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What is B Corp certification and how do you get it?

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

Labels and certifications that demonstrate a company's commitment to reducing its social and environmental impact have become important differentiators. Customers, financial partners, and other stakeholders are increasingly sensitive to the ethical and ecological commitments of the companies they interact with. B Corp certification is a way for commercial companies to highlight their CSR approach and distinguish themselves internationally as being both profitable and having a positive impact on the world.



What is B Corp Certification?


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The B Corp (Benefit Corporation) certification is an international certification issued by the non-profit organization B Lab. Founded in 2006 in the United States, in Philadelphia, B Corp is a global movement of companies seeking to reconcile economic performance with a positive contribution to society and the environment. The criteria for B Corp certification are designed to refocus corporate priorities on social, societal, and environmental impact, with these concerns at the core of a B Corp company's business model. This label has an international vocation. As of 2022, there are over 6,000 B Corp-certified companies in over 80 countries around the world. The majority of B Corp-certified companies are located in the United States, with over 2,600 certified companies. Other countries with a significant number of B Corp-certified companies include Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. There are many international companies that have obtained B Corp certification such as Patagonia, Natura & Co, Allbirds, seventh Generation, etc. In Europe, over 1,000 companies have been certified B Corp.



Why a company must obtain the B Corp certification?


Labels and certifications that attest to companies' commitment to reducing their societal and environmental impact have gained significant importance. Customers, financial partners, and other stakeholders are increasingly paying attention to the ethical and ecological commitments of the companies they interact with. In this context, B Corp certification emerges as an essential path for companies wishing to showcase their CSR initiatives and stand out internationally as profitable businesses with a positive impact on the world.


The B Corp label demonstrates a company's commitment to going beyond traditional business practices by integrating social and environmental considerations into its purpose. This certification is a testament to seriousness and transparency, enhancing stakeholder trust and fostering long-lasting relationships. Moreover, it provides increased visibility and recognition, attracting clients, investors, and partners who share the same values and place great importance on responsible companies.


B Corp certification also offers international recognition, a valuable advantage for companies looking to expand their operations beyond borders. It facilitates business exchanges by demonstrating to international partners that the company adheres to the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility.



The 5 impact areas of B Corp certification


B Corp certification is a tool for for-profit companies to manage their impact on the world. The assessment covers five areas of impact: governance, employees, community, environment, and customers.


Governance

This section assesses the company's overall mission and commitment to environmental and social impact, transparency, and ethics. It also evaluates the company's ability to take stakeholders into account in its decision-making, through its organizational structure and articles of incorporation.


Workers

This section aims to evaluate the company's contribution to the financial security, health, well-being at work, and professional development of its employees. The label takes into account and values business models that benefit employees, such as companies that are at least 40% owned by their employees (non-managers).


Community

The community section of the B Corp assessment focuses on the company's commitment to the communities in which it operates, hires, or sources raw materials. The assessment evaluates the company's societal impact through equity and inclusion, local economic impact, supply chain management, and any charitable work. Business models that are known to benefit communities are distinguished, such as fair sourcing, distribution via microenterprises, and producer cooperatives


Environment

The B Corp label assesses the overall environmental management practices of candidate companies, with a particular focus on their impact on air, water, land, climate, and biodiversity. This section distinguishes companies whose production processes are environmentally innovative, such as products and services that create renewable energy, reduce consumption or waste, conserve wildlife, or raise public awareness.


Customers

The evaluation of the company's impact on customers takes into account the quality of the services and products offered, ethical marketing methods, protection of personal data, and the availability of feedback channels (returns, refunds, and exchanges, after-sales service). This section particularly distinguishes companies whose products or services have a social purpose, such as artistic, health, education, information products, or services aimed at underserved populations (rural areas, seniors, etc.).



The steps to obtain B Corp certification


If you want to obtain B Corp certification for your company, you will need to follow a multi-step process. This rigorous process assesses the environmental and social impact of your business, as well as its commitment to sustainable development.


Eligibility

All for-profit companies can apply for B Corp certification as long as they are legally registered and have been in operation for at least 12 months.


For young companies and startups that wish to demonstrate their commitment before reaching the 12-month mark, they can obtain "Pending B Corp" status. This status allows them to signal to their stakeholders that they are on the path to certification. Once they reach the 12-month milestone, they can undergo the full verification process.


Complete the assessment

The first step involves completing an online assessment questionnaire. This questionnaire evaluates the impact of your activities and business model, and determines if your company is eligible for B Corp certification. The B Impact Assessment (BIA) questionnaire consists of 200 questions across five categories: governance, workers, community, environment, and customers. Your company must achieve a minimum score of 80 out of 200 to be eligible for the certification process.


Certification review

If your application is accepted after the self-assessment, your company will undergo a thorough certification review. This review evaluates your commitment to environmental and social impact, as well as your performance in sustainable development.


Audit and verification of practices

B Corp certification involves an audit and rigorous verification of your company's practices during the previous year. This audit is conducted by a qualified evaluator. During this period, eligible companies can benefit from "Pending B Corp" status while awaiting the validation of the process.


Community membership

Once your company is certified as a B Corp, you will join a group of over 6,000 companies recognized for their commitment to environmental and social impact. As a member of this community, you can collaborate with other businesses that share your values and goals.


Amending articles to perpetuate the commitment

When a company obtains certification, it commits to signing a Declaration of Interdependence. This represents an active commitment to supporting the development of a more contributive, regenerative, and inclusive economy. It is also necessary to amend the company's articles to formalize this decision and place its societal and environmental impact at the core of its purpose.


Maintaining certification

Once certified, your company must continuously maintain compliance with B Corp standards. A recertification process is required every three years to preserve the B Corp status.



How much does obtaining B Corp certification cost for companies in Europe?


B Corp certification involves one-time submission fees (ranging from €250 to €1,000) and annual fees based on the company's total revenue, with tiered pricing.


For instance, startups with lower revenue can benefit from more affordable annual fees, allowing them to embark on their B Corp journey without significant financial burden. On the other hand, larger companies with higher revenue will have higher annual certification fees.


Since July 1, 2022, young companies and startups seeking the "Pending B Corp" status in mature markets (France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland, and Sweden) are required to pay a submission fee of €1,000. The fee schedule is accessible on the bcorporation.eu website.



In conclusion


While CSR certifications and labels are sought after by companies to differentiate themselves in a market where ethical and environmental dimensions are increasingly important, B Corp certification offers a double opportunity to distinguish oneself at an international level and to join a network of companies committed to change: the community and participatory dimension of B Corp certification is one of its main assets.


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