How to join the B Corp movement
Just like running a trail is the new marathon for people practicing fitness, becoming a certified BCorp is the new frontier for companies innovating in sustainability. Certified B Corps are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
Launched in 2006 in the United States by the NGO B Lab, the B Corp movement has grown to reach more than 3,100 companies, 600 of which in Europe. Thanks to the recent partnership with the UN Global Compact to build the tools for SDG reporting, more businesses want to embark on the B Corp journey. I have spent three years working as an internal champion within a B Corp organization and as an advisor to companies seeking the B Corp certification. With this experience, I have put together three questions you should ask yourself when seeking certification for your company.
What are the requirements?
B corp is more than a certification to add to the list of achievements. One of the key differences with other sustainability certifications, is that it requires a legal change in the company’s articles of incorporations. This means getting the shareholders onboard and having them agree on introducing the fiduciary duty of care for all stakeholders. This tool helps you identify what changes are needed according to your country’s and company’s legislations.
If you meet the legal requirements, here are the 5 other steps you must go through before you can proudly join the certified B Corp community:
1. Fill all the questions of the B impact Assessment (an online confidential tool to map your company’s impact based on 180 questions). You must score above 80 points.
2. Complete the disclosure questionnaire, which considers the material negative impact of the company as part of the open complaint mechanism
3. Answer all the questions of B Lab analysts during the review process and provide the relevant documents
4. Once your impact score is reviewed and you still score above 80, you can pay the certification fees on an annual basis according to your revenues
5. Publish your impact score on the B Corp directory where all B Corps are listed.
How to overcome possible obstacles?
Each B Corp journey is different because every company is a unique combination of people, culture and business models. And yet, after many discussions with certified B Corps, I have identified two key success factors.
The first one is to get the leadership onboard from the start. B Corp is a transformational journey and the questions you are going to answer will bring new perspectives on the purpose of your business and the way you run it. You cannot do it without the full support of the CEO and the Executive Committee.
To get them onboard, you should identify the “why” that truly resonates with them by sharing different B Corp success stories. Do they want to become pioneers in their industry like Fairphone and attract talents like Kickstarter? Do they want to join forces with other companies and create the needed systemic change like Patagonia?
The second success factor is to never run alone. In other words, build a team to help you take the three key steps necessary for getting the certification: gathering data on the company’s key impact areas (governance structures and ethics, employees, suppliers, products and services, environmental footprint, customer relationships); engaging all employees to implement practices that generate a positive impact and documenting and analysing the impact of those practices to share with the B Lab and stakeholders.
Where should you begin?
Once you have committed to meeting the 6 requirements and know who can help maximize your chance of reaching your goal you will face the most challenging step of your journey: where to begin? There are many ways to start:
● Create an account on the Benefit Impact Assessment platform and start filling in as many questions as possible;
● Buy the B Corp handbook to have a step-by-step method tested by many American B Corps over the last 10 years;
● Contact a B Leader and be guided by an expert.
But the decisive step, the real start of your B corp journey is when you ask yourself: why should I embark on this journey? what is my purpose in achieving this certification? Identifying the “true why”, will keep you motivated throughout the process and help you face the obstacles in your path. Just like when preparing for a trail, always remember that the journey towards your goal is as important as the destination. And even if your company does not get certified, you will have transformed your business into a more sustainable and inclusive organization.
As a social impact facilitator, Sophie Conchon helps companies maximize their positive impact on the planet and the community. Active in the B Corp movement since 2016, she is a strong advocate of going beyond CSR by incorporating sustainability at the heart of business models and measuring the impact on all stakeholders . She was one of the first B Leaders trained by B Lab Switzerland to support companies in their B Corp journey. In 2019, she launched B corp Booster, the first online course in French to coach start-ups & SME to get ready for the B Corp certification in 6 weeks.
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