I discovered B Corp during my sustainability studies and became truly passionate about it. So I decided to dig deeper. I wanted to understand the foundations of this standard certification and more importantly, the movement. The more I found out, the more amazed I was. It is vital for anybody working in sustainability, impact-driven business, or who simply believes in a fairer, equitable, and better way of doing business, to know what a B Corp company is. In this article, I will provide a very comprehensive view of the key elements that make a B Corp unique. I will also name some outstanding companies, as well as how to become one. This is a must read ☺
“I often wonder to what extent business can help society in its goals to alleviate poverty, preserve ecosystems, and build strong communities and institutions… B Lab has proven that there is a way.”
Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State
A movement using business as a force for good
For decades, companies have been solely focusing on maximising shareholders value, most of the time at the expense of people and planet. Now we are entering a new era, the era of stakeholder capitalism, where all stakeholders – and not only shareholders – are valued and prioritised.
And that’s the core mission of B Corps. Its mission is to transform the economic system into a more inclusive, equitable, and regenerative global economy. They believe this world is possible and they have worked to harness the power of business as a force for good since 2006.
B Lab is the non-profit organisation behind a B Corp, and they are dedicated to redefining business as not only the “best in the world but best for the world”. B Lab was created by Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan, and Andrew Kassoy in the US in 2006. Prior to B Lab, they were the co-founders of a basketball footwear and apparel company and already embodying B Corp principles by running a purpose-driven business while making profits. The company faced difficulties in 2005, so they decided to put it up for sale. The results after the sale were immediate: all of the company’s pre-existing commitments to its employees, overseas workers, and local communities were stripped away within a few months.
So, you can build the best company in the world, but making its purpose and commitments last forever without a legal status is not going to work. That was the trigger for the B Lab creation back in 2006, and the start of the B Corp movement.
A framework to measure and benchmark your environmental and social performance
Certified B-Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Lab developed the B Impact Assessment, a free-to-use framework encompassing several domains: Governance, Workers, Customers, Environment, and Community. The assessment is made of 200+ questions and can be used by any type and size of business: from solopreneurs to big corporates. It’s a great way to measure and benchmark companies’ impact.
They partnered with the UN Global Compact and developed another tool called the SDG Manager to help companies assess their impact according to the 17 SDGs. They recently developed other partnerships with fellow private and public sector organisations to share knowledge and best practices for social and environmental standards and define norms for better business culture: Fair Trade, GRI, Impact Management Platform, GIIN.
A certification to build credibility with your stakeholders
B Lab experienced a 38% increase in applications for B Corp Certification in 2020-2021. More and more companies are willing to demonstrate environmental and social commitments to their stakeholders (clients, employees, investors, suppliers,….). But becoming a B Corp is not an easy task. Companies need to add it to their business strategy. And plan for it.
To become a B Corp, you need to:
1 – Perform the B Impact Assessment and achieve a score of 80 points out of 200. To give you an idea, less than 10% of companies who applied reached this score… The certification is valid for 3 years and you have to pay annual certification fees based on your annual sales and region.
2- Change the company’s legal status to protect a company’s mission and ensure that the company will continue to practice stakeholder governance even after capital raises and leadership changes. It’s called Benefit Corporation in the US and authorised by 35 states. An equivalent status exists in a few other countries, too.
3/ Disclosure of the B Impact Assessment results: there is a section on the B Corp website called ‘Find a B Corp’, where all current B Corps are listed along with their scores from the B Impact assessment.
A community of worldwide change-makers
There are 5000 B Corp companies in the world. So by becoming a B Corp, you join a community of change-makers, companies like Patagonia, Danone, Chloe, The Body Shop, Ben & Jerry’s, or more recently Nespresso. It’s possible that some big corporates are looking at becoming a B Corp with interest, but for now, the movement mainly includes SMEs. A list of all B Corps is publicly available on their website, and this is a great way to see the performance and benchmark practices of companies within similar industries.
You can be part of this movement, driving business as a force for good and inspiring other businesses in the region to follow. The B Corp founders’ vision is not to grow exponentially and have as many B Corps as possible in the world, but rather make the movement grow, in the hope that other businesses, civil society, and ultimately governments change the economic system.
“Not only best in the world, but best for the world.”
B Lab Co-Founders
According to the 2021 B Corp Annual Report, here are some statistics demonstrating how B Corps have made an impact:
- B Corp workers spent 31,892 hours doing community service in 2021.
- +60% of B Corps tie executive leadership compensation to achieving specific social and environmental metrics.
- 87% of B Corps provide their employees with flex-time work schedules, and 83% offer telecommuting benefits.
- B Corps are 7.3 times more likely to be carbon-neutral.
There is a lot to say about B Corp! Being a true believer in this movement, I am creating awareness about it in the UAE and the whole MENA region. As it stands, we have only one certified B Corp in the region.
I am now dedicated to supporting companies in achieving the certification, work which I truly enjoy. If you want to find out more about becoming a B Corp, and how it could help you measure and report your impact, do not hesitate to get in touch via the Contact Form.