What does it mean to be a B Corp, and why are so many brands signing up?

Responsible business is a term you’ve likely heard being used more and more over the last few years. It’s obvious why – we can all see the negative forces in the world apparently growing worse every year. That’s why companies both large and small are doing whatever they can to combat these issues by promoting sustainability, inclusivity, community, and fair labour practices.

It’s great news, and something that we here at Complex Creative are excited to see become more mainstream. That’s why we’re interested in B Corp, the standard-bearer for this new movement – and why we think you should be too.

What is B Corp?

B Corp is an independent awards organisation, aimed at promoting this new philosophy of responsible business wherever they can.

It’s important to know that being B Corp certified is different from being a Benefit Corporation, even though they do share many similarities. While they share many similarities, becoming a certified B Corp is much more demanding, and is subject to the investigations of the independent B Lab organisation. B Corp isn’t focused on any sector of the economy, or any type of company in particular – the only thing they care about is that the companies meet the high standards of their certification.

And the standards are high – only one in three companies who apply actually qualify, and that’s because there’s a lot more to this than getting your ‘well done’ sticker, just for being able to demonstrate ethical conduct in a single, limited area. When a company invites B Corp in for an evaluation, they assess “the overall positive impact” of the work they do and how they do it, to determine if they are genuinely trying to be a force of good in the wider world.

Getting certified permanently changes the fabric of a company too. Once they pass the assessment, B Corporations must amend their legal governing documents to require their management to balance profit and purpose. This is a seismic change from the norm, where many companies are legally obligated to prioritise shareholder profit above all else.

You might be dubious about how much this kind of fine-text fiddling can actually shift corporate operations, but there’s a lot of evidence to show it can indeed have far-reaching impact. Over the last few years there have been some impressive instances of B Corp certification allowing companies to resist hostile takeovers, and many examples of higher-ups being vocal about how it has permanently redefined how they work.

What are the benefits to becoming a B Corp?

Since being founded in 2006, B Corp has seen incredible growth. Over the last fifteen years, they have been joined by over 4,000 companies across 153 industries, including big names like Ben & Jerry’s, The Body Shop, and Patagonia. They launched in the UK in 2015, and since then, the annual revenue of certified companies registered within the UK has reached £4.3bn.

There’s no end to this growth in sight, either. Try to sign up for an evaluation on their website, and what you’ll find is Try to sign up for an evaluation on their website, and what you’ll find is a note of warning that because of “overwhelming interest”, the review process can take up to ten months to complete.

That raises the question of why so many people want to join up. And yes, while it’s nice to believe all these companies are genuinely motivated by altruism alone, there are also some major benefits to all this.

Research shows that consumers are starting to shop more ethically than ever before, and soon, a B Corp certification could be the recognised benchmark for identifying this. That means, even though there are no tax benefits for getting certified, it can raise the company value by attracting more customers and serving as an excellent marketing point.

There are more internal benefits, too. Being certified is very attractive to potential hires, allowing companies to get the best talent that they can. Also, once you’re accepted, the company is publicly listed on the B Corporation directory, and can make full use of its new connections with other certified organisations.

How to get B Corp Certified

Joining B Corp is a big commitment; it has to be, if it’s going to mean anything.

There are three stages to getting certified. First, a company completes the B Impact Assessment (BIA) questionnaire, which asks about the practices and objectives of the organisation. The questions asked can vary based on the company size, sector, and market, but normally you can expect to be asked around two hundred in total.

Some sample questions from the ‘True or False’ section of the questionnaire include:

  • Company facilities are not located adjacent to or in sensitive ecosystems (T/F)
  • Company allows workers to freely associate and to bargain collectively for the terms of one’s employment (T/F)
  • Company has not reduced or minimized taxes through the use of corporate shells or structural means (T/F)

Assuming the company passes this stage, B Lab (the non-profit that runs B Corp) brings in their independent Standards Management Team to conduct investigations to verify the answers and final score. To do this, they will interview staff, and Only once the company has completed this process, and successfully met B Corp’s legal requirements by restructuring itself into a stakeholder organisation, is it accepted as a full B Corp member.

There is a submission fee of £250 for beginning the certification process, and an an annual certification fee which scales based on the total revenue of the company. To keep the certificate, it’s necessary to continue paying these costs, and to complete a recertification process every three years.

Our Statement

Hopefully you can tell that we feel B Corp represents a very important, positive shift in how companies can operate. We believe that becoming a part of their community marks a tangible step forward by any company, demonstrating a real resolution to be part of building a better future.

And that’s why Complex Creative is set on getting B Corp certified!

We mentioned that we were interested in this back in February, and we’ve been thinking about it ever since. To give you a clearer image of why we’re making this decision now, we asked out managing director, Sabrina Chevannes, to talk more about this choice, and what it means for us:

“It’s an absolute honour to lead my team through the B Corp application process. For many years, we’ve been trying to “give back” by running a pro-bono programme for charities, donating parts of profit to great organisations and helping with sustainability-led projects. The work we’re doing to obtain our B Corp certification just officiates the work we’ve been doing for the last few years.

We’re now quite picky about who we work with as clients too and like to find companies who share a purpose with us. With an official B Corp certification, we can rub shoulders with other certified B Corps and find clients with similar values as ours.”

Keep your eyes on this space over the next year, to catch more updates on our progress!