B Corps – they’re popping up everywhere… Increasing numbers of businesses across the world are undergoing certification, but do you really know what a B Corp certified business is? This week, we’re deep-diving into the B Corp certification process and its benefits to people, the planet and profit in order to help you understand exactly what this little logo means!
So, what are B Corps?
A certified B Corporation (B Corp) is a purpose-led business designed to positively benefit people and the planet, as well as make a profit. They challenge the age-old stereotype that businesses can only be profitable or do good. A business that is a certified B Corp is using itself as a force for good in our world – and making money. Good stuff right?!
What does that mean?
Companies that wish to certify as B Corporations must:
- Demonstrate and evidence that they conduct their business to the highest environmental and social standards
- Demonstrate legal accountability
- Disclose their impact transparently to the public
These three areas of action are what makes B Corps unique, verifiable and significant.
You may even recognise some of your favourite brands within the B Community – the image below shows how established the certification has become – nearly 6,000 businesses are now B Corps, including well-known brands such as Ben & Jerrys, AllBirds, Patagonia and Innocent.
How do companies become B Corp certified?
Companies must complete the following actions in order to become a B Corp:
- To demonstrate high environmental and social standards they must complete the B Impact Assessment – an assessment of the business’ overall impact on its workers, community, customers, and the environment.
- To demonstrate legal accountability, the business must ensure their governance is structured to account for all stakeholders, not only shareholders. This means they are legally required to consider their impact on everyone (humans and the planet), not just their shareholders.
- To demonstrate transparency, they must publicly share their performance in the B Impact Assessment and annually publish an impact report detailing their progress.
As you can see, this process is rigorous but it is growing in popularity as consumers and employees look to purchase and work with companies whose values for environmental and social issues align with their own.
Is there a business benefit?
Increasingly so, benefits include…
- Joining a community of purpose-led businesses – the B Community is filled with like-minded companies from diverse sectors. The community allows sharing of skills and knowledge to advance change across the business ecosystem. B Corps are already joining together to lead action – check out the Beauty Coalition & the Better Business Act for examples of how B Corps are pushing for wider systems change together.
- Attracting and retaining talent – multiple studies evidence that we, as employees, want to work in businesses that align with our values and care for their staff.
- Fully understanding your business impact – completing the B Impact Assessment and disclosing an impact report encourages a business to measure its impact on people, the planet and profit. This helps to track progress, allowing business leaders to fully understand their business and their impact to make improvements on a year-by-year basis.
- Increased profitability and resilience – a 2018 study by Yale showed a clear link between B Corps and business resilience. Between 2018-21, B Corps grew on average by 15% in the UK, whilst the national average was 1%. B Corp status is not only good for people and the planet, but also positive for long-term profitability of a business!
- Ensures businesses are being run with values that align to customers, employees and societal needs – YAY!
Is there any controversy?
The number of B Corp certified businesses is rising rapidly around the world. As a result, bigger brands are becoming B Corps, including businesses who some believe are unworthy of certification (e.g. BrewDog, Nespresso…). This forms part of a wider discussion of who ‘deserves’ to be B Corp certified, and whether there should be any minimum standards a business should meet in order to be able to apply for certification. Minimum standards are being introduced soon, but bringing about change from within businesses through the B corp certification and ensuring only the ‘best’ businesses can certify is a difficult tightrope for the certification standard to walk.
- Buy from B Corps – use your purchasing power as a force for good and buy from companies that are B Corp certified. Refer to this directory or look out for the B Corp certification logo on certified products.
- Support the Better Business Act – this is a coalition of B Corps looking to change UK law to make sure the actions of every single company in the UK considers people, profit and the planet.
- Urge your company to undertake the certification process – use your power as an employee to get your workplace to explore certification. The B Impact Assessment is rigorous, and it is designed to be difficult to obtain enough points to certify. However, even if your company doesn’t certify, the process of completing it is helpful to ensure businesses are comprehensively considering people and the planet within their strategy and operations.