People and Planet First

People and Planet First

There’s a new certification walking the block, truncating “profit” from John Elkington’s traditional triple bottom line nomenclature with a verification called People + Planet First

People + Planet First is stewarded by the Social Enterprise World Forum (SEWF), a pioneering organization founded in 2008 to strengthen the global social enterprise movement. 

By truncating 3 P’s into two, it doesn’t mean there isn’t room for financial profit; this verification instead elevates and prioritizes people and planet and lays out guidelines for how that profit should be used.

At its core, People + Planet First hopes to supercharge the social enterprise movement using the network effect, aiming to create what it calls a “network of networks.” The verification accepts existing certifications, has streamlined the verification process, and offers an entrepreneur-friendly fee structure…with a twist.

And it’s the twist that interests me.

Let’s first look at how the certification process works.

The global certification was developed to be simple and affordable – just $85 for the initial verification and $70 annually thereafter.

It has five standards organizations must fulfill: 

  • Purpose: Exists to solve social and/or environmental problems
  • Operations: Prioritizes purpose, people, and planet in operational and strategic decisions
  • Revenue: Has a self-sustaining revenue model
  • Use of surplus: Reinvests the majority of its surplus towards its purpose
  • Structure: Chooses legal structures and financing that protect and lock in purpose long term

And here’s the twist that gets my attention: A key objective of this verification is using the power of the network to expand markets and drive more revenue for its certified organizations.

Finally, a certification that understands the importance of marketing its members to the broader world!

From my experience, there’s a BIG gap in the marketplace for a certification that addresses this opportunity.

My company has been certified as a B Corp since December 2011. There’s so much positive about the B Corp certification and community, though in my experience the collective commercial activation component has gone wanting. I don’t think this was considered, and certainly not prioritized, when the certification was initially designed. Yes, there’s a place on the B Hive social media site for B Corps that allows member companies to provide offers and discounts to the community, though the entire B Hive site seems awkwardly appended to the community in a way that makes it feel like an after-market part.

P&P1st: The Business of Multiplying Impact

People + Planet First’s marketing approach recognizes a couple of realities. Operating a social enterprise is challenging and every additional increment of revenue helps – it’s honestly like manna from heaven. More importantly, it underscores the powerful dynamics of the multiplier effect, whereby each dollar spent with a social enterprise magnifies the impact that organization makes by a multiple of the money invested.  (We wrote about the impact multiplier effect last year.)

What’s encouraging is there appears to be an emphasis on B2B with this endeavor. Verified organizations gain exposure and access to new sales by being listed on the SAP Business Network, the world’s largest business network with nearly $5 trillion in commerce transacted each year across more than 190 countries.

Verified organizations can qualify for pro-bono legal services via TrustLaw and gain membership in GrantStation, which helps social enterprises identify potential funding sources from philanthropic and government agencies.

There’s a lot to like in this new endeavor. You can tell that smart and practical heads shaped this verification and addressed pain points in the process. 

It will be fun to see where it goes – gotta love that marketing twist!

Who qualifies?

Organizations eligible for verification include social enterprises, fair trade enterprises, cooperatives, mutualist organizations, post-growth enterprises, not-for-profit businesses, earned-income nonprofits, social businesses, regenerative businesses, among others.

If you’re interested in seeing if your organization qualifies, you can complete a self-assessment here.

Coming soon: SEWF is partnering with two organizations here in the U.S. to conduct an impact purchasing pilot program in Portland, Oregon.

Godspeed, friends.


💬 Quote of the Week

"Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing." Oscar Wilde

💥 Quick Hits

Take a trip to Climate Town – Fast fashion is ruining merch, so Climate Town host and comedian Rollie Williams took a trip to find better, more sustainable ways to produce it. He found hope for sustainable apparel in North Carolina on this episode of Climate Town featuring Godspeed subscriber Eric Henry and the team at TS Designs. The entire show is worth the watch, though you can cut straight to TS Designs and its star turn at 15:55.

Who wants to come work with me? – I'm rebooting my building in downtown Boise as a coworking space, with an emphasis on creative professionals who care about our community and those who work for social and environmental impact. If you're in the area and interested, hit me up by replying to this email or at

Come work with me (and Dolly) at my new coworking space.

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Ploughshares - Join the world's largest foundation with a mission to eliminate nuclear weapons. Multimedia Specialist, San Francisco, CA, or Washington, DC.

Thanks for spending time with us – and making it all the way to newsletter's end. We'll see you next week.

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