It’s a critical year for progressive business. B Corp Month reminds us the only way is forward.

It’s a critical year for progressive business. B Corp Month reminds us the only way is forward.

B Lab UK’s executive director, Chris Turner, reflects on the progress of the B Corp movement and how far there is to go.

2024 is famously the year of general elections, with over 64 countries going to the polls. They come at a time when a record-breaking number of natural disasters are happening around the world, devastating livelihoods and local economies. In the UK, we face recession, a contraction in public spending and a cost of living crisis that’s plunged 14.4 million people into poverty. Our minds are now focused on what the next government can do for us, but the reality is that the role of business is becoming ever more important. Business, as well as being the engine for economic success, plays an increasingly important role in shaping what our future will look like.

However, without a change to business as usual, that future doesn’t look so bright. A focus on shareholder returns above all else has led to a worsening of prospects for other important stakeholders — people and the planet. We’ve seen this in the unfolding scandal at the Post Office and looking further back to P&O, BHS and Carillion. To avoid more catastrophic failures like these, the UK needs to take a different path. 

B Corps point to the possibility of what an alternative could be. An economy that’s kinder. Whether it’s Faith in Nature or House of Hackney appointing Nature to their board of directors, ADLIB Recruitment introducing an initiative to ensure the tech industry is inclusive to working mothers and women or OPEN Media and Electric Glue coming together to mark B Corp Month by volunteering to protect woodland in their local area. It is these seemingly small-scale actions that have a ripple effect and remind us of the meaningful impact the movement is having at a much larger scale. 

And there are many counts in which we’ve made hefty strides over the last few years. In the last 12 months alone, over 700 new businesses have joined the B Corp community, continuing to demonstrate that businesses of all shapes and sizes have a role to play in transforming the economy for the better. Of those who were already part of the movement, 92 B Corps recertified with an average increase in score of 16 points. Four new B Locals have launched, paving the way for regional impact and place-based collaboration. And representation is increasing, with eight businesses led by women and people of colour being offered support on their B Corp journey.

Business, as well as being the engine for economic success, plays an increasingly important role in shaping what our future will look like.

So what does forward look like from here? 

  • For change to happen at the rate and scale that’s needed, we need to move all businesses forward. That’s why we’re campaigning for the Better Business Act — a change to the Companies Act that would see all businesses in the UK align their interests with those of wider society and the environment. Recent news from the European parliament has shown the argument has not yet been won. 
  • It’s harder than ever for consumers, workers and voters to sort the wheat from the chaff. To avoid a slide into greenwashing, we need business to continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible when it comes to positive impact. The B Corp standards are evolving to indicate what better business could and should like now and in the future and you can help shape them. 
  • As citizens, we can and should demand more from business and harness our collective power to do so. By shopping from, working for and investing in B Corps, you are calling for the change you want to see in the world; one in which we hold businesses to a higher bar of accountability for their impact.
  • Collaboration is critical, as business challenges itself to go further. This B Corp Month,15 B Corp certified drinks brands are doing just that by hosting the UK’s first ever B Corp pop-up bar. A space for all B Corps to share knowledge about how they’re progressing on their impact improvement journey.

However, we must also acknowledge that progress is messy. There will be roadblocks — whether it’s pioneers of better business moving into administration or companies whose actions don’t match the values they committed to, we won’t get every decision right, and neither will B Corps. And we won’t always agree on what the next turn should be. But, as a movement, we cannot let these moments of challenge distract us from our ultimate goal of creating a more inclusive, equitable and regenerative economy. 

Just as 2024 invites political parties to reflect on where to go next, this year’s B Corp Month theme invites us to do the same; and the answer of course is that the only way is forward. So let’s keep going together.