What Is a B Corp and Why Does It Matter?
It’s time for the second letter of the alphabet to shine! Do you like taking action on challenging problems, creating value for society, or elevating business standards? Did you know there’s a certification for that and a global community surrounding those and many other aspects? Welcome to the life of a B Corp. A community and movement centered on doing good without compromise.
Generally, when someone mentions a “B Corp” or Benefit Corporation, they’re referring to three types of companies:
- A business that has been certified through B Lab, the non-profit that certifies and advocates for B Corps.
- A legally incorporated for-profit Benefit Corporation. This status is available in the US/CAN for businesses to either become Public Benefit Corporations or register under existing entities (C or S Corp, LLC, or Sole Proprietorship).
- A business that is legally classified and certified as a Benefit corporation – That’s us at Alter Eco.
Here at Alter Eco, we’re a PBC, or Public Benefit Corporation and we’ve been certified through B lab as a B Corp since 2009. Don’t fret if your company isn’t ready to change its legal status, you can still make an impact by following the B Corp model.
You know the Fair Trade certification for products and the LEED certification for buildings? Think of the B Lab certification as one for the entire business. It’s a way to hold your business to the highest standards with B Lab acting as the unbiased assessor and your company’s ambassador.
B Lab is a non-profit that started in 2006 to address the long-standing need for social and environmental accountability. They created the certification as a way to hold businesses accountable in this regard and have worked to implement the legal component as well. As of this writing, there are now 2,655 B Corporations in 60 countries across 150 industries working towards the same unifying goal (Source: B Lab). Some notable B Corps are Ben & Jerrys, Klean Kanteen, Happy Family, and Patagonia.
So why did Alter Eco decide to become a B Corp?
For three key reasons:
- It involves efforts beyond the supply chain.
- In the beginning, we focused outward and strove to make an impact on our environment, community, and supply chain. But the certification provided tools and deeper learning so that we would look inward and also take care of our employees and stakeholders. This allowed us to ensure care and attention was being taken in every direction.
- It provides mission insurance.
- By inserting B Corp ideology into the legal framework of our business, it allowed for the continuation of a non-tampered legacy. No matter what happens in the future of our business, these core beliefs are protected and maintained.
- It fosters a community of like-minded people all working together for the greater good.
- At every B Corp event or within the surrounding network, you’ll always find yourself immersed in a culture that matches your personal and professional values. This is a huge, global community that wants the best for the world and constantly strives to improve themselves and the way businesses work.
Okay, I’m sold, you say. How do businesses become certified? Well it depends on where they start in the process and how far along the company has come to meet the requirements on the assessment. No matter what, every effort towards certification or bettering company practices will be good for the global marketplace. None of it should be seen as time wasted or efforts lost. B Lab is there to help as well as the wider community and there are best practices aplenty online. This community is all about the “open-source” model; being responsible and visionary as well as taking actions that are in line with a wider vision for ourselves, our business, and the world.
- Score a minimum of 80 out of 200 on the assessment questionnaire
- Participate in a follow-up phone interview to review the assessment
- Provide supplementary documentation for roughly 8-12 questions
- Participate in an on-site review (for randomly selected B Corps each year)
- Sign the term sheet (rate dependent on company size)
Even if the company you work for isn’t a B corp, we still want everyone to join the greater mission of doing our best for the world and making all businesses meet standards of accountability, transparency, and performance. Let’s be proud and expect more out of companies. We want to mirror our personal values with our work values so that we can be passionate about what we do every day. Raise a glass to progress and think deeply about our impact now and far in the future - It’s a great time to be a B!
- B Lab’s Assessment Process [http://bimpactassessment.net]
- B Lab’s Legal Roadmap to Incorporation [https://www.bcorporation.net/become-a-b-corp/how-to-become-a-b-corp/legal-roadmap]
- Deutsche Welle Article – “B-Corps Challenge Environment vs. Profit Paradigm” [http://www.dw.com/en/global-ideas-coffee-b-corp-cultivation-certificate-sustainable-coffee-farmers/a-18550981]
- NPR Article – “Benefit Corporations Look Beyond The Profit Motive” [http://www.npr.org/2014/06/18/316349988/benefit-corporations-look-beyond-the-profit-motive]