B Corp Certification: Making businesses sustainable for people and the planet

B Lab is enabling businesses to become more sustainable and beneficial for their employees by becoming B Corp Certified.

Aligning sustainability and business is fundamental to minimising environmental impact and promoting a more regenerative economy, better practices, and transparency across industries. This is part of the message behind B Lab, a pioneering movement helping to connect and encourage companies of all sizes to improve the way they operate in order to be a vehicle for change against ‘structural social and economic inequality, environmental degradation and resource extraction; and the decline of individual well-being and loss of social cohesion’.

B Lab was founded in 2006, and the organisation now boasts a network of over 4000 certified B corporations, or ‘B Corps’, in over 70 countries, and across 150 industries. So, what exactly is the B Corp certification and what benefits does it offer to businesses, people, and the planet?

A movement for change

Becoming certified as a B Corporation is essentially a badge of honour highlighting a company’s commitment to responsible business operations and the highest levels of sustainability, transparency, and accountability. In contrast to the increasingly archaic approach of working to merely turn a profit, achieving B Corp status enables businesses to evaluate and understand their purpose and how they can make a positive contribution to society – from local through to international level. In practice, this could mean ensuring high standards in their supply chain practices, supporting local charities or communities and curating positive relationships with their stakeholders and customers. What’s more, they also become part of a global network of companies that share a similar outlook.

Promoting greener, cleaner, and more transparent strategies is at the heart of the sustainability model. As well as measuring businesses’ proactive contribution to the environment, becoming a B Corp also means the consumer can make informed decisions about the companies they wish to buy from. Each B Corp has a public profile in which they display their B Corp score and an impact report.

The ‘Find a B Corp’ directory page allows people to search for B Corps who are excelling in specific impact areas – ‘Community’, ‘Customers’, ‘Environment’, ‘Governance’ and ‘Workers’ – or search for keywords, industries, and locations to further filter their results.

In a similar vein, a B Corp Certification means that a company is devoted to high levels of employee satisfaction, helping workers to understand the ‘why’ in their work and the valuable contributions they are making. This, in turn, can attract more people to an organisation.

The certification is recognised across multiple industries, from food and drink production to publishing and media, and the community continues to expand worldwide. Instead of operating in silos, the B Corp community facilitates connections with other B Corps, as well as those working towards certification so that they can share any challenges as well as valuable resources and ideas for best practice.

Achieving B Corp certification

Being a B-certified company is undoubtedly rewarding, particularly because achieving accreditation is no mean feat; the process is rigorous, and companies are required to apply for recertification every three years. Many companies endeavouring to become a B Corp will likely need to re-submit their assessment to reach the required threshold of 80 points.

The certification pathway can vary depending on several factors including size, revenue, and ownership structure. Once organisations have completed the initial assessment and achieved the minimum verified score of 80 points, they can then move on to the next step towards achieving certification.

The typical process to achieve B Corp Certification involves:

  • Completion of the B Impact Assessment and a verified total score of 80+ points;
  • Evaluation: A B Corp analyst reviews a company’s eligibility before looking over the company structure, any controversial industries, and its Assessment submission;
  • Verification: Companies provide information about employees and any suppliers and talk through the verification report with an analyst;
  • If all legal requirements are met, companies then proceed to the post-verification stage and signing of the B Corp Agreement and the Declaration of Interdependence; and
  • Certified companies must then publish their profile (including their score and impact report) on the B Corp Directory.

The so-called B Impact Assessment is a free online tool which lists questions across five key areas – governance, workers, community, environment, and customers – to help companies measure their performance and essentially give a holistic overview of where they are performing well, and equally, where improvements could be made.

Companies have access to a range of resources and questionnaires to help guide them through the process. More details on the certification process can be found here.

Smaller companies and start-ups can work towards a ‘Pending B Corp’ status which enables stakeholders and customers to understand a company’s intention and how it plans to measure and improve its social and environmental performance.

Equally, early-stage companies do not need to become ‘Pending B Corps’ to pursue full B Corp Certification, it does however provide a valuable framework for them to identify areas for development before transitioning to a fully-fledged B Corp. You can find out more about Pending B Corp status here.

Best for the world B Corps

Each year B Lab releases a list of the top performing organisations across the world who have been making a hugely positive impact across the five key assessment areas. Organisations listed are ranked in the top 5% for their corresponding size group. It is another opportunity for top-performing organisations to share their knowledge and examples of best practice. The full list for this year’s ‘Best for the World B Corps’ can be found here.

With the huge shift in workplace culture following the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with the urgent need to mitigate climate impact and meet climate action goals, more and more organisations are seeing the value of being recognised as a B Corp. The Innovation News Network is currently working towards its certification, and we are looking forward to forging strong working relationships with new and current partners, and ensuring our work is bringing value to our employees, stakeholders, local communities, and is kind to the planet. We look forward to keeping you updated on our journey to ‘B’ better.

B Corporation

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