The B Corp Boom
While most of us are already familiar with the Fairtrade or Soil Association organic symbol on the back of the products we buy, the B Corp logo may be a little less familiar. The B Corp movement, certifying businesses that balance profit with purpose, is now taking hold in the UK and is driving a shift to a new kind of economy.
Certified B Corporations operate by prioritising working for social and environmental good rather than operating purely to generate profit with an aim to create a sustainable, inclusive economy by reducing poverty and inequality
When it first landed in the UK in 2015, few people knew what a B Corp was. Now, the movement is starting to gain some serious traction with over 3,500 certified B Corporations in more than 70 countries. Interest in the scheme has led to a backlog of brands awaiting accreditation, with approximately a third of the 270-plus B Corps in the UK receiving their certification in the past seven months.
Many of the companies undergoing B Corp certification are from the UK food and drink sector, including frozen food retailer Cook (one of the first B Corps in the UK) and baby food brand Ella’s Kitchen, The Collective and now many more in the pipeline.
Benefits of B Corp certification extend beyond that of generating social and environmental good. A recent study by Paelman et al (2021), found that certification not only had a positive effect on company turnover growth, but this growth increased over the number of years since certification. In February 2018, B Lab reported that companies with certification had grown 28 times faster than in the previous year suggesting there is potential for even more commercial reward.
Of course, we have to split causation from correlation – so do growing companies disproportionately favour Bcorp or do Bcorp companies disproportionately grow? Insofar as we know at this stage, it’s the latter – Bcorp helps companies grow.
So how does a company obtain B Corp certification?
Companies seeking B Corp certification must meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. This is assessed by undertaking a B Impact Assessment (BIA). The length of the certification process varies based on a company’s size and complexity and can take anywhere from weeks to months. Businesses are then certified by the non-profit B Lab.
Here at HRA Global, we are pleased to have reached the final stages of our B Corp journey and hope to receive certification in coming weeks. Its been a long road but we have had a series of unexpected surprises such as the team really enjoying re-wilding our office garden and putting together the monthly impact report with a growing sense of pride as our baby steps become more confident and impactful. Once certified, you can read our B Impact Report online, amongst other accredited companies to see where the companies sit on the scale.
The Ethical Consumer
It’s well understood that consumers are increasingly looking to purchase ethically sourced products, shown by the increase in value sales of organic products amounting to approximately £2.8 billion in 2020 (Statista, 2020). As well as the renowned Fairtrade certification, savvy consumers are also seeking alternative organic accreditation such as the Soil Association.
Sustainability is also playing an important role in guiding consumers on their journey. A recent consumer survey found that over 45% of shoppers are now actively searching for sustainable products (GlobalData, 2020); so, whether it be the B Corp certification, Fairtrade, or Soil Association approved, these trademarks offer a north star for consumers, and provide reassurance that they are shopping responsibly.
How does B Corp differ to Fairtrade?
Arguably these trademarks reflect two sides of the same coin. Fairtrade certifies products according to fair trade standards, which promote safe, healthy working environments, environmental stewardship, and sustainable incomes. Similarly, Certified B corporations are assessed for their impact on workers, environment, customers, and the community, as well as their strategies for improvement. Both certifications help establish independently verifiable sustainability in company supply chains and operations.
For consumers, both certifications indicate a proven commitment to doing good. These trademarks will no doubt continue to draw in shoppers as they too seek personal ‘stamps of approval’ for shopping via more conscious and sustainable means.
How are retailers responding to B Corp?
Retailers have had to adapt to these changing ethical demands, with many now changing the products they stock. The result is a changing retail landscape spearheaded by the likes of Ocado who have launched a dedicated virtual ‘aisle’ showcasing products from B-Corp certified brands. The aisle features more than 1,100 products from more than 35 brands including Ella’s Kitchen, Innocent, Method, Charlie Bigham’s, Pip & Nut, Teapigs, PROPER, Alpro, Ben & Jerry’s and Cheeky Panda. Ocado claims that it now stocks the largest collection of B-Corp certified products of any major British grocery retailer.
Amazon have also followed suit, developing a ‘Climate pledge friendly filter’ for their European consumers where only products which have met certain sustainability certifications will be included. The feature will enable consumers to filter out beauty, fashion, grocery, household, and office products, as well as electronics, which purport to have a lower environmental footprint.
So, whether it be pledges to reduce plastic or increasing ethically trademarked products stock, the pressure is on for retailers to deliver sustainable options and be seen to facilitating greener, more sustainable choices for consumers.
If you’d like to have a chat about the upside of Bcorp or the work involved, just give Hamish or I a call or an email on firstname.lastname@example.org and we are happy to share. If we can help you with your journey we would love to.