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March is B Corp month, but what does that mean, and what exactly is a B Corp? We’ve broken it down so you can find out all about a new breed of companies working for more than profit – Simply Business included.
B Corp certification is a way to demonstrate that you value society and the environment as a business. This not only helps you with attracting more customers, recruitment and retaining staff, research shows it can also boost performance and help your businesses grow.
With customers increasingly looking for sustainable, ethical brands – online supermarkets like Ocado and Waitrose have even introduced ‘virtual aisles’ dedicated to B Corp groceries – now might be an excellent time to learn more about B Corp and if it relates to your business goals.
Since the first set of businesses achieved B Corp certification in 2007, there are now over 6,000 B Corps worldwide. This represents around 520,000 employees in over eight countries and more than 150 industries.
The B in B Corp is open to interpretation. It was originally derived from “benefit corporation”, a type of US corporate structure, but B Corp means many things to many people.
We spoke to Kate Sandle, Community Manager for B Corp UK, whose favourite interpretation of B Corp comes from Ghandi – “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.
She also likes that the B can mean “better” – so “better corporation” – which is what companies with B Corp status are aiming to be.
So what does that mean in practice? Well, B Corp companies strive not only for profits, but for the betterment of the world around them. This includes their employees and their customers, as well as society at large and the environment – both locally and globally.
B Corps are transparent about their operating practices and are held to a high standard of legal accountability. Companies have to be recertified every three years, and if they fail to meet the set criteria, they lose their B Corp status. Not only that, but the criteria are dynamic, making sure that B Corps are always moving with the times and are on the cutting edge of what “good” looks like in the current world.
To get your B Corp certification, you have to be assessed by B Lab and meet the required standards. There are three steps to the process:
The B Corp accreditation is broken down in five key sections:
Businesses that apply need to answer over 200 questions that are tailored to their size, industry, and location.
Any for-profit business can become a B Corp, no matter its size, so long as it’s been operating for at least 12 months.
If you’re a new startup or smaller business, but you want to demonstrate your commitment to society and the environment, you can earn B Corp Pending status.
The B Impact Assessment requires data from the last 12 months, so you’ll have to wait until you’re a year old for full status. In the meantime, you can demonstrate your commitment to being a socially responsible business.
Sole traders aren’t eligible for pending status though, so you’ll need to wait until you have 12 months of business to apply for full B Corp certification.
You have to pay an initial fee of £250 (plus VAT) when submitting your business for certification or applying for pending B Corp status. This covers you for the 12 months while you get your impact assessment ready. To become a pending B Corp, there’s a one-off fee of £500 (plus VAT).
To maintain your certification, you need to update your impact assessment every three years. The price to recertify is dependent on your business’s annual sales (or turnover), with fees starting at £1,000 (plus VAT). For a full list of fees, visit B Corp’s pricing page.
Inc. called B Corp status “the highest standard for socially responsible businesses”. It is to businesses what Fair Trade is to coffee.
It demonstrates to the world around you – your stakeholders, your employees, your customers, and everyone else – that you’re committed to being a force for good in the world.
It can also form part of a wider ESG strategy to support your community and the environment.
But as well as demonstrating your commitment, you also get access to a whole wealth of information and new opportunities. B Corps are put in touch with one another and are able to share knowledge and build on each others’ successes.
Kate says the best opportunity for B Corps to meet, share ideas and best practice, and to learn from fellow innovators is at the annual UK retreat. As well as incredible conversations, recent retreats have involved wild swimming, running, yoga, and meditation – great ways to bond.
With March as B Corp month, it gives B Corps the opportunity to talk about what makes them a certified B Corp, and the incredible and innovative policies and practices that they have, but often don’t get to shout about.
The theme for 2023 is "We Go Beyond" – giving B Corps the opportunity to show how they go beyond the expectations of business as usual and drive positive change.
Simply Business received its B Corp accreditation in 2017. We recertified in 2021 and we couldn't be prouder.
The accreditation recognises our strong track record of having a positive impact on people, society, and the environment – and our commitment to do more in future.
Whether it’s giving back to the community through charity fundraising, or our dedicated team of people working out how we can minimise our impact on the environment, we’re driven to find new ways to support our workers, help others, and help preserve our world.
You can read more about our efforts over at our social impact page.
“Simply Business was a great company to work with – and for such a large organisation we expected the process to take longer than three months,” said Kate. “It just shows that if you are already measuring your impact on your people and the planet, then the certification process doesn’t have to take that long!
“We are pleased to have such a committed business join our community, and they're already great ambassadors of the B Corp movement.”
Are you a certified B Corp or thinking of becoming one? Great! Tell us about your journey so far in the comments section below.
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