If you’re new to the world of sustainable business, the term ‘B Corp’ may not mean much to you. But if you’ve been familiar with sustainable businesses for some time, you may find your heart racing when you read these words. In this article we will explain to you in detail what a B Corporation is, and why you should start one. In this first article of our ‘Becoming B Corp’ series: What exactly is B Corp?
The idea behind B Corp
B Corp is an abbreviation for ‘Certified B Corporation’. This term refers to a label that companies can obtain when they operate with consideration for employees, social aspects and the environment.
In 2007, B Lab was founded by Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan and Andrew Kassoy, entrepreneurs who wanted to use business to make lasting social impact. With B Lab, Gilbert wanted to create a label with which companies could position themselves as ‘benefit corporation’. In the first year, 19 companies joined the B Corp network. Meanwhile, the counter has passed the 4,000 mark. In the meantime, a lot has changed. Whereas the initial focus was on the mission, by 2021 B Corp will be an internationally recognised label and certification will be accompanied by questionnaires and full transparency.
In the words of B Lab: “Certified B Corporations are companies that meet the highest standards for social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit with purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.”
Which companies are joining B Corp?
The companies that can call themselves B Corp are found in almost all sectors. Some companies, like Patagonia and Ben&Jerry’s, have long been part of the B Corp family, and are known for their commitment to social and community causes. But smaller companies in areas like consulting, consumer products, or electronics are also joining as B Corp. In principle, all companies with a social mission can join.
Going green without greenwashing
Green is popular. More and more consumers consider sustainability in their choice of a particular service or product. No less than 79% of consumers change their buying behaviour based on the environmental or social impact. A growing number of consumers are also willing to pay extra for sustainability. With sustainability playing an increasingly important role in consumer purchasing behaviour, companies feel the urgency to respond to this. Although for a large number of companies this arises from the desire to contribute something in the social field, for some the motivation is mainly image and the possibility of higher profits. Greenwashing, a tactic whereby an organisation pretends to be more sustainable than it actually is, is therefore becoming an increasing problem.
Transparency in sustainability claims
In the case of greenwashing, false claims are often used excessively. Due to a lack of transparency, it becomes difficult for consumers to distinguish false promises from reality. B Corp is trying to counter this by focusing entirely on transparency. Companies can only receive the label after an extensive audit in which all social and environmental impacts are determined. This information is then processed in a report that can be viewed on the B Corp website. This makes it possible for consumers and external parties to verify sustainability claims and hold companies accountable in the event of false promises. B Corp thus makes it possible for companies not only to claim sustainability, but also to demonstrate it.
The highest sustainability standards
The B Corp quality mark is therefore not just any quality mark. It is a label that can only be obtained by companies with high standards in sustainability. The companies affiliated with B Lab are working daily to improve the world around them. In the words of Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia): “To do good, you actually have to do something”.