🌱 Distilling B Corp: Inside the new Version 7 updates, and Nc'nean Whisky's three steps to a 135.6 score.
Featuring Melibio, VFC, Patagonia, PUMA, Grove Collaborative and more...
This week we cover:
Quick Take: B Corp Version 7 - What do we know so far?
Brand Spotlight: Scotland’s Net Zero Queen of Spirits: Nc’nean Whisky!
In case you missed it: Behind the B Corp: Words of advice from 3 B Corp Project Managers!
> Good News Last Week
🎯 Fried chick*n brand VFC and recipe kit company Grubby are partnering to offer exclusive high-protein dishes for Veganuary. The brand’s popular range of fried chicken alternative products will add a protein-rich alternative and will expand to provide five new recipes during the year.
🎯 My Emissions and The FSC Group announced their collaboration. Together, they will measure the emissions for 250 products in just 3 months by providing insights on emissions and introducing carbon labels to packaging for some of FSC's partner brands.
🎯 MeliBio and Narayan Foods announced their expansion of their bee-free vegan honey product in Switzerland and Austria, in ALDI and HOFER stores. In the US, their honey is unveiled under the Mellody brand.
⭐️ PUMA Group received an almost perfect score of 9.63 out of 10 based on its CO2 produced when their website is visited, as examined by Utility Bidder LTD. The North Face & Tommy Hilfiger is second and third consecutively.
⭐️ Kellanova Europe, in partnership with Sonoco has redesigned its Pringles packaging by replacing the metal bottom with a paper fibre-based alternative. This enables the tubes to become acceptable in curb side recycling streams across Europe.
⭐️ Coca-Cola India & Reliance Retail have announced the launch of a new sustainability initiative to collect post-consumer PET bottles at Reliance Retail stores in Mumbai through Reverse Vending Machines (RVMs) and collection bins. The initiative is set to expand to 200 stores across the country by 2025, with a target of collecting 500,000 PET bottles annually during the pilot phase.
⭐️ Pernord Ricard announced their spirit brand Beefeater 24, redesigned their new bottle and packaging, with 90% reduction of plastic usage for cap and back label, coupled with a 30% decrease in aluminum content and a 22% cut in glass content.
⭐️ Bogle Family Wine Collection announced their new wine collection, Element[AL], which comes in 750ml aluminium bottle and weighs a lot less than its glass counterpart. This allows them to transport more cases at the same time, reducing their carbon footprint per bottle.
⚡️ Grove Collaborative has announced a new badge system called “Beyond Plastic.” The intention behind the initiative is to better inform its customers about the plastic content in thousands of products from dozens of pre-vetted sustainable brands.
> Click on each link to read more. Have good news to share? Email us - email@example.com.
> Quick Take
B Corp Version 7 - What do we know so far?
WAIT! Before we start - quick refresh…what does B Corp certification involve and who are B Lab??
B Corp certification involves completing a free online impact assessment and then paying to have the answers verified. Once certified the company must; uphold a minimum score in the assessment every three years, report their progress transparently to their stakeholders and pay an annual certification fee to B Lab. B Lab is the non-profit organisation that sets the standards, verifies the companies and also supports the community. Historically, the assessment has been updated every three years to a) make sure the standards are up to date and b) keep pushing the existing community of B Corps to improve. According to this schedule, the seventh version (V7) should have been launched in 2022…but in 2020 B Lab committed to reviewing the minimum requirements of becoming a B Corp, which threw the schedule off!
The number of companies using the B Impact Assessment has been rising, with 1,150 daily active users (22% growth from the 2022 figures) and an average of approximately 141 new accounts set up every week in 2023 (stats shared with us by B Lab). So if it’s so popular, why the need for an overhaul in the minimum requirements to certify?
Let’s look at some of the issues facing the B Corp certification process, and how the latest draft proposes these issues will be addressed…
1. Minimum Performance
Issue: Companies must reach a minimum of 80 points across five ‘Impact Areas’ to certify. This comes with a lot of flexibility. For example, a company can become a B Corp without having a Net Zero strategy as long as they are performing well in other areas.
Proposed solution: A company must meet minimum requirements across eight ‘Impact Topics’, as well as relevant ‘Complementary Topics’, to certify. This way when we see the B Corp logo as customers we can assume the company is acting on the most pressing issues.
2. Measuring progress with confusing scores
Issue: A company’s score can go up…or down. Score calculations change when a company significantly changes size or operations . This makes it difficult to interpret at a glance, if a company has lost points due to one of these score calculation factors, or because its impact performance has gotten worse.
Proposed Solution: Progress itself becomes a requirement on top of compliance. New requirements will come in as the company’s certification matures. In place of a score the new standard will introduce a scale of ‘Does not meet’, ‘Meets’ and ‘Exceeds’ requirements across each impact topic.
The new directory might end up looking something like this:
Small incremental changes won’t be measured on a scale anymore. In order to ‘Exceed’ a company will have to go substantially above the minimum requirement.
3. Additional Requirements for Large Companies
Issue: Though the current standards are more rigorous for large companies and are difficult to achieve regardless of company size, the strategies that a large company implements to score points in the BIA might not be at the scale the world needs.
Proposed Solution: “One of the key aspirations of the evolution of the standards is to have a meaningful degree and quality of contextualization of the standards for B Corp Certification.” The number and rigour of actions required will increase depending on the size (in revenue and/or headcount) and the level of transparency required by large companies has also significantly increased. To give an example: the largest company size with retail/wholesale operations will need to meet 4 requirements under Human Rights with 19 sub-requirements, a micro-business in the same industry will only need to meet 2 requirements with 2 sub-requirements.
4. Verification Difficulties
Issue: Though B Lab has grown and sought outside support, many companies have been experiencing 6-12 months between submitting their assessment and becoming certified. Some users have felt frustration when reaching verification only to find out that they are ineligible for one reason or another.
Proposed Solution: The new standard will have two elements; Foundation Requirements and Performance Requirements. The intention is that a company’s eligibility will be reviewed earlier in the process and at a separate point in the journey than the bulk of the verification. The purpose of each requirement, the definitions and frameworks used and also the evidentiary requirements are a lot more detailed than the ones currently found in the BIA. This should mean that companies will be better prepared for verification (hopefully increasing efficiencies). What still remains to be seen, is whether this added clarity will make the overall process quicker, or if the greater emphasis on continuous improvement (relative to the business context) will make the process of verification more complicated for the analysts.
The public response to the first draft of the standards was that a majority thought the requirements will be clearer, and over 85% believe the requirements represent the high standard needed to make meaningful progress - a step in the right direction! Whilst no company will be certifying under V7 until 2025, more than ever the B Corp standard will be a long-term commitment, and companies should not proceed without full buy-in of their decision making bodies.
Have opinions? B Lab has shared the full draft within a new microsite designed to collect feedback for this final stage of stakeholder engagement before the launch of the new standard in 2025. Have your say and help shape the standard here.
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> Brand Spotlight
Scotland’s Net Zero Queen of Spirits: Nc’nean Whisky!
Nc’nean (an abbreviation of Neachneohain, the Queen of Spirits in Gaelic legend!) is an independent whisky distillery located in the west coast of Scotland. Motivated to create a whisky that could exist in harmony with the planet, the founder, Annabel, started her journey in 2017 by distilling her very own organic whisky. In 2020, their first bottle hit the market.
With about 150 whisky distilleries scattered around Scotland, they have a unique differentiator: an impressive B Corp score of 135.6 and their spot as the first distillery in the UK to be verified as net zero for Scopes 1 and 2. We have highlighted three main pillars of how they do it: by energy, packaging and water usage. Let’s have a look…
100% renewable energy, resulting in net zero production:
Quick refresh: Net zero means that the greenhouse gas emissions released are balanced with their removal. So, to run a net zero distillery, Nc’nean is very meticulous about their emission tracking. Certified by Environmental Strategies Ltd, they identified calculated direct and indirect emissions - from heat and waste generation, to staff transport and warehouse logistics. In 2022, their Scope 1 and 2 emissions only add up to 26.5 tonnes CO2e, the equivalent of 61.3 barrels of oil or 5.2 homes’ electricity use for one year.
The secret in having such a low carbon footprint? The energy configuration of their factory. Partnering with Reheat, they’ve installed a 850kW biomass boiler in their facility to power 100% of the distillery’s energy needs. Wood chips from local forests are fed to the boiler (don’t worry, any trees harvested are replanted!) and low carbon steam is released to the distillery. The carbon generated is then offsetted by Highland Carbon to create a net zero distillery operation. This feat also contributes to their high environment score in B Corp, awarding them the ‘Environmentally Innovative Manufacturing Process’ points!
Recyclable, compostable and opting out:
Any brand knows just how crucial packaging is as it is the first physical impression of your product - especially when it is carrying a precious smooth and organically produced liquid. Nc’nean uses the following approaches:
100% PCR glass bottles: Nc’nean uses glass bottles due to its recyclability, however they don’t start by using virgin glass: instead, they use 100% PCR (post consumer recycled) glass for their bottles. When glass is recycled, no emission is produced from processing or transporting raw material (less fuel used!) and recycled glass (aka cullet) emits less CO2 during its melting process. This is because cullet replaces the need to use ingredients that naturally contain carbon that releases carbon dioxide when melted in the furnace. According to Nc’nean, utilising 100% PCR glass results in a 40% lower carbon footprint for them than virgin glass.
Natural cork stopper and biodegradable tamper: Corks are not widely recycled in household recycling, but Nc’nean’s can be composted at home. They also opted to use a biodegradable alternative wood pulp for the tamper-evidence on the bottles, so it can also be composted.
Optional gift-tube: Nc’nean gives customers the chance to opt out from a gift-tube, reducing unnecessary packaging before it even leaves the distribution centre.
Not only recycling glass, but also recycling water:
Whisky distilleries rely on one of Earth’s most precious resources, water. Some research claims that approximately 61 billion litres of water is consumed by whisky distilleries annually and a single litre of whisky requires 46.9 litres. Even though the Scottish Whisky Association has set up a target reduction for their members of 12.5 to 25 litres per litre of alcohol produced by 2025, using that amount of fresh water every time a litre of whisky is manufactured means we are wasting a lot of water. The worst part? The water used is not going into the whisky, where 90% of the water usage is used for cooling the vapour as it comes off the stills.
Nc’nean’s solution? Their cooling water is taken from their water spring, and is 100% recycled (they are using the same water over and over again) - drastically reducing their water footprint by 90%. Moreover, they are harnessing their local environment by using their local natural cooling pond, resulting in less effort by removing the need to transport cooling water to site and less emission from the process!
With all of these amazing initiatives that they do, Nc’nean recognises that there are still lots of things that can be improved. As the brand grows, and the number of bottles they produce increases, some of their next targets are to improve energy efficiency of their facilities and reduce their carbon footprint intensity per whisky bottle (read their latest impact report here). Nc’nean are transforming a business, and production process, steeped in tradition - getting in the spirit of their gaelic roots and their goals for living in harmony with nature in the process.
Ahead of Burns Night, take a closer look at Nc’nean:
> In case you missed it
Behind the B Corp: Words of advice from 3 B Corp Project Managers!
> Follow up with…
Resource: Women and Climate Speaker Database
Website: The Impact Reporting Archive