1,500 UK B Corps show that business can thrive and benefit all
To avoid social and climate catastrophe, businesses must take a view beyond profit. B Lab UK’s Director of Impact Tom Ebbutt reflects on our latest milestone.
This week the UK B Corp community celebrates 1,500 UK businesses becoming B Corp certified, an increase of 50% in less than a year.
It’s a timely reminder of the momentum of this important movement. In recent months, segments of the UK media have pushed the familiar refrain that the sole purpose of business is to create financial returns for shareholders. Anything else is classed as an attempt at greenwashing, or simply bad business sense.
Yet from the cost of living crisis, to the climate emergency, we can all see that we face growing problems in our economy and society, and in the wider world.
This summer’s wildfires have brought the reality of climate change to the shores of Europe. The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report says we have a very short window to act to make our planet livable for us and future generations.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s cost of living tracker reveals unprecedented hardship across all sections of our society: 7.3 million of us are going without the basics, and 4.5 million are behind on their bills.
These problems are too big for any one part of our society to solve alone. As a major influence on our lives and wallets, business must have a role to play in finding the solutions. Why should making a profit and being a force for good be mutually exclusive? Is it not possible to imagine a future where the two are mutually beneficial?
B Corps are proving that this future is possible. Compared to traditional businesses, they are two and a half times more likely to be carbon neutral. They are 40% more likely to have implemented a high to low pay ratio, and over four times more likely to tie executive compensation to social and environmental performance.
The public agrees that this is a better way of doing business. Earlier this year, 78% said they felt that businesses should be legally responsible for their impact on people & the planet. Last year, 69% of UK adults told us they expected businesses to mitigate the cost of living crisis for their employees, customers and/or suppliers. And in a recent survey commissioned by B Lab UK, 80% of the UK public said that they prefer to buy from companies that are doing good for people and the planet.
Becoming a B Corp doesn’t mean that a business is perfect. Nor does it override existing industry standards, or sit at odds with protecting freedom of expression. B Corp Certification is based on a company’s actions, not its beliefs. While no business has no negative impacts, what makes B Corp Certification unique is a commitment to accountability, transparency and continuous improvement.
As the conversation heats up around the role of purpose in business, it’s important we do not let our idea of what business is drift backwards towards an outdated orthodoxy. Business can be a force for good - and UK B Corps should be rightly proud of the part they are playing in leading this change. Let’s continue to harness their potential.