The concept of sustainability in business has been around for a long time and there is an exhaustive list of models available on “best practice” standards, means and measures. But since 2006 there is a name that has been whispered as THE pioneering framework to measure and enhance a company’s sustainability performance. That name is “B Corporation”. Over the past 10 years the B Corporation community has grown dramatically from 350 companies to over 3500 globally, and the once-unknown “B Corp Certification” is fast becoming the most sought after and recognisable label for companies that are pioneering ethical business practices.
What is B Corporation Certification?
Certifying as a ‘B Corporation’ goes far beyond recognition for a simple product or service. It is currently the only certification in the world that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance. From your manufacturing process and governance structure to your charitable giving and employee benefits, B Corporation Certification proves that your business is exceeding the highest possible standards of verified performance.
In the words of B Lab, the certification body, “Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corporations are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.” The vision behind the movement is simply that whilst non-profits and governments are integral to solving some of the world’s challenges, it is the business sector that can have the most impact. The certification therefore, rewards businesses that have active engagement to reduce inequality, lower levels of poverty, promote a healthier environment, support stronger communities, and create high quality jobs.
How can B Corporation Certification strengthen your company?
The combination of third-party validation (via B Lab), public transparency, and legal accountability helps certified B Corporations build trust and value amongst their stakeholders. This transcends through your whole company benefiting everything and everyone your business touches – your bottom line, employees, communities, suppliers, customers and the environment.
Simply by the nature of the certification, in that it assesses ALL aspects of a company’s operations (not just its products or services), becoming a B Corporation will strengthen your bottom line, benchmark and improve your social and environmental performance, build your credibility, amplify your voice in the market, enhance your company culture, promote your values, and place you at the forefront of social, ethical and environmental innovation.
Whether you’re a sole trader, a large multi-national, or any other for-profit company structure, your organisation can benefit from the impact and framework that B Corporation certification provides.
Why certify now?
In some circles executives are still reluctant to place ‘sustainability’ at the core of their company’s business strategy in the mistaken belief that the costs outweigh the benefits. On the contrary, academic research by the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, and the Harvard Business Review (amongst many others) points to quite the opposite. In the modern economy, with consumers looking to buy from ethical brands, a company’s bottom line is often a direct reflection of their social and environmental performance. A study by Unilever in 2017 showed that a third of consumers actively seek brands based on their social and environmental impact, with up to 88% of people saying they feel better when purchasing sustainably produced products.
As the global economy seeks to reinvent itself post-Covid, there is even stronger emphasis being placed on the need for companies to be “sustainable”, “green”, “ethical”, “inclusive”, “environmental”. These are all, in a nutshell, the same thing. It is simply a mechanism for companies to look inwardly at their operations, processes and structures with the vision to be “best for the people” and “best for the planet”, whilst also maintaining a strong market share and maximizing profits for shareholders. B Corporation Certification is the ultimate toolkit and the clearest roadmap towards this vision, with accreditation and third-party validation that verifies their social and environmental performance.
How to I become B Corporation Certified?
The certification process is relatively simple but can be time consuming. It typically takes six months to certify from the day of commencement. There is an online assessment to complete, the ‘B Impact Assessment’, followed by a verification and validation process conducted by B Lab. I suggest having a look at the B Corporation website to familiarise yourself with the application and certification process.
Some companies choose to undergo the application and certification process internally; however, by the advice of many executives, a reputable consultancy organisation (such as Enriched Horizons Ltd) is often used to smooth the process and make it significantly easier to complete. These consultants know the B Corporation framework in incredible detail and will guide you to certification with expert and professional hands-on support. Using a consultancy will often reduce the time it takes to become certified by 2-3 months.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ben is Founder and Managing Director of Enriched Horizons Ltd, a new leader in B Corp consulting in the UK. With a diverse background that spans environmental research, wildlife conservation and business management, Ben is the “go to” for any company that wishes to explore and enhance their social and environmental performance. As a Chartered Environmentalist, published scientist, and alumnus of the World Economic Forum’s “Global Shapers Community”, with over 11 years’ professional experience, Ben is recognised as a leading expert in the industry.
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