B Corp Month offers a window into the soul of the movement
B Lab UK’s Executive Director Chris Turner reflects on the successes of the B Corp movement as we celebrate going beyond during B Corp Month
The B Corp movement around the world is marking B Corp Month this March. This global celebration happens every year, and every year our community, impact, and ambition grows. As we reflect on the 2023 edition, this adds up to a sense of accelerating growth in momentum and now a widespread realisation that our economic system must change and that the role of business must change with it.
It’s natural, then, that alongside this growth, scrutiny of the movement also increases. This year, some recent coverage has – dramatically – focused on a perceived ‘struggle for the soul’ of the B Corp movement. What this coverage illustrates is a movement at an inflection point: with the huge growth and increasing influence of the B Corp movement, how do we protect its integrity now and in the future? With large and more complex businesses aiming for and achieving certification, how do we harness the huge potential impact of these businesses while also staying true to the many B Corps with impact deeply embedded from the outset?
In answering these questions it is of course true that B Corp cannot be all things to all people. It will always be too slow or too fast; too big or too small; too easy or too difficult. But asking these questions, and debating the answers, is essential to achieving our mission.
At the core of the movement is the certification itself. And when it comes to integrity, B Corp certification continues to set a high bar for companies looking to reinvent how business is done. It challenges leaders to look at every aspect of their operations and evidence how they consider people and the planet alongside profit. And importantly, every single business who becomes a B Corp changes their legal articles – also known as their corporate governance – so that this decision making and expanded duty of care is locked in for the future.
Since B Lab was founded in 2006, over 200,000 businesses have used the B Impact Assessment to measure and manage their impact; a comparatively small 6,400 (1,200 in the UK) have successfully gone through the journey to become certified. On average that journey takes between three months and three years – it is not a quick win or something to be entered into lightly. Some industries are ineligible for certification. The larger and more complex the business, the more difficult B Corp status is to attain.
This high bar is why B Corp Certification has been adopted by many companies that fall into the small and medium bracket: 96% of Certified B Corps are SMEs. We are extremely proud of their collective impact and they are the heart of the community of certified B Corps. Many of them represent some of the earliest adopters of B Corp Certification and they will be critical to its future.
But certification alone will not change the system. To quote this year’s B Corp Month campaign manifesto: B Corp is more than a mark, it’s a movement of business determined to make a mark on the world. To do this we need to change the behaviour, culture, and structural underpinnings of our economic system, to empower all companies to do better regardless of whether they’re pursuing certification. We won’t do this without including businesses who are able to operate at scale. And there are other businesses and founders missing from the movement too, so our growth must be inclusive and reach well beyond our current community.
Alongside this focus on who is part of a broad and inclusive movement, change will be a product of what these businesses do to demonstrate leadership. This leadership manifests in the business impact masterclasses hosted by B Corp working groups, the many regional events to foster local connections and accelerate progress, and the willingness to support and champion the people who are currently underrepresented in our community. It manifests in the partnerships with retailers who are not B Corps, but are nevertheless open to putting their products front and centre in major UK supermarkets to help drive conscious purchasing decisions. And in the many individual stories from B Corps about the journeys they are on to go beyond even the expectations they set when they first certified.
B Corp Month shows us who and it shows us what. It offers us a window into the ‘soul’ of the movement, where it started and where it is heading: people using business as a force for good. It's about the thousands of organisations with unique business models and over +550,000 employees globally who are passionate about a different way of doing business.
Not one of those businesses is perfect. But each of them is committed to going beyond expectations to improve the way they do business to benefit people and the planet. And as a collective, we are achieving the scale necessary to prove to policymakers what is possible in a better model of an economic system, where every business is a force for good.
Of course, no framework is infallible. The challenges facing our planet are urgent, and we will keep moving the goalposts so B Corp Certification can continue to demonstrate what leadership looks like. That is why we are evolving our standards, establishing non-negotiables and honing in on the big changes in business we critically need.
The successes we have seen so far are a direct result of the leadership shown within our community, big and small. B Corp Month is a celebration of the businesses that make up this amazing community. It is a time to demonstrate how B Corps go beyond business as usual to have a positive impact on the environment, on their customers, on their employees, on their communities.
It is these stories and actions that remind us why the change we are creating is so meaningful, and so needed.