Hello curious B Corp investigator! Perhaps you came across the logo, read about it in a magazine or overheard a conversation at one of those cafes that attracts Macbooks like hipsters to a vegan fair. Regardless of how you have ended up here, I am glad. For you my friend, are about to discover the future of business: B Corps.
With 250 in the UK and big names like The Body Shop, Innocent and Danone signing up recently, the B Corp status is becoming more and more recognised as organisations commit to using business as a force for good.
I first stumbled across the concept of B Corps a few years ago whilst applying for a job at frozen ready meal company, Cook. As an aside, I met a lovely chap called Andy this evening, who – as it turns out – got that job! But silver linings - by applying to be Cook's Social Impact Manager, I did a load of swotting up on B Corps for my cover letter prep and it led me to a job I did get at fellow B Corp, organic herbal tea producers, Pukka. Shout out to the B Work job board. So naturally, as a bit of a B Corp geek, I signed up to a Meaning Conference fringe event all about how to become a B Corp. With my little 'B the change' pin badge firmly affixed to my cardi, I was ready to hear what the panel had to say and meet the purposeful hordes.
Going to the event reminded me that I wanted to write this post. So below is some information on B Corps, with the panel's discussion intertwined...
Dom Jackman – Co-Founder of Escape the City
Matt Hocking – Founder & Creative Director of Leap design agency and ex Head of Graphics at Eden Project
What does it mean to be a B Corp?
As a B Corp, you are part of a community of organisations that use business as a force for good. This means meeting the highest standards of social and environmental impact.
B Corps have embedded purpose in their reason for existence, not thinking of just shareholders, but all stakeholders, meaning that everyone across the business will benefit.
Organisations must first meet the entry requirements in the form of assessment questions, then after a few additional steps and legal hoops to jump through, they can gain the status of being 'B Corp certified' and are in there with the club.
How many B Corps are there?
There are 3,000 B Corps across the world, including 250 in the UK.
Why would you become a B Corp?
As a community of purposeful organisations, it provides a global network of like-minded professionals with similar values. This means some great contacts and partnership opportunities.
The questions used to assess your B Corp score can also be used as a business development tool, or a roadmap of next steps. The questions are graded. So if for example you have done enough action to tick the second option down, you can then look at the rest of the answers on the list to find out what further actions you could take. A few people agreed at the panel event that using the Impact Assessment like this was a useful way to help shape future policies.
Certifying as a B Corp helps your business to attract and retain talent.
It keeps your business aligned to its values. It's useful to take a step back and review your business every so often. To retain the B Corp status you need to take the assessment every other year. This gives an opportunity to reflect on scores, or areas of business that have gone down - and of course celebrate any big wins! Plus, even if the business sells, the third-party B Corp certification acts as a long-standing pledge to employees and customers that the business will remain true to its purpose.
As a B Corp, you gain access to a wealth of tools, resources and events, including meets, webinars and retreats.
It's the future! Definitely my opinion coming through here... BUT, with governments only thinking about four year stints, their focus is on short-term, quick wins. To make the kind of radical changes that the world needs right now, I'm a firm believer that businesses have to take the lead. They naturally have a greater commitment to long-term, meaningful change.
How do you become a B Corp?
As a certification, it requires someone in the organisation to fill in the admittedly hefty 'B Impact Assessment'. This includes 200 questions to evaluate the company on five themes: workers, governance, customers, environment and community.
The answers on each question are graded – I've added an example question below as a little taster. You need a total of 80 points (out of the 200 available) to qualify as a B Corp, but this is an overall score. So if you don't have many points in governance, that's ok, you may be able to make up for this in community. To retain the B Corp status, you re-assess every 2 years.
With the theme of the evening being how to achieve this certification, there were plenty of reps from purpose-led businesses who were in the process of completing the questions. There was a clear feeling in the room that the process is quite strenuous, especially for the first time. However, there's no time pressure on completing the questions. Plus the perks and that warm fuzzy feeling will no doubt reward your efforts.
What do the questions on the assessment look like?
Here's an example. And you can find more example questions right here.
How much does it cost to become a B Corp?
To receive the certification, there is an annual fee which starts at £500 and scales with revenue. However, the B Impact Assessment is FREE!
In fact, the assessment is a useful resource with ideas of how to improve social, environmental and HR practices: https://bimpactassessment.net/
Who can become a B Corp?
Anyone! Any size - at the panel event, we were told about a solitary author who has become a B Corp.
And (in theory), any industry. Ok, so an arms trader may struggle to score highly on certain criteria, but perhaps they're amazing employers with free lunches every Friday, an unusually generous maternity leave and biodegradable bullets... A less extreme example is travel agents. (I've added this in more or less as a note to myself as I wait for the email telling me that companies selling weapons simply cannot be accepted into the B Corp gang. Watch this space...)
And now the question we've all been waiting for... What does the 'B' stand for?
'Benefit', the alternative to A, there's a few different thoughts floating around on this. Sorry for the lack of a definitive answer, but even those involved had a little pause when this question was posed.
How can I find out more?
Well, keen bean, you can read the FAQs, be inspired by case studies and discover B Corps from across the globe by visiting https://bcorporation.uk/