Transparency and accountability in companies have never been more important to consumers than today. Of course, in the natural food world, they have always been top-of-mind. Otherwise, what have we got certifications like USDA Organic or FairTrade for?
The public’s desire for socially responsible companies has only gotten stronger and more prevalent, moving out of niche communities and into the wider world. INFRA is proud to share space and work alongside the various certifying bodies that help maintain the trust and transparency of our industry.
One such certifier and certification is B Lab and B Corp Certified.
A B Corp is a company that is verified by B Lab in meeting rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. The B Corp certification process is not an easy one. If you see the B Corp logo on a product or a website – and you likely have – you can bet that company is walking the walk.
To become a Certified B Corp, half-measures aren’t possible. The certification process takes work. To get certified, a company must demonstrate three things:
Passing score on the B Lab risk assessment to show high environmental and social performance
Making a legal commitment by changing corporate governance structure so all stakeholders are accountable
Committing to transparency by allowing information about their performance to be publicly displayed on B Lab’s B Corp directory
B Lab uses their B Impact Assessment to evaluate prospective B Corps, which spans five categories: governance, workers, community, environment, and customers. Sample questions provided by B Lab include:
Governance: What portion of your management is evaluated in writing on their performance with regard to corporate, social, and environmental targets?
Workers: What % of the company is owned by full-time workers (excluding founders/executives)?
Community: What % of management is from underrepresented populations? (This includes women, minority/previously excluded populations, people with disabilities, and/or people living in low-income communities.)
Environment: Does your company monitor and record its universal waste production?
Customers: How do you verify that your product improves the impact of your client organizations?
To summarize, when an organization becomes a B Corp, it means that they have taken concrete, transparent steps to organize themselves to be accountable to all stakeholders which are covered by the B Impact Assessment.
Note that B Corps differ from benefit corporations in that B Corp status is a voluntary certification that can be dropped at any time, whereas benefit corporations make permanent organizational changes. The standards for becoming a benefit corporation are different from B Corp certification, though if a company chooses to become a benefit corporation while seeking B Corp status, that fulfills the legal commitments required by B Lab. Furthermore, benefit corporations self-report their adherence to relevant standards and B Corps report to B Lab, the certifying body.
It is a subtle distinction, and many people use “benefit corporation” and “B Corp” interchangeably, but they are different.
The continued growth of the B Corp movement – and the success of many big-name Certified B Corp businesses like Patagonia – is an irrefutable demonstration that companies can prioritize the triple bottom line and still thrive.
The B Corp Certification, like Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC), is a rigorous certification that companies do not take lightly. For consumers, that certification is a clear message that their values are in alignment. According to Harris Poll research commissioned by Google Cloud in 2022, 82% of shoppers prefer to buy from brands whose values align with their own. Furthermore, it’s more and more common for consumers to boycott brands over value conflicts – nearly 75% of consumers have parted ways with a brand due to conflicting values.
The same study demonstrated that most consumers (72%) think that companies greenwash their operations and overstate their sustainability efforts.
If you are a shopper who prioritizes value alignment in the brands you buy from, Certified B Corps are an excellent package label to watch for. Their rigorous standards are continuously evolving, and B Corps must get re-certified every three years, so greenwashing isn’t an issue. You can even search B Lab’s database to see if brands you like are already certified!
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