Many organizations may consider becoming B Corporations as one way of recognizing the owners and employees’ commitment to environmental and social concerns; however, B Corporation status can also create a market niche and help the company to attract a talented workforce and customer base. CPAs are well positioned to assist organizations that are considering becoming B Corporations with doing the research and planning, meeting the requirements, preparing the application, and engaging in periodic recertification. Readers are referred to “Benefit Corporations and B Corporations–New Opportunities for Accountants” (Weber and Pippin, The CPA Journal, August 2016, https://bit.ly/3QfhfeB) for background information.
B Lab is a nonprofit organization that was the driving force behind creating the B Corporation, as well as developing a formal certification process for companies that meet verified environmental and social standards, and commit to transparency requirements and to being accountable to all stakeholders. One option for some B Corporations to meet the legal accountability requirement is to become a benefit corporation, where available. The B Corp website (https://www.bcorporation.net/en-us) provides a brief explanation of benefit corporations on its “Stake-holder Governance” webpage (https://bit.ly/3dmteIA).
A two-minute video on B Lab’s mission can be found on the homepage of its website, or on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GP69PNzOQ1U). The video mentions that more than 4,000 companies are B-certified; as of the time of this review, summary information was available on more than 5,000 organizations. (See the B Corp directory at https://www.bcorporation.net/en-us/find-a-b-corp/.) B Lab has an extensive YouTube channel under the name B Corporation (https://www.youtube.com/c/BCorporation). “Behind the B: What It Means to Be a B Corp” runs approximately one hour and includes three representative organizations. Eight videos provide certification resources; for example, “B Corp Certification Requirements Overview” is a three-minute video that summarizes the B impact assessment, legal framework, and B impact report. Two certification readiness webinars are available; each runs approximately one hour.
B Lab’s standards for developing and updating the B Corporation concept and certification requirements address continuous improvement and social and environmental criteria (https://bit.ly/3BWnLmo); these include B Impact Assessment, Risk Standards, and Multinational Company Standards and Baseline Requirements for larger companies.
The About B Corp Certification webpage (https://bit.ly/3QfYVC0) provides an overview of the “pathway to certification” for entities of various size, the 15 specific steps for achieving certification, and the triennial recertification process. An organization’s first formal interface with B Labs is submission of the “B Impact Assessment,” which is intended to help businesses measure and manage their social and environmental performance. An account is required to complete the B Impact Assessment; otherwise, the process is free. Submitting organizations will receive a B Impact Assessment Score and an Improvement Report. In addition to the B Impact Assessment, all of the non–entity-specific materials on the website are freely available. Users can access best-practice guides and case studies without participating in the assessment process.
Potential applicants for B Corp Certification must score more than 80 points out of 200, in order to submit to the evaluation and verification process. Several outside sources have suggested that achieving this score is harder than it sounds, and potential applicants may do well to study the evaluation instrument before finalizing their submission. Organizations that qualify for B Corp certification pay an annual fee based on company size; these details do not appear to be available on this website.
The Resources webpage (https://bit.ly/3QP2QG7) includes links to download the certification guides for enterprises by size: small, small-to-medium, medium, and large. As an example, the small-enterprises booklet, covering 26 pages, includes the requirements of becoming a Certified B Corp, the estimated timing of the full process, the information that the applicant will need to collect in advance, the identification of team members, certification and verification steps, and recertification information.
B Lab’s Knowledge Base (https://kb.bimpactassessment.net/support/home) is a library of extensive information covering how to create an account; guidance for taking, understanding, and downloading the assessment; and a link to an Excel Analytics product (still under development at the time of this review). The Knowledge Base appears to link to most of the information on the website, including certification requirements, the certification process, and more than 30 best practice guides. The best practice guides are publicly available, whether a user is interested in certification or not, and they cover environmental; governance; community; employee; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and financial topics. As an example, “Measuring Outcomes Using the Social Value Principles” is a seven-step process beginning with setting the scope, identifying stakeholders, and defining outcomes. It includes a snapshot example from an actual organization, and several links to external sources.
Although a new B Analytics tool is still under development, users can sign up for a monthly Excel report via a link at the bottom of the Knowledge Base or directly (https://bit.ly/3Qf3Jrh). The B Analytics website is currently under construction, and is expected to be available in 2023 (https://www.bcorporation.net/en-us/programs-and-tools/analytics/).
Cultivating Capital (https://www.cultivatingcapital.com/) is a B Corporation and sustainability consultant that provides several excellent free materials on its website, which serves as a useful supplement to the B Labs site. The B Corps tab on the main menu bar provides resources on What is a B Corporation?, The B Impact Assessment Explained, B Corps FAQs, B Corp certification for startups, and a B Corp certification guide. Webpage content is hyperlinked to further information on the Cultivating Capital website, the B Labs website, and other external sources.
To highlight just a few items on the site, the “What is a B Corporation?” webpage (https://www.cultivatingcapital.com/b-corporation/) presents a handy comparison table of B Corporation versus Benefit Corporation requirements. “B Corp Certification for Startups” covers the benefits of certification, overcoming objections to certification, and preparing for certification. The “Small Business Guide to B Corp Certification” consists of three chapters built from the website’s blog: introduction to B Corps, B Corp certification, and B Corp incentives.
Cultivating Capital’s blog (https://www.cultivatingcapital.com/blog/) presents an impressive collection of articles addressing B Corps, sustainability, and green business. “Why Become a B Corp? the Benefits of B Corp Certification” describes 10 benefits, including attracting and engaging talent, finding professional development opportunities for employees, and generating sales and business development opportunities. “B Corp vs Nonprofit: Which is Right for You?” is a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of each, and a comparison between the two types of entities.
More B Corp Resources
Benjamin Wann Blog: What is a Certified B Corporation?
Chamber of Commerce: What is a B Corp?
ESG the Report: What is a B Corp?
Wolters Kluwer: Benefit Corporation (B Corp) FAQs