On a Journey to Become a Force for Good: The B Corp Certification

On a Journey to Become a Force of Good: The B Corp Certification

This article was written in collaboration with Lukas Röpke and Faye Lambley. 

Want to become a B Corp? Interested in the idea but don’t know much about it? Well, here is the information you need – all in one short, easy-to-read article.  

Read this and you’re one step closer to becoming that B Corp expert you always wanted to be.   

 

What is the B Corp Certification?  

Certified B Corporations, or B Corps, are companies verified by B Lab to meet high standards of:  

  • Social performance;  
  • Environmental performance; 
  • Transparency;  
  • Accountability.   

The purpose is to create a community of companies. B Corps understand that there is 'no Planet B’ and are moving away from justifying unsustainable business conduct towards an impact-oriented perspective.   

The B Corp Certification has been developed by the non-profit organisation B Lab. B Lab was founded in 2006 with the mission to transform the global economy so that it benefits all people, communities, and the planet. The ultimate goal is to change businesses into a force for good.   

 

What is the certification process?  

The certification process revolves around the B Impact Assessment (BIA). It currently consists of an extensive questionnaire that evaluates a company’s performance across 5 areas of sustainability:  

  • Governance;  
  • Workers;  
  • Community;  
  • Environment;
  • Customers.

To achieve certification, the minimum score that needs to be achieved is 80 out of 200 on the BIA. Companies that self-assess (well) above 80 points are considered ready to move towards the evaluation and verification phases and undergo the actual assessment review. For verification, B Lab analysts will ask a company to deliver proof for a number of questions answered to verify the claims made.  

When the verification phase is completed and the score is confirmed, the company becomes eligible for the B Corp Certification. Re-certification happens every 3 years. 

Figure 1. The certification process

The BIA 2023 Update  

Change is coming: the BIA is undergoing a revision process aimed to:  

  • Optimize the (perceived) value of the B Corp certification to properly reflect the leadership of organisations that are using business as a force of good;
  • Enable companies to take better accountability for sustainability issues with a growing urgency on a global scale;
  • Provide more clarity around the expectations of B Corps and simplify the certification processes.

The expected revision is based on an over-one-year engagement process that involved more than 1,200 stakeholders.    

The final review is expected to happen between January and March 2023 by the B Lab Standard Advisory Council and Board of Directors.  

Instead of 5, it is expected that the BIA will include 11 key topics: 

  • Purpose 
  • Ethics and Anti-Corruption
  • Impact Management
  • Living Wages
  • Worker Empowerment
  • Human Rights
  • Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
  • Climate
  • Environmental Management
  • Collective Action
  • Risk Standards 

Underneath each of these areas, different topics will be covered. 

For example, for the ‘Environmental Management’ pillar, the BIA will include questions about:

  • Waste management;  
  • Energy and water consumption; 
  • Biodiversity; 
  • Carbon emissions.   

For a complete breakdown of the expected 11 new requirements, visit the B Corp dedicated page.   

  

Why choose the B Corp Certification?  

With over 5,900 B Corps across the world (and growing), it is clear that many see the advantages of becoming certified. Your organisation will benefit from:  

Being part of a global community of leaders  

By obtaining the B Corp Certification, a global community opens up to you. Having access to the B Hive – the international community for all certified B Corps - and numerous events gives organisations a sense of being part of something bigger.  

Attracting talent and engaging employees  

B Lab’s mission attracts those with similar core values. As a result, B Corps are able to hire a workforce committed to the same passion and outlook. Internally, B Corp certification can unlock the imagination and give employees a new purpose.  

Increasing credibility and building trust  

Consumers often don’t want to know what you do, but why you do it. What drives your organisation can bring relatability and a sense of shared purpose with your customers. B Corp turns ambiguous concepts of “sustainability” and “green” into something trustworthy, credible and measurable.  

Benchmarking and improving performance

This is certainly one of the biggest benefits of this process. The B Impact Assessment (BIA) measures the social and environmental performance of an organisation by rating them from 0-200 points. No matter what you get, this is a valuable tool that will highlight any improvement areas within your sustainability management system.  

Protecting a company’s mission for the long term  

As a company grows, its original social and environmental values are threatened. By amending governing documents, and the DNA of the organisation, B Lab ensure that these values don’t change over time.  

Generating press and awareness  

Using the power and influence of business to embed a greener mindset is a positive and compelling story to be told. B Corps have been featured in the Economist, the Guardian, and the New York Times (Honeyman and Jana, 2019). To name a few publications.  

  

Our recommendations to become a B Corporation  

Being confronted with 200 questions in the BIA can be overwhelming. To have the certification process running smoothly, we suggest:  

  • Start early – B Lab encourages you to start working on the BIA well in advance to avoid stress during the certification process.  
  • Collaborate – Especially for larger organisations, it is convenient to allocate each of the impact areas to different departments. For example, information concerning workers and the community can be retrieved by the HR and legal team. On the other hand, the environmental impact area can be completed by the facility manager, product managers, or the sustainability team. This will depend very much from company to company depending on their internal structure.
  • Be organised – It is crucial to organise not only your team but also the potential documentation which may be required during the verification stage. If you can back up every claim you make with solid proof you will be well prepared to answer any questions that the B Lab analyst will have for you during the verification stage. 
  • Engage – Make sure everyone is on board, including the decision-makers of the company. You cannot certify as a B Corp until you have incorporated specific B Corp text into your articles of association so getting ownership buy-in is crucial.   

 

Conclusion

The B Corp Certification has been developed by the non-profit organisation B Lab with the overall goal to make businesses a force for good.  

At the core of the B Corp certification lies the B Impact Assessment (BIA) for which a company has to score a minimum of 80/200 points to achieve certification. Re-certification happens every 3 years. 

There are currently 5 impact areas to be assessed on. In 2023 B Lab will adopt a new approach to the BIA and introduce a model using 11 impact areas.  

There are many reasons why a company may want to become a B Corp, and all of them are valid. 

Our biggest recommendation if you are considering the B Corp certification for your company is to start early. By having a sufficiently large timeframe, the submitting company can still have the chance to implement improvements along the way. 

Getting support from a third party is also advised. The clients we support throughout this process result better prepared and achieve higher scores.