Behind the B Corp: A B Leader’s tips for getting started and securing a solid score.
by Laura Matz, Lead B Corp Consultant at Greenheart Consulting.
This article is guest written by Laura Matz, Lead B Corp Consultant at Greenheart Consulting. Since becoming a B Leader in 2020 and joining the team at Greenheart, Laura has worked with dozens of companies (including cosmetics companies, F&B and tech) on their journey to certification and beyond.
It’s B Corp Month! With all this excitement about the B Corp community, you may be considering B Corp certification for the first time, deep in the thick of it, or reviving a project that has fallen off the radar.
With so many impact frameworks and certifications out there, here is why using B Corp to measure and improve your impact should appeal to you:
ACCESSIBLE: The online B Impact Assessment (BIA) is free to use and provides access to a library of resources to help you get started and keep improving your performance.
HOLISTIC: Since the BIA covers five areas: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment and Customers, it is likely to push your business out of its comfort zone and get you thinking about every aspect of your operations.
COMMUNITY: B Corps sign a declaration of interdependence and take it pretty seriously! There are working groups on various topics, joint action initiatives, webinars and even cheeky discounts to be had within the community.
CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT: There is no resting on your laurels in this process. The standards are reviewed at regular intervals and take into account new developments across the impact landscape. Certified companies are required to re-certify every 3 years and you can expect to see your score drop if you are not embedding that principle of continuous improvement within your business.
So now you have some of the why, if you are new to this you may appreciate some of the how! Here are some steps to consider taking right at the start of your journey, and some points that may serve you if you are already underway…
Steps to consider at the start:
Set up a BIA account - once you have filled in some basics about your business you will be up and running within minutes. Take an hour or so to navigate around and get used to the tool. The most important parts of the assessment for now are the ‘B Impact Assessment’ and the ‘Question Filter’ tabs (ignore the rest until you are a little further down the line). Set up some calls with relevant colleagues and answer the questions together, making sure you take plenty of notes in the comments section below each question.
Key concept: Track
Depending on your size and sector, you will see different questions. If you look at the ‘Dashboard’ you can see your Track Details. If you are unsure about which track you should be on it is worth reaching out to B Lab early on for clarification (more on tracks here).
While answering questions with your team it is guaranteed that some questions will leave you scratching your head. The ‘Learn More’ button in the top left corner is both your best friend and your foe. Sometimes you will find crucial information in there to help you answer the questions (e.g. that at least 80% of your staff need to be considered to answer the question), sometimes it will not feel at all relevant or tempt you down a rabbit hole. Resist! Read the next action point instead.
When ‘Learn More’ has let you down, ask yourself three questions to help you move forward:
Why are we being asked this question? B Corp certification is for businesses that are going beyond compliance. One indication that you can tick a box is whether you would be proud of your practices and policies on this topic. If you are offering benefits to your office staff but not your factory workers, is that exemplary?
Could we prove that we are doing this if we were under scrutiny? Some of your answers will require documented evidence
Are we doing this consistently and formally?
You should not be shocked to find your company at the 40-55 mark at the end of your baselining exercise. Many businesses start out there and will tell you of the graft they have put into getting to 85 (the score you need to qualify is 80 but don’t underestimate the need for a buffer!).
Now, let’s get into how to secure a good score:
Don’t assume points from your ‘Impact Business Model’ are a given - You may have opened an Impact Business Model (IBMs). If you have, it is worth asking yourself if you can reach 80 points without the points from IBMs. Since IBMs are very rare and the evidential requirements are substantial and at times complex, seriously consider hitting 80 without your IBM points to be on the safe side. The queue for official evaluation is long and you do not want to wait until you reach the front to find out you are dropping 20 points and need to go back to the drawing board.
Don’t forget Mission Lock points - There is one IBM whose points you can and should rely on, these are the ‘Mission Lock’ points in the Governance section. You can read more about this legal requirement on the B Lab website. Smaller companies need to make this change ahead of certification but it is a much safer approach to secure this legal change ahead of submission regardless of the size of your business. Many companies are stuck at Evaluation phase because they have not yet finalised this step.
Get yourself a task force, a B squad, a sustainability committee - some sort of support! As famously said by Planet-IE in their recent impact report, on the journey to certification “the miles are long and monotonous.” Less so if you have a passionate team around you. Scheduling regular meetings can be a useful and fun way to hold each other accountable.
Get leadership backing - There will be many tasks that you can drive as a sustainability manager or as a B Corp Project Manager, but some tasks will need Exec input or approval. Make sure you have the backing of your leadership, this process is impossible without it!
Finally, reach out to the B Leader community - if you are lost or are ready to have a professional cast an eye over your assessment. B Leaders have had training from B Lab to help companies along their journey and many have had a lot of experience at this point. Crucially, B Corp consultants can spot common pitfalls, missed opportunities and will empower you to enter verification confidently.
Hopefully these tips will get you started with measuring your impact. Remember, when the journey seems tough, the most important thing is that in taking these steps your business is working alongside many others (many many others, there are over 500 B Corps in the UK alone) to use business as a force for good!