3 steps to becoming a certified B Corp
Read time: 5 minutes
B Corps are businesses that act in ways that benefit society as a whole. What defines them is their belief that the purpose of a company is not just profits, but also social and environmental good.
This movement of people using business as a force for good has exploded since B Corps certification(the “B” stands for “beneficial”) was launched a decade ago. Over 2,200 companies are now certified as B Corps in more than 50 countries.
Patagonia, the California-based outdoor apparel company, is probably one of the best-known B Corps. The company is committed to reducing the negative impact of their activities on the environment. They also donate time, services and at least 1% of their sales to grassroots environmental groups all over the world.
There are of course plenty of exciting Canadian examples. One of them is Beau’s Brewery, an organic craft beer brewer with an environmental and community focus. Other B Corps pledge to promote literacy, develop renewable energy or sponsor community development.
At the cutting edge of innovation
“B Corps are at the cutting edge of innovation, good governance and corporate citizenship,” says Carla Heim, Senior Advisor Social Entrepreneurship at BDC. “They are tackling major systemic challenges. These are truly innovative businesses.”
B Corps are also very rigorous. The B Corp assessment is comprehensive and bracing. A poorly-managed company won’t pass. “Going through the certification requires taking a close look at how you run your business. It engages the entire workforce, gets them focused on what they do well and shows where you can improve,” says Heim.
As an added bonus, B Corps are highly successful. These companies are just as profitable and resilient as traditional businesses. But they also have advantages when it comes to brand differentiation and employee recruitment.
“Entrepreneurs who invest in their employees and their community are the ones who turn heads,” Heim says. “Employees want to work with them, consumers are looking for them—and they buy!”
Here are three steps Heim says entrepreneurs can follow to become certified B Corps.
1. Believe in the power of business as a force for good
B Corp entrepreneurs are committed to a vision of business as a force for good. They believe that the purpose of a company is to create inclusive, environmentally-sustainable prosperity.
They also believe in making money while doing good. This means that non-profits aren’t eligible. Neither are organizations that receive funding or grants from governments or charities.
To become a B Corp, your business should have clear, specific social or environmental goals. It should also be managed in a transparent way and be accountable to stakeholders, including the local community.
2. Take the B Corp assessment
If you think that joining a movement of people trying to harness the power of business to make positive change in the world might be right for you, then the next step is to find out if your business is eligible for certification.
The best way to do that is to try one of the two free online assessments:
- The short 30-minute assessment will give you an idea of your business’s potential as a B Corp
- The full B Corp assessment, which takes two to four hours to complete
Both assessments are free to complete and the information remains completely confidential. The assessment grades your company’s accountability and transparency, its impact on employees, the community and the environment, as well as the beneficial impact of its products or services.
It also allows you to benchmark your social and environmental performance against other companies. “It’s a really good health check for your business,” Heim says.
Completing the full B Corp assessment will give you access to a B Impact Report, which includes a “B Score” that rates your company’s performance as a social enterprise. A business needs to score at least 80 points out of the maximum 200 to be eligible for B Corp certification.
“Anybody can take the assessment at any time, and it’s free,” says Heim. “Even if you don’t pursue B Corp certification, the assessment is quite enlightening.”
3. Change your articles of incorporation
If you’re ready to formally join the movement, the next step is to change your company’s article of incorporation to enshrine your commitment to a broader societal purpose.
This change to the articles of incorporation is the key tweak that differentiates B Corps from traditional companies. B Corps are not only required to create shareholder value, but also need to account for the impact of their actions on other stakeholders.
You have one year after you certify to change your articles of incorporation. This change helps to preserve your legacy going forward: What you believe in is baked into the DNA of the business.
When applying for certification, you need to submit your assessment results to B Lab. Staff there will go over your assessment, explain certification fees, ask for supporting documentation and possibly arrange site visits.
Once you’re up and running as a B Corp, your job isn’t done. You will want to continuously monitor your performance. You also need to get recertified every two years to maintain B Corp status.
“The B Corp community is really amazing,” Heim says. “They meet regularly and are open to people when they reach out. People collaborate to make things happen, because they believe in the same thing and want to build a community. This is a movement of leaders and trailblazers; if you network with them you’re certain to learn a lot.”