On B Corps and leadership with impact junkie Maria Kingery

Maria Kingery is a self-described impact junkie who believes that businesses have the power to change the world. And that’s exactly what Certified B Corporations (B Corps) are doing. So what is a B Corp, and how does an organization get certified? Today, Maria takes us to B Corps 101 class and tells us all about the impact B Corps can have. She also shares some lessons in leadership that she learned the hard way, plus talks about why she embraced “love” as a core value in her business.

Maria Kingery is the Founder and Principal at 360Impact (which changed its name from 360Rocks shortly before publishing this episode). She is also a co-founder and Chief Impact Officer of Southern Energy Management, which has been a B Corp since 2009.


Alisa Herr: Welcome to Inside Impact, where we give you a behind-the-scenes peek at how organizations can create positive change in their communities. I’m Alisa Herr, founder of Unity Web Agency, and on the show today, leadership coach Maria Kingery comes on to tell us all about something you’re going to hear quite a bit on this show – B Corps.

Maria Kingery: I am a 54-year-old B Corp impact junkie who believes that businesses have the power to change the world and have been at it with my own business that I co-founded with my husband in 2001 for what, 21 years now, and really saw a need for other businesses that I felt like they could learn from my mistakes, honestly.  

Alisa Herr: Maria has won numerous awards and her work has been recognized by the US department of energy, MIT and Stanford. She’s the founder and principal of the consulting agency 360 rocks and co-founder and Chief Impact Officer of Southern Energy Management. At 360 rocks, she works with impact-driven entrepreneurs and their leadership teams to embed sustainability into the fabric of their organizations. I am lucky enough to have been one of those entrepreneurs she’s worked with. I met Maria through the local B Corp community.

Maria Kingery: So the way I found out about B corps is also one of my favorite memories in business. I was at a net impact conference, and I think it was downtown Raleigh, and Eric Henry who owns TS designs literally comes running across the room and he’s like, you’re Maria Kingrey, right? And I was like, yeah. And he was like, you need to be a B Corp. Okay, well, first of all, who are you? And second of all, what’s a B Corp? But he was so passionate and you’ve met Eric, right.

So he’s just, he’s just adorable and so full of life and everything. So naturally I had to listen to what he had to say. And basically his pitch was you are already a B Corp. You’re just not being measured on it. And so then um, had a series of conversations with actually Bart Houlahan. One of the founders came and met with us and the rest is history.

You know, for me, I felt like, and this is just my perspective, but one of the things that we did that we do still for a living is we go into buildings and we verify that they are being built to the standards that the builder wants them to be and, and says they are. And to me, it just made sense that we would want a third-party verification. We’re third party verifiers, right?

That’s part of the work that we do. And so, you know, Again, from the very beginning, this ethos of using business as a force for good, which is what, you know, one of the B Corp phrases that we all like to use. It was just who we are is just always been who we are. So to be able to actually have a, an assessment that verifies that and validates that felt like a really important thing to do.

Alisa: Yeah. For people that don’t know what a B Corp is, can you give a brief introduction? What is a B corp? 

Maria: So a B Corp is a company that takes a third-party assessment around five different impact areas. And those are community governance, like their internal governance, their impact on their workers, their impact on the environment, and then their impact on their customers.

It’s fairly in depth, and I want to hesitate to use the word complex, but that is the word that’s coming to me process where, you know, you go through and you answer questions on around those five impact areas and you have to, there’s a possible score of 200, but you only need 80 to be certified as a B corporation.

Not that that’s easy, because I know that it’s not, I just got my,, uh, 360 Rocks just became B Corp certified. 

So thank you. 

So now I have two certified B Corps, which is really kind of cool and fun. But yeah, so you have to get 80 and the great thing from my perspective about being a B Corp by far, is that well, there’s the measurement piece, right? So you actually know that you’re creating the impacts that you want to be creating, but the ancillary benefit that you get is being part of a community of people who are also making that, I mean, that’s how we met, right? Yeah. Being a part of a community. And like, because when we started Southern Energy Management in 2001, right.

We didn’t know there was any such thing, even like Burts Bees, right? We didn’t, nobody was talking there’s, you know, some triple bottom line language. And there were some more academic conversations happening. But as far as the community of practice and people who are actually doing this, you know, I’ve learned so much and gotten so much value from that piece of it. And then as our company has evolved, haven’t given our team members the opportunity to have a community also of like-minded people that they can interact with. 

Alisa: Yeah, the community part is one of the best parts of being a B Corp. 

Maria: Yeah, it definitely is. Yeah. 

Alisa: We went together to that Eileen Fisher gathering for B-Corp women CEOs. And one of the things that they talked about that, that I thought was so cool, it was about like, instead of trying to force our way into the table, it was about making a new table and saying, we’re not gonna fight this uphill battle.

We’re going to make our own game and do it our way, and our way can be more empathetic. And I think the business leadership that b Corp’s have where you’re really thinking about your impact of your team and your community and customers and environment and all of those things, like it’s almost, it is a completely different way of doing business in a way.


Full Episode Transcript

Inside Impact is hosted by Unity Web Agency CEO Alisa Herr and is produced by Earfluence.

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