Saturday, December 9, 2023

The Rise of Certified B Corp Companies Signals a New Economy Is Coming


B Corp-certified companies are gaining attention at the moment, with both established businesses and emerging entrepreneurs opting for a more conscious commercial approach, and consumers keen to support them.

But while the term B Corp is heard with increasing frequency, many consumers are still unsure as to what it actually stands for. A wider understanding of its definition is crucial, as shoppers seem keen to opt for more ethical purchases, but can be confused and put off by greenwashing, and unsure of which claims they can trust.

b corp
Image courtesy Joshua Rawson Harris on Unsplash

Although it may be reaching peak popularity now, the B Corp movement has been around for some time, created in 2006 by the non-profit organization B Lab. It had one lofty goal: to transform capitalism.

B Lab’s co-founders — Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlahan, and Andrew Kassoy — planned to do this by changing the focus of for-profit brands. 

While these companies still need to make money, that is not their only goal. Instead, equally important, is meeting certain environmental and social standards, which are assessed by B Lab, using its B Impact Assessment tool. The certification process, which is rigorous, involves checking back every three years, to ensure standards are maintained. 

‘A different kind of economy’

As explained on the B Lab website: “We began in 2006 with the idea that a different kind of economy was not only possible but necessary — and that business could lead the way towards a new, stakeholder-driven model. 

“B Lab became known for certifying B Corporations, which are companies that meet high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”

Image courtesy B Lab

But, they added, they do ‘much more than that’.

“We’re building the B Corp movement to change our economic system and to do so, we must change the rules of the game. B Lab creates standards, policies, tools, and programs that shift the behavior, culture, and structural underpinnings of capitalism. 

“We mobilize the B Corp community towards collective action to address society’s most critical challenges.”

The rise of the B Corps

It’s certainly an ambitious mission, but it’s one that’s been gaining significant ground.

Since the creation of the B Corp certification, around 5,000 companies from around the world have earned the certification, with around 1,000 of those gaining their certification in the last year alone. Moret than 100,000 have applied though; the certification process is rigorous.

Certified brands include commercial giants like Natura (which owns The Body Shop) and Alpro. Khloé Kardashian’s Good American and French luxury label Chloé both earned the mark last year. So did Enroot, Brad Pitt’s organic sparkling tea company. The 70-year-old Kentucky bourbon company Maker’s Mark also received the mark.

Luxury skincare label L’Occitane recently earned it as did secondhand luxury platform Fashionphile.

These brands are celebrated every March, which marks global B Corp month, during which retailers bring B Corps to the forefront of consumers’ experience.

enroot tea
Brad Pitt’s Enroot Tea | Courtesy

One of the biggest examples of a retailer promoting these companies launched last year: U.K. online shopping giant Ocado launched a B Corp aisle, featuring more than 1,100 products from over 35 B Corp certified suppliers. These include Ella’s Kitchen, Innocent, Method, Charlie Bingham’s, Pip & Nut, Teapigs, Proper, Ben & Jerry’s, and Cheeky Panda, among others.

Ocado branded the move a ‘really positive step for both our customers and our sustainability efforts’.

“We’re delighted to be making greener choices easier for Ocado customers by gathering all these amazing brands that have made a commitment to building a more sustainable future, in one easy-to-find place,” Jo West, head of sustainability at Ocado Retail, said in a statement.

Making a big difference

Last year, a month-long pop-up came to central London for the B Corp month celebration.

The outlet, called Good News, was aimed at driving awareness, excitement and helping to shine a light on businesses and brands that are B Corp-certified.

But the shop wasn’t a retail outlet for the products. It was positioned instead as an educational spot, focused on storytelling and supporting consumers in their pursuit of doing better for themselves and the planet.

The project was led by B Corps Cook, Danone, Bruichladdich Distillery, and Vita Coco in collaboration with PR company Freuds.

Ed Perry and Rosie Brown, co-CEOs of Cook, said in a statement: “More of our customers are seeing the B Corp logo as a stamp of credibility.

Courtesy Vita Coco

“They want to shop ethically, and the B means a brand is walking the walk, not just talking the talk when it comes to ethical business. We urge people to challenge brands as to why they’re not B Corps,” they said

But what can the increasing awareness around B Corps actually change? Can doing business more fairly and sustainably really have the kind of social impact its founders envisioned?

Co-founder Andrew Kassoy certainly believes so. Speaking to Pioneers Post, he said: “I don’t think changing business is going to change everything. 

“But I do think this link between capitalism and democracy, and the way business behaves in a democratic system makes a big difference.”

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