Thinking About Earning a B Corp Certification? Here’s What You Need to Know

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Posted by Zoe Mackey - 04 October, 2018

In order to create a world that works for all, businesses must be driven by corporate responsibility, a firm commitment to sustainability, and building thriving communities. A few organizations dare take these principles to the next level and take the pledge and actions required to become B Corporations.

B Corp Certification, as stated in its mission statement, “is the only certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance.” The certification recognizes a B Corp that is committed to something beyond profits, focusing on community, the environment, customers, and employees. B Corps feel a global call to action to make a positive impact—and the only way to be certified is to demonstrate a significant positive impact.

As of September 2018, 2,655 companies have been certified as B Corps in 60 countries and 150 industries. Among the more prominent B Corps are Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, Kickstarter, Hootsuite, and New Belgium Brewery—and, lest we forget, Berrett-Koehler.

Becoming a B Corp benefits everybody, but, as Ryan Honeyman writes in The B Corp Handbook, it’s also good business: “One of the most persuasive arguments for increasing your company’s social and environmental performance is that you will save money, enhance profitability, and generate more business value.”

B Corp Certification isn’t easy, but ultimately, it is worthwhile. Here is more information about earning this transformative achievement:

The BIA Challenge

Becoming certified isn’t as simple as filling out a form and sending in a fee. Potential B Corporations must take the B Impact Assessment (BIA), which measures a company’s environmental and social performance.

The BIA takes only about 90 minutes to complete—it’s not like taking the bar exam or the MCATs. Also, the BIA requires a score of 80 on a 200-point scale to pass. That sounds easy, but most companies score between 40-60 on their first try, and the median overall score is just 95 (which, for the record, was Berrett-Koehler’s score when we earned our B Corp Certification).

Why is the BIA such a challenge? Because it assesses if you are doing the utmost to make life better for:

  • Workers (including compensation, wages, benefits, worker ownership, and work environment)
  • Community (including job creation, diversity, civic engagement, giving, local involvement, suppliers, distributors, and product)
  • Environment (including land, office, plant, energy, water, minerals, emissions, waste, transport, and suppliers)

The BIA asks questions in all these categories, possibly putting you on the spot about topics and best practices you may have never even considered. Without your proverbial ducks in a row, you won’t be certified—but that doesn’t mean you can’t work toward that goal.

The Road to Certification

The BIA isn’t a mystery: All the best practices are there for you to see. (The assessment is conveniently included in The B Corp Handbook.) You can get a good idea about what steps to take in order to increase your status. Five steps Honeyman recommends in The B Corp Handbook are:

  1. Establish a baseline: Evaluate your company’s current social and environmental performance, and create momentum before engaging others in the process.
  2. Engage your team: Get coworkers involved and secure help in solving any BIA answers that you didn’t have answers for.
  3. Create a plan: Set a target BIA score and create short-, medium-, and long-term goals toward reaching that score.
  4. Implement: Take action on your plan and goals to boost your score, improve your company’s performance, and, perhaps most importantly, improve your company.
  5. Fine-tune: Keep track of improvements and take additional action as needed.

Despite all your efforts, you may still find yourself not initially passing—and that’s OK. B Lab wants you to evolve your company to the point that it’s worthy of certification, and they provide tools and guides to get you there. Again, most businesses don’t pass the BIA right away, but remember, the road to certification is about the journey, transformation, and the destination.

Just the Beginning

Through hard work and company improvement, you earned B Corp Certification. Congratulations! Be sure to tout this accomplishment within your community and industry. Brag about it when hiring, emphasizing that your company has worked hard to become a place people are proud to work for and where they are treated well.

With certification in hand, you can further commit to making a positive global impact. Keep doing the things that earned you your certification, focus on continual improvement, and deliver that impact. This is just the beginning of building a world that works for all. In short, as the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence envisions, use your business as a force of good. 

Topics: Your Organization, benefit corporation, B Corp

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