Over the last year, ESG principles have become a core part of what we do at Talis: from our internal ops, to how we support our companies on their own ESG initiatives. One of the key challenges we’ve seen is the difficulty in identifying and implementing relevant sustainable strategies for early-stage companies. As part of this work, we’ve had many conversations about how our companies can become certified B Corps.
So, last month, Talis Capital and Felix Capital joined forces to give startups and SMEs the lowdown on what it takes to become a B Corp. While not all early-stage companies may be ready to embark on the B Corp process, we believe it’s a good framework for mapping out ESG issues and the impact your company has on stakeholders.
Whether you made it to the event and want a refresh, or if you missed it — we’ve got all the key points covered below.
So — to recap, what’s B Corp all about?
- The B Corp movement was started in 2006 by three friends who created a non-profit organisation to make it easier for mission-driven companies to protect and improve their positive impact over time.
- The original idea came from the founders when their commitments to employees, overseas workers and the local community were stripped away when their business was sold.
- Due to the numerous claims of many businesses that they were a ‘good’ company the B Lab founders (the parent organization of B Corp) recognised they needed a legal framework to help them grow while maintaining their original mission and values.
What’s required to become a B Corp?
- Certified B Corps are a new kind of business that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance. By thinking about different stakeholders — and not just profit — we’re encouraging a global culture shift to redefine success in business, building a more inclusive and sustainable economy.
- Companies that are B Corp-accredited are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on their workers, customers, suppliers, community, and the environment. At present there are 4,075 companies in 74 countries that are certified B Corps, from all different industries. This is a community of leaders, driving a global movement of people using businesses as a force for good.
- To be granted (and to maintain) certification, companies must receive a minimum score of more than 80 points from an assessment of social and environmental performance, known as the B Impact Assessment. The second condition is that all B Corps must make an amendment to their articles of association to commit them to consider the impact of all their decisions on all stakeholders.
- Regardless of what your company does, you can become a B Corp. You could be a a consultancy firm in Scotland; a steel manufacturer in Brazil; a coffee company in New Zealand, and it means the same thing.
- Overall: it means that together, we can move towards a more responsible, more sustainable way of operating.
Why could becoming a B Corp help me and my business?
- There’s plenty of reasons to consider becoming a B Corp. A survey from last year found that almost three quarters of the British public felt businesses should have a legal responsibility to the planet and people alongside just maximising profits. This is a consistent finding across regions, political persuasion, and ages.
- It’s also great for recruitment — after conducting a survey on companies that recently hired people into their teams, over 70% of them said that candidates mentioned B Corp in the interview as one of the key drives as to why they applied.
- Another survey found that 45% of B Corp SMEs had applied for R&D tax credits in the last three years, vs. 6% of the UK business population, so you may be able to use your status to your advantage!
I’m not sure I’m ready to take the leap… Now what?
- Even if you’re not ready to start the process of becoming a B Corp accredited business, it’s definitely worth logging on, creating a free account and start looking at the questions and considering how you might answer them. It will give you an idea of the types of initiatives you might implement and the strategies you need to start to enable you to pass the application. It’s an incredible north star to help you create a sustainable business from the offset.
- If you’re interested in learning more about setting targets, climate justice or reducing your emissions, there’s a number of toolkits and resources on the B Corp website which help you understand concepts like Net Zero, among other things, in more detail.
That’s all great — what have been people’s experiences with B Corp?
We were lucky enough to have four SMEs on the call to talk about their experiences with the B Corp certification. Here’s some tips from our speakers:
- If you’re interested in becoming a B Corp, familiarise yourself with the process by accessing the online guide to see what’s required.
- You might be surprised that you’ve already implemented a number of initiatives already that perhaps haven’t been formalised yet already!
- The more timely part of the process is collecting data and information across your business.
- You might want to look for support from your team to access everything you need. This can actually be helpful to build B Corp as part of your culture and get everyone excited about what you’re doing! Some of our speakers suggested building a project team from different parts of the business to drive it forward.
- There’s a minimum number of 80/100 points you need to hit to become certified, and while it’s tempting to aim for the minimum, our SMEs found striving to excel in all areas to be really worthwhile. You may as well while you’re there, right? Aim high!
- The waiting time is several months so be patient — in the meantime, you can use the B Corp pending badge to show your stakeholders the commitment that you’re making. The project end to end may take 12–18 months depending on how long your application takes you to gather all the necessary information.
- It’s worth noting you’ll need 12 months worth of data to complete the application. If you’re not there yet — it’s incredible that you’re already thinking about it! — and you can get a head start by understanding what data you’ll need in the mean time.
- B Corp is holistic in its approach, covering the business as a whole, unlike other certifications which may only focus on certain subsegments of your business practices.