So, what is B Corp Certification?
Certified B Corp. You might have spotted their signature B logo on one of your favourite ethical brands.
But what does it mean to be a certified B Corporation? And what makes them stand out from other sustainable certifications?
Where did the idea of B Corp come from?
The concept of B Corp came about in 2006 after one of the co-founders of the movement, Jay Coen Gilbert realised the power of business to make an impact on the world.
Having seen the wide stakeholder benefits of running a company that aimed to balance purpose and profit he was keen to see how a movement of businesses with this aim could be created.
This idea would mature into the notion of B Corporations, where the B stands for “benefit.”
Certified B Corps are a new form of business that seeks to balance purpose and profit. This means that rather than solely focusing on profit maximisation, they consider the impact of their operations on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment.
B Corps are leaders of a global movement of business as a force for good. They meet the highest verified and independent levels of transparency and accountability on their social and environmental performance.
The B Corp movement has met its moment.
There are now over 4000 B Corps around the world, with 53+ in Aotearoa. Australia/New Zealand is one of the world’s fastest-growing regions for B Corp Certification. In 2020 the movement saw an increase of 25%.
This has been driven by two levels of factors. At the higher systemic level, we are seeing more companies taking an active stance in matters relating to environmental and social challenges. Covid-19 has also added a layer of existential questioning:
If your business wasn’t able to operate during a lockdown then how essential is it to humanity?
At the lower level, businesses need 4 main groups of humans and they are all demanding that business steps up to do more. Customers, employees, suppliers and investors all want businesses to prove that they are doing their fair share to make the world a better place.
How does a business become B Corp certified?
To get B Corp Certified you need to take an initial self-assessment, called the B Impact Assessment or BIA. This measures your business performance across the five pillars or sections shown below, as well as answering the disclosure questions.
Once you have met the threshold score of 80/200 you are eligible to submit your work and get it verified by one of the teams at B Lab (the global non-profit body that runs the certification tool).
The BIA is a positive screening tool that measures your operational goodness, or in other words how much benefit are you creating for your stakeholders beyond just the owners and shareholders.
The BIA is completely free to take – you only pay a Certification fee if you want to have your assessment verified by B Lab.
The typical journey to Certification looks something like this:
To B or not to B?
Well is it worth it? From an impact perspective B Corps are definitely doing the mahi:
Beyond it being the right thing to do there are solid economic arguments for undertaking B Corp Certification.
The Grocer, a UK journal for consumer brands, reported in 2018 that average year-on-year growth across the 150 UK B Corps was 14% compared with 0.5% growth in GDP.
35% said they had attracted new customers since Certifying, while almost half (48%) found that prospective staff had been attracted to the business specifically because it was a B Corp.
And in the most recent B Lab impact report we have seen that B Corp’s are a resilient bunch: