B Lab breaks the B Corp certification process down into three stages: Business Case, Legal Change, and B Impact Assessment (BIA) – and they’re best approached loosely in that order.
Part one: Build your business case
This is a journey that no individual within a business can make alone; it has to be a team effort. So first make it clear to yourself and everyone around you why B Corp certification is right for your organisation.
Sell the fact that it’ll allow you to protect your company’s mission while helping you trade with like-minded businesses, increase sustainability and improve your impact on the world. And tailor the objectives and benefits to your audience, as each will have their own priorities.
“Choose someone in your business to lead on this project and act as the ‘B Corp Champion’,” advises Cox. “This could be you or someone else in the business who is interested in sustainability – but the more influence they have, the better.
“Involve your team through the process, too. Explain to them why you want to be a B Corp, inspire them to provide thoughts and feedback on the areas of the business they think need more attention. This’ll be key to getting everyone pulling in the same direction.”
Part two: Understand the legal change
For a business to be certified, it must build B Corp’s values into its legal structure – this ensures companies are committed to long-term accountability and not just short-term box-ticking.
According to B Lab: “B Corps make this legal change by updating their Articles of Association, reincorporating as benefit companies and benefit corporations, or making other structural changes.”
It’s vital, therefore, that you understand what this means for your business; what must change, and what needs to be amended in your own documents for you to pass the B Corp Legal Test. And this too should be a central part of those early conversations with your organisation’s key decision-makers.
Part three: The B Impact Assessment (BIA)
The B Impact Assessment (BIA) is B Lab’s online platform that evaluates how your company interacts with your workers, customers, community, and environment. Eventually, you’ll need to submit your entry to be formally assessed by B Lab’s board, but it’s also a useful tool for seeing where you are as a business right now and what might need to change.
“I’d recommend doing a dry run of the B Lab impact assessment early on to see where you are; at the very least it’ll be a lesson on how to do business better,” says Lawson. “I learned a lot and updated many company policies as a result. I can now set targets for the business with more understanding of impact.”
Once you’ve gone through the assessment process the first time, you’ll be able to build a plan for making the necessary legal changes. And when that part of the plan is complete, you can recomplete the assessment and submit it to B Lab, where your score will be marked against an 80-point bar for certification.
“Starting the verification process during lockdown was daunting,” adds Lawson, “but the B Lab team were incredibly supportive and in a year where there weren’t a lot of gains I managed to refocus, refresh and keep business interesting, inspiring, positive and enjoyable.”
Paying for certification
This long-term commitment does come with a fee – albeit a relatively small one, paid annually.
Your fee will be determined by your business’s annual sales, and there are 13 brackets; a company making £149,999 or less per year will only pay £500, while one making £1bn or more will pay over £50,000. You’ll also be required to renew your certification every three years by being assessed again.
SMEs will likely be at the lower end of the fee scale and, according to Lawson, the hard work and small costs are more than worthwhile: “The process is lengthy but it is achievable and rewarding on so many levels. My company culture of putting people and planet before profit means the profit tends to look after itself, and being part of the B Corp community means I’m supported on that onward journey during a time of an unknown economic outlook.”