The Time to B Better is Now

Demystifying the B Corp Certification Process

We recently announced that Intentional Futures (iF) is now a Certified B Corporation! iF is an idea to impact consultancy on a mission to advance positive change through our work. As we join the ranks of those wielding business as a force for good, we commit to holding ourselves, the work we do, and the approaches we take to high standards. As a consultancy, we have a unique opportunity to help the organizations we work with put to practice better beliefs and behaviors, across sectors and problem spaces. It is critical that we be more intentional about the ripple effect that our actions have on our people, our clients, our communities, and our planet. This journey to becoming a B Corp has already helped us hold a mirror up to ourselves, and, while we know the path ahead won’t be easy, we know it’s the path to the best version iF can be. For more about why we pursued this and how it’s improved iF already, please see our iF Insight on The Road to Becoming a B Corp: How the B Corp Application Process Made iF a Better Place to Work.

A portrait of Kim Coupounas smiling. To her left is text that reads, "We need B Corps now more than ever. We need more of them, and we need them in ALL shapes and sizes." Underneath is text attribution, reading "- Kim Coupounas, Partner, Leader's Quest".

If ever there was a time for companies to aspire to be better and do better, it is now. On a global scale we are facing multiple interconnected crises, yet we have the resources, tools, and knowledge to fix them. We need B Corps to demonstrate that it is possible for a company to create meaningful and measurable social change through a sustainable and equitable long-term business model. B Corporations are companies that have voluntarily met high standards for social and environmental performance. These standards are intentionally hard to achieve, and are meant to recognize for-profit organizations who demonstrate impact across 5 key areas including Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers. The world needs more companies stepping up to the challenge, and striving to not only embrace, but exceed these standards year-to-year. In addition, B Lab will release a new set of standards in 2024 that ensure the certified companies are directly contributing to a more inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy. All existing B Corps will be subject to demonstrating how they meet these new standards in their next review cycle.

This urgency rings especially true for consultancies, as it is our responsibility to consult our clients on their consequential next step, action, or path forward. Historically, the B Corp Certification was primarily designated for companies selling products or services in the world. But it is equally as important for the consultancies and agencies working with those companies to be held to the same exacting standards. Many consultancies claim to be mission-driven but not all consultancies put their money where their mouth is. Credit to a handful of consultancies who paved the way including innovation shop SYLVAIN, pioneered by founder and CEO Alain Sylvain, an active thought leader on the power of purpose-driven business.

A portrait of Alain Sylvain grinning. To his left is text that reads, "I think consultants have been bystanders for too long. And really just further the objectives and decisions of big corporations too easily, they're complicit." Underneath is text attribution, reading "- Alain Sylvain, Founder and CEO, SYLVAIN".

So what’s holding more for profits back from pursuing their path to purpose? For many, we tend to be our own worst critics. Many companies may hesitate to get started out of the fear that they have no chance of meeting the requirements. And it’s not hard to see why, the B Corp certification process can be extremely overwhelming and daunting. What made our journey easier was getting help and guidance from those who have paved the way. In the spirit of passing it forward, we want to disprove 3 common myths around the B Corp certification process in the hopes that it encourages more to take this step forward.

Myth #1: B Corp Certification is for big companies with hefty resources.

Truth: Flexibility is in your favor. The pursuit of a B Corp Certification will require a large investment of time and effort no matter what size company you are (it took us 2 years and 650 iFster hours total to get certified). However, it is because we are a boutique and nimble consultancy that we were able to pull it off. We didn’t have a ton of people to throw at this, so we had to work smart to pull together a small but mighty core team who drove the process forward. Our cross-disciplinary perspectives (Operations/Strategy/Design) meant we had visibility into all aspects of the company and were able to source the necessary information for our application. It also meant we could manage vertically and laterally across the organization to bring internal stakeholders along in the journey.

Myth #2: B Corp Certifications are reserved for the most “enlightened” companies.

Truth: You don’t need to have all the answers right away. When we first set out to start the process, we admittedly got discouraged due to the overwhelming amount of questions and criteria that make up the B Assessment. But then we got a tip from another B Corp Certified consultancy that we didn’t need to have it all figured out at the start, as long as we had a plan in place for how improvements were going to be made. In fact, the website states ‘The B Corp Certification doesn’t mean that a company is ‘perfect.’ Companies are not expected to have every possible best practice, or even be free from mistakes.’ While the assessment is made up of primarily multiple choice questions, we utilized open comment fields throughout the assessment to provide rationale and additional context for the answers we selected. As we got deeper into the assessment, we were able to identify gaps where we needed to do better, and tweak some of our internal practices and processes as we went. For example, we expanded our benefits eligibility to provide access to more part time employees and implemented a new Ethical Marketing and Privacy Policy.

Myth #3: B Corp is a superficial label for companies that are “good”.

Truth: The B Corp Certification process is a rigorous assessment of companies who are striving to be better. The B Corp Certification is not about acing it, it’s about showing progress over time. As mentioned earlier, the standards are holistic and thorough, designed to assess a company’s overall social and environmental impact. Continuous improvement is baked into the process to ensure companies don’t just stop trying once they’re certified. To remain in the community, B Corps must recertify every 3 years — and meet the requirements of a continuously evolving B Impact Assessment. This means companies will be driven to do more to improve their internal processes in order to meet the minimum 80 point threshold. For consultancies, it will require you to double down on the practices and policies that result in more equitable, sustainable, and just outcomes for your people, communities, and planet.

A portrait of Gordon Willoughby smiling. To his left is text that reads, "Goals and targets rooted in responsibility are not always so clear-cut. We came to the harsh realization that responsible work never really ends." Underneath is text attribution, reading "- Gordon Willoughby, CEO, WeTransfer".

We hope this post helps to demystify the B Corp certification process, and to inspire more companies to commit to creating greater value to their stakeholders and environment. Stay tuned for our next iF Insight, where we will offer some handy tips to help you take the first step in your B Corp journey.

Curious to chat more?

We'd love to hear from you! Reach out to Debi Blizard, Principal of Social Impact at iF, at debi@intentionalfutures.com 

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