If you’ve been paying close attention to labels while shopping recently you may have spotted a new one. Circular labels have started popping up, announcing that the product is B-Corporation certified.
So, what does this new-to-the-UK certification mean, and what are the aims of the B-Corp agency?
What Is B-Corp?
B-Corp is a prestigious certification that’s challenging to achieve. It’s awarded to for-profit companies who meet the highest levels of sustainability, transparency and inclusivity. It’s for companies who still want to make money, grow and scale, but who also want to live up to their ethical mission. The B-Corp certification is like the business version of Fairtrade for coffee and bananas. It looks after all involved from the beginning of production, to the end.
The certification is awarded by B-Lab, a global non-profit organisation. B-Lab first started in the US as a means to encourage companies to become more socially and environmentally responsible. From these US roots, they’ve grown into a global movement.
For a company to become B-Corp certified, they must meet a set of strict standards which B-Lab oversees. The standards are not only at the product level, they encompass the total impact a business has.
It’s capitalism, but not quite as we know it. Instead, this is capitalism with a conscience. B-Lab itself says, “A historic global culture shift is underway to harness the power of business to help address society’s greatest challenges.”
Brands doing good is the key ethos of B-Lab and unsurprisingly, growing number of consumers are on-board.
Sounds Good, Where Can I Buy B-Corp?
Since its UK introduction in 2015, B-Corp certified products have been on the rise. As of February 2018, there were 150 UK businesses certified as B-Corp. Among these are some well-known brands such as Ella’s Kitchen, Ben & Jerry’s and Pukka Teas.
Cotswold Fayre, a leading speciality UK food wholesaler are also B-Corp certified. You can listen to their take on ethical business in this episode of the Good Foodies podcast with CEO Paul Hargreaves.
B-Corp certified companies are very diverse. So it’s possible that you’ve already been buying into B-Corp without knowing it.
You’ll find B-Corp approved media and design houses and even credit unions. There are around 2,600 B-Corp certified companies from over 60 countries. They operate across 150 different industries and sectors.
Internationally known B-Corp brands include popular outdoor apparel company Patagonia. There’s also New York fashion label Eileen Fisher. Plus well-known social media management platform Hootsuite.
To find out if a business is B-Corp certified, you can search under their name or narrow down your search via industry and location in the B-Corp directory. When shopping, look out for a bold, black logo on a white background. It’ll read “Certified B Corporation”.
Although B-Corp certifications and B-Lab are US imports, it seems they’re here to stay in the UK. Not only do customers get the feel-good factor when buying B-Corp certified products. The brands themselves are experiencing major growth since joining the movement.
In fact, B-Corp companies in the UK are showing a 14% year-on-year growth. This is significantly higher than the GDP average growth of 0.5%.
What Does Buying B-Corp Mean for Me?
Choosing to buy from British B-Corp brands means spending your money on a company with an ethical outlook. The consumer choices you make are impactful in the right kind of ways.
We need more businesses committing to ethical and sustainable practices. This would mean this current sea-change becoming the norm, rather than the exception. Imagine a world where companies which didn’t operate with morals and accountability stuck out for all the wrong reasons?
We could be on the precipice of a major change in the way society and trade function. We can all be part of the change, too. Simply align yourself with the businesses that are moving in the right direction.
B-Corp certification standards are very strict so it’s difficult for companies to sneak in the back door. These standards are reassuring for the cynics among us. We don’t need to worry that big businesses will use B-Corp to loosely pander to an ever-increasing consumer base who want change.
Are Ethics on the Rise in Business?
Social responsibility is a buzzword used by many companies. Glossy marketing materials have long been full of ethical claims. But many are background noise to a competitive corporate world that cares little for ethics.
So many of us are aware of ways in which some companies negatively impact the world. Whether it’s fast fashion sweatshops in developing nations or the environmental impact of oil companies. Either way, many of us are seeking alternatives.
As the world economy expands, ethical perspectives will be increasingly valued – at least on paper.
As Michael Skapinker points out in the Financial Times, we consumers are fickle. We’re more likely to buy ethical products if the price is the same as products that aren’t so carefully produced. Research from M&S has shown that around 40% of consumers will switch to social good choices – if the price is right.
Furthermore, there seems to be a difference between the number of people who say they buy with an ethical mind, and who actually do. Perhaps because reverting to what they were already buying is quicker and easier? Or because justifying purchasing decisions is not something we are accustomed to doing?
Unlike companies, we consumers don’t have watchdog organisations breathing down our necks. We can buy with impunity. But because we say we want change, some companies are starting to lift their game. The rise in British B-Corp brands is a prime example of this.
Maybe ethics have been rising in business for some time and it’s really us, the purchasers, who need to start following through on our principled idealism? Or perhaps we need to push the rise of ethics in business together. It’s food for thought at least.
As a first step, take a look at B-Corp brands and B-Lab’s aspirations for change. It’s time to start walking our walk, not just talking about it.