If you’re a for-profit business that wants to make a commitment to environmental and social change, becoming a B Corp is a globally respected certification making strides towards that change.
Achieving B Corp certification is a rigorous process that companies go through to measure and improve their environmental and social performance. As part of the B Impact Assessment (BIA), companies need to answer roughly 200 different questions, which are tailored to the size of the business, its industry and its location. Questions are split into sections on governance, workers, community, the environment and customers. While B Corp is primarily based on assessing a business’ positive impact, companies must also confidentially disclose any sensitive practices, fines and sanctions through a disclosure questionnaire.
Right now, maintaining B Corp seems particularly relevant and important amidst the mass greenwashing committed by various companies. Believe it or not, customers care about sustainability. In fact, a global study found that customers are between four and six times more likely to buy (and champion) purpose-driven businesses. Naturally, some demographics are more passionate than others and if your company caters to one of the demographics then positioning yourself as a sustainable business is very beneficial.
Sure, most companies say they’re socially responsible, but becoming a B Corp takes things one step further. Throughout the certification process, aspiring B Corps open up their business to be vetted by an independent third party. Anyone can then view certified companies on the B Corp directory. Many customers – and businesses – see B Corp as one of the most recognizable standards of what a ‘good’ business should be.
I won’t lie, achieving B Corp certification is a long process and one that takes commitment. The total review process from submission to certification takes about a year, but it can vary depending on the complexity of the review. So, it might be worth hiring someone whose specific role (at least a few days a week) is devoted to completing the BIA. This way, they’ll be able to understand exactly what’s required and can give feedback to the business founder about what the next steps should be.
B Corp certification also helps inform your decision-making process. Because you need to recertify every three years, you don’t have time to rest on your laurels. Once you’ve been through the application process though, you’ll probably be thinking like a B Corp when making decisions. That means if you’re looking for a new supplier, for example, you’ll consider local options with strong environmental credentials because you know that’ll help keep your impact assessment score high.
Going for B Corp certification is a process but here’s a rough guide on how to get you there.
Check you meet the requirements
You can certify as a B Corp if you’re a for-profit business that’s been running for at least 12 months. Don’t worry if you haven’t reached your first birthday yet – you can still start the application process. Get going by signing up for theBIA and then you’re on the platform and ready to go.
Get the questionnaire done
Now you can see all the questions within the five categories. Many questions are tick boxes or a single data-point entry (for example, what was your net profit last year?). Bear in mind that each question scores differently – even though a question might not appear to score any points, the answer provided could be used to calculate the score for another question later on.
Do what you need to improve your score
To become a certified B Corp, you need to have an impact assessment score of more than 80. Your score is live, so you’ll be able to see it change as you input your answers. Although you need only a score of 80 to become a B Corp, it’s worth submitting your application with a score well over that, to ensure some wriggle room in case your score gets brought down during the review process.
Make a legal change
Before being certified as a B Corp, you’ll need to make a legal change – also known as a mission lock – whereby you amend your business’ articles of association to reflect your commitment to benefiting other stakeholders beyond shareholders. This is so that the impact on society and the environment is included as a part of any decision-making.
Have a meeting with B Corp
At this stage, B Corp will likely arrange a virtual meeting with you to go into your application in more depth and to fill out any gaps in their knowledge. They might also help you to focus on a specific area of the application where your business excels, so that you can work on other areas of the business to improve your application score.
Maintain your B Corp via an annual certification fee
Once your company has met all of the requirements – including paying your annual certification fee, which starts from $2,000 ish – you’re a certified B Corp. Now you can share that information with your customers and attend B Corp events and working groups. However, to maintain your certification, you need to update and reverify your impact assessment scores every three years (or if your business changes hands). You’re also required to publish an impact report every year to demonstrate how your business is progressing on its goals.