B corp meaning, movement and B leader training
The objective is that one day, all businesses will be proven to show care and consideration to their society and environment – Jan ’22
What is a B corporation?
A B Corporation, or ‘B Corp’, is an organisation that has been independently certified to be considering their environmental and social impact upon the world as much as they do returns to their shareholders or financial gain. Think of them as soldiers for ethical practice, crusaders waging war on bloody-minded business executives that prioritise financial performance over anything else. Using business as a ‘force for good’ is a common phrase.
The certification has been around since 2007 and has slowly started to catch on around the world ever since. At the time of writing, there are now over 4,500 certified B Corps worldwide, with around 500 as B corp UK companies. Pretty small numbers when you consider the global business community was estimated to sit at approximately 215 million in late 2020. You can probably add another few million onto this due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
You would have heard of some household names, including Patagonia’s outdoor clothing brand, ice cream geniuses Ben & Jerry’s and The Body Shop. Additionally, we support the B Corp movement so much that it inspired the very name of our business, Bnode.
Is a B corp certification worth having?
Corporate social responsibility has been around since the 1970s but didn’t fully catch on until the 1990s. Introduced by the Committee for Economic Development in the US, the initiative soon gathered pace with businesses realising they could placate colleagues, customers and policymakers by demonstrating their commitment to their local society.
Since then, ‘CSR’ has become a byword for corporate ‘greenwashing’ (the practice of saying you want to help the world and its inhabitants but not believing in or doing it) and for many businesses nothing more than a box-tick exercise. B Corp certification exists to challenge that notion and ask companies to evaluate their social and environmental impact properly and provide evidence.
Modern generations of online customers, in particular, are now highly savvy when it comes to their buying choices and if a brand that is marketing to them fits what they deem to be a ‘good’ business. Certification brings obvious benefits in showcasing that you are independently verified to be a socially and environmentally considerate business, instilling brand trust and loyalty amongst your audience.
Such benefits have resulted in an exponential rise in the number of businesses applying to start the certification process.
How do B corps work?
People we’ve spoken to assume that certification is reserved only for the largest, most established businesses with unlimited resources. Whilst a company must have been operational for a minimum of 12 months (or from the point one employee could commit 35+ working hours to the business per week), the certification process is designed to be as accessible as possible to companies of all sizes. Certification looks at each business on a relative scale across several categories and metrics:
Standards related to mission, stakeholder engagement, governance structure and controls, and transparency.
The standards in this section look at how a company treats its employees, including the compensation practices, benefits, training, worker ownership and work environment.
This section covers the company’s impact on external community stakeholders, including suppliers, distributors, and the local economy and society, as well as the company’s practices regarding diversity, job creation, civic engagement, and charitable giving.
Standards related to your company’s direct and indirect environmental impacts.
Standards related to your business model’s impact on your customers and whether you serve underserved populations.
200 questions are posed.
There are 200 questions (it’s not meant to be a smash and grab!) in what they call the ‘Business Impact Assessment’ or ‘BIA’ and to gain the certification, you will need to achieve a minimum of 80. It will take a good couple of hours on your first pass. It’s design is to be purposefully challenging and thought-provoking. It will bring up points or subjects that you may never have considered before, and as such, there is no obligation to ‘pass’ the first time around. B Corp’s broader objective is to start a shift in mindset across business and industry to embark upon a journey to meet as many if not all of the 200 point checklist.
How else can you benefit?
Undertaking the BIS requires an objective mindset. You cannot only approach it with rose-tinted glasses and assume everything you are doing is perfect already.
Key benefits include:
A critical part of any marketing strategy, knowledge of your position in your marketplace is vital. Knowing how you compare to competitors, where you need to improve, and where the competition has you beaten is significant. Data is king.
Having done the research above, you have all the information you need to put your company on the path to progress. The data you have collected enables clear and focused decision-making, reducing the time required to implement business change.
As above, you cannot approach the BIA with a subjective mindset. You’ll need to think outside of the box or your normal scope of operation to consider your true impact in each category of questioning.
Where to get started
We are excited to announce that in 2023 Bnode is aiming to become official B Corporation trainers, guiding like-minded businesses on the path to gaining certification. Bnode will itself be going through the certification process in 2023.
It is also possible to demonstrate ‘B Corp Pending’ status by meeting basic legal requirements and submitting a prospective business impact assessment, along with a one-off fee of £250. Then you can publicly announce that you have started your journey to full B Corp certification and demonstrate your commitment to making real change in the business world.
The objective is that one sunny day, all businesses will be proven to show care and consideration to their society and environment as much as to their shareholders. So the question really is, What does b corp mean to you?
We wish you every success and if you’re interested in talking to us more about the B Corporation movement, please do get in touch below.