“How has my capstone benefited from my general preparation as an ENVS major?”
My capstone, a thesis by the title of B-ing a Better Business: Examining the Effect of B Corp Certification on Responsible Business Practices in Portland, OR, is an investigation that represents my continued efforts to understand the effectiveness of various attempts to embed responsibility of corporations into the market. Throughout my time at Lewis & Clark, I have studied efforts by government and law, non profits and non governmental organizations, and corporations themselves. This has involved a strategic pursuit of research projects in classes of various disciplines to determine what I felt were the pros and cons of each effort. And ultimately, to determine what sector I wanted to work in the future.
In Environmental and Resource Economics, I studied devolution of resource management from state to local governance; in Work, Leisure and Society I investigated how Fair Trade certification undermined state law; in Tanzania I studied the impact of voluntary sustainability certification (VSC) on workers lives.
My Environmental Studies capstone was a similar iteration- only this time, I wanted my methods to stick. I must admit, I have been pretty gung-ho about the B Corp Movement, and am interested in working in the field of VSC’s and corporate social responsibility. Writing this capstone provided new information to the success and failures of such efforts. It was more difficult than I thought it would be to critique a movement that is trying. This was an important project to complete before graduating.
My interest in the experienced impact of prosocial movements has been integral to my understanding of the relationship between the economy and society. I first began noticing the large logo for B Corp certification and tagline “B the Change” around my neighborhood last spring. It wasn’t until I was brainstorming for this thesis while enjoying lunch at the local Grand Central Bakery when I was struck once again with the curiosity to determine what this certification did and what its true impact was. A brief search online found that the B Corp movement sought to answer the fundamental question, how can businesses be a force for good? I wanted to know if they could.
Core ENVS programing, such as ENVS 220, taught me the multitude of methodologies one can seek to answer a question- it helped me asses both what data would best answer a question, and how to display that data. I have learned how to question and critique nearly every part of the whole. To make sense of a mess, and to put it back together, a bit better.
Breadth classes also helped to provide background that gave me solid footing to be confident in my understanding of how people view the world- from environmental history, environmental philosophy, and radical political economy.
Digital scholarship, and the requirement to write a lot of reflection posts, has helped me value the journey towards the outcome. It was the process of writing my capstone that held most discoveries, not the final essay.