How B Corps certification can benefit your business and the environment
With so much emphasis on sustainability, the environment, circular economy and the upcoming COP26 in Glasgow, many businesses are wondering how they can do ‘their bit’ for the planet.
What is a B Corporation (B Corps) certification?
“B Corp is to business what Fair Trade is to coffee…They are businesses that give as much consideration to their social and environmental impact as they do to their financial returns.”
B Lab was established in 2006 in the USA as a non profit organisation advising and advocating for ethical and profitable business, with a belief that business should be a force for good. It devised a certification system (B Corps) that confirms businesses meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability. There are now 3,600 certified B Corps in 75 countries. The first 42 UK companies were certified in 2015. 2020 saw a huge rise in interest and there are now 430 B Corps in the UK representing 48 industries, 22,000 employees with a £4.3 billion combined revenue.
What are the impact areas?
There are 5 impact areas:
- Governance: this assesses a company’s overall mission, ethics, accountability and transparency. It includes an assessment of corporate boards and governing bodies, codes of ethics, financial metrics as well as corporate forms and amendments that consider stakeholders regardless of company ownership.
- Environment: this evaluates the company’s overall environmental stewardship, including how the company identifies and manages general environmental impacts, its management of air and climate issues, water sustainability and impacts on land and air.
- Workers: this evaluates the company’s contribution to its employees’ financial, physical, professional and social wellbeing. Companies are assessed based on the financial security for their workers, the health, wellness and safety of their employees, employee satisfaction, workforce development efforts and available career growth opportunities.
- Customers : this assesses the company’s value to their direct customers and the consumers of their products and services. Companies are recognised for their contributions to education, infrastructure, underserved communities, society and the environment, health, wellness and more.
- Community: this evaluates the company’s positive impact on the external communities in which it operates. Companies are assessed based on local and national economic impact, poverty elimination, diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, charitable contributions and more.
What are the benefits of certification?
- Being part of a B Corps community that shares best practice and celebrates business as a force for good.
- Regular networking events which encouraging knowledge sharing, community conversations and discussions about the future (and impact) of business in society.
- Access to B Corps working groups which hold regular supportive meetings.
- Working groups at the moment include: People and Culture, Net Zero, Consumer Marketing, Regenerative Agriculture, Plastics and Packaging, Circular Economy and Commercial.
- Access to (and opportunity to train as) a B Leader to advise and assist.
A survey conducted in Autumn 2020 shows that, compared to other SMEs, B Corps SMEs have:
- Faster growth in turnover and employee headcount
- Greater levels of employee retention, engagement and diversity
- Higher expectations of future growth
- Higher levels of innovation
- More robust governance processes
- Greater focus on civic and community engagement
- Been equally successful at securing external finance
What steps can you take?
- Take the B Impact Assessment which is free and confidential. It is the most credible tool a company can use to measure its impact on its workers, community, environment and customers.
- Look at the B Corporation website for further information.
- Consider signing up to the BBA (Better Business Act) coalition which is putting pressure to change the Companies Law Act 2006. They want to make it a legal requirement for companies to operate in a manner that benefits their stakeholders (including workers, customers, community and the environment) as well as delivering profits to shareholders.
Is there a cost?
- The B Impact Assessment is free and takes about 30 mins to complete.
- There’s a one-off fee of £250 (+VAT) when you submit your company for certification.
- Once certified there’s an annual fee which is based on your company’s annual sales (minimum is £1000 pa).