B Corps: To B or Not to B

These days, simply doing business is not enough. In an era in which people value both transparency and accountability, how a company does business has become just as important as what type of goods or services they offer. For their part, more and more companies have worked an ethos of social responsibility and sustainability directly into their business plans. However, there’s been no means by which conscious consumers can identify and connect with businesses that share their core values.

That all changed in recent years thanks to B Lab and the advent of B Corp certification.

B The Change

Patagonia. Ben and Jerry’s. Etsy. King Arthur Flour. Warby Parker. All wildly disparate companies providing radically different goods and services. What they all have in common: They’re all well-known for putting principle before profits and living their values. Indeed, they’ve been both ahead of the curve as well as standard-setters in the realm of sustainable business and social responsibility. 

They’re also among the first and the biggest companies to become certified B corporations.

How To Be

B Corp certification is not just another largely meaningless logo a business can add to their website. The process by which a business earns the right to call themselves a B corporation is rigorous and thorough. B corp certification is also costly enough that only those serious enough to put their money where their values are undertake the effort to become B certified. 

According to B Lab, “Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.” 

The operative word in that is “verified.” To be considered for certification, a business must complete a B Impact Assessment, which evaluates the entire company, from soup to nuts, through the lens of impact on “workers, community, environment, and customers.” The assessment doesn’t just take in the broad strokes of day-to-day operations, it focuses on everything from supply chain to charitable giving on a granular level.

B the Future

Part of what makes the B Corp certification process unique is that it not only assesses a company’s present, but also looks to the future. Indeed, that forward-thinking ethos is what will ensure that B Corps continue along a path of social responsibility and sustainability for years to come. “B Corp certification doesn’t just prove where your company excels now,” B Lab says, “it commits you to consider stakeholder impact for the long term by building it into your company’s legal structure.” 

One of B Lab’s aims is to create a global movement of committed, conscientious businesses, and then aid those businesses in collaboration by becoming a hub where everyone who works at a B Corp—from CEOs to entry-level employees—can access exclusive services via the B Hive, B Local, B Corp Leadership Development, and other dedicated groups and opportunities. It was Margaret Mead who famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Simply put, B Corp certification is nothing less than a real-world, present-day pledge to put that philosophy into action.

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