The B Corp Certification is awarded to businesses that are committed to making a positive impact on the world. These businesses prioritize ethical practices and social purpose over profit-making.
Together, B Corporations strive to create a 'B economy' made up of businesses that bring long-term benefits to customers, employees and the planet.
The certification is therefore a way for a business to show that it has dedicated itself to having a positive impact on the community and the planet. Specifically, this involves having high standards of social and environmental performance, along with public transparency and legal accountability.
What are the benefits of being B Corp Certified?
Having a B Corporation Certification can do wonders for your overall brand image; much like the Fair Trade Certification, the B Corp Certification immediately adds a ‘seal of approval’ and sense of authority to your business by demonstrating that you’re deeply committed to running an ethical business.
It's also a fantastic way to attract both customers and future employees - the growing generation of employees and consumers admit that they rather both work for and buy from businesses that have a dedication to sustainability and the environment.
Similarly, being B Corp certified is a good way to mark yourself apart from competitors when looking for investment from angel investors or venture capitalists who value businesses with social purpose.
The certification will also connect you to a huge network of like-minded businesses that make up the ‘B economy’; there are over 2,500 Certified B Corporations in the world, across 50 countries. Being certified will open the door to collaborating with businesses who share a passion for making a positive difference in the world.
Is a B Corp Certification right for your small business?
If you run a small business that is already going above and beyond in terms of social responsibility and creating a positive impact on your local community, then it may be worth looking into becoming B Corp certified.
It’s important to bear in mind that although many B Corps are created specifically to reduce poverty or improve the environment, many others operate within mainstream industries such as telecoms or marketing.
Such businesses can still be awarded the certification based on how they treat their employees, or the charitable work they do. As such, it’s still worth looking into the B Corp certification if you run a small business within an industry that wouldn’t normally be associated with social purpose, but can still demonstrate the following:
- Balancing profit-making with social responsibility
- Going above and beyond to consider the overall impact your business has on society and the environment
- How the business model impacts workers, community and customers
- How the business upholds high standards across its supply chain
- Having policies for charitable giving
- Providing employee benefits that go above the norm
- Promoting transparency
- Demonstrating best practice in corporate social responsibility
How to get a B Corp Certification
Any for-profit company that’s been operating for 12 months or longer can apply for a B Corp Certification. The not-for-profit B Lab will assess how a business scores against their social and environmental standards. There are five categories that you need to demonstrate commitment to:
- The Environment
You’ll need a minimum overall score of 80/200 across these five categories to be certified, and a breakdown of your B Impact Score will be published publicly on the official B Corporation website.
Although the application process will require some dedicated time, it’s a great way to thoroughly analyse how committed your business is to upholding high standards of ethical practices. As such, simply filling in the application form and considering how your business operates across the five categories can provide you with insight on where improvements can be made and how to neaten up operations.
You may also need to tweak your company’s legal structure, as you’ll need to meet a legal accountability requirement to maintain the certification. You’ll have to pay an annual certification fee, which enables you to use intellectual property such as the Certified B Corp logo. Certification will need to be renewed every three years.
Examples of UK B Corps and what they do differently
Along with well-known examples of B Corporations, such as Ben & Jerry’s or Danone, there are several notable B Corporations in the UK who are making a name for themselves. We’ve highlighted a handful below so that you can better understand how B Corps work in practice.
Food wraps for the environmentally-conscious | Gloucestershire | B Impact Score: 90.5
This small business was launched in 2017 by friends Fran and Carly who were struggling to find a plastic-free alternative to cling film and tin foil. Together, they found a way to use local beeswax to produce handmade, biodegradable wraps that come in a range of sizes and prints.
Crucially, the wraps not only reduce plastic waste, but also help food to last longer. This is because they’re made from GOTS certified cotton, UK beeswax, and organic jojoba oil, which keeps food items fresh whilst allowing them to breathe.
In addition to producing a product which has a significant impact on the environment, the business is a living wage employer and supports the Surfers Against Sewage grassroots movement which protects the UK’s coastline from plastic pollution. Their website also features a super handy ‘zero waste shop map’ which provides environmentally-conscious shoppers with information about local zero waste shops.
Clean electricity for businesses | London | B Impact Score: 88.8
Squeaky Energy provides 100% clean energy to businesses across the UK from local wind, solar and hydro generators. The aim is to make clean energy affordable to UK businesses, which is a great example of how B Corporations balance profit making with wider environmental impact.
Crucially, Squeaky Energy is able to keep prices low for customers because it allows businesses to purchase energy directly from their choice of local wind, solar and wave generators. This cuts out the middleman, meaning businesses are often able to pay the same, or less, than what they would with a regular provider.
Another commitment is their promise to keep prices low and support the communities around their generators. Specifically, they aim to disrupt the ‘big 6’ energy companies who charge extra for renewable energy.
Accountancy | Stroud | B Impact Score: 80.9
Kung Fu Accounting is an excellent example of how a mainstream business can dedicate itself to bettering the world by making small changes to how it operates.
Specifically, the business' 2017/18 social & environmental impact report highlighted how the team donated 12 inches of hair to the Little Princess Trust, volunteered 115 hours, and donated 77 items of clothing to a local homeless charity. The business only printed 7 pages of paper throughout the year, and ensured those pages were printed on recycled paper using low ink printing methods.
Overall, Kung Fu Accounting demonstrates how micro-businesses from any sector can achieve B Corp Certification by making a difference to their local community and using business as a force for good. The company's founder, Scott Johnson, summarizes this sentiment, and the wider B Corp movement in general, on the Kung Fu Accounting website:
When it comes to running our business we consider people, our community, and our environment equally as important as the financials.
If you want to know more about the industries that B Corps operate in, you can use the official B Corp Directory to find a comprehensive list of B Corps both in the UK and across the world.