Most companies don’t just exist for the sake of it. Large or small, they have a strong mission, and for many companies that mission involves a wider impact on society, not just profit.
For those companies, a B Corp certification is a fantastic way to show both customers and employers that you are serious about your mission. But it isn’t just a sticker.
The B Corp certification process, which my company is nearing the end of, is far more than a checklist for a marketing gimmick. It’s rigorous, forcing you to take a step back from your company and really look at how it operates. By the end you won’t have just made your company clearly signal its mission- you will have hopefully made it actually operate better too.
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Why do it?
I don’t think any company without a mission should create one just to become a B Corp. You’ll probably not get there. But if you do have a mission and are wondering whether the certification is worth the considerable time investment – one of the big positives is for staff retention and recruitment, which is crucial for SMEs in this tight employment market.
This isn’t just a feeling of mine.
The research suggests that UK B Corp SMEs saw annual employee attrition of 10% in their last survey – compared to a SME average of 16-20%. And they grow too – headcount went up on average by 8% every year for B Corp SMEs, compared to an average for all companies of 0%.
Why? Well, employees seem to like working for B Corps, whether that is because of the mission itself or just because the company is run better.
Most (88%) B Corp SME employees said they would recommend their company as a good place to work, compared to around 70% of general employees, and 93% of B Corp SMEs funded training and development for their staff compared to about half of all SMEs, and they have a smaller gender pay gap than other SMEs.
B Corp certification involves a deep look into how you support your employees, from diversity and inclusion measures to employee benefits to staff ownership of company stock.
It’s unsurprising that this close look often stirs a company to change the way it treats its people.
How to join
Becoming B Corp certified is rightly not a simple tick-box exercise.
The sticker price for an application is £250 plus VAT but we have spent thousands of pounds in staff time going through the application process, which has taken us around nine months.
And this is for a company that’s whole purpose is decarbonising transport – if your company doesn’t quite have that clear of a mission it may take longer.
Despite the hours of time spent I am certain that it helped make us a better company. Indeed, as a young company the B Corp certification process helped shape us as a business, showing us how to strengthen our internal processes and setting out best practice for our constitutional documentation.
Joining essentially involves three things.
- Getting the constitutional setup of your company right. This gives a legal basis for your company to consider all stakeholders when making decisions – not just shareholders.
- A detailed questionnaire about your company’s operations. This is called the B Impact Assessment.
- Verify your results with supporting documentation.
These are not simple exercises. I would recommend that any company interested takes some time to plan out the whole process and make sure your stakeholders are onboard – you don’t want to spend months getting ready only to realise your board is never going to sign off on the constitutional changes.
Involve your staff as early as possible. This is an exciting chance for them to help shape the company they work for – and engaging your employees will be essential if you want to succeed in the application.
Thom Groot is co-founder and CEO of The Electric Car Scheme