UNM hosts symposium to help companies make social impact

The University of New Mexico is hoping to make Albuquerque and New Mexico a hub for businesses that balance their bottom line with their social and environmental impact.

The university’s Anderson School of Management hosted a day-long event on Friday dedicated to educating business owners and other stakeholders about the value and process of registering as a Benefit Corporation, a for-profit company that has been confirmed to meet standards for social and environmental performance, among other factors.

The event, which the school called the Believe in New Mexico Symposium, brought together academics, business leaders and experts on Benefit Corporations to help grow the program in New Mexico. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller gave the keynote address.

Symposium leaders said developing an ecosystem of such companies will help both the companies themselves and New Mexico’s overall social and environmental landscape.

“We’ve got the right people in the room, now we want to figure out what’s next,” said Garima Sharma, assistant professor at the Anderson School.

Benefit Corporations, often abbreviated as “B Corps,” must meet standards set by the nonprofit B Lab for their social and environmental performance, public transparency and accountability to the program mission. Kim Coupounas, a global ambassador for B Lab, told the audience that the program began in 2006, in response to a growing need to reconfigure business in a way that works better for the world at large, rather than a select few shareholders.

“We’re not shy about saying that we’re really talking about the evolution of capitalism,” Coupounas said.

Today, there are just over 3,000 B Corps registered around the world. New Mexico is home to seven, including household names like Taos Ski Valley and Meow Wolf. Both companies were listed among the sponsors of the Friday event, alongside groups like the Santa Fe-based think tank Activate World.

Sharma noted that New Mexico lags behind several other Western states in the number of registered benefit corporations. Colorado alone has around 100 B Corps. Sharma added that New Mexico’s economy is heavily skewed toward small businesses, which can find the time and cost to register a challenge.

“Keeping the lights on is the first priority,” she said.

Because of that, Sharma said events like the one on Friday were key to helping the movement grow in the Land of Enchantment. The symposium featured roundtables involving representatives from local B Corps and event sponsors, along with smaller sessions for companies looking to certify as B Corps, as well as those just looking to run their company more ethically. She added that she’d like to see the University of New Mexico function as a hub that could connect students and professors with companies throughout the Southwest.

Coupounas, who helped Colorado’s B Corp ecosystem grow into a national leader, said she saw some of the same raw ingredients in New Mexico’s business ecosystem that she saw in its northern neighbor’s, including a core group of leaders to emphasize the program.

“That’s what the future holds for New Mexico,” Coupounas said.

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