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When David McLaren started his own accounting firm, it was because he felt called to approach the work in a way that did not fit in with places he’d worked previously. He wanted to do things differently.
“I have a very different viewpoint. It’s ‘How do I change the client's life for the better?’ It didn't fit in at other firms,” said McLaren.
McLaren & Associates CPAs, based in Shrewsbury, is a forensic accounting firm specializing in tracking down lost, hidden, and stolen money. The firm is often brought in by litigants to track money in legal disputes. It’s exciting work, said McLaren, but not work without emotion from clients.
“We work on getting to truth and facts,” said McLaren. “I believe in justice and doing the right thing.”
That mindset was hard earned for McLaren. He grew up in Worcester in what he called not the best part of town. A series of family hardships, including the illness and death of his young sister, living off welfare and food stamps, and ultimately living in his car as a teenager, gave him a particular perspective on life.
“It brought a very different perspective of need versus want. It brought a grit perspective,” he said.
Instead of hardening him to the difficulties in others’ lives, it made McLaren compassionate in all aspects of business operations.
“There's no judgment. You just ask, ‘How do you help people who are struggling?’” he said. “You don't leave your personal problems at the door.”
Part of that commitment to compassionate business practices at McLaren & Associates is manifest in the company’s status as a B Corporation.
B Corporations are companies certified by B Lab, a global nonprofit network that works with business with a commitment to social and environmental performance, transparency, and through legal commitments to stakeholders, not just shareholders. Some B Corps are large, publicly traded firms, while others are smaller operations. All B Corps are for-profit companies committed to balancing profit with global sustainability.
While B Corporations do not get tax breaks like nonprofits, but as a legal requirement of the certification, they do have to change their fiduciary duties, moving from maximizing profits for shareholders to be accountable to all stakeholders, including customers, employees, the community, and the environment.
“We're building the B Corp movement to change our economic system, and to do so, we must change the rules of the game,” reads the B Corp movement statement. “B Lab mobilizes the B Corp community towards collective action to address society's critical challenges.”
Since the first 82 companies were B Certified in 2007, the movement has exploded globally. In 2022, there were 6,123 B Corps, up from 4,427 the previous year, according to the B Lab 2022 Annual Report.
McLaren & Associates became a B Corp because McLaren’s commitment to serving the community goes beyond the walls of the firm’s offices and extends outward to the global environment. It was the first accounting firm in New England to receive the certification, he said.
“It’s about how we give back. How do we be very different than anyone in our industry?” said McLaren.
Being a B Corp makes it easier for companies to express themselves and their motives, said Dani Babineau, CEO of Redemption Rock Brewing, a craft beer brewery in Worcester.
“It was an encapsulation of the way that we wanted to run the business and our goals, ” said Babineau.
Redemption Rock became a B Corp in September 2020, the first craft brewery in Massachusetts to do so. Solidifying itself as a company dedicated to wellbeing, in and outside the brewery, bucked a trend of bad behavior in the craft brewing industry.
Being a B Corp is a throughline for Redemption Rock’s efforts to support its employees and community, said Babineau.
“It expands our commitment to the ethos of the company,” she said. “It’s not something that’s just one project here, one project there. We have to hold ourselves to a standard.”
At Redemption Rock, the company’s B Corp status helps with marketing efforts, said Babineau. It helps attract new employees who know what the model is like, and it means something to customers who come to Redemption Rock for beer and community.
“We want to be a meaningful part of the community and peoples lives,” said Babineau. “We’re about more than just the beer.”
Becoming a B Corp has helped Redemption Rock align some of its business practices with its leaders' ethos, said Babineau. The B Lab movement struck a chord with Redemption Rock leadership, who felt it encapsulated everything they were trying to do with their business, she said.
As the economic landscape poses hardships for companies across industries, B Corp status helps Redemption Rock keep its eye on the mission.
“We are trying to be the best company we can, while also trying to survive,” said Babineau.
Unlike nonprofits, which by design are required to have the intention of collective social benefit, for-profit companies do not have the same obligations to the common good. Buttoned-up accounting and recreational drinking don’t necessarily bring to mind commitment to improving the business ecosystem for the wellbeing of society, but McLaren & Associates are doing things differently to make life better. B Corp certification is a signal to customers, investors, and fellow business owners of that commitment, McLaren said.
“It has a ripple effect for positive differences for everyone,” said McLaren.