Boost Sales in Your Wholesale Business Through a 3P Business Plan

Travel down the traditional path, and your wholesale business has the mission of maximizing profits and increasing shareholder wealth. Travel down a second path, and your wholesale business has the mission of providing social and environmental benefits while also earning a profit. The idea of starting a business that focuses on people, planet, and profits (the 3P business plan) is not new. Commonly known in the business world as a triple bottom line strategy, more and more for-profit wholesale companies are choosing to operate under this type of business model.

In a sole proprietorship or partnership, there are few obstacles to impede the deployment of a triple bottom line business model. In a traditional corporation, management’s social and environmental wishes may go unfulfilled because of restrictions limiting spending and objections by shareholders as to how the corporation’s money is being spent. The introduction of the benefit corporation helps make it easier for businesses to be generous and conscientious corporate citizens.

Benefit Corporations

In response to the growing demand by the public for businesses to become more socially responsible and environmentally concerned, legislation has been passed in many states to create a new type of corporate entity called a benefit corporation. In 2010, Maryland became the first state to introduce benefit corporations, and as of October 2014, B corporations are permitted in 28 states. It is expected that more states will follow in the near future. While most of the same rules and regulations that apply to C corporations and S corporations apply to B corporations as well, there are three unique requirements when forming a B corporation.

  1. Corporate purpose – A business must agree to provide a positive social and environmental impact.
  2. Accountability – A business will be held accountable to shareholders, workers, the community, and the environment, for the impact of decisions made and actions taken.
  3. Transparency – A business must make an annual report available to the public that uses a third party standard to measure the overall success of any social or environmental initiatives.

There are no tax benefits for being a B corporation and you do have to commit to some additional terms that you do not have to commit to as a C or S corporation. With these added conditions, why would a wholesale company, or any other type of company, choose to become a B corporation?

  • To create goodwill by satisfying the ever-increasing demands of investors, employees and customers who are becoming more aware and concerned about the social and environmental impact companies have in the workplace and the community.
  • To remove legal barriers that might impede a company from directing funds toward social or environmental causes that may detract from bottom-line profits.
  • To earn or rebuild public trust by demonstrating that your company is committed to providing better opportunities for workers, better involvement in the community, and better stewardship over environmental issues.

Case Study: The Vermont Card Company

Tucked away in the heart of the Green Mountains of Underhill, Vermont, is a small card company that designs and wholesales original greeting cards, holiday cards, and adhesive-backed note cards. The Vermont Card Company is a triple bottom line small business that places equal importance on people, the planet, and profits. It is able to grow and make a profit while treating its employees well, contributing to the local community, and having a minimal impact on the environment.

The company designs and distributes its eco-friendly products to retailers and ships them using UPS’s “carbon neutral” shipping option. They use earth-friendly materials whenever possible, and they monitor the impact their business activities have on the planet. Cards are printed on artisan-quality recycled paper, and the company purchases carbon offsets from Vermont’s Native Energy power company.

Within the community, the Vermont Card Company has adopted a special cause. In conjunction with the Governor of the state of Vermont’s ten-year plan to end homelessness, the company established the House of Cards fund. Each year, three percent of the company’s net profits are donated to organizations that provide housing solutions for Vermont families.

The 3P Business Plan – Focusing on the Triple Bottom Line

People

The first pillar of a triple bottom line business is people. Paying your employees well is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do. Does your wholesale company provide health insurance or other desirable benefits? Treating workers well also means giving them input into the company and the opportunity to voice any complaints or issues they may have. A content employee will be loyal and work harder for the good of the company. A wholesale company that creates a positive working atmosphere will see an increase in productivity, which translates into more bottom line profits.

Making a commitment to a cause or sponsoring an event within the community is a great way to create a positive public image. A wholesale company can be recognized for sponsoring a Little League team, donating goods to a homeless shelter, or providing funds for any other cause that benefits people.

Planet

Think about the impact a wholesale business could have on the planet. There is potential for harm to the planet from the materials used to the manufacturing process. Even the way an order is packed or delivered has an environmental impact. Being a “green” company means evaluating the environmental impact of everything from packaging and waste disposal to water use and energy consumption. A wholesaler can earn a better public image and attract more customers by being sensitive to the environment.

Profits

Any business, and in particular, any small business, can be more generous with employees and more giving in the community when they generate more sales and make greater profits. When a small business needs working capital to help grow their business and be in a better position to help, having access to money is crucial. Looking beyond banks, where the bar for qualifying for a small business loan can be very high, a better option may well be to apply for a small business loan from a leading online small business lender like Credibly.

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