The new B Corp standards

Sophie Harbert

Sophie Harbert

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B Corps are businesses on a mission to transform the global economy to benefit people, communities, and the planet. At present, to achieve B Corp certification, companies must fill out the B Impact Assessment (BIA), a free online tool which is a robust assessment of a company’s processes and practices, ensuring they meet high environmental and social standards.

The certification is currently structured around the 5 impact areas of Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers, operating a points-based system which requires a minimum of 80 points to certify. A crucial part of becoming a B Corp is the Mission Lock, which activates 10 points and involves making a legal change to the articles of association of the business. This ensures that the interests of all stakeholders, not just shareholders, are being considered in decision-making. B Corps must recertify every three years.

B Corp has become a global movement and there are currently over 8,000 B Corps across 96 countries, and 162 industries. In the UK alone, there are more than 1,800.

Why are new standards coming in?

Despite the vigorous certification process, B Corp has recently come under question for its reliability as a standard, with critics claiming it has become ‘corporate greenwashing’. This has in part come from stories of certified businesses such as Nespresso and Havas media getting questioned around ethical issues, and high-profile cases like Brewdog being stripped of their certification.

A key flaw of the previous structure was that as long as you obtained the 80 points, they did not have to be distributed evenly across each impact area. For example, a business could become a B Corp due to its positive employee culture, yet not have a net zero strategy in place or even measure its carbon footprint to consider their environmental impact.

The new standards are still in development, incorporating broad stakeholder input to make sure that they are consistent, relevant (e.g. to company sizes, locations, and sectors), and up-to-date.

What will they incorporate?

While the new standards are still in the second consultation stage, it is looking likely that they will require compliance with minimum requirements for the following eight impact topics:

  • Workplace culture
  • Fair wages
  • Human Rights
  • Justice, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
  • Climate Action
  • Environmental Stewardship & Circularity
  • Purpose & Stakeholder Governance
  • Government Affairs & Collective Action

In addition, businesses must conform to relevant complementary topics, ensuring they pass B Lab’s risk assessment, for example not operating in controversial industries. The new standards would no longer use a points-based system.

Image source: B Lab

The future of B Corp

We strongly believe these updates to the B Corp standard will increase its credibility as a purpose-driven movement, ensuring it remains a reliable certification. They should reconfirm what the B Corp certification stands for: that all certified businesses are pursuing continual environmental and social progress.

The updated performance requirements are planned to come into effect in 2025 for new B Corps and those who recertify. It is expected thaty the new standard will provide linkages with other sustainability frameworks, which will help streamline sustainability reporting within companies. B Lab (the nonprofit that certifies B Corps) is also working hard to ensure important changes occur, requiring for example a non-negotiable payment of the living wage to all employees, with additional requirements for large companies, as well as progressing work on including underrepresented groups in the community.

Grain Sustainability is a B Corp consultancy

Have you been thinking about becoming a B Corp but are concerned about complying with the new standards? As a sustainability consultancy and proud B Corp ourselves, Grain Sustainability embodies the B Corp ethos and is here to help take you through the BIA process, answering any certification queries you may have, and helping you create your first impact report. Grain’s team of B Corp consultants are already preparing to help you certify with the new standards, so get in touch for support!

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