The Evolution of the Better Business Bureau

The Evolution of the Better Business Bureau

​Since 1926, Cincinnati Better Business Bureau® has been helping the business community by encouraging ethical business practices. In 1912, a top executive at Coca Cola, named Samuel Dobbs, noticed that a lack of truth in advertising coupled with unethical business practices was hurting both consumers and businesses by weakening the business culture overall. As a result, the Better Business Bureau was founded to promote empowered buying decisions, stronger business practices, and a deeper investment within communities.

"We believe business is essentially good, and business owners show on a day-to-day basis that they are good," says Jocile Ehrlich, president and CEO of Cincinnati’s Better Business Bureau. In fact, a mere 20 percent of the businesses registered with BBB have any complaints on file.

"This," says Ehrlich, "is a tremendous statement about our community and about business in general."

"We want businesses and charities to be strong. We want them to really succeed. If we mesh consumers and businesses so that both can trust each other, then we have made strides in strengthening our community. By believing in the community that you are doing business in, you strengthen the community itself. People make stronger buying decisions, which in turn means they’re going to have stronger businesses and then they’ll want to invest emotionally in our community. The best way we know how to empower people is to create more trust in the marketplace. Our code of business practices provides the framework for building that trust."

Trust is the cornerstone of BBB. However, there is more to BBB. There are a variety of programs that encourage the growth of good business practices. "There are just so many facets of BBB that people don’t realize. This is our biggest challenge, our greatest opportunity. We must let people know the many resources BBB offers," Ehrlich says.

While it is known BBB assists in dispute resolution, it is not their primary focus. Ehrlich is proud of the 89% success rate in resolving complaints. BBB’s focus is to be an information provider; to help people find and recom- mend brands and charities they can trust.

"Education is our top priority," Ehrlich says. "We want to reach out, alert people to problems before they fall victim to them, not after the fact," and assisting businesses in making ethical business decisions makes up a large part of BBB’s mission. "We are also a great first stop for new businesses that are just launching by providing a tremendous amount of information to start them on the right path."

BBB also helps existing businesses review their policies and advertising to ensure that they adhere to BBB’s Eight Business Standards. "Across the country, people used our website to find more information about businesses about 11.8 million times a month," Ehrlich says of 2013.

BBB educates businesses and college students through University of Cincinnati as part of the In Pursuit of Ethics program on how to make ethical business decisions. To expand its reach, BBB is currently developing industry expert panels, "that will be able to tackle ethical issues within an industry...and set standards within our community as to how (ethical) problems should be ad- dressed from this point forward."

Some additional programs include:

• Cincinnati BBB is adding BBB Military Line, a partner program of the Department of Defense Financial Readiness Campaign and Joining Forces Initiative. It provides BBB services and education to military members seeking to reintegrate after leaving the service.

• Target Corporation invited BBB with the National Cyber Security Alliance and National Cyber-Forensics & Training Alliance to join a new cyber security coalition. This is part of a continued effort to support the importance of privacy standards for consumers.

• Aside from website presence, BBB is focused on increasing their social media presence to be sure certain people, especially millennials, can find and connect with BBB quickly and easily for all of their needs. 

All of these programs highlight the fact BBB is a vital participant in framing the future of our marketplace. While today’s business environment is a far cry from the era of the ruthless untruths of the 1920’s, Cincinnati BBB practices for the same vision Samuel Dobbs had 100 years ago, that of an ethical marketplace where buyers and sellers can trust one another.

"When we started in 1926, we were basically going after business half truths and the people behind them at that time," Ehrlich says. "We were reactive. The greatest evolution of BBB is that we have become more proactive."

By working from the roots of the business community, BBB is changing the way Cincinnatians do business.

The Better Business Bureau is located at 7 W 7th St #1600, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202. You can reach them at 513.421.3015 or visit their website at

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