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Environment & ethics   |   Ethical business

What is a B Corp?

The idea of an ethical business is, fortunately, becoming much more common, but how to prove a company’s ethical credentials is still very much a grey area. Step forward B Corp, a global certification that regulates and monitors a business’ ethical claims and is currently celebrating ‘B Corp month’. 

But what does it actually mean to be a B Corp and which companies are already certified? 

B stands for Benefit

Being a B Corp is about providing a tangible benefit to society, the environment and the people that work for it, not just the shareholders. No vague claims, no greenwashing; as B Corp accredited companies, they have to back it up. 

To B Corp or not to B Corp?

To become B Corp accredited, companies and organisations have to pass a robust B Impact assessment. Carried out by B Lab, the not for profit certification body, it evaluates how the company and its supply chain affects the workers, community, environment and customers. 

It claims to be the only certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental impact and has a minimum score, meaning if you don’t meet the mark, you don’t become a B Corp. 
 

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B Corps have to meet rigorous standards to become accredited. 

Assessment questions might include things like: do workers describe themselves as satisfied or engaged in their work? What percentage of management is from underrepresented populations? How much of energy is from renewable sources (bonus points if they produce it themselves)? 

Every three years, companies have to re-complete the assessment to ensure standards are maintained. However, more frequent ‘random’ spot checks are carried out to make sure companies aren’t just raising standards for the test.

‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure’

This famous business management quote by author, Pete Drucker sums up the objectives of B Corp. 

According to their website, B Corp certification measures what matters the most: social, environmental, and worker value, and not just profit. 

There are 3,720 certified B Corps in 74 different countries across 150 different industries, so it’s a pretty diverse bunch. You will find worldwide names such as Patagonia, Ben and Jerry’s, and Kickstarter, the crowdfunding platform now worth over $5 billion dollars. 

B Corp is on the rise in the UK, too, with companies such as The Guardian Media Company, our very own Wicked Leeks publisher and organic veg box company Riverford, and Rubies in the Rubble, a company that makes condiments from surplus food. 

What does it mean for consumers? 

When you choose to buy a product from a B Corp accredited company, you can be sure that the organisation you are buying from are backing up their statements of positive impact with proof. Consumers can even see how individual companies have scored in their assessment.

Amid growing concerns of greenwashing, the certification offers transparency and confidence that money spent with B Corps is indeed going to companies that care more than just their bottom line. 

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The B Corp logo can make it easier for consumers to make ethical purchases. 

Why B Corp? 

It might just seem like a lot of extra effort for a company, but business leaders from the B Corp community are praising its impact. 

Jennifer McKaig, diversity and inclusion manager at online craft retailer, Etsy, says: “The biggest surprise to me was realising that our employees deeply cared about the things the B Impact Assessment measured.” 

Founder of Riverford, Guy Singh-Watson, sees the virtues of independent analysis: “We see the most vital benefit as not marking our own homework; regular assessment will highlight areas for improvement and help us balance the competing demands of one ‘right thing’ against another.”

With the world facing so many environmental and societal challenges, it is not only down to governments and NGOs to take on the challenge. It’s now time for businesses and citizens to make their contribution, too. And for both, choosing to become a B Corp or buying from B Corps is one step towards that change and help make the world a better place for all. 

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