10 steps to consider when aiming for B Corp certification

Author
James Cortis
Content Producer | Business West
31st January 2022

Business West Chambers of Commerce kicked off its Net Zero: Lunch and Learn series in January, with a widely attended webinar, on the steps to achieving B Corp certification. 

Business West certified as a B Corp in February 2021, and was joined by Chamber members Will Powell and Oscar Gue of Future Shift and Andy Hawkins of Business on Purpose - who advise SMEs on achieving B Corp certification - in presenting their B Corp stories to nearly 100 delegates keen to learn more about becoming B Corps.

The first five key takeaways outline why the B Corp journey could be so rewarding for your business – and the last five explain what it takes to be successful. 

So, what are the key benefits of becoming a B Corp? 

1.Attract new customers and talent 

As Andy Hawkins explained in the event, B Corp is to business what Fair Trade is to coffee – an independent verification of certain ethical standards.

People increasingly want to work for, and buy from, responsible businesses and by verifying your social and environmental credentials, you can assure your prospects that you mean what you say.   

“We’ve spoken to many businesses that have seen marked improvements in the quantity and quality of applications since becoming B Corp certified,” says Oscar at Future Shift, “particularly amongst young people.” 

2.Boost investment 

When it comes to raising investment, B Corp status could be a deal-clincher. Strong Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) values are in increasing demand, particularly amongst the growing ‘impact’ investor community. 

Private Equity houses are also facing more pressure to conduct greater due diligence, and will have faith in the B Corp certification process. Many will actively seek businesses that have achieved B Corp status. 

3.Grow faster 

“B Corp is not anti-profit,” says Andy at Business on Purpose. In fact, a 2021 study found that B Corps are growing at an average rate of 25% per annum as opposed to a UK national average of just 5%. 

“The B Corp journey does take investment and resources, but the rewards are certainly there,” says Andy. “B Corp will help you to discover that sweet spot for your business, your customers and your people.” 

4.Find out how ethical you really are, and how to improve

From Andy’s experience, most business owners will say, ‘I run a good business. Of course it's ethical.’ But when you ask, ‘how do you know that? How ethical? How do you compare with your peers at this stage?’ Not many know the answers. 

The B Corp journey will force you to think about your impact in a rigorous, robust and structured way. 

“It also provides answers, not just questions”, says Sam Shinner at Business West. Inevitably, you will fall below the required standard in some sections, but it’s not a punitive process. 

Rather than just a red cross, you receive practical suggestions for where to focus your investments and energy.

5.Access the B Corp network

There are now over 4,000 B Corps around the world including 600 in the UK, all of which can be found on the B Corp directory

Connecting with other B Corps can help you to find suppliers, clients, new networks and new ways of thinking. 

“We’ve asked for advice on the B Corp messaging board and had some great guidance on our customer information,” says Sam. “That’s all part of the B Corp journey, it’s not about internalising the accreditation and using it for purely marketing purposes, it’s about sharing knowledge and working together.” 


Top tips for achieving B Corp status: 

6.Face up to the biggest hurdle: getting started 

As with a Couch-to-5k, or a new diet, the first step towards becoming B Corp certified is often the hardest. Remember you don’t need to be a superstar business to start the journey, you just need the right mindset.   

7.Start with the B Impact Assessment 

B Impact is a self-reflective, confidential assessment tool that asks 100-150 questions and allows you to assess your baseline position for free. 

“As a rule, businesses will know the answers to a third of the questions, they’ll be tentative on the next third, and they’ll need help on the last third – I’m here to act as a forest guide in those latter stages,” says Andy. 

8. Make it a team effort  

To achieve B Corp certification, you will require between 80 and 250 points on the assessment which will touch every corner of your business. 

You will need to galvanise your whole team to ensure that everyone feels they have a stake in the process and that the work is prioritised. 

9.Implement structure, processes and change

According to Will and Oscar at Future Shift, your best strategy will depend hugely on your organisation’s size and structure. Innocent Smoothies, for example, appointed three full time members of staff to manage the process and inspire the necessary change within the company. 

On the other hand, Free Star, a start-up producing alcohol free beer, couldn’t allocate these resources, but it was able to approach the challenge with much greater flexibility. Whereas Innocent was forced to retrofit old policies, Free Star was able to incorporate B Corp principles into its growth strategy and implement organic change. 

10.Be as robust as possible 

“Just be honest, because that's the only way you're going to enact and measure real change,” says Jessica Vallentine at Business West. 

Greenwashing, or being overgenerous early on will lead to problems down the line when it comes to presenting evidence and verification. Openness and transparency are key to achieving B Corp certification. 

If you’d like to understand the B Corp journey in more depth,  watch the full webinar on-demand.


Related opportunities:

Register for our upcoming online workshop Aiming for Net Zero on 15th February - an interactive session designed to guide you through the practical steps of how to initiate and accelerate your own climate journey.

Our next Net Zero: Lunch and Learn takes place on 22nd March, on the topic of Electric Vehicles. Keep an eye on our events calendar!

 

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