Understanding B Corp: What it is – and why companies are getting certified
Sustainability is increasingly important in today’s climate – and businesses are not exempt. We take a closer look at the movement gaining popularity that wants to make business a force for good...
What does sustainability in business look like? With the growing concerns facing our environment (global warming, pollution, deforestation, etc.), sustainability has become the central topic in the race towards a green economy. We decided to take a closer look at the changing landscape of corporations – and what is means for companies to be socially and environmentally responsible. The 21st century has seen a significant shift in the way companies conduct business. One such movement that has been growing in popularity is B Corporation Certification.
As Harvard Business Review explains, “there has been an increased emphasis on other stakeholder values, particularly social and environmental concerns. This trend has led to the growth in “triple-bottom line” thinking, [and] has fueled the emergence of a new organizational form: the Certified B Corporation.”
While increasing profit and shareholder value is a goal, sustainable and ethical practices are the new – and equally important – guiding principles in business. Guided by the three p’s: people, planet, and profit; B Corporation (B Corp) has become the industry standard for companies wanting to differentiate themselves from the competition and showcase their commitment to “using business as a force for good”.
What is B Corp Certification?
Founded in 2006, B Lab awards B Corp certifications to companies that exhibit “high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency” on non-shareholding stakeholders: employees, customers, suppliers, communities, and the environment. B Corps are holistically committed to having a positive impact – not just focused on one particular social or environmental issue – that balances purpose and profit.
WATCH: The B Corp Movement:
While B Lab, itself, is not-for-profit, B Corp Certification is unique in that it allows for-profit companies to scale while still holding them accountable to a high social responsibility standard. Any company can become B Corp certified, however, B Lab reports that currently, most are privately-owned small and medium enterprises (SME).
In their research for Harvard Business Review, Suntae Kim and Todd Schifeling identified that there are two main factors that influence a company’s decision to become a B Corp: one, businesses want to be seen as “good and green” (a trend that has become increasingly important for a consumer’s purchase decision); and two, the recognition that “the major crises of our time are a result of the way we conduct business” and they want to be a part of the movement that redefines the perception of success in business.
Sean Peek writes for the US Chamber of Commerce that becoming a certified B Corp involves multiple steps:
1. Take and pass the B Impact Ratings System.
2. Interview with a B Lab staff member that reviews the findings of the B Impact Ratings System.
3. Adopt the B Corporation Legal Framework within your company.
4. Complete and sign a Term Sheet that makes your certification official.
After three years, businesses need to re-certify themselves.
Putting the “Benefit” in B Corps:
The “B” in B Corp literally stands for “benefit”, but what are the benefits of becoming certified? According to B Labs, there are several. Certification allows businesses to “build trust with consumers, communities, and suppliers; attract and retain employees; and draw mission-aligned investors”.
In addition to this, B Corps can save businesses money – and help encourage longevity. Peek goes on to explain that access to the B Corp community data allows companies “to learn the most cost-effective means to be sustainable and identify wasteful spending”. In his ‘It Pays to Become a B Corporation’, Richard Stammer writes that sales from companies with “demonstrated commitment to sustainability have grown more than 4% globally, while those without grew less than 1%” – implying that certification can better position companies for the future, where the impact of conscious consumers will be felt for years to come.
Canadian B Corps We Admire:
There are currently 1,700 certified B Corps globally, below are some local brands we love.
Founded by Denise Taschereau and Sarah White in 2005, Fairware is a Vancouver-based promotions agency that specializes in custom branded sustainable products that are ethically sourced and environmentally responsible. They assess all their suppliers – based on the Fairware Supplier Code of Conduct – and are committed to changing the world through the simple act of buying.
“Sustainability isn’t a side bar for us, it’s what we do, all day, every day” – boasts their website.
- Fairware became B Corp Certified in 2010.
Frank and Oak
Founded in 2012 in Montreal, the clothing and accessories brand has quickly become one of Canada’s leading retailers. “Inspired by ethical thinking and with an eye to the future, Frank and Oak upholds the values of equity, diversity, and inclusion and works to promote them in its communities”.
78% of their products are made using sustainable processes and eco-friendly materials, right down to the packaging.
- Frank and Oak became B Corp certified in 2019.
Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co
This Ontario-based, family run craft brewery is committed to making beer that not only tastes good, but is good to the environment, too. They use local, ethically sourced, and organic ingredients, green electricity, treat wastewater onsite, and are Carbon-Zero certified – earning them the honor of being Canada’s most sustainable beer.
“Our family takes pride in creating unique and wonderful craft beer, conceived with honest consideration for the environment and their local communities, and delivered with a true sense of friendly relationship”, reads their website.
- Beau’s became B Corp certified in 2013.
Nada is a package-free grocery store based in Vancouver. All their products are sourced from local and diverse suppliers, and they adhere to the highest sustainability practices – providing a “new way to grocery shop and a commitment to both healthy people and a healthy planet!”.
- Nada became B Corp certified in 2018.
Notable mention: PB+J
While not B Corp certified, this Toronto-based eCommerce Web Design & Development company – and one of our very special clients – deserves a shoutout. They recently committed to becoming Climate Neutral Certified in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint. We’re always inspired by our clients, and PB+J is no exception.
While, at face value, B Corp Certification seems like a no-brainer – it is not without scrutiny. Accused of fuelling “greenwashing” – and its standards not being legally enforceable – some critics wonder if the movement is too good to be true. However, in a time where social and climate concerns are at an all-time high, it is still a movement worth welcoming – providing alternative and mindful practices while encouraging all businesses to act in the best interests of its stakeholders.
• At Creative Niche, we have been inspired by B Corps for many years… following many of the best B Corp practices and standards. This year, we will be going through the application process to acquire our B Corp certification – and further commit our business, and ourselves, to a more sustainable future.