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The Benefits of a B Corp Certification To Sustainable Businesses

By Crowdcube. 15th Nov 2022

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Business is changing. For years, consumer companies operated on a simple model: provide a good product or service at a fair price.

But today’s customers are demanding more. Purpose has become a lot more important to them. The Ipsos Global Trends 2021 report found that 70% of people say they buy from brands they believe reflect their own principles.

Companies are taking notice. They’re touting their green credentials and taking positions on political issues. But often this masks a reality where their true environmental or social impact may leave a lot to be desired.

This is the problem the B Corp movement is trying to solve. B Corps are companies that undergo a rigorous certification process to prove their social and environmental performance. They don’t just say they’re responsible. Their practices - around everything from employee benefits and charitable giving, to supply chain practices and input materials - have been independently vetted by a third party and the results made transparent.

And the movement is growing. There are currently over 6,000 certified B Corps in more than 80 countries and over 150 industries, according to B Lab, the organisation that awards the B Corp certification.

Why should your company become a B Corp?

Earning B Corp certification is a challenging process, so why should your company do it? It’s not just about being responsible. The data shows it’s good business.

First, it supports growth. B Lab analysis found that B Corps in the UK grow 28 times faster than GDP. More than a third of British B Corps (35%) have attracted new audiences since certifying, with two-thirds of consumers saying they’re willing to spend more for goods and services that have a positive impact. That also led to a boost in staff size. Between 2017 and March 2020, B Corp SMEs saw their annual employee headcount grow by 8%, compared to 0% for all SMEs.

Second, certifying as a B Corp can help you to attract and retain talent. Health insurance provider Bupa found that 64% of 18-to-22-year-olds think it’s important for employers to act on environmental issues. The same survey found that 59% stay longer with responsible employers. This is supported by B Lab research which found the average staff attrition rate of B Corp SMEs was 10%, compared to 16-20% for the wider SME population.

Third, proving your responsible credentials can boost your chances of getting investment. About two thirds of private equity investors (65%) have developed a responsible investing or ESG policy and the tools to implement it, according to PwC, while 72% always screen target companies for ESG risks and opportunities at the pre-acquisition stage.

How to become a B Corp

So you’ve decided B Corp certification is right for your company. How do you go about getting it? There are three things you need to do.

First, there’s the B Impact Assessment. This online tool will pose a series of questions about your company's practices and outputs across five categories: governance, workers, community, the environment, and customers. You may be asked whether your company monitors and records its universal waste production, or how you verify that your product improves the impact of your client organisations.

It’s not easy. More than 150,000 businesses have signed up for the Impact Assessment, yet only 6,000 have been certified. Try to be as detailed as possible, and remember it's a human on the other side reviewing your submissions. Score 80 points or more, then pass a risk review, and you’re on your way to becoming a B Corp.

Next, you need to change your corporate governance structure to be accountable to all stakeholders, not just shareholders. If it’s available in your jurisdiction, you’ll also need to achieve benefit corporation status, a legal structure that protects company missions through capital raises and leadership changes.

Finally, you’ll make a commitment to transparency, by allowing information about your performance to be publicly available on B Lab’s website. You’ll also need to pay your annual certification fee, which varies depending on your revenues, and sign the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence, pledging to “be the change you seek in the world”.

The process can be long and complicated. It’ll likely take a lot of resources to find all the documents you need to produce and ensure your data adds up. Make sure you have a project lead who can help coordinate the process and get as much support from your wider team as possible.

What happens next?

Getting your B Corp certification isn’t the end of the journey. You’ve proven your values, now your company has to continue to live them. But in a climate where consumers and investors are increasingly supporting businesses that care about people and the planet, you’re setting yourself up to have a much bigger impact.

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