What becoming a B Corp means for Couchsurfing


Published on 11/1/2010

By now you may have heard the news that Couchsurfing is becoming a B (Benefit) Corp, a new type of socially responsible corporation.

We’ve been working on this change for the last few months but we couldn’t make any announcements until we knew for sure that it was all going to work. Now, it has and I’m so glad to finally be able to talk with you about it! This transition to a B Corp is a huge change but it’s something I’m very excited about and something I know is going to mean great things for Couchsurfing.

The biggest benefit will be the flexibility that B Corp status brings us. It means that we can run much more efficiently and meet the needs of the Couchsurfing community even better. We will have the resources that we need to achieve our vision and mission, and the freedom to innovate. We’ll be able to make even more improvements to the website, ensuring that it’s fun and easy to use. And Couchsurfers can expect to see more great features and tools that will make it even easier to host, surf and connect with the community!

Becoming a B Corp doesn’t mean that we’re going to become obsessed with profits. That never has been and will not be our primary focus in the future. In fact, becoming a B Corp means that instead of having just the one bottom line of making a profit, as in the case of a regular corporation, we are required to have multiple bottom lines. We will be accountable to all the people who have a stake in Couchsurfing: our members, volunteers, staff and our investors. To us, our members have always been our priority, but now being a B Corp requires us to make them a priority too — they’re officially recognized as stakeholders.

I’m really excited about this change but even so, it wasn’t a decision we came to easily. The rest of the team and I did a lot of research and a lot of soul-searching. We were definitely concerned that not being a non-profit would make it harder to achieve our goal of creating a better world. And, after so many years trying to get 501c3 status we knew we had to find a legal structure that would work for us even better.

We interviewed many experts about all of the options available to us. We talked to B Lab, the non-profit who created the B Corp structure, to make sure that we were the right fit for each other, and they agreed that we were. As Jordan Chazin, Ratings Associate and part of the standards and certification team at B Lab, explained:

We’re definitely excited to have you on board for a number of reasons… One of the most interesting things that I learned about CouchSurfing was how well you treat your employees, and that everyone who works there is actually a CouchSurfer themselves. It just seems like a really interesting place and you fit well with the kind of companies we are trying to get to become B Corps. CouchSurfing holds a lot of the same values that we’re trying to instill in companies.

After comparing the options, it was clearly the winner. It’s the structure that will allow us the greatest flexibility to achieve our vision in the shortest period of time. It will allow us to provide better features, support and information for our existing members, and reach more and more people. Ultimately, reaching more people is what will help us achieve our vision of creating a better world.