What’s the buzz on B Corps?

KeepCup, creator of the reusable coffee cup, is one. So is Alter Eco foods. And Australian Ethical is the biggest in Australia… So what do these companies have in common? They’re all B Corps – a global accreditation that helps tell good companies from bad. We spoke to Australian Ethical’s chief ‘B-keeper’, Allyson Lowbridge, to learn more.

Certified B Corporations – or B Corps – are companies that seek to redefine business to make a positive contribution to the world. Today more than 2,100 companies from 50 countries and 130 industries are B Corp certified.

B Corps can be big or small: from micro-businesses to global brands that span a range of industries. But the thing that binds them in common is that they comply with a rigorous code of ethical and sustainable principles – and have been certified to display the B Corp logo.

In the 30 years since our inception, Australian Ethical has always endeavoured to operate under the highest ethical and environmental standards. So it was a no-brainer for us to go for B Corp certification. In fact, we were a founding B Corp (early in 2014), the first listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), and in terms of revenue we’re the largest in Australia. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, we were honoured on The Best for the World list for being in the top 10% of all certified B Corps.

Allyson Lowbridge is Australian Ethical’s Chief Customer Officer and principal ‘B-keeper’ – a role she says she’s honoured to hold. “I’m really proud to represent Australian Ethical – along with other people from our business – in the B Corp community to promote B Corps and the importance of the certification to the wider community.”

Certification with integrity

B Corp certification began in 2006 in the US as a way to identify businesses that are actively working to do good. In this way, it’s similar to Fair Trade for coffee brands, or more controversially, the Heart Smart logo on packaged foods. But there is an important difference.

“Unlike those certifications, which look at just one specific aspect of a business, B Corp certification looks at the whole of the company’s operations to provide a holistic view of its impact.”

Allyson says that the B Corp movement issues a challenge to companies who say they are doing the right thing: “prove it with certification”. She warns that it takes more than just good intentions though, as it’s a mighty thorough investigation and approval process.

“The process highlights the small things as well as the large – for example if a company is recycling properly in their office space, to the kinds of services they provide. While certification is the end-goal, the process itself can be just as beneficial for a business to identify all the areas where they can make a positive impact.”

B Corps also need to sign a binding legal agreement that they’ll make decisions that are in the best interests of their employees, customers, the environment, and shareholders. This means certified B Corps can be sued if they fall short of meeting their obligations.

As a result, the B Corp certification was described by Inc. Magazine as the “highest standard of socially responsible business”.

Allyson believes that this kind of rigour ensures the certification of its ongoing credibility. “Because it isn’t easy to get, consumers can feel confident that when they deal with a B Corp it’s the real thing. It can simplify purchasing decisions by making it clear which companies share your own values.”

What can we do together that we can’t do apart?

In Australia, B Corps are supported by B Lab Australia and New Zealand, a non-profit organisation that aims to connect and promote B Corps around the globe.

It currently oversees 193 B Corps in the region, including household names like Who Gives a Crap toilet paper, Huddle car and travel insurance, five:am yoghurt and granola, TOM Organic pads, tampons and nappies, and even beer companies like 4 Pines and Stone & Wood.

B Lab Australia and New Zealand recently held its first ever B Corp retreat in Alice Springs, attended by 120 members from 61 B Corps from Australia and New Zealand, along with B Lab staff and board members from around the world.

The theme of the conference was, ‘What can we do together that we can’t do apart?’ – prompting participants to come up with new ways to work together to promote and build the B Corp movement. Allyson attended the conference, and says that it was a motivating experience. “It was incredibly inspiring to be part of this group of like-minded business people.”

“Everyone came from different kinds of industries and with different business models, but we were all aligned with the one purpose – to do great things for the world.”

“I came away from the event with a sense that I am part of this amazing tribe. All of these passionate people shared the same vision for the future, and were committed to making a positive contribution.”

She said that the conference generated new initiatives for B Corps to work together to build recognition of the brand and encourage more businesses to commit to creating business models that benefit the community by looking beyond the bottom line.

“B Corp is a global movement but the level of commitment needed to get the certification means it can get really personal for those involved. We can all help these great businesses by spreading the news about B Corp certification. I really do think that B Corps working together will help drive positive change all around the world.”

To find a B Corp – or to learn how your business can become one – visit bcorporation.com.au.

B Corps really are a powerful global movement.

Here’s some brands you might have used without even knowing they were a B Corp!
Patagonia outdoor clothing & gear
Etsy.com marketplace
Dr. Bronner’s soaps and body care
Seventh Generation cleaning products, baby diapers and more
Method home cleaning products

Allyson At The Welcome Smoking Ceremony

Allyson at the welcome smoking ceremony at the start of the B Corp conference in Alice Springs earlier in 2017.

 

Did you know that Australian Ethical was the first certified B Corp listed on the ASX? 

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