B Corp Certification

Everyone wants B Corp Certification, right? Perhaps, and in a climate where many companies are adopting more sustainable and socially responsible practices to address some of the biggest issues in society, it’s understandable that B Corp Certification and the B Corp movement are gaining traction. 

At its core, B Corp certification recognises businesses prioritising social and environmental performance alongside profit. But what does this mean for PR agencies? In particular, PR agencies exploring B Corp certification and joining the B Corp movement? This piece breaks down what B Corp is, what it means, and how agencies can get involved as much or as little as they like with the movement.

What It Means to Be a B Corp

Simply put, B Corp Certification is an accreditation awarded by the non-profit organisation B Lab. According to B Corp, this certification signifies that a company meets rigorous social and environmental performance standards and adheres to transparency and legal accountability requirements. It’s the legal accountability bit that some agencies find one of the first key hurdles.

If you’re a big networked agency, chances are, you’re going to find it a struggle to change your articles of association to lock in your B Corp mission. This, however, is a non-negotiable for B Corp certification, ensuring that stakeholder commitments (rather than just shareholder commitments) are embedded into the very fabric of your organisation.

B Corp Certified

But before we delve into the B Corp certification further, it’s worth pausing to also recognise the other key element of being a B Corp. B Corps are part of a global movement that seeks to redefine the role of businesses in society. These companies recognise the need to use their resources and influence to drive positive change, addressing pressing issues such as climate change, income inequality, and workforce diversity. In other words, they are a gaggle of business activists looking to usher in a kinder, fairer and cleaner economy.

The B Corp Certification Process

Ok, so, before we go a step further, let’s look at the actual process in becoming a B Corp. It’s rigorous, at times painful but always incredibly reflective and rewarding. It all starts with the B Impact Assesment (BIA).  So let’s take a look.

Assessment: Companies begin by completing the B Impact Assessment (BIA), a comprehensive online tool that measures their social and environmental performance. The BIA covers five key areas: governance, workers, community, environment, and customers. Companies must achieve a minimum score of 80 out of 200 possible points to be eligible for certification.

  1. Documentation: After completing the BIA, companies must provide documentation to support their responses. B Lab will review the documentation and verify the accuracy of the company’s self-reported information.
  2. Legal Requirements: To ensure that social and environmental commitments are upheld, companies must amend their legal structure or adopt a specific legal language. This step ensures that the company’s mission and stakeholder considerations are embedded in its legal framework, holding it accountable to its social and environmental goals.
  3. Certification Agreement: Once B Lab has verified the company’s information and legal requirements are met, the company signs the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence and the B Corp Agreement. These documents formalise the company’s commitment to meeting the B Corp standards and maintaining transparency.
  4. Recertification: B Corps are required to recertify every three years to ensure they continue to meet the high social and environmental performance standards. Companies must also update their BIA and provide any necessary documentation as part of the recertification process.
Laptop with flowers

The B Corp Movement

There are around 6000 B Corps globally, and last year, the UK hit the 1000 mark with a big old bash at the Natural History Museum. These organisations range from the darling of the B Corp world, Patagonia, through to The Body Shop, agencies like Havas, legal firms like Bates Wells and even the place where monarchs stash their cash, Coutts.

The B Corp movement is a grassroots movement. However, more large-scale organisations have joined the ranks. This is raising eyebrows. But ultimately we should welcome newcomers with open arms given that everyone within the movement is making the same commitment as each other.
In the PR agency world, some have been around since the early days, such as Greenhouse PR. Some have been present for the last few years, such as ourselves and Forster Communications and then newcomers to the movement, such as Manifest and Jack And Grace.

The movement is growing at pace. The change on an individual business level can be profound. However, the opportunity to help shape legislation is where the real fight is. An example of this is the Better Business Act in the UK.  B Corp is leading the way with the act. The focus is on having the default articles of association commit to stakeholder capitalism rather than shareholder capitalism.

The Importance of B Corp Certification

B Corp Certification has several benefits for companies and the broader public. B Corp businesses first and foremost can help showcase to the world that they do more than talk a good game. The need for transparent, yearly, impact reporting to retain certification helps to establish a roadmap of radical candour. Alongside this, organisations can attract the right talent, the right clients and even the right finance into their organisation. More RFP processes are considering B Corp certification as proof of impact.

For consumers, B Corp Certification might be a little nascent still. However, it can offer a way to identify and support companies that prioritise social and environmental responsibility and so work in a similar fashion to other kitemarks that have appeared over the years.

But, if you’re using or considering B Corp as a way of creating a USP or purely for commercial gain, you’re probably in the wrong headspace. It needs to come from a desire to change the way business exists in the world. Following a process that can help your business adhere to that philosophy. The goodies that come with it are nice to have but can’t be the sole purpose of becoming certified.

Challenges and Criticisms of B Corps

While B Corp Certification has gained widespread recognition and support, it is not without its challenges and criticisms. Some argue that the certification process is too time-consuming and costly for small businesses. The process can take several months to complete, and companies must pay an annual certification fee based on their revenue.

Critics argue that the certification process may not go far enough to maintain high social and environmental standards.  Some B Corps have faced criticism for their labour practices or the environmental impact of their supply chains, raising questions about the effectiveness of the certification in driving meaningful change.

However, like with any movement, it’s all about making progress. It’s why the standards are evolving. Traditional capitalism has been in place since the 16th century. The UK had its first B Corp in 2015. So we need to give it a touch more space for improvement than expecting a perfect solution.

The Future of B Corps

The global community becomes more conscious of the need for sustainable and responsible business practices. The B Corp community is growing. But like you can imagine with any movement, when things grow, challenges arise.

There is an imminent change to the standards new B Corps and recertifying B Corps will need to adhere to. These will likely include minimum criteria and a few black-listed industries.

B Corp is a great example of how things can work. Where organisations can earn a profit and do some good in the world. Is it perfect? No. But is it progress? Unquestionably, yes.

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