B Body: external headwinds amplify entrenched volatility

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In the articles that follow, I will analyze each B Corp individually, going deeper into their financial and sustainability characteristics.

Although still primarily useful in a B2B field, B Corp certification has gained traction relevance to consumer-facing businesses given the pandemic-induced surge in online shopping and the concomitant increase ethical spending. Status is notoriously elusive, lending weight to claims of increased transparency and accountability. The end result, in theory, is greater consumer confidence.

At present, being mostly small structures, B Corps are not very present on the stock market. In February of this year, there were only 11 U.S. listed B Corps, 8 having emerged from relatively recent IPOs. (This excludes public companies with certified non-core subsidiaries as well as for-profit corporations, a type of corporate governance, that are not B Corps.) In total, more than 5,000 companies from 83 countries were certified since 2007.

B Corps listed in the United States

Company

Sector/Industry

Initial Public Offering

Market capitalization ($ millions)

Impact Rating B

(out of 200)

Natura&Co

Basic consumption/

Personal products

January 2020

18,435.6

110.4

Coursera

Consumer Discretionary/

Education Services

March 2021

2,353.8

84.9

Warby Parker

Consumer Discretionary/

Specialty stores

September 2021

1,559.8

85

Lemonade

Finance/

P&C insurance

July 2020

1,079.9

83.2

all the birds

Consumer Discretionary/

Shoe

November 2021

699.2

89.4

Merged bank

Finance/

Regional banks

August 2018

620.5

115.1

vital farms

Basic consumption/

Packaged foods and meats

July 2020

367.9

98.7

Appreciate

Basic consumption/

Agricultural production

January 2021

317.4

95.4

Zevia

Basic consumption/

Soft drink

July 2021

174.1

82

Broadway Financial Corporation

Finance/

Savings and mortgage financing

January 1996

64.2

146.8

VivoPower

Utilities/

Renewable electricity

December 2016

35.3

83

Source: Impact Assessment B, Google Finance as of June 20

Performance: between the bad, the worst and the worst

For about a year now, B Corp shares have been falling along with the broader market, but only slightly more as they are subject to greater price swings due to their modest size. Now, inflationary pressures on input costs are beginning to alter their unit economics.

Consumer Staples B Corps: 1-Year Total Return to June 24

Consumer Staples B Corp stock total returns vs. S&P SmallCap 600 total return

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Compared to the S&P SmallCap 600 high beta, a sub-index of US small-cap stocks with the highest beta scores, Consumer Staples B Corps are much deeper in the red. Their total return over the past year averaged -72% versus -16% for S&P.

Sao Paulo-headquartered Natura &Co (NTCO), the largest B Corp of them all with a market value of just over $18 billion, fell 75%. Three of NTCO’s four personal care brands – Aesop, Natura and The Body Shop – have so far been certified. It takes more time and effort than initially hoped to resuscitate its new Avon business unit which had struggled for years prior to the acquisition. Once that hurdle is cleared, synergies between brands could drive further growth. Dylan Waller wrote positively about NTCO.

Another in Consumer Staples, Vital Farms (VITL) fell 59%. A seller of pasture-raised eggs and butter, VITL has been a B Corp since 2015 and has been profitable since 2017 due to strong revenue growth and decent gross margins, although there are no had a linear progression. Technically a single product, VITL seems to know what to do to maintain its position as the leading brand of pastured eggs. Busted IPO Forum has more.

AppHarvest (APPH), which grows agricultural products, fell 76%. APPH is in the process of expanding its network of farms to diversify the range of products, hence the increase in capital expenditure; but the technological efficiency promises to offset some of the initial costs. However, it can take a long time and there will be pain along the way. Leo Imasuen and West Coast Fundamentals provide disparate views on the company’s outlook.

Certified public benefit company B Corp Zevia (ZVIA), a maker of naturally sweetened soft drinks, saw the biggest drop of the bunch at 78%. A microcap by definition, ZVIA no longer delivers the high-growth numbers it used in the early years after launching in 2007, and profitability remains elusive. But as household penetration is still low at 5.8% at the end of March 2022, there is at least potential for long-term expansion. ZVIA was last covered by The Investment Doctor in April.

Consumer Discretionary B Corps: 1-Year Total Return to June 24

Consumer Discretionary B Corp Stock Total Returns vs. S&P SmallCap 600 Total Return

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Consumer Discretionary Body B have fallen almost as much as the previous group of stocks, returning -74% on average over the past year. With inflation on everyone’s mind, consumers are becoming more discerning about non-essential spending.

Down 64%, Coursera (COUR) is a for-profit corporation whose charter formally defines its social mission. Founded exactly ten years ago, the platform was one of the first stars of digital learning. It became a B Corp in February 2021 and a public company a month later. The second-largest B Corp valued at $2 billion, the company is still in aggressive growth mode, characterized by rising revenues and high overheads. Although it has yet to break even, corporate and COUR degree offerings are steadily filling the coffers. Donovan Jones rated the title Neutral in May.

Warby Parker (WRBY), an eyewear retailer, has always had a clear social proposition, so it only made sense that it got B Corp certification early on. Curiously, however, the entire company impact score has dropped significantly over the years. The stock, meanwhile, is down 75% since its IPO in September 2021. The outlook for WRBY doesn’t look particularly exciting given slowing growth and stiff competition from larger, for-profit stores. David Trainer and WideAlpha offer opposing recommendations on the stock.

Sustainable shoemaker Allbirds (BIRD) holds the record for generating the largest negative return among any B Corps with -84% since its November 2021 listing. However, it is still very early days as a public company, as evidenced by a recent bout of exuberance around the stock. BIRD’s strong domestic business performance and innovative product lineup convince many investors, including WideAlpha, to buy.

Financials B Corps: 1-Year Total Return to June 24

Financials B Corp stock total returns versus S&P SmallCap 600 total return

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The total yield of Finance B Corps over the past year has averaged -59% compared to -13% S&P SmallCap 600 Financials. Two of the three are somewhat obscure stocks with relatively stable companies.

Lemonade (LMND), an insurtech company, is certified B Corp due to its focus on social impact. LMND listed at the start of the pandemic, in July 2020, and since then has seen steady revenue growth. Net numbers were more volatile, but not different from those of insurance peers. Although it is down 82% from a peak in mid-2021, many investors believe in its business model. One of them is stocks and savings.

Broadway Financial Corporation (BYFC) effectively became a B Corp in April last year following a merger with City’s first bank which has been certified since 2017. A microcap, BYFC is the largest Black-run minority depository institution in the United States. Firstly, its social nature could explain historically low profitability (and a lack of coverage by analysts). Higher interest rates led to slightly better 12-month numbers.

Amalgamated Bank (AMAL) is a New York-based responsible bank with formal positions on a number of social and environmental issues, as well as more typical fundamentals (2.76% net interest margin, efficiency ratio of 62% in 1Q22) which are closer to the financial sector. medians. Even so, small capitalization attracts little interest from the investment community.

Utilities B Corp: 1-Year Total Return to June 24

Utilities B Corp stock total returns vs. S&P SmallCap 600 total return

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VivoPower (VVPR) is the only B Corp listed in the Utilities sector. While the energy sub-index of the S&P 600 has generated 7.8% over the past year, the nano-cap VVPR has generated a negative result of 78.5%. The company is loss-making and its recent revenue record has been spotty, in part due to supply chain restrictions. It spends a lot of money to scale solutions in high-potential sustainable energy areas such as battery technology, electric vehicles, and solar power. It might pay off in the long run, but external obstacles will remain for some time. VVPR was recently mentioned by Keith Williams and before that by Mark Schiavo.

Conclusion

Obviously, B Corp status does not yet add to price performance. B Corps suffered disproportionately, even compared to the most market-sensitive small-cap stocks. For many of them, the disastrous performance of the past year is not a strict reflection of the fundamentals or their prospects. After all, these are mostly young companies, previously the darlings of venture capital funds, operating in fast-growing sectors. So there might be an opportunity to accumulate a few good companies to feature low prices – that’s what I’ll explore in the following articles.

Shirlene J. Manley