B Corporation Vs Nonprofit: Are Benefit Corporation (B Corps) The Same As Nonprofits?

B Corporation Vs Nonprofit: Are Benefit Corporation (B Corps) The Same As Nonprofits?

There is a growing change taking place in the world of business, and this sees a move away from a focus on pure profit and more of an emphasis on social and environmental responsibility. B Corporations and nonprofits are on the rise, offering an alternative to traditional business models that are focused solely on maximizing profits.

This rise is occurring in line with a growing awareness of the importance of social responsibility and an emphasis on the need to take into account the environmental, social and economic impacts of business decisions. Both B Corporations and nonprofits are taking advantage of this shift in perspective, and offering businesses an opportunity to operate in a more ethical and socially responsible way, while also raiding crucial funds for some extremely important causes. Though on the surface B Corporations and nonprofits may appear to be identical, there are actually significant changes between the two - and we 'll explore them in this article.

The Core Similarities Between A B Corporation and Nonprofit Organization 

Before we move to look at the differences between B Corporations and nonprofits, it is worth noting that there are a number of core similarities between the two, and there are two key areas which these types of entities have in common:

A Commitment To Creating A Better World

 Both B Corporations and nonprofits are committed to creating a better world through their actions. They tend to focus on areas like sustainability, social good or environmental protection and aim to make the world a better place for all. Both entities also often engage in activities such as fundraising, advocacy or awareness campaigns to further their goals.

A Focus On Social Responsibility

Another core similarity between B Corporations and nonprofits is that they both prioritize social responsibility. This means that rather than focusing purely on financial gain, they both also strive to make the world a better place in some way. This could involve anything from promoting education to improving access to healthcare or providing support for the vulnerable.

A Focus On Social And Environmental Impact Over Profit

Similarly, both entities also prioritize social and environmental responsibility over profit. This means that they will often prioritize initiatives that have a positive social or environmental impact, even if it comes at the expense of profit maximization. This commitment is what sets them apart from traditional businesses, which are solely focused on maximizing profits.

As you can see, there are a number of core similarities between B Corporations and nonprofits, and this helps to highlight the important role that both entities play in creating a better world.

Understanding Benefit Corporations 

So, just what do we mean by B Corporations? Well, a B Corporation is a for-profit entity that has been certified by the B Lab, an independent nonprofit organization. This certification indicates that the company meets certain standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability -  the b stands for "benefit", and this means that there must be demonstrable benefit to the wider community and society.

In order to be certified as a B Corporation, a company must meet certain criteria in terms of their environmental impact, commitment to worker's rights and employee benefits, transparency and corporate responsibility. This certification process helps to ensure that companies are operating in a responsible way, and that their actions have a positive impact on the world.

Some of the main criteria which must be met to operate as a B Corporation include:

A Company Commitment To Creating Positive Social Impact

B Corporations must demonstrate a commitment to creating positive social and environmental impact through their business activities. This can include anything from providing access to clean water or renewable energy to supporting local communities or providing employment opportunities. In order to prove this, a company must achieve a B Impact Assessment score of at least 80 and pass the B Lab Risk Review.

Ensuring Transparency And Accountability

All B Corporations are required to have a transparent structure and corporate accountability. This means that they must publish an annual transparency report outlining their social and environmental impact, as well as their financial performance. This helps to ensure that the company is operating in a responsible way.

Making A Legal Commitment To be Accountable

Aspiring B Corporations must also demonstrate a legal commitment by changing their stakeholder governance structure to be accountable to all stakeholder groups, not just shareholders, and achieve benefit corporation status if available in their jurisdiction. This means that companies must consider not only their s, but also their employees, customers, suppliers and communities when making decisions.

By following these criteria, companies can become certified as B Corporations and demonstrate their commitment to creating a better world through responsible business practices.

Delving into Non-profit Organizations

A nonprofit is an organization or entity that operates for the purpose of pursuing a social or public benefit rather than generating profits. Nonprofits are typically tax-exempt and do not distribute profits to shareholders but instead reinvest them into their activities - the most common types are charitable organizations.

The purpose of nonprofits can vary greatly depending on the organization, but some of the most common examples include charities, foundations and religious organizations. All of these entities are mission-driven, with a clear social or public mission, such as providing aid to disadvantaged people, helping the environment or promoting creativity and culture.

Some of the core characteristics of nonprofits include:

Tax Exemption

In most cases, nonprofits are exempt from taxes as they are not operated for the purpose of generating a profit. This means that they can use any money they generate from donations and fundraising activities to support their mission rather than having to pay taxes on it.

No Profit Distribution

Nonprofits do not distribute profits to shareholders or owners like regular businesses do. Instead, any profits that are generated are reinvested into the organization in order to support its mission.

Public Benefit

Nonprofits must be organized for the purpose of pursuing a public benefit, such as providing aid to disadvantaged people or protecting the environment. This means that they must operate in an ethical and responsible way, with all decisions being made with this purpose in mind.

By understanding these core characteristics of nonprofits, it is possible to see how they differ from regular businesses and why they are so important for society. Nonprofits help to pursue causes that would otherwise go unsupported and provide a way for people to make a positive difference in the world.

A key element of this involves allocating resources for public benefit; something that is not possible with regular businesses, and this can take forms such as educational initiatives, environmental protection or providing aid to those in need.

Key Differences Between B Corps and Non-profits

As we have seen, there are a number of areas in which B Corps and nonprofits come together in their similarities - but there are also key differences between these two types of entities. Some of the main differences to be aware of include:

Ownership Structures: Community vs. Shareholders

Perhaps the most important difference between B Corps and nonprofits is the ownership structures. Nonprofits are owned by the public, with no individual or group having any specific claim to ownership of the organization. This means that they must operate for the benefit purpose of society as a whole rather than any one particular group. While there are likely to be individuals or groups that have a special interest in the organization, and groups to take care of the money and make decisions for the organization, there is no ‘owner’ as such.

While benefit corporations can serve charitable ends, they are also owned by shareholders or investors who can expect to receive a return on their investment. This means that while B Corps are also expected to operate in an ethical and responsible manner, they must also be profitable at the same time in order to ensure that their shareholders receive a return on their investment.

Funding /Mechanisms: Community Outreach vs. Business Revenue.

Another key difference between B Corps and nonprofits is the source of their revenue.

Nonprofits typically rely heavily on community outreach, donations and fundraising activities in order to generate the funds they need to keep operating. This means that while nonprofits are often able to pursue their social mission without worrying about profitability, they must also be careful with how they use their limited resources, relying heavily on community support.

B Corps, on the other hand, are able to generate revenue by providing products or services in a competitive market. This means that while B Corps are able to pursue their social mission, they are also expected to be profitable in order to ensure the sustainability of their business.

Tax Implications: Exemptions for Nonprofits vs. Tax Obligations for A Benefit Corporation

Tax is another area in which these two types of organization differ - as we mentioned, nonprofits are exempt from taxation and can receive tax-deductible donations as an incentive for people to give their support.

B Corps, on the other hand, are subject to corporate income tax and must pay taxes on any profits they make. This means that while B Corps can use their profits to further their social mission, they must also be mindful of the tax implications of their activities.

Reporting and Accountability Measures.

Finally, it is important to note that both B Corps and nonprofits are expected to be transparent and accountable in their operations, however, the level of reporting and accountability may differ from organization to organization.

Nonprofits are typically required to provide reports on their activities to the public, such as annual reports and financial statements, whereas B Corps may not be subject to the same level of responsibility. However, some B Corps may implement higher standards of corporate reporting and accountability in order to demonstrate that they are operating in an ethical and responsible manner and to help them maintain their status as B Corps, and their B Lab certification -the B Lab requires all certified B Corps to provide an annual impact report to remain certified.

Can a Nonprofit Become a B Corp? 

B Corps are often considered to be "hybrid" entities, meaning that they are both businesses and nonprofits. While B Corps have some of the characteristics of nonprofits, such as a social mission, the main difference is that B Corps are owned by shareholders or investors and must be profitable to remain sustainable.

Theoretically, it is possible for a nonprofit organization to become a B Corp, however, it would require significant changes to the organization's structure and governance. In order for a nonprofit to become a B Corp, the organization would need to become an LLC (limited liability company) and issue shares of stock, which could then be sold to investors. This conversion process can be difficult and often requires the help of legal advisors in order to ensure that all legal requirements are met.

In order to become a Certified B Corporation, a nonprofit must first convert to a for-profit entity by filing paperwork with the state and changing its legal structure. This can be an extensive process depending on the size and scope of the nonprofit.

Once converted, the organization must then apply to become a Certified B Corporation and adhere to rigorous standards related to social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. This includes an assessment conducted by B Lab, which evaluates the organization’s impact on its workers, community, customers, and environment.

If the organization meets all of the requirements set forth by B Lab, it can become a Certified B Corporation and enjoy the benefits associated with being part of this select group. These benefits include access to a global network of like-minded companies, improved branding and marketing opportunities, and legal protection from shareholder lawsuits.

Ultimately, while becoming a certified B Corp can be a lengthy and tricky process for nonprofits, it opens up many new possibilities for organizations that are willing to take the leap.

Real-world Examples: B Corps and Nonprofits in Action 

Real-world examples of B Corps and Nonprofits in action can be seen in the operations of companies such as Patagonia, Ben & Jerry's, and Warby Parker. All three of these companies are Certified B Corporations that prioritize sustainability, social responsibility, and transparency.

Patagonia is a leader in environmental protection through its use of sustainable materials and renewable energy sources.

Ben & Jerry's has long been a leader in corporate social responsibility, contributing to local and global causes through its annual philanthropic giving program. Warby Parker takes a unique approach to sustainability by offering a one-for-one eyeglass donation program with every purchase of its glasses, ensuring that those in need can receive high-quality eye wear.

Method Soap is another example of a Certified B Corp that takes social and environmental responsibility seriously. The company has committed to using only renewable and biodegradable ingredients in its soaps, as well as donating 1% of its profits to charity.

Nonprofits are also making an impact in real-world scenarios. One example is the National Wildlife Federation, which works to protect wildlife and promote sustainable communities through its education and advocacy programs. Another example is St Judes Research Hospital, which dedicates itself to curing pediatric cancer and other life-threatening illnesses through its research and clinical trials.

These companies and nonprofits are just a few examples of how B Corps and nonprofits can work together to create positive social change and sustainable business practices. By setting a good example and inspiring others to take action, these organizations are making a real difference in the world.

Making the Right Choice: Which is Suitable for Your Goals? 

So, which is the right choice for your goals? Ultimately, the answer depends on what you are trying to achieve. If your primary goal is to make a positive social and environmental impact while still engaging in business activities, then becoming a Certified B Corporation may be the best choice. Becoming a B Corp allows you to benefit from the global network of like-minded companies, improved branding and marketing opportunities, and legal protection from shareholder lawsuits.

On the other hand, if your primary goal is to make a direct difference in society through charitable giving and service-based initiatives, then forming a nonprofit may be the better option. Nonprofits are often eligible for additional grants and funding opportunities, as well as the ability to accept tax-deductible donations.

No matter which route you choose, it is important to understand all of the options available to you and make an informed decision that best suits your organization's goals. With a thorough understanding of both B Corps and nonprofits, you can ensure that you are taking full advantage of the resources available to make a real difference.

9. FAQs 

  • What is the main goal of B Corporations and Nonprofits?

The main goal of B Corporations and Nonprofits is to promote social and environmental responsibility, while also engaging in business activities. Certified B Corps prioritize sustainability, social responsibility, transparency, and accountability. This is achieved by setting a good example for other companies to follow, while at the same time providing beneficial products or services that have real-world impacts. Nonprofits, on the other hand, are organizations that focus on providing charitable services to society. These organizations are usually focused on specific causes, such as healthcare, education, or the environment.

  • How do B Corps and Nonprofits differ in terms of ownership?

Benefit corporations and Nonprofits generally differ in terms of ownership. Most b corps are for-profit businesses are owned by shareholders, while nonprofits are owned by their members or the public. As such, B Corps must adhere to certain regulations when it comes to decision-making and operations, while nonprofits have more flexibility in how they operate.

  • Are B Corps subject to the same tax regulations as traditional corporations?

B corps can expect to pay taxes and are unable to claim the same tax exemptions and deductions as nonprofits. It is important to consult with a qualified tax professional to determine which tax regulations apply to your particular situation.


Aspiring social entrepreneurs should carefully weigh the pros and cons of becoming a Certified B Corporation or forming a nonprofit when setting out to create positive social change. While both types of organizations have their own unique benefits and drawbacks, they can work together in tandem to create meaningful and lasting impact. With an understanding of the legal implications, ownership structures, and tax regulations associated with each entity type, aspiring entrepreneurs can make an informed decision that suits their organization’s goals, and ensure that they are taking full advantage of the resources available to make a real difference.

Both B Corps and Nonprofits provide unique opportunities to create positive change, so it is important for those aspiring to social entrepreneurship is to understand all of the options available before making a final decision.

most b corps are for-profit businesses

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Jodie Merritt

Jodie is an experienced writer based in the UK and has been producing first-class blogs, articles and content for over a decade, working within a wide range of industries and niches, including the nonprofit and charity sectors, children's education and psychology, and business development and strategy. When not writing professionally, she enjoys creative and fiction writing, and working on her PhD in Art History through plenty of visits to galleries and museums!

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