WHAT IS A B CORPORATION? (& WHY WE WANT TO BE ONE)
June 11, 2021
What links Patagonia to Natura, Ben & Jerry’s, Hootsuite, and BrewDog?
All of these brands are very different companies indeed but they share one incredibly important commonality: they’re all B Corporations. In other words, they’ve all met the globally recognised standards to use their business as a force for good (more on this in a bit).
You may have noticed that these are all pretty successful and well-known brands but it’s not just the big guns that become B Corps. Small businesses (like BReD) can join the global movement as well and we’re taking the first steps to add our humble but mighty vegan bakery to that list!
But what’s a B Corp and why on earth do we want to spend months (maybe even years) working towards a B Corp Certification?
Well, let’s start by answering...
what is a b corp?
B Corporations (or B Corps) are for-profit companies that have been certified by the non-profit organisation, B Lab. Whilst the primary aim for a for-profit is to generate valuable products/services for consumers in order to earn an income, B Corps have pledged to use their impact as a force for good.
These certified companies are balancing purpose with profit to build a regenerative and sustainable economy that benefits everyone. And by everyone, we mean their employees, customers, the wider community, and the environment as a whole.
But what does it actually mean to balance purpose with profit?
what does it mean to be b corp certified?
It means that companies have committed themselves to practice transparency, take care of their employees, benefit their community, and actively conserve the environment. B Corps have to prove themselves to be value-driven (even to the point of legal accountability) and to align their businesses with the highest ethical and sustainable standards.
The B Corp Certification sets the gold standard for mindful business.
why does bred want to become a b corp?
We may be a small vegan bakery in Whistler, Canada but our mission has always been to have a much bigger impact than baking incredibly tasty sourdough. At BReD, we believe that we have a social and environmental responsibility. We don’t merely wish to display our values on our website and pretend like we give a hoot, we genuinely care about our impact and will continuously strive to do better.
what are the steps to becoming a b corp?
Companies that have been operating for less than a year can apply for Pending B Corp Status. For those businesses that have had at least 12 months of trading history, here are the steps:
STEP 1. TAKE THE SELF-ASSESSMENT QUESTIONNAIRE
To start the process of becoming a B Corp, you’ll have to use the B Impact Assessment tool to answer questions about your business (or the business you work for). You’ll need to score 80 out of 200 points to be eligible for B Corp Certification and this is more challenging than you might think.
The questionnaire will explore how your company benefits your workers, community, customers, and the environment and supposedly takes approximately 2-3 hours to complete. However, in our experience, it actually takes a lot longer; B Lab recommends that you spend 1 hour estimating your answers before taking some time to do some in-depth research and returning back to edit your responses later. For small businesses like BReD, the research phase can take a while!
Top tip: change your articles of incorporation for 10 points towards your B Impact Assessment (you’ll have to do this anyway, within 1 year of qualifying as a B Corp). This legal commitment will truly embed your values into the DNA of your brand by promising to create shareholder value and account for your impact on other stakeholders.
STEP 2. COMPARE YOUR RESPONSES TO OTHER COMPANIES
The next step of the B Impact Assessment is to compare your answers with other B Corp businesses so you can benchmark your performance. One of the things we love about becoming a B Corporation is that the community keeps each other accountable. We all strive to be the best and a bit of healthy competition never goes amiss.
STEP 3. IMPROVE YOUR IMPACT
None of us is perfect, which is why the next step to becoming a B Corporation is to improve. After you’ve received your B Impact Report from completing the previous steps, B Lab provides free best practice guides to help you customise your improvement plan.
STEP 4. SUBMIT YOUR SCORE AND DOCUMENTATION FOR A REVIEW
This step will cost you a $150 USD submission fee because real humans will need to verify your score and ensure that you meet all of the requirements to becoming a B Corp. The B Lab’s Standards Analyst Team will review your assessment and ask for documentation before scheduling an Assessment Review call. They may even arrange site visits.
STEP 5. GET CERTIFIED
Once the review process is complete and you’ve met all of the accountability and transparency requirements set out for you, you’ll be able to finalise your certification. You’ll have to pay an annual certification fee, the cost of which will be based on the revenue of your company.
what happens after you’re certified?
As a B Corp, you’ll be responsible for continuously improving your business and its impact performance. Reporting is part of this process and you’ll have to recertify every 3 years so you can ensure that you use the most up-to-date standards to set improvement goals.
how can a small business become a b corp?
The entire process explained above can be quite complex and difficult to navigate as a small business and some of the jargon involved may not seem relevant to your company.