What Does It Take To Become B Corp Certified?
If you’ve heard about our B Corp certification and think it’s a mission you can also align yourself to, great. But there are a few hurdles you’ll need to leap over first.
We’re keen to grow the B Corp family, so we’ve written a few pointers to aid you through the process. This way, you’ve everything you need to earn your accreditation.
Get your team onside
The hardest bit of getting certified is having the commitment in your business in the first place. But if you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already crossed that bridge. If not, then you shouldn’t need to do too much convincing anyway.
Sure, it may require some effort, but it’s more a labour of love than a tedious grind. The B Lab Impact Assessment makes it easy, working as a learning tool for your whole team. Not to mention the fact that you’re given a huge range of further reading (which you could quite literally lose hours to!).
You can also point people to our intro to the certification, its benefits, and some of the brands that have it.
Get to know the key players
This is the non-profit organisation that handles the applications and vets applicants. It’s this body who decides whether or not you qualify.
You’re ultimately the person doing the work – pulling data from various sources, completing the online application, and talking to B Lab. Do you have what you need to see it through?
It’s a little obvious, but anyone leading the application process needs the full support of the Board. It’s easy to say, ‘we’ll do X, Y and Z’, but when push comes to shove, they have the final say.
This is normally an external advisor that talks the B Corp language and comes with experience of the application process. You’ll have to pay for their advice, but considering that the way you answer questions is pivotal to the process and determines what other questions come next, it’s worth it.
This is the awarder of the certification and effectively the family you join. Plus, you get a very useful online portal and network in the form of B Hive.
It’s worth having someone from finance on your side too. Keep stoking their interest in the movement, as you’ll need to rely on them throughout.
Answer the questions correctly
The assessment has 130 top-level questions, and a series of sub-questions, related to your business’ processes and procedures. Most relate to a prior 12-month period, but you can be somewhat ‘aspirational’ – if, say, something is about to be implemented. They fall into five key sections:
Some are simple input box questions, like ‘Please share the text of your mission statement’. Others are closer to a numerical request (here’s where your finance department comes in) like ‘What is the company’s lowest wage as calculated on an hourly basis?’.
And some take more time and research, such as ‘Does your company have any of the following policies or programs in place to promote diversity within your supply chain?’. In the case of this one, there are five possible answers to choose from, e.g. ‘We track diversity of ownership among our suppliers’ or ‘We have formal targets to make a specific percentage of purchase from suppliers with diverse ownership’, etc. Each positive box you check adds more points to your total.
Some questions are more valuable than others, bagging you a whole point, and others are ‘worth’ only 0.2 points. You’ll need to score 80 or more to be certified.
Don’t be tempted to bend the truth
There are 51 more questions under ‘Disclosure’ that dive into the ethics of your business, like ‘Please indicate if your company is involved in the production, operation, trade, or sale of any of the following: industries reliant upon materials at high risk of human rights infringements, e.g. conflict materials’.
Clearly, the ideal answer here is ‘no’! But if it isn’t, don’t lie. You need to answer all questions honestly. They will be audited. Okay, not every single answer – but enough to cover the full width of your submission. And anyway, why wouldn’t you want to tell the truth? It goes against the whole ethos of the B Corp movement.
How you answer some questions will also either open or close other avenues and routes. As you go through them, you’ll see the points tot up on the input page and the main dashboard. One key – and bold – route to earning a cool 10 points and confirming your commitment is amending your Articles of Association. This must include a statement that your purpose is to consider all stakeholders regardless of company ownership.
Prepare to devote some time to it
It’s probably easier for a reasonably new business to get certified than it is a market staple. Your size has a direct impact on both the amount of effort required by you and the level of scrutiny you’ll receive from B Corp themselves.
We can only speak from our experience as a small to medium-sized business, but our whole application process took nine months. Of that, three were spent completing the application and getting to that scary stage of hitting ‘submit’. Our application then spent six months with B Lab.
There was a wait until they assigned an analyst (ours was based in Brazil, and we had a wonderful three-way video call with them, ourselves in a damp England, and our B Leader in deepest Switzerland – gives you an idea of the global network!), but things went fairly smoothly. B Lab have understandably been inundated with businesses wanting to become B Corps, but they’re rapidly expanding their analyst team in response.
So, should you do it?
Absolutely. While actually achieving B Corp certification is the ultimate goal, you aid your business development even by just reviewing the questions and getting support from B Lab.
If you’re ready, head to the B Lab site. And when you’re ready to have an insurance partner that shares your values and keeps you covered at every stage of your journey, let's chat.