Seeking certification as a B Corporation (B Corp) can be like eating an elephant. It’s not something you should tackle with a faint heart or a lack of appetite.
The certification process starts with a self-assessment, followed by an independent verification and (if you score at least 80 points out of 200 available points) certification. It is not onerous but it is rigorous.
This may partly explain why of the 50,000+ companies that have started or used the B Impact Assessment 2,788 from 150 industries in 64 countries have gained certification.
Currie was certified in 2014 and re-certified in 2017. It took us six months the first time.
Not only is the certification rigorous the assessment is holistic and, as a result, you get an accurate and transparent report on how your business performs on the things that matter.
What matters? Workers, community, governance, environment and customers matter.
There are numerous questions to answer under each of these headings. Many businesses won’t have all the answers immediately to-hand. For example, do you know what percentage of your payments to suppliers go to companies majority-owned by a minority group?
So, internal research and analysis of how you work (as defined by B Lab, the non-profit that certifies, administers and advocates for the B Corp community) will most likely be required.
Upon completion of the online assessment the responses are verified by B Lab. This involves meeting virtually with B Lab people to review the assessment and submitting confidential documentation to validate the responses. To maintain certification, B Corps update their assessment and verify their updated score every three years.
So, what’s our advice for tackling certification?
- Create a vision of success for the project
- Task people with the skills to deliver it
- Put in place the incentives to get it done
- Allocate the necessary resources and time
- Prepare, monitor, report on an action plan
In our case, our company accountant is the project owner. Yet, the process does require input from several people, including the owners, and/or the CEO and business manager.
During the assessment we seek answers from team members who measure customer satisfaction, employee engagement and our environmental impact, and those who manage company governance and partnerships. As a result, the reporting of our performance in these areas to the company’s Board in-between certifications is better these days.
It has been stated that B Corp certification is to sustainable business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee. Yet, it’s more than that. You get to know your business better by seeking certification, especially the impact of your business operations on people and the planet.
We think of certification as a business improvement tool, helping us to identify areas for improvement following a certification and setting a target score for the next certification.
If you like doing things the hard way and ignore my advice, that’s okay. Simply close your eyes, take one bite at a time, chew hard and be prepared for a case of indigestion.
This is because your certification process will feel like eating the proverbial elephant.