Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, Ella’s Kitchen, Propercorn and Allbirds are all B-Corps. They are just 5 of the more well known 3,200 B-Corps, which sit across 150 industries in 64 countries.
B-Corp is a certification that shows the world what your company stands for. It is not easy to get and this is what makes it so meaningful.
A certified B-Corp is a company that balances profit and purpose. To give this context and show how it differs to the usual company set up —the directors of a U.K. limited company have a duty to act in the best interests of its shareholders—and we can assume that this means delivering a financial return. This is a single focus goal, without reference to any other stakeholders involved with, or impacted by, that business. The B-Corp way adjusts this position so that employees, suppliers, the environment and the wider community also get a look in alongside shareholders.
There is a widely held view, growing in momentum, that businesses need to play their role in driving societal and environmental change—rather than leaving that to government and charities. The requirements of B-Corp cement this viewpoint into a measurable certification. The leaders of B-Corps believe that sustainable business is better business and that they can use their business as a force for good.
It is sector agnostic—you do not need to be producing a product or service that in its own right is classed as sustainable. It is about the way the business is run, how the team is treated, how it uses energy and treats the environment.
If your company has not been trading for 12 months, the full B-Corp certification is not an option. There is instead a pending B-Corp status available to startups and new businesses.
The application includes an Impact Assessment
The journey to B-Corp starts by registering and going through a very long and thought provoking set of questions with multiple choice answers—you need to “go deep” with your business. It analyses matters including your policies, operations, treatment of staff and environmental impact and scores your responses out of a total of 300. The questions make you think about things that you may not have previously articulated. It drives you to form opinions and put your stake in the ground about how things are going to be.
Some questions lifted from the Impact Assessment:
- Are there key performance indicators (KPIs) or metrics that your company tracks at least annually to determine if you are meeting your social or environmental objectives?
- What secondary parental leave policies are available to your workers, either through your company or a government program?
- What percentage of company facilities (by area, both owned by company or leased) is certified to meet the requirements of an accredited green building program?
- What multiple is the highest compensated individual paid, inclusive of bonus, as compared to the lowest paid full-time worker?
You need to score 80+ out of 300 to qualify for the full B Corp Certification. If you have been trading for less than 12 months, you can obtain pending status without scoring 80 but you must hit the 80 mark when you reach 12 months’ of trading and are fully assessed.
There is a one-off £500 fee when you apply.
As a startup or new business, why go for pending B-Corp status?
Completing the Impact Assessment is really useful for prompting the thinking up front about critical foundations for your business. Doing this early and baking these important values into your company’s DNA is much easier than trying to implement this top down later on. Few would dispute that the requirements of the certification lead to a better way for businesses to be.
Outwardly, the status sends a clear message to funders, employees and suppliers about your business. It also brings commercial benefits. The high bar for treatment of staff is likely to attract top talent. It is also likely to draw in more customers—who we know are increasingly buying from companies that they believe behave ethically. They want, rightly so, to see action from the companies that profit from their spending.
I think we will see a continued increase in the number of certified B-Corp businesses in the U.K. and as we do, the certification will start to mean more to the average consumer and household, actively influencing their spending behaviour.
Original article written By Kate Jackson at Forbes