March is B Corp Month!
March is B Corp Month, which means it’s a good time to answer the question that a lot of people are still asking: “What the heck is a Certified B Corp?”
It’s ok if Certified B Corp is new to you. It’s only been a thing since 2006. But it’s becoming increasingly significant in the business world, as more and more consumers are rejecting businesses who operate solely for the profit of their shareholders, and seek to embrace companies who put their values and their impact on the world ahead of pure profit.
As you probably know, the terms companies use to talk about their approach to society and the environment are not well-regulated. The way terms like “sustainable” and “socially responsible” get thrown around without being backed by action, it can seem like it’s really open season for corporate greenwashing and lip service to the values we as consumers hold dear. While there are great certification schemes out there for specific elements of a business, like Certified Organic, Fair Trade, or Marine Stewardship Certification, there is only one that meticulously vets a company’s performance in every facet of its impact on the world: Certified B Corp.
To become a Certified B Corp, you must work your way through a rigorous assessment tool, administered by the non profit B-Lab, that examines your impact in five categories: Workers, Community, Environment, Customers, and Governance. As a company, you answer hundreds of questions about your company’s policies and actions in each of these categories. The more questions you answer in a way that demonstrates commitment to a positive social and environmental impact, the greater your score. It takes a minimum of 80 points to certify. But it’s not as easy as just checking boxes. Once you complete the questionnaire and submit it, you are then required to produce hard evidence to prove every one of your claims.
It’s an arduous process, so why do it?
First, it gives you the proof point that the greenwashers can never imitate; customers who see a B Corp certification know that you walk the walk and feel better about supporting your business.
Second, it tells your team and prospective hires that you respect and value them, you will treat them right, and they will be working towards a higher mission than to enrich their bosses.
Third, it gives you a roadmap to continuously improve your business--every point you don’t get on your first certification is a point you could get by improving that aspect of your business by the time you recertify in three years (no resting on laurels after your first certification!)
And fourth, it gives you access to an amazing community of values-driven businesses for partnerships, knowledge sharing, and more. Think Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, King Arthur Flour, and so many others that today’s consumers admire who were among the very first B Corps and are leaders of the community today.
Ok, but this all still sounds very theoretical, right? In our next installment, we’ll break down what being a B Corp means for Luke’s internal operations and external impacts, category by category, to help you see what B Corp certification looks like when it comes off paper and onto boats, production floors, restaurants, and into communities in real life.