There are now more than 6,800 B Corp Certified businesses around the world, over 1,000 of which you can find here in the UK. A positive sign of an active global pursuit to improve industry processes and carve out a better future for us all, the symbol of B Corp Certification represents a company that is meeting the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. You may have seen the distinctive circled ‘B’ presented on a garment or product label, or browsed our collection of B Corp Certified brands here at WildBounds. But what exactly does it mean to be ‘B Corp Certified’ and why should a company aspire to join this community?
Internationally, we are all becoming progressively more conscious of our consumption, the health of the planet and the impact of commerce around the world. As this thoughtful movement increases, so too has information overload, greenwashing ploys and misleading marketing campaigns. Within the apparel and lifestyle industry, there is a huge amount of detail to navigate from both a business and consumer perspective, including a multitude of certifications relating to textile production, soil health, workers’ rights, fair trade, water consumption and waste reduction, to name but a few.
As pressure rises to reevaluate societal systems and for every aspect of business to be considered, carrying a genuinely sustainable vision has moved from an admirable quality to an absolute necessity. What consumers and stakeholders are demanding to know now is: ‘what is the legacy behind the company, and what does this mean for the rest of us?’. Customers aren’t stupid, and they’re becoming ever more informed all the time. So, the capacity to provide legitimate evidence and answers to queries and concerns can be make or break for a business.
Setting the Standard
Although not a new discussion, in recent years greater attention to these topics has been brought to focus through social media and digital culture. To gain and keep the support of a dedicated customer base, answers to positive sustainability, eco and social efforts must be shared and proven. However, from a consumer’s perspective there is no end of information to digest, making it difficult to truly know what statements to trust and who to believe in. The need for a succinct point of guidance for both businesses and consumers has become more important than ever.
Anticipating this rise in awareness, back in 2006 three friends used these concerns as the basis for creating a new certification system. Launched as a non-profit organisation, the B Lab was formed through a vision to make business a force for good rather than purely profit. To expand this idea worldwide and make doing better more attainable, the trio distinguished how best to provide companies with an authentic, all encapsulating screening process that certifies them in meeting high standards within all areas of operation. As a result, the B Corp Certification, which labels companies as B Corp Certified or ‘B Corp’ for short, was created via an independently governed B Lab Standards Advisory Council.
What really sets B Lab apart from other like-minded accreditations is that they have instigated their own extensive set of credentials that intertwine social and environmental impact with legal accountability. These are vigorously reviewed by the B Lab team to ensure evidence meets their standards. Set up as a non-profit, the B Lab and B Corp Certification has become a movement in itself as an aspirational achievement that brings a business into a new era of professional practice.
Described as one of the most rigorous, comprehensive and rewarding processes a business can go through – one that can take up to 8 months to complete – the journey to becoming B Corp Certified should not be taken lightly. Requirements include achieving a B Impact Assessment score of 80 points totalled from each of five key categories, passing the B Corp risk review and making a legal commitment to be accountable to all stakeholders. Additionally, an informative summary of their performance in the form of an Impact Business Model (IBM), is published online as part of the certification’s transparency agreement, with an Overall B Impact Score given out of approximately 250 points. It is rare for applicants to reach over 80 points during their first certification. The companies that achieve the highest scores are those that are actively moving toward the best possible standards they have set for themselves, supported by the free tools for improvement that the B Lab provides.
However, this isn’t a one-time ‘gold star’, nor does a B Corp Certification signify perfection. Rather, it is seen as a starting point for ongoing refinements. Available to any for-profit company that has been in operation for longer than 12 months, each certification lasts three years. Moreover, any company that has qualified must perform specific evaluations bi-annually to maintain their status.
Leading B Corp Brands
Located a couple of hours south of WildBounds’ Bristol HQ is outdoor lifestyle brand Dewerstone, which operates on renewable energy on the edge of Dartmoor National Park in Devon, England. Certified as carbon neutral and recognised for their social responsibility and charitable acts (such as donating to non-profit partners Save our Rivers and the Gili Eco Trust), Dewerstone carries an Overall B Impact Score of 98.6 and an impressive community rating of 41.0.
Red Paddle Co.
Sharing the same South West coastline as Dewerstone, Red Paddle Co. achieved B Corp Certified status in April 2023 and has done so with an inspiring score of 27.5 within the workers segment of their first assessment. Contributing to employees’ financial security, health and safety, wellness, career development, engagement and satisfaction, Red’s vision is to get people out on the water to enable and inspire adventures, for a healthier and happier life. From this result it is clear that this positive mission is intertwined within both their customer base and workforce goals.
Also bringing power to the people, MPOWERD has been making affordable clean energy accessible for over a decade, with their compact inflatable solar light designs. Recognising products or services that are designed to address a particular social problem, MPOWERD rates an incredible 62.4 within the customers focus of their B Impact report and has specifically dedicated themselves to following an Impact Business Model; with a focus towards Basic Services for the Underserved and Serving Underserved Populations directly. Allowing anyone access to light from affordable technology, MPOWERD not only creates amazing products but provides the power of self-reliance and independent empowerment – exactly as their name suggests.
Another label encapsulating its vision in its brand name, Canada-based tentree has never been shy about its bold aspirations. It is public knowledge that this business is striving to be the most environmentally progressive brand on the planet and to plant 1 billion trees by 2030. Through their B Corp Certification status, tentree has proven that this isn’t a pipedream, with an Environment rating of 37.8. This includes a notable focus on ‘Land & Life’ that addresses targets centred around resource conservation and toxin reduction/remediation.
When it comes to governance and business structure, it comes as no surprise that Cotopaxi has scored well on overall mission and engagement around social and environmental impact. Not only does it prioritise the use of recycled and reclaimed materials to craft aesthetically striking outdoor gear, but Cotopaxi has also set its sights on reducing global poverty through its own grants scheme. Since joining the B Lab programme in 2015, Cotopaxi has made impressive movements towards a 125.6 Overall B Impact score, which is significantly higher than the average of 50.9. Founded as a benefit corporation – meaning that until now they had been conducting their own self-assessments to rate performance – Cotopaxi has gone many steps further in attaining official B Corp Certification to confirm its promise of considering all stakeholders when making business decisions.
What Can Consumers Do?
In a time where limited attention and energy demands quick information and memorable impact, a sure-fire way to gain immediate insight into the kind of business operations that are in place is through the B Corp Certification logo. Take a look the next time you browse the shelves at your local supermarket or add something new to your wardrobe. The B Corp logo is progressively becoming more commonplace, which can only mean good things.
As a reminder of how the power is certainly with the people, especially as consumers, just as aspiring B Corp Certified companies are being asked to consider their legacy, we too can also ask ourselves one simple question. What is our legacy as a consumer and which brand missions do we choose to support?
Louise Honey is a freelance copywriter and content consultant specialising in apparel and lifestyle. She utilises her knowledge within fashion, textiles and performance sportswear design to communicate conscious design and celebrate craft. Lou enjoys thrifting, making clothes, exploring design history, surfing and days at the beach.
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