Ashley Ferris ‘15
Hometown: Clayton, Del.
Major: Business and organization management
Senior Study Title: B-ing a B Corporation: A Look at Mountain Challenge’s Journey Through Re-Certification and Analysis of the B Corp Movement
Advisor: Dr. Jenifer Greene
There is a new phenomenon in today’s business world that is changing the dynamics of the market system and quickly picking up speed. This phenomenon is the push for socially and environmentally responsible businesses; it is the B Corp movement. Eight years ago, a certification was designed to encourage businesses to meet quantifiable social and environmental standards in order to label themselves as a B Corporation – a company dedicated to doing good. Today, this certification can describe thousands of companies around the world and has developed a community in business unlike any other before it.
This report introduces one of those thousands, the B Corp next door, Mountain Challenge and provides a step-by-step account of the company’s journey to 2015 B Corp re-certification and an analysis of what that certification represents. Explained are the foundational values, standards, and credentials that the B Corp community upholds. There are many moving pieces to the B Corp movement, including the introduction of the benefit corporation, the dangers of Gray Sector Organizations, and the ever-evolving business environment. This report attempts to capture what it means to be a B Corporation today and what it might mean for the future of business.
Interested in the interaction between business and community after taking MC Professor of Management Dr. John Gallagher’s “Business and Societies” course, Ashley Ferris ’15 began researching ways in which businesses can make positive impacts within their communities. As she researched, she came across the B Corp movement – a business philosophy aiming to leave a positive impact on society rather than solely focusing on financial gain.
Ferris decided to further explore B Corps through her Senior Study project and participated in the recertification process of “our B Corp next door, Mountain Challenge.”
Founded in 1987, Mountain Challenge is the oldest outdoor team building company in South. According to its mission statement, the program strives to “provide high-quality, safe outdoor experiences designed to change the world for the better, one person at a time.” By working closely with Mountain Challenge, Ferris was able to see how the B Corp philosophy can be practically applied within a local business.
Ferris’ Senior Study includes four chapters: “Meeting Mountain Challenge;” “Defining a B Corp;” “Becoming a B Corporation;” and “Joining the Movement.”
“My Senior Study is really about the push for social and environmental responsibility in business through a description of what a B Corporation Certification represents; a step-by-step account of how our B Corp next door, Mountain Challenge, has gone about securing that certification; and an attempt to capture what this movement might mean for the future of business,” Ferris said.
At times, Ferris said it was difficult to critique a movement that she strongly supported; however, she was able to speak with a B Corp certification representative about the potential issues she discovered. And through sharing her concerns, she was ultimately able to contribute to future improvements in the certification process.
Not only did her Senior Study research inform her about B Corp practices, it also introduced her to an entire group of likeminded individuals.
“My research has led me to discover a wonderful, tightknit community of people who are committed to working together to change typical business practices and genuinely make the world a better place,” Ferris said.
Ferris’ advisor, Dr. Jenifer Greene, was so impressed with Ferris' Senior Study that she recommended it for the library’s permanent collection.
“Ashley performed not only an excellent job on researching both the B Corporation movement and the recertification process for Mountain Challenge but skillfully integrated the themes into a seamless intersection of theory and its application,” said Greene, associate professor of management and chair of the Division of Social Sciences. “Her strong passion for sustainability and her work with Mountain Challenge made this topic the perfect Senior Study experience for her.”
After graduation, Ferris will be relocating to Denver, Colo., to work with a B Corp called Urban Green Development. Ferris said that Urban Green Development even read her Senior Study during her application process, causing them to develop further interest in her as a job candidate. And she is confident that her Senior Study research will carry over into her post-grad profession.
“My initial goal upon graduating from MC was to find a way to make a difference in the business world,” Ferris said. “I think my Senior Study has absolutely given me a means to achieve that goal. It inspired a very specific, focused job search that led me right to where I wanted to be – working for an organization that uses its business to facilitate positive impact.”
By Evy Linkous ‘16, Communications Assistant