There’s a few eco and ethical business accreditations out there these days – but if you’ve heard of just one, then it’s probably B Corp. Still a teenager, B Corp has already reached rockstar status on the global stage and, by all accounts, its only just getting started. 
There are already clear signs that B Corps outperform their competitors commercially and financially. Household names like Patagonia have joined the movement and many more multinational are reportedly fighting to get through the door. 
 
But as B Corp gets bigger, so does the backlash – with more and more questions arising about its future direction. Who should be allowed in? How can the movement sustain its momentum without diluting its mission? 
 
You may be wondering whether B Corp certification is the right path for your business, or trying to get your head around the certification process. Perhaps you’re wondering how far you can rely on a business’s B Corp status for your own supply chain due diligence? 
 
Read on for everything you need to know about B Corps and the role they can play in your own sustainability journey. 

What is a B Corp? 

Launched in 2006 by US non-profit, the B Lab, B Corp’s central mission is to make business a force for good. To become one, companies must meet a rigorous set of social, environmental and economic criteria. 
 
Having often been compared to Fairtrade accreditation, B Lab and Fairtrade International actually entered a formal partnership in 2021. Taken together, the two argue, B Corp and Fairtrade certifications have the power to revolutionise supply chains. And growing numbers of business – like Divine Chocolate and Gallant International – have both already. 
 
B Corp numbers have more than doubled, in the past five years, and 2022 was its fastest growing year yet. As I write this, there are 7,177 certified B Corps around the world, spanning 159 industries – from fashion to fintech. 
 
B Corp’s UK arm launched in 2015 and it is currently B Corp's second largest region –1,559 B Corps are headquartered here. Waitrose and Ocado have both created virtual aisles of B Corp-certified brands, demonstrating its growing popularity and name recognition with UK consumers. 
 
Traditionally associated with smaller start-ups and impact investors, B Corp is seeing a growing influx of household names. From Danone to FatFace. B Corp is also making a firm entry into professional services. Recent new arrivals include city law firm Mishcon de Reya and the Queen’s bank Coutts. 

Why is it Different? 

One thing that immediately sets B Corp apart is its holistic nature. There are plenty of excellent accreditations covering just one aspect of ethical or sustainable business, like – say – The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or Leaping Bunny. B Corp, on the other hand, addresses all aspects of how a brand impacts its workers, customers, community and the environment. 
 
Hand in hand with this, is B Corp’s widening global reach. It doesn’t matter how perfect, comprehensive and loophole-free an accreditation is – if nobody wants it, it will make precisely zero impact. And B Corp is steadily capturing the hearts and minds of businesses and consumers all over the world. 
 
Another important characteristic is that certification, for most B Corps, is just the beginning. Everything about B Corp – from the unique score each business receives, to the need to recertify every three years, encourages continued self reflection and improvement. With scores broken down across all areas, each B Corp's Impact Report is effectively a roadmap for continued improvement. The B Hive – exclusive to B Corps – offers a community support and advice and potential collaborations.  

Can You Get it? 

If you’re a for-profit business and you've been trading for a year or more then you’re probably eligible. (If you’ve been trading for less than a year, you can apply for pending B Corp status!)  
 
There are no restrictions on the size or structure of your business and most sectors are eligible – though there are exceptions.  
 
Certain types of business, like non-charitable lotteries can never become B Corps. For other industries, such as fossil fuels, or Brazilian agribusiness, if strict requirements are met, businesses will be eligible. 
 
B Corp’s up to date guidance on “controversial” business categories can be found here

How Do You Get it? 

The first step is to complete the free B Impact Assessment. This takes roughly 90 minutes – depending on the size and complexity of your business. (Don’t worry – you can save as you go!) 
 
To get any further, you’ll need to score a minimum of 80 points, across B Corp’s five areas of impact: Governance, Community, Workers, Environment and Customers. To officially apply, you must submit your completed online assessment (scoring 80 or more), and pay the submission fee of £250 plus VAT.  
 
You then wait for a B Lab analyst to assess your eligibility to become a B Corp. Once it's confirmed that you are eligible, you'll be asked for further information about your employees and suppliers. You'll also have a review call with an analyst and be asked for further supporting documents. Be warned - some of this may take time. (You’ll also have to repeat this assessment process every two years for your three year recertification.) 
 
If you get through this stage, you’ll then receive your own Impact Report. This will be published in your profile on the B Corp Directory, if and when you're officially certified. 
 
At this point, it's time to restructure your business, creating a legal obligation to consider the impact of all business decisions on workers, customers, suppliers, community and the environment. This can be a complex process – one that B Lab can advise you on – and it varies from country to country.  
 
You also need to sign the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence and pay the fee. 
 
Your annual certification fee varies according to your annual sales. In the UK, it starts at £1,000 and is capped at £50,000 for companies with £1bn or more turnover. This fee pays for use of B Corp’s logo and gets you access to B Hive . 
 
Once you’ve achieved B Corp status, your business has to recertify every three years. 

The Controversy 

In a way, B Corp's accessibility is both a strength and a weakness. As the movement grows, some fear its values are being diluted – particularly since certain multinationals have joined the club. 
 
Some have argued certification requirements should go deeper. And B Lab has been asked for clarification on key issues - like whether B Corp ad agencies can work with businesses that could not themselves qualify as B Corps
 
B Lab itself has acknowledged adjustments need to be made and further guidance provided. It is currently in the process of reviewing its guidelines and plans to release a complete draft for the new standards in 2024. Among other things, these standards will broaden topics assessed to include fair wages, diversity and inclusion, human rights, action on climate change and risk standards. 

Why I Support B Corps 

I’m not going to leave you in suspense – I am fully Team B Corp. 
 
Could this change in the future? Yes. Do I think it’s perfect and there’s no need for improvement or debate? Absolutely not. Do I believe coffee should come out of a bag and not in pod form? Yes. Yes, I do. 
 
There’s clearly space for more than one take on the B Corp model. And just because it works for some ethical businesses, doesn't mean it's right for yours. You should absolutely do your own research and trust your own judgment! 
 
But here’s why I believe B Corps are a force for good, and the movement maybe has the power to invoke meaningful change across global supply chains. 

The certification process is rigorous 

Just ask anyone who’s been through it! It goes in-depth, it takes time and commitment, and it’s not for the fainthearted. 
 
And yes – clearly it's easier, for the likes of Patagonia than it is for a tiny start up. But the fact remains that most B Corps are not Patagonia. Around 96% of them are small to medium-sized businesses worth under $100m. This means the vast majority of B Corps have worked incredibly hard to get where they are today and the status means something to them. 

It's not just a rubber stamp 

Just ask Brewdog – the Scottish beer company was stripped of its B Corp status in 2022, over workplace bullying revelations. Everything about B Corp encourages its community to keep trying to be better – and if a business falls short, the consequences can be severe. 

Respected groups respect B Corp 

Fairtrade – a veteran in the campaign for ethical supply chains – is prepared to stake its name on B Corp. B Corp also partners with a long list of other like-minded groups – including the UN Global Compact, We Mean Business Coalition and the Imperative 21 network

Most B Corps feel pretty good about being B Corp 

When companies become B Corp they rarely go back – attrition rates are incredibly low. Current B Corps have talked about how joining the community has empowered and motivated them to keep getting better. 
 
 

Want to Make Your Business the Most Sustainable and Ethical Version of Itself? 

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a business committed to high ethical standards in everything you do. I specialise in helping brands like yours build the right content marketing strategies to tell your story and maximise your reach. I also offer a 20% discount to all certified B Corps.  
 
B Corp or not, I care passionately about the success of your ethical business and I'm here to help! 
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