What makes a Quality Job at American SMEs?

Request for Proposals Application

B Lab, with support from JPMorgan Chase & Co. is seeking proposals for academic research to help define and make suggestions to small business service providers, regulators, and municipalities in order to foster quality jobs at businesses across the United States. We invite all researchers to submit research proposals that address the making of a quality job within small businesses. Research will be based on newly-accessible, anonymized data from B Lab’s B Impact Assessment, which has been made available via the generous support of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and in response to incoming demand from researchers around the world.
Job quality is a multi-dimensional concept that has been measured in various ways and across various disciplines (Warwurst, 2017). An economist might analyze the distribution of pay in a workplace, while a sociologist might analyze alienation, and a health and safety researcher might analyze everyday risk and stress. None of these markers alone can paint a holistic picture of what a quality job means. In addition, obtaining these and similar markers of quality jobs from businesses can be a lengthy project. Therefore, using data obtained from more than 55,000 businesses across various industries and across various indicators of job quality, we hope to shed some light on understanding what a quality job in a small business looks like.
B Corps aim to produce positive social and environmental impact as opposed to just maximizing profit (Stubbs, 2017). Companies that wish to be a Certified B Corp must first take an online B Impact Assessment to measure their social and environmental impact. The B Impact Assessment is a free, self-administered tool that allows any company to measure and manage their impact on all stakeholders at a company. A company must complete the assessment and go through a verification process in order to be a B Corp. More than 55,000 companies have answered part of the B Impact Assessment and 20,000 have completed it. Approximately 78% of these companies are SMEs and 31% are SMEs that have a majority of their operations based in the United States. As an example, one small Certified B Corp in Lancaster, PA, Stroopies, Inc., employs recently-settled refugees and offers ESL classes to help them move into leadership roles. This is just one example of one of more than 3,000+ Certified B Corps using business as a force for good. To learn from companies such as Stroopies, Inc. and many others, we propose the following research question:
What makes a quality job at American SMEs?
Sample research questions that could be tackled using this dataset include (but are certainly not limited to):
  • What, beyond higher wages, constitutes job quality and creates economic opportunity, especially among small businesses?
  • Which aspects of job quality are most feasible for small businesses in the US to implement and improve upon?
  • What structural similarities exist between businesses (board composition, executive diversity, etc.) that exhibit strong impact performance?
This research would be aimed at providing small business service providers, regulators, and municipalities with better information with which to foster quality jobs at a variety of businesses. We envision partnering with three research teams and/or institutions to publish useful evidence on these important issues. In doing so, we will add the small business perspective to the ongoing national conversation, and further inspire use of our data set to better understand the role and potential for responsible business in solving the most pressing issues of our day.
Since B Lab’s inception in 2007, the organization has been dedicated to making it easier for mission-driven companies to protect and improve their positive impact over time and built a comprehensive impact assessment that allows companies to evaluate the positive impact of their companies’ internal operations and business models. Through this assessment, B Lab has collected a wealth of data on these companies and believes this data would be able to help researchers attempting to answer a host of important questions surrounding companies’ actions towards big issues in modern society. The data we can provide the research community includes company’s anonymized responses surrounding their policies and actions on equity and diversity, health insurance, company pay ratios, providing employees with minimum/living wages, and much more.
This dataset contains data from 55,000 companies, who can be identified through variables such as the company’s number of employees, their geographic location, and the industry in which they represent. To get a comprehensive look at the variables that can be used in this research, please refer to the codebooks and overview documents. These codebooks outline how questions were asked to the company, where the questions sit in the assessment hierarchy, what versions the question was asked in, and what answer choices a company had the option of choosing. We aim to see researchers help us better define a quality job at American SMEs using the anonymized data that B Lab has published on the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Research Data Services (WRDS) platform.
Stubbs, W. 2017. Characterising B Corps as a sustainable business model: An exploratory study of B Corps in Australia. Journal of Cleaner Production, 144, 299-312
Warhurst, C., Wright, S., Lyonette, C. 2017. Understanding and Measuring Job Quality. Warwick Institute for Employment Research.
Results and Outputs: This call seeks to generate recommendations for companies, policymakers and other stakeholders surrounding quality jobs to improve and accelerate positive impact.
Submission Process:
Proposals should be sent to mbradley@bcorporation.net no later than December 20, 2019, should not exceed 3000 words and must include:
  • A study abstract.
  • Title and description of the main motivation behind the project.
  • Research questions and their relevance.
  • Potential impact of generated knowledge.
  • Literature review and expected contributions: an updated review of the related literature and clear identification of the project's contribution.
  • Methodology: Which variables in the B Impact Assessment data on WRDS would be used to further your research.1
  • Expected results and outputs
  • Work plan, including a dissemination plan for resulting publication


Evaluation Criteria: Research proposals will be evaluated in terms of clarity in formulating questions and objectives, research methodology, and potential relevance of the project. More specifically, the following criteria will be used:
  • Originality of the proposal.
  • Clarity of research questions and objectives.
  • Use of appropriate and sound research methodology.
  • Use of B Impact Assessment data.
  • Reasonable and complete work plan.
  • Research team's qualifications.
  • The call is directed to all researchers under the guidance and direction of a principal researcher.
  • Capacity to generate recommendations for companies and public policy development.
  • Ability to publish results in indexed journals (preferably open access).


Evaluating Committee
  • A representative group from B Lab
  • A representative group from JPMorgan Chase & Co.
  • A representative group from the Wharton Social Impact Initiative


  1. December 20, 2019: Deadline for submitting proposals.
  2. January 24, 2019: Notification of selected proposals.
  3. April 17, 2020: First progress report due.
  4. October 23, 2020: Second progress report due.
  5. April 16, 2021: Final paper due.


It is hereby declared that all applicants accept the terms described above and any other resolution by B Lab in this regard. The results of this call can be made public and published in B Lab's or any supporting organizations’ communication channels and networks.
About supporting organizations
B Lab is a nonprofit that serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good. B Lab's initiatives include B Corp Certification, administration of the B Impact Management programs and software, and advocacy for governance structures like the benefit corporation.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.7 trillion and operations worldwide. The Firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing, and asset management. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, JPMorgan Chase & Co. serves millions of customers in the United States and many of the world's most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients under its J.P. Morgan and Chase brands. Information about JPMorgan Chase & Co. is available at www.jpmorganchase.com. This Request for Proposal is issued with support from JPMorgan Chase & Co. through Small Business Forward, a five year, $150 million initiative connecting underserved small businesses with the capital, targeted assistance and support networks to help them grow faster, create jobs and strengthen local economies. To drive impact, Small Business Forward focuses on diversifying high-growth sectors, expanding entrepreneurial opportunities in neighborhoods and expanding access to flexible capital for underserved entrepreneurs.
Wharton Social Impact Initiative (WSII) is a cross-disciplinary research center housed in the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. WSII’s mission is to build the evidence, talent, and community necessary to promote business solutions for a better world. To this end, WSII provides students and alumni the skills and training to apply their business acumen to social impact goals. In addition, WSII provides data and analysis on impact investing and social enterprise, generating insights that contribute to better practices in strategic investment for social impact.
1 Access to the dataset will be granted after you have been selected. Please use the attached Overview Documents and Codebooks to become familiar with the dataset.