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The B Corporation process for an environmental business - Insights from a Chartered Environmentalist

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What is the B Corporation process?

This article was written by Ceri Sansom CEnv who has recently taken Groundsure Consultancy through the B Corporation certification, so is going to tell us the B Corporation process for other businesses to go through the same process.

Firstly, what is B Corporation (Bcorp)?

You may have begun to see the large black B in a circle appearing on many products and services: the sign that an organisation has become BCorp certified. Groundsure has recently become BCorp certified and it has joined the exponential rise from 300 to 1500 BCorp certified organisations in the UK in the last year and 7720 globally, adoption has been swift, but what is it that Groundsure saw in BCorp certification that other certifications do not?

BLab (the certifying organisation) originated in the States in 2006, born from the idea that a new stakeholder driven business model is needed to overcome the challenges of the current world. One that focused on transforming the global economy to benefit all people, communities and the planet.  It does this by using the assessment process to demonstrate that BCorp certified companies meet high standards of social and environmental performance, are transparent and hold themselves accountable. It also encourages a shift of perspective to focus on purpose and interrelationship and a means of driving positive change. Becoming part of the BCorp community can be quite a gear change.

What do you need to do to become BCorp certified?

Certification requires an organisation to complete a BCorp impact assessment. This is free, and a useful review tool whether or not you plan to apply. To become certified it is necessary to achieve 80 points, with BCorp reporting that 50.9 is the median score for an ordinary business. As each point is awarded in 0.01 increments this is no small achievement. The upper score is not defined, because alongside the standard questions there are scores which are scaled against the revenues from products that bring wider stakeholder benefits.

Ultimately, the evidence is increasingly supporting the finding that companies that adopt ESG practices, so this will lead to not only organisations contributing more widely to society and the environment, but also result in a more resilient and high performing company.

Why is this not like other certifications or accreditations?

ISO standard management systems follow a repeatable formula of plan, do, check, act. The format is specified and it is a process that is installed. BCorp aims to do the tricky task of holding a mirror up to an organisation’s performance, allowing flexibility in how issues are addressed and focused on. Currently, it is technically possible to be very strong in an area whilst weak in another.

pexels birds eye team meeting

What are the impact areas assessed by BCorp?

However, the assessment is under review and it is likely that a basic qualification will be required across the five impact areas:

  • Governance
  • Workers
  • Community
  • Environment
  • Customers

What are the key points to becoming BCorp certified?

From experience, I would suggest this order of approach will help you develop your BCorp application:

    • Get executive buy-in. There are very few essential elements of BCorp, but one is changing your articles of association. This extends the range of stakeholders that the Board is responsible to and it makes a commitment to report annually on the improvements or decisions it has made. How the annual report is presented is for each organisation to decide, but must be publicly available for transparency. There is no need to lodge it with Companies House.
    • Define your purpose. This will vary enormously, depending upon the organisation, but it is the yardstick by which corporate decisions are made and measured. 
    • Check your corporate structure. The amended Articles have to be held at the right level. To avoid possible confusion when you get to the verification stage, check at the beginning which Articles need to be amended. For example, is it a holding company or do you need to include a sister company?
    • Complete a preliminary BCorp assessment. This will identify where your strengths and weaknesses are and where you will need to focus to gain those crucial additional points to certify. This in itself is a multidisciplinary job requiring support from HR, finance and operational staff.
    • Track your evidence. Even for a simple organisation like Groundsure, there is a lot of evidence, so keep track. We wrote explanatory notes in the assessment  (this is not published, although most of your check box responses are), others have spreadsheets. When combined with an internal Document Register it made the verification process relatively smooth.
  • Submit with over 85 points. The rule here is that points often go down as well as up during the assessment process, so give yourself some leeway.

Verification process.  Due to the high demand there is typically a wait after submission. We waited six months before next contact and then three months to go through the various stages of verification.

handing over documentation

First steps after certification

The biggest positive I’ve encountered becoming part of the BCorp community is the knowledge sharing and collaboration, both with external customers and between teams. When we started the process we reached out to BCorp certified clients who helped navigate the process, as the BCorp webpage can be a labyrinth. 

For Groundsure this has delivered a robust understanding of how the elements of the company are interrelated and the value that can be bought by understanding the interconnectedness of our operations and the value that teams can bring to each other. We believe that this has allowed us to be a better employer by developing training, benefits and encouraging cross team collaboration through community activity.

We are starting to see the future, as the BCorp process requires continued focus to build on strength and develop across the board. It provides a drive to improve and to reach out and find new opportunities with whoever you find your stakeholders are.

Now we are certified, there are opportunities to share experience and ideas, either through the Bhive, BLocals or other BCorp focused networking events.  The challenge will be to improve when we are reassessed in 3 years, but already we can see that it has brought additional focus and energy to the business with a refined environmental and social purpose.

For more information go to our B Corp resources or contact us at [email protected].

This article was written by Chartered Environmentalist Ceri Sansom CEnv, Consultancy Director at Groundsure. Who has taken Groundsure through the process of applying for B Corp certification.

Further links:

Find out more about BCorp Find out more about Groundsure

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