Be The Change: What is a B Corp and Why it Matters
When a company says that it is doing the right thing, how can you know?
You can do your own research, but there is only so much to know from the outside looking in.
But what was there a window letting you peek in on how committed they are to the environment, social impact, and good working practices?
We think that there is. It’s called the B Corp certification, an indicator of a different approach to business.
In short, B Corps go against the status quo. Most businesses are obligated to focus on shareholder value, with the goal of increasing its profits and size as much as possible.
But this mindset results in adverse effects for people and entities that the business impacts directly and indirectly.
As an example, think of a company that makes headphones. Not only does its everyday operation affect employees and customers. It also affects suppliers, community members living beside their factories, and people who mine the materials needed to make their products.
And the actions of all these entities significantly impact the environment, which more customers are considering when they make decisions.
What other options exist for the business world, especially when their customers are increasingly looking to buy from companies that minimize the negative impacts of their business?
One way is to ensure companies are legally responsible to rights holders, not just shareholders.
This is the fundamental idea behind the B Corporation certification.
B Corps At A Glance
A B Corp is a business independently verified by B Lab to meet the highest social, economic, and environmental standards.
B Lab is a nonprofit network handling certification for B Corps along with programs and tools that promote its vision.
B Corps are purpose-driven in a way that is very similar to the “triple bottom line,” where instead of focusing entirely on profit, companies also consider people (social impacts) and planet (environmental impacts) in their decision making.
The B Corp certification signals to customers, employees, partners, and other stakeholders that the company is delivering on its promises. Greenwashing is a major problem in the corporate world, and B Corps are an effective way to cut through the noise.
Since the first certifications in 2007, there are now 5,400 verified B Corps in 84 countries globally, including well-known names like Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s and BDC.
The B Corp Certification Process
Companies are evaluated using an Impact Score (which is determined through an impact assessment) and governance change.
This score measures its impact on people and the planet. It is adjusted depending on the industry that the company operates in.
Companies are assessed on five key categories:
To be certified, a company must score a minimum of 80 on the B Impact Assessment.
In addition, B Lab reviews companies for the potential negative impacts of its practices. Large companies and multinationals fall under even greater scrutiny.
Once a company has an impact score, it must reapply every 3 years to retain its B Corp certification.
A company must amend its governing documents or adopt a corporate form that explicitly requires the consideration of stakeholders instead of shareholders. At Animikii we most often refer to these as rights holders.
This is a significant legal change since most for-profit companies are structured to do the exact opposite.
The governance change also outlines who the rights holders are. B Corps, like Animikii, are legally accountable to all of their rights holders - workers, communities, customers, suppliers, and the environment. This addition is made to the corporate bylaws to ensure each B Corp is held accountable at their Board level.
Why Being a B Corp Matters
There are countless certifications out there in the business world. Many are good indicators of social impact, workers’ rights and environmental compliance.
But we consider the B Corp certification one of the most well-rounded certification for what we are trying to achieve.
In addition to this external metric, we consider our annual employee survey and contribute to the Raven Impact Measurement Framework from one of our investors, Raven Capital Partners, all data-points that are essential for measuring our triple bottom line.
Indigenous B Corps
Animikii is one of several B Corps that advances the interests of Indigenous Peoples around the world, and we believe that we were the first Indigenous B Corp in Canada.
Cheekbone Beauty, Indigenous Pact PBC, The Tjungu Project, and Closing the Gaps are just a few examples of other Indigenous B Corps – and we hope to promote an ecosystem where even more Indigenous-owned companies pursue their certification.
Criticisms of Measurement and Certifications
As much as Animikii works to embrace the values of the B Corp certification, we acknowledge that B Corps are still a marketing tool, as most certifications are.
Even though the B Lab organization set out to provide a better alternative to the “greenwashing” tactics that were taking over in business, it is still possible for these same issues to manifest within the B Corp certification.
We favour the B Corp certification because it is better than alternatives with zero transparency. Still, there are valid criticisms of the B Corp movement in the social impact space.
The inclusion of Nespresso, a subsidiary of Nestlé (a company which has been called out for human rights and environmental violations), stands out as troubling. However, recent changes in leadership at B Corp signify that time is needed to allow the refreshed team to address criticism.
As a member organization, we are advocating for higher minimum scores in specific areas and examining the entire system along with how we measure impact as a part of our 2023 recertification.
We hold these two truths to be evident simultaneously. Managing this polarity is a part of being a social enterprise.
We wouldn’t pretend to hold a specific worldview or concept to be true above all others. For more on this concept, read our article on Managing Polarity as an Indigenous Social Enterprise.
Announcing our 2021 Social Impact Report
The report helps demonstrate that through our growth we are deeply committed to continuing to plan, co-create and measure our social impact. The report is a collection of stories to help illustrate the impact we are making.
Learning More About B Corps
The B Corp website is an excellent resource for gaining a deeper understanding of the B Corp movement.
Their Best for the World lists show examples of companies from a range of industries that go beyond the minimum of what it means to be a B Corp.
In addition, the Impact section of our website details our commitment to social impact.