B Corp, a label promoting people using business as a force for good
B Corp, for Benefit Corporation, is a rigorous CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) certification promoting business which meet high standards of social and environmental performances. It is delivered by a nonprofit organization called B Lab and rewards the creation of sustainable values. Due to its requirements and its American origin, B Corp started in 2007 to certify already strongly committed social companies in the US. Today, the number of applicants to the free certification assessment continuously increases. More and more companies of every sizes, sectors or countries are doing the online diagnostic with the same goal: prove their commitments to have positive impacts on their ecosystems.
As private actors, companies aim to create economical values and response to private interests. That is the global statement of a standard company developed during the industrialization revolution. However, corporations with a social interest exist for a long time and increasingly emerge nowadays. This type of companies proved their efficiency, their sustainability and their positive impacts on community. Lots of examples exist at a local scale all around the world, we can quote different types: cooperative companies with an horizontal management in France, high tech & low tech start up network with environmental & social interests in India, local money in the UK…
The B Corp certification was created to bring recognition of these entities, to develop these social responsibility businesses and to create a virtuous network. Believe in the potential of this model is far away to be utopian, it did its proofs. In addition, we observe a change on the expectations not only from consumers but also from shareholders, looking for more transparency and creation of sustainable values. The classic economical interests’ strategy with few positive local impacts, which is still the major model represented today, had demonstrated too many times its negative or low positive effects on its own local ecosystem.
Besides, in the future, “greatest innovations will not be those that will generates the most financial profits but those that will meet human needs” according to a survey of the Davos Forum, with thousand large firms’ CEOs.
B Corp, an international community with local impacts
The B Corp community, involving today more than 2.400 companies across 65 countries representing hundreds of industries, drive a global movement of business actors creating not only economical values but also sustainable social and environmental values.
B Corps form an international network of one of the most impactful actors of the society: business companies. The involvement of private organization to tackle society challenges beside authorities and NGOs, is a major statement of B Lab. This network is impulsed by B Lab U.S. and other B Lab entities spread around the world.
The B Corp assessment is based on 200 questions, divided into 5 categories: governance, workers, community, environment and consumers. It was developed for American companies but these local standards are more and more adapted to other countries. We raised this point with Sakulthip, the initiator of the B Corp community in Thailand and the founder & CEO of a social counselling company, Nise Corp.
She explained us the complexity of the Thai market, the local standards and the difficulty to align with B Corp international standards. Thailand homes lot of suppliers, which can be led to get involved on the assessment, of the will of their clients. In 2018, 3 companies are certified B Corp in Thailand, including Nise Corp. Sakulthip would like Nise Corp to become a local B Lab or a country partner for Thailand and to accelerate the B Corp spread. In Asia, there is already a B Lab in Taiwan, initiating the movement of B Corp in Asia and creating a B Corp Asia Forum which gathers companies from Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand.
B Corp, an answer to a paradigm society change
To have the B Corps status recognized by authorities, B Lab early began lobbying efforts across the US. Today, more than 33 US states authorized the status of “benefit corporation” as a type of non-profit corporate entities with the purpose to create public benefits. B Lab pursues its lobbying in other countries, in 2015, the Italian parliament passed legislation to legalize “Benefit Corporation” and it is moving forward in Australia, Chile, Columbia, Argentina and Canada…
Besides government recognition, a B Corp as any business company have to inform all their stakeholders of this sustainable label. All suppliers are involved on the assessment and have to been committed in the B Corp purpose. Therefore, a large awareness radiation starts thanks to strongly convinced by certified business convinced by the relevance & the future success of B Corp. Then, more companies get involved in the process, more people know the B Corp certification. Thanks to the transparency of B Corp, their declaration and requirements, these giants could have a huge positive impact on their territories. This international expansion could be a real opportunity to spread positivity and launch a move of change in the private sectors. This exponential growth benefits B Lab, increasing its notoriety and legitimacy.
However, we can raise some questions: this increasing popularity could bring this certification to be more accessible and less dedicated to a committed elite? How could we consider a big multinational became B Corp, with all its history and its crisis, to become a social responsibility business without thinking about the real market intentions? Indeed, it is easy to think that it could be another green washing tool for these giants, B Corp could lose its merits… Thus, the legitimacy and sustainability of the B Corp certification on multinational could be challenged.
All the 3 mains actors of our societies have to get involved in this movement for a more human & nature friendly world. Politicians with international & national agreements, NGOs or non-profit associations, with lobbying actions, and businesses with consumer’s offers have to take their part. Businesses have clearly a huge impact on their ecosystems, and consumers choice could show the way. That is why B Corp can be a lever to empower this transition, if B Corp keeps its authenticity and its requirements.