Remaining True to our Purpose – Why I’m Proud Laureate is a B Corp
Over the past two months, there have been several moments that have made me feel an even deeper sense of pride in our status as a Certified B Corp and Public Benefit Corporation. As we prepare to re-certify as a B Corp in 2020, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge our place in this significant international movement. If you’re unfamiliar with what these terms mean, you can read more here.
In August, the Business Roundtable proposed a redefinition of the purpose of a corporation. The Business Roundtable is an organization representing CEO’s of America’s leading companies – collectively employing more than 15 million people and generating more than $7 trillion in annual revenue. This redefinition suggests companies should be focused on – delivering value to customers, investing in employees, dealing fairly and ethically with suppliers, supporting communities in which we work, and generating long-term value for shareholders. As you might expect, this generated a great deal of conversation, particularly in business-focused media, about what can and should drive business today and in the future. Personally, I was pleased to see this conversation take place. For the past twenty years, Laureate has quietly embedded our philosophy of being a force for good in how we operate, and in the promise we make to each of our graduates. Becoming a B Corp back in 2015 was a natural extension of this. The call-out of the Business Roundtable is very closely aligned with the domains covered in the B Corp certification – and it’s important to note the consistency in global efforts to improve reporting, transparency and accountability for the impact business is creating in, and for, the world.
In mid-September, we were delighted to host six of our students from across our network here in Baltimore – Gabriella Saporiti from Universidad del Valle de México (UVM) in Mexico City, Bárbara da Camara Santos Marinho from Universidade Potiguar (UnP) in Natal, Brazil, Lisa Angelica Mestres from Universidad Privada del Norte (UPN) in Trujillo, Peru, Christian Cullen from AIEP, in Talca, Chile, Angelica Moncada from UNITEC in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and João Fernandes from Centro Universitário IBMR in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Not all our staff have the opportunity to visit campuses and meet our superb students and faculty – so visits like this always make a lasting impact, leaving us with an important reminder of why we should all feel proud to work for Laureate. Each student shared with us their own personal journey, and the ways in which they are applying technical skills, academic insight, and personal passion to make a positive impact in their communities. Gabriella is even establishing her own B Corp – which we are incredibly proud of.
While in the United States, each of these six students also served as Laureate Student Ambassadors at the 2019 B Corp Champions Retreat, along with more than 600 others from B Corps around the world. When considering how to best support this annual event, and how to increase the visibility of Laureate within this community, I could think of no better way than to send our students along – not only as event participants, but as volunteers and contributors. When this community of more than 600 people gathered in Los Angeles, they were first greeted at the registration desk by inspiring Laureate Student Ambassadors – students filled with passion, pride, and a commitment to making a positive contribution in the world. We are still receiving feedback about the impact our students created throughout the event, and for those previously unfamiliar with Laureate, I can think of no better first impression.
Finally, as many of you will be aware, during the United Nations General Assembly (which is currently underway in New York), corporations, NGO’s, and governments come together to discuss progress against the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). This year B Corps, including Laureate and Ben & Jerry’s , were included in a panel discussion focused on the contribution B Corps are making toward achieving the SDG’s. While our natural focus is on Goal 4 – ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’, of course we acknowledge that without access to quality education, other goals, including work and economic growth, climate action, industry innovation and infrastructure, and the eradication of poverty will never be achieved or sustained. During this conversation, we were pleased to share that in 2018, Laureate provided more than $750 million in scholarships and discounts to create additional access to quality higher education and that 46% of our students come from traditionally underserved populations.
I’m proud that as a company, and as a network, we are not on the sidelines listening to these conversations. We are in these conversations, and more importantly, are creating an enduring impact.
Since joining Laureate in 2008, I have felt a deep, personal connection to our mission. Being trusted by students, families and communities to deliver education that prepares someone for success at all stages of their career is both a privilege and a responsibility that I take very seriously.
In addition to this personal sense of responsibility, we also have an important corporate responsibility as a business employing more than 60,000 staff around the world. We must ensure the way we do business is of the highest standard, and is in service of all our stakeholders, including students, faculty, staff and shareholders. Our certification as a B Corp helps us track this and identify areas in which we can continue to improve.
Like every company in the world, Laureate is changing and there are new challenges and emerging opportunities that require our attention every day. However, it’s important to take a moment to remember the work we are doing, the decisions we are making, and the impact we’re enabling – are connected to something greater than all of us. Creating access to quality higher education is not just the mission of our company, it’s the only thing that will address the most significant global challenges of our time.