sustainable business

Why be a B? B Corp questions answered

Sandra Stewart | October 18, 2021
Answers questions on being a B Corp

As a longtime B Corporation, we’ve fielded queries for years from businesses considering the certification: Would it be good for us to become B Corp? What has it done for your business? What is the certification process like? Is it worth it? But as B Corp awareness rises—along with public pressure for businesses to lead on solving big systemic problems—B Corp questions are coming thicker and faster.

We’ve written regularly about why Thinkshift is a B Corp, but we haven’t directly addressed how other businesses can think through the “to B or not to B?” decision. The times are telling us to fix that.

B Corp certification is right for you if …

You’re running a mission-first business. If your business has a mission beyond making money—one that everyone in the business knows and feels, and that’s a key factor in decision making—people should know that. Becoming a B Corp tells customers, partners and employees that you’re in business to do good, and your company meets rigorous environmental, social and governance standards.

You want to be a leader in the movement for better businesses. This is why Thinkshift became a B Corp in 2010—it appealed to our activist bent and our mission to speed the shift to sustainable business. Back then there were only about 300 of us. Now advocates of stakeholder capitalism hold up B Corps as a model and there are more than 4,000 B Corps worldwide, including public companies and beloved brands. But clearly this community remains in the vanguard, and becoming a B Corp makes you a leader.

You can commit to continuous, demonstrated improvement. About those rigorous standards—B Corp certification considers every aspect of your business, from internal operations to community engagement. To score high enough to qualify, you have meet a bar that’s well above most businesses. And it gets higher each time you recertify (every three years).

You’ll need to document everything and be willing to do more than you’re already doing. That’s partly because you earn points based on positive actions, not on negatives you’re avoiding. For example, a business like ours that has an inherently low environmental impact can only score so much in that category, so we must seek improvement in other categories.

“How hard is it?” is one of the most frequent B Corp questions we get. To get a feel for how your business would fare, take the “quick snapshot” version of the B Impact Assessment. (It’s free, and so is the full assessment—you pay only if you want to certify.)

Benefits of being a B Corp

If your business ticks the boxes above, here are the top three benefits, based on our experience and reports from other B Corps:

Win the competition for talent. As the Great Resignation continues, attracting talent may be the most compelling reason to get off the fence and become a B Corp. People want better working conditions at companies they can feel proud of, and B Corp certification signals your business gets that. One proof point: after Change.org increased emphasis on its B Corp status, its Glassdoor page views increased by 467% in a year.

Build your business. For B2B companies, fellow B Corps and others looking for mission-first partners can be a significant source of new business. At Thinkshift we’ve seen a notable rise in inquiries based on our B Corp status. For B2C companies, the growing presence of B Corp on packaging and in the media can drive trials, loyalty and endorsements. The certification got a big boost recently when gymnast Simone Biles Simone Biles called out Athleta’s B Corp status as one reason she chose the brand over Nike.

Get support on ESG initiatives. If you’re looking to improve your social and environmental performance, you’ll find exceptional knowledge and usable models in the B Corp community. The level of support among B Corps is the strongest and most selfless we’ve seen in any business network, and B Lab, the nonprofit that certifies B Corps, is a leader in supporting justice, equity, diversity and inclusion efforts as well as climate action.

It’s not all flowers and puppies

You may disagree with some aspects of how the B Impact Assessment works (we have). People will hold your business to a higher standard and may call you out on ways you’re not living up to it. There’s also a risk (which B Lab leaders are aware of) that as larger corporations become B Corps people will perceive the certification as less stringent.

For us, none of that outweighs the enormous positives. Being a B Corp makes us part of a community that helps us learn and grow as people and as business leaders, challenges us to do better on every dimension of our social and environmental impact and increasingly drives new business. And it remains the only credible certification for the whole business.

Have more B Corp questions? Check out B the Change, the B Corp Medium site, to get a broader picture of what the community is up to.

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