax soda, but this is a chance to show nimbleness and proactively define ourselves as a progressive, pro-growth, and business-friendly city. Those things don’t have to be in conflict.

So here’s hoping we host B Lab’s gathering of international dreamers and disruptors in the fall, just a few miles from where, roughly a decade ago, proud capitalist Coen Gilbert and his partners Bart Houlahan and Andrew Kassoy first had the idea that egalitarian values and capitalism needn’t be mutually exclusive. B Lab stands for the proposition that one can do well and do good at the same time. Wouldn’t it be cool if Philly became known for standing for the same thing?

Photo header: Flickr/torbakhopper

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