B-ravo! How B Corps are changing business for the better

I’ve become a bit obsessed with B Corps and have been enthusing about them for a while now, including on this blog. It’s finally time to tell you more.

Being a certified B Corp means a business has a wider social cause and seeks to balance profit with purpose to be a force for good. B Corps together have one unifying goal: to redefine what success means in business. Each must meet the highest standards of verified performance, public transparency and legal accountability. If you care about what lies behind a business and its ethics, then look out for the circled B.

B Corp certification is open to all businesses – large or small. Every B Corp is required to consider how its decisions impact on workforce, customers, suppliers, community and the environment. Achieving the certification in the first place is a big deal, as well as hanging on to it!

The good news is the B Corp movement is growing steadily. At the time of writing there are 3,243 B Corps across 150 industries and 71 countries. Around 300 of these are in the UK.

B Corp Certification is assessed and awarded by a non-profit known as B Lab. This also administers the B Impact Management programs and software used by B Corps.

B Corp values and aspirations are set out in the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence which states:

  • B Corps must be the change they seek in the world.
  • All business ought to be conducted as if people and place matter.
  • Through their products, practices, and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and to benefit all.
  • To do so requires B Corps to act with the understanding that they are each dependent upon another and therefore responsible for each other and future generations.

B Lab is aiming to build a B Economy that will work for everyone in society, for the long term.

In February this year, I attended the “B Corp Journey” event in Bristol. This was hosted by The Future Economy Network, a great organisation which delivers sustainability events and networking opportunities across South West England.

There were four speakers – one was a director of B Lab UK and three were owners or senior employees of three B Corps (Double Retail, Triodos Bank and Rubber Republic). They each gave talks and then participated in a panel discussion with a Q&A session.

The speakers’ individual and collective passion and enthusiasm really showed. One of the points that came up was, in the nicest possible way, wouldn’t it be great if formal B Corp certification eventually becomes obsolete because its values and ethos become the norm for all businesses?

Achieving B Corp status goes well beyond product or service-level certification. It’s the only measure of a business’s entire social and environmental performance. The free B Impact Assessment (BIA) evaluates how operations and business model impacts on workers, the community, the environment, and customers. There’s nowhere to hide. And no room for green-washing.

And in case you’re thinking the certification is a one-time tick box exercise and once achieved the business can let standards slip, that’s not the case. Retaining B Corp status requires sustained commitment to considering stakeholder impact for the future by building it in to the organisation’s legal structure. In other words: there’s no room for fakers.

The BIA is available for free online. B Lab say that around 50,000 non-B Corp businesses are using it as a tool to assess how they’re doing in their journeys towards gaining certification. If you operate a business or know someone who does and you’re this all sounds a bit lofty and daunting – you can start small. Simply using the BIA to guide you to improvements is a great first step.

But don’t think you’ll be in for an easy ride. The speakers at the event made it clear that going through the BIA is gruelling. It usually take lots of attempts to get a score high enough for certification (you need at least 80 points).

To maintain certification, B Corps must update their BIA and verify their new score every three years. This is in addition to meeting a legal accountability requirement which is location-specific and can be found using B Lab’s Legal Requirement Tool.

If you live in or near London, you’re lucky to have the majority of the UK’s B Corps within close reach. For the rest of us, a growing number are dotted around the regions. For a directory and map, see here.

Some interesting B Corps I’m closely watching are Lily’s Kitchen for pet products, Patagonia for clothing and outerwear, JoJo Maman Bébé (for kids’ stuff) and Ethique (for toiletries, see my previous post). And one of my old faithfuls, Pukka Herbs, which was also featured in a previous post and is based near where I live.

If you’re not a business owner but keen to do more to support B Corps then check out B Lab’s Vote Every Day campaign. This tells you key things about the collective power of buying from, working for and working with B Corps. It’s a great way to find out about B Corps that could be relevant for your lifestyle.

I think the B Corp movement is an effective way to spread meaning and purpose and improve the world we live in while allowing businesses to thrive. I’d love to hear your views and experiences so please do share in the comments below.

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