Thinking about making your business more sustainable and ethical? B Corp certification could be the answer. This guide breaks down the good and the not-so-good aspects of getting certified. We’ll also walk you through the process and show you how we can help. Whether you’re a business owner or an project team lead, this blog has the insights you need to make the right choice.
B Corp Business Case
Businesses may choose to pursue B Corp certification for a variety of reasons, including the following:
1. Recognised accreditation in the eyes of multiple stakeholders
Customers and in particular consumers who care about sustainability are increasingly seeking out companies that prioritise social and environmental responsibility. B Corp certification is currently one of the few sustainability badges that is well recognised and respected across multiple sectors.
2. Attracting and Retaining Talent
Millennial and Gen Z employees are increasingly seeking out employers who prioritize social and environmental responsibility. B Corp certification can help companies attract and retain these values-driven workers, who may be more engaged and motivated by a company’s purpose-driven mission.
3. Building Resilience and Mitigating Risk
As companies increasingly consider sustainability in their supply chains and associated procurement decisions, companies that do not prioritize environmental and social responsibility may face reputational and financial risks. B Corp certification can help businesses build resilience to these risks by demonstrating a commitment to responsible practices and transparency.
4. Access to a Community of Like-Minded Businesses
B Corp certification comes with access to a network of other B Corps that share a commitment to balancing purpose and profit. This community can provide opportunities for collaboration, partnerships, and shared learning that can help businesses improve their practices and impact. This could open new markets for Unipix, particularly international clients.
Obtaining B Corp certification may be a costly, in terms of time and resources rather than certification. Typically, the process of certification takes four to six months, whereby certification is not guaranteed so it could take longer. The fee for certification is not prohibitive though, starting at £500 a year and then scaling according to revenue.
2. Investor caution
B Corps by definition moves away from the traditional model of shareholder wealth maximation. Thus, rather than always putting shareholders’ interests first, they take into account a number of stakeholders who may be affected by the company’s operations as well. For some stakeholders, this may be a reason not to invest, as they are cautious about growth and flexibility in this scenario. However, B Corps are increasingly attractive to a growing groups of investors who want to address ESG risks.
3. High Scrutiny
After you are certified as a B Corp, your company will be listed publicly on the B Lab website. If you have scored well on all 5 tested areas, that will be great. However, if there is an area where you did not do as well, this could be a drawback, as everyone will be able to see your shortcomings.
4. Bcorp brand devaluation
As increasing numbers of larger corporates become certified, there is a high risk of special interest groups questioning the value of Bcorp and this could have a corrosive effect to the brand.
B Corp process
The B Corp certification process is a rigorous and comprehensive assessment that evaluates a company’s social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. The assessment is conducted by the non-profit organisation B Lab, which administers the B Corp certification globally.
Overview of the B Corp certification process:
- Eligibility: Before beginning the assessment, a company must meet B Lab’s eligibility requirements, which include being a for-profit company and having been in operation for at least 12 months.
- Assessment: The B Corp assessment is a comprehensive evaluation of a company’s social and environmental performance, governance, and transparency. The assessment includes over 200 questions that cover topics such as worker treatment, environmental impact, community engagement, and corporate governance. The assessment is customised to the company’s industry and size.
- Verification: After completing the assessment, the company must provide supporting documentation to verify its responses. B Lab reviews the documentation and may request additional information or clarification.
- Improvement: If the company does not meet the minimum score required for certification, it can work to improve its score and reapply. B Lab provides a customised improvement report that identifies areas where the company can focus its efforts to improve its social and environmental performance.
- Certification: Once the company has met the certification requirements, it signs the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence and pays an annual fee based on its revenue. The company is then listed on the B Corp directory and can use the B Corp logo on its marketing materials.
- Recertification: B Corp certification is valid for three years, after which the company must recertify. Recertification involves completing the assessment and verification process again to ensure that the company continues to meet the certification requirements.
Overall, the B Corp certification process is designed to be rigorous and transparent, ensuring that certified companies are truly committed to sustainable and responsible business practices.
We anticipate that the process will continue to evolve and increase in rigour due to increasing legislation, and to eliminate reputational risk from B Corp organisations being found to pay lip service to the principles. This is positive from the perspective of maintaining B Corp’s value to its members.
B Corp – How can we support
As we have already worked extensively with a number of businesses on their sustainability strategy, we believe that we have a head start to accelerate the process. The steps we would follow include the following.
1. Gap Analysis
After completing the initial BIA (B Corp Impact Assessment) we can identify where you are and where you might have an opportunity to improve your position or generate compliance evidence.
Once you have identified areas where the company needs to improve, we work with you to develop an improvement plan that outlines specific actions and timelines for addressing these gaps. We will track progress toward meeting the B Corp certification requirements.
We will review this with you to determine which opportunities might be more likely to resonate with you and your board.
As an example, higher points can be earned by:
- Mission Lock – Changing your articles of association to reflect your business commitment towards ESG and/or
- Publish Impact report – Publishing and publicly declaring your ESG progress and ambitions.
But they might not be perfectly aligned with your business desire to commit to publishing, therefore discussions should be held.
2. Policy and processes
B Corp certification requires extensive documentation to support a company’s responses to the assessment questions. We can help you collect and organise this documentation, and ensure that it meets the requirements of the certification process.
There are a number of key policies that B Corp will be expecting to see. We can support you with a list of what these are and/or model policies if required.
Processes also need to be implemented which shows your commitment to social, environmental and governance across your whole supply chain.
An example of this could be:
- Code of Ethics for your Supply Chain community, prepared, signed and evidenced
- Ongoing Supply Evaluations and assessment on the ESG criteria
During the lengthy process of B Corp certification, they will be asking for evidence of your internal process, policies, or reports on the claims you make.
The steps we take include:
1. Providing guidance on evidence gathering
2. Reviewing and verifying evidence
3. Developing case studies/qualitative evidence
4. Providing training
A key part of this is completing the work that you claim and having this embedded in what you do as a business.
By embedding these processes in your business as usual, you will be prepared, not only for the initial review but the subsequent assessments.
We will make sure you are prepared for your verification phase of the process.
In conclusion, the journey to B Corp certification is a significant but rewarding commitment. It offers a range of benefits, from gaining customer trust to attracting talent and mitigating risks. However, it’s crucial to weigh these advantages against the challenges involved, such as cost and investor perceptions. With rigorous assessment and ongoing verification, the certification ensures that your business is genuinely committed to ethical and sustainable practices. Whether you’re just starting out on your sustainability journey or looking to elevate your existing efforts, this guide aims to provide you with the essential information to make an informed decision.
Get in touch with us if you would like support with this.