2019 has been a monumental year in terms of news prompted by the global climate emergency. From Extinction Rebellion protests shutting down cities around the world, to Greta Thunberg crossing the Atlantic Ocean via boat from the UK to New York, it’s clear that issues around climate change are now fully in the public conscience.
That in turn puts sustainability firmly on the business agenda. Consumer habits are changing, and people are voting with their wallets – choosing to support products and services that have a positive impact on the world. For many businesses this means improving their operational and employee models and reviewing sustainability targets. For others – it means prioritising positive impact and action now.
Many disruptors and new market entrants have had the advantage of building their business around sustainability from day one, but a surprising breadth of businesses are making change happen…. Enter the B Corp.
Certified B Corporations (B Corps for short) are businesses who consider their social and environmental impact as much as their financial returns.
Businesses such as Innocent Drinks and Patagonia Works have seen the value in this certification. With Jamie Oliver recently announcing that he was creating a B Corp and a rise in the number of UK businesses applying for the certification, it’s a good time to look into what these new socially and environmentally conscious business are trying to achieve and how they can communicate their goals, successes and operational-overhauls.
What is a B Corp?
B Corps are businesses that take a keen interest in social and environmental performance as part of the core day to day running of a business. Sustainability is rooted firmly in these business’ ethos and operations. The B Corps concept was established in 2007 in the US by an independent business that was offering certifications to businesses that wanted to do more than run a company purely focussed on profit.
B Corps want to provoke a cultural shift within the business community to show the power that businesses have in enacting positive change on society and the world. These businesses come from all different industries and have different ways that they want to improve the environment and society, from tech based business Winnow which helps reduce food waste for chefs, to The PHA Groups own client Ethique, which wants to rid the world of plastic waste through its own beauty products.
The non-profit company B Lab, which awards the certification, wants to show that businesses do have the power to affect real change and how this can be achieved- through reducing inequality, improving the environment and nurturing strong communities.
For a business to become a certified B Corp, it must complete an assessment which evaluates the company’s entire social and environmental performance. This assessment investigates every process within a business, from the supply chain creation of a product to the employee benefits and environmental programs a business has within a head office. The process is rigorous, but businesses are seeing the positive effects maintaining and creating different community and environmental initiatives can have on workers and also on a business’s ethos.
Why is it growing?
There are currently over 3,000 B Corps across 64 countries and within 150 different industries. Within the UK, there are now 217 certified B Corps including The Cheeky Panda and Able & Co.
Research last year found that B Corp certified businesses were growing 28 times faster than the average business, while 48% of B Corps found that this certificate is seen to be an attractive proposition for prospective employees.
With 75% of British consumers adopting ethical shopping habits, this conscious consumer factor is also a key reason why businesses are changing their ways of working to achieve the B Corp status.
This certification is also a perfect opportunity to communicate a business’s message to the press, through awards, thought leadership articles and case studies. New Belgium Brewing in the US has been a certified B Corp since 2013 and has continually pushed to improve its environmental and social impact. Since then, the company has been awarded and recognised as Wall Street Journal’s best small businesses and is consistently part of the “Best for the world honouree list” which awards the top B Corps all around the world. Awards are just one tactic that B Corps can use to raise awareness of the need for sustainability action – and how they have chosen to approach it.
The certificate also allows businesses to collaborate more closely, with regular events for B Corps to speak to each other and share knowledge – all with a shared goal. All these reasons have meant that more businesses are looking to change the way they conduct themselves so that they can become a B Corp.
As previously mentioned, Jamie Oliver recently announced that his next venture would be around creating a B Corp. PR stunt or not, it has shone a light on B Corps to businesses that may have not realised this was a possibility and could help to see a further increase in applications to become a B Corp in the following year.
As consumers continue to ask for more from a business and as businesses try to differentiate themselves to competitors, the B Corp certificate gives businesses an advantage to communicate with consumers around the measures and initiatives they invest in to remain at the forefront of social and environmental change. In changing end to end processes to achieve B Corp certification, businesses are understanding the importance that they have in creating an improved social and environmental world. As the public conscience around the climate emergency increases, businesses must change and they need to communicate that clearly, loudly and effectively to consumers.