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B Corps’ Big Voice

13 November 2013 at 11:07 am
Staff Reporter
Pro Bono Australia’s Corporate Community News quizzes the passionate representatives of seven Australian B Corporations on the value of the certification and the public’s reaction to it, in the first of this two part series.

Staff Reporter | 13 November 2013 at 11:07 am


B Corps’ Big Voice
13 November 2013 at 11:07 am

Pro Bono Australia’s Corporate Community News quizzes the passionate representatives of seven Australian B Corporations on the value of the certification and the public’s reaction to it, in the first of this two part series.

Recently Pro Bono Australia News attended a B Corp Big Breakfast in Melbourne to chat with some of Australia’s B Corp leaders.

B-Corporation is a certification originating from the Not for Profit B-Lab in the United States, awarded to businesses wishing to benefit society as well as their shareholders.

While the movement is still in its infancy in Australia, it is flourishing overseas, having been adopted by high-profile companies like Ben and Jerry’s and Patagonia and written into law in some US states.

Pro Bono Australia News asked representatives of Australia’s B Corp cohort about their thoughts on the certification’s appeal and the future of B Corps in Australia.

In Part One, B Corp representatives discuss how certification has been valuable to them and they address one of the issues that arises with ethical business intent – is it enough to be acting in good faith, or is it important for your ethical credentials to be known?

Australian B Corps are a diverse group and the sample here is a testament to that – from food to finance to technology- and the possibilities for the future are vast.







Why B Corp Certification?

There are many benefits to become a B Corp unlike other types of business accreditation or certification.  Firstly, B Corp certification is a clear, credible and transparent way to let the public know a business’s commitment to generate “profit with purpose”. Unlike other third-party certifications, B Corp certification assesses a business’s complete business model and operating systems, including its impact on employees, suppliers, communities and the environment. It is a higher standard of proof of a company’s impact on the world.

Secondly, the B Corp logo is now globally recognised as evidence that a business has undergone a strict assessment and, at Whole Kids, we have found that this increases consumer and supplier trust in our business. It provides confidence to external constituents that this business is genuine and not “greenwashing” its activities.

Thirdly, B Corp status is a powerful way for firms and companies to differentiate themselves from competitors. More and more people want to buy goods and services from businesses that are making a positive contribution to the world and that also share their personal values.

For Whole Kids, we operate in an industry where we see many questionable practices by our larger ‘conventional’ competitors, including the use of harmful pesticides, toxins and other food additives, marketing unhealthy foods to kids, and selling products that contribute to community health issues such as obesity and diabetes.

The B Corp logo is a compelling way for us to communicate to customers that we are different to our competitors, and that we making decisions based on fulfilling our core purpose rather than solely maximising profit at every opportunity. It’s also a highly effective way to attract enthusiastic, committed and fully engaged employees who share your values.

And finally, being a B Corp means we are part of a growing global community of like-minded, values-based socially and environmentally responsible businesses. Being part of this larger community, and particularly being active in growing the B Corp movement in Australia, provides opportunities for Whole Kids to connect with other progressive and innovative businesses so that we can partner together and collectively address social and environmental issues.  

How important is it for the public to know about your B Corp certification?

As one of the Founding Members of B Corporation Australia, and part of the small number of businesses to be first certified here, we believe it is very important to communicate to our customers, our suppliers, our retailers and our communities about what a B Corp is and why it matters to us.  

In our industry, there are a lot of claims made by food companies about whether a particular product or ingredient is made or sourced to accepted ethical or environmental standards. With over 300 eco-labels in use worldwide, customers face a confusing landscape as to which label they trust for particular products.

One of the reasons Whole Kids is a certified organic food company is to provide confidence to customers that all our products meet strict organic standards. For us, B Corp certification is another layer of, what we like to call, “trust mark” and applies to our whole business not just the products we make.

The overwhelming support from our customers and interest from other companies wishing to become a B Corp, has been amazing. It has also energised our staff and suppliers, and helped crystallise our focus on the ways we can make the largest impact through our business on the social and environmental issues that matter most to us and our customers.







Why B Corp Certification?

There are two sides to this: the before and after. The process of applying for certification is quite illuminating. Those of us who are socially minded tend to think our businesses are quite ethical, environmental and generally good. The process, however, teaches you just how much more you can do.

The outcome of the process is a strength and confidence that your business is on the right track – whether you gain certification or not. It can help you better understand your business, focus it, and – in so doing – improve productivity and grow revenue.

In terms of achieving the certification, it means many different things to different businesses. To some it is at the core of what they do, others use it more peripherally. It can help to build business, strengthen community engagement, or to connect stakeholders.

Ultimately, there is no other certification that is as rigorous and as comprehensive for businesses that want to be recognised for the good they create in the world.

How important is it for the public to know about your B Corp certification?

At Projection Room, we want to grow the number of businesses that incorporate a social mission into the work they achieve. As such, the B certification is very important to us. Prospective clients, while they may not know specifically what the certification entails, recognise that this is something significant to aspire to. We haven’t measured the impact that B certification has for our business but we are confident it has given us an edge.

In terms of the wider public, there are probably more steps that need to take place. It can be quite confusing trying to distinguish a B Corp from a social enterprise, from an ethical business, from a Not for Profit. They do, however, agree that businesses need to be doing more than CSR – they need to be committed to delivering sustainable change.

B-corps also represent a diverse group of businesses. It can be difficult for the public to draw the dots and see what we share in common. It is for this reason that it is so important for B-corps to be proudly displaying and talking about their accreditation.







Why B Corp Certification?

B Corp certification is a movement that is growing globally which recognises that there is a better way to do business. The accreditation process checks your company’s social, environmental and governance practices against global benchmarks.  This isn’t a one-off process but an ongoing assessment that ensures you are steering your company along the right path to sustainability.  

Often consumers are cynical of large corporation’s CSR practices, seeing them as paying ‘lip service’, to be seen to be doing the ‘right thing’.  The B Corp accreditation process is an independent, rigorous process with high standards that challenges the core standards of how a business operates.  To achieve this certification is a global acknowledgement of a business operating at levels of best practice.

How important is it for the public to know about your B Corp certification?

As the B Corp movement is only beginning in Australia, it is often a good conversation starter with various stakeholder groups that we meet.  Particularly as we have established ourselves with a traditional corporation legal structure, having the B Corp certification allows us to explain to our stakeholders that our social purpose is the core of what we do, while running a profitable business.

As we did the B Corp accreditation fairly early in the life of our company, it has enabled us to embed the best practice levels that are intrinsic to the B Corp model, within our business.  We plan to use these benchmarks within our social impact reporting to demonstrate our commitment, to our many stakeholder groups.








Why B Corp Certification?

It is the first coherent and holistic assessment of the true social purpose of a business. It is an important step in the right direction to create a credible signal to the investability of impact companies.  

How important is it for the public to know about your B Corp certification?

As our membership group at Henley Club is very socially aware and educated, B Corp was a natural thing to do.  The membership have been impressed that we've been able to get certified, but surprised it was so difficult given Henley Club's business mandate and ethical governance.







Why B Corp Certification?

Prior to becoming a B Corporation we found it difficult to measure and quantify intangibles within our firm.

We have found the B Corporation certification provided our company with an international certification which looks at measuring our intangibles.  Generally most assessments on the "health of your business" will concentrate on the financial matrixes of an organisation, this process is a refreshing change from this standard perspective.

I believe the B Corporation Certification process provides an organisations with an independent assessment on what is really going on within the company.  More importantly it provides a company with an insight on some of the things you might also consider to take it to the next level.

How important is it for the public to know about your B Corp certification?

From a customer's perspective it is very difficult to find out what is actually going on with an unlisted/private organisation due to the low levels of reporting requirements from a public disclosure perspective.  B Corporation provides customers with a platform that allows them to access information on a particular company providing them with a level of transparency which is otherwise not available in a simple and digestible format. Since becoming certified through B Corporation we find that it provides our firm with an additional external source of credibility.







Why B Corp Certification?

We feel there has been a shift. The conscious consumerism movement of the last 20 years has focused on certifying ‘good products’ via third-party endorsements of a product’s ethical, social, environmental or health credentials.

We believe that in the near future, the focus will shift towards the certification of ‘good companies’. We like the fact that the B Corp certification makes identifying a “good business” easy.

Such a certification allows consumers, suppliers, producers and investors to take comfort that businesses they deal with focus on more than just profit – that they value people and the planet as well.

How important is it for the public to know about your B Corp certification?

For us it is incredibly important. We use B Corp certification to help us identify the types of businesses we want to invest in. It is also a valuable tool to help our investors understand the values which inspire and drive our business. The B Corp certification demonstrates there is rigour and method to understanding businesses which create measurable social or environmental impact.

We think the B Corp certification is an easy way to explain what we care about and why to our investors and partners.








Why B Corp Certification?

Net Balance is in some ways a traditional consulting firm, but we have a foundation where 20 per cent of our time goes to providing our sustainability services to Not for Profit organisations and to publishing open-source thought leadership. We’ve been trying to succinctly explain this for years, and when we heard about the B Corporation certification it made perfect sense for us – we’re equally about profit and purpose, and we don’t think one should be sacrificed for the other.

How important is it for the public to know about your B Corp certification?

It’s definitely important. We believe that this is the future of business, and the more B Corporations there are, the more we know that companies are creating social good. We believe that working with other B Corporations both leads to less risk for us and increased positive impact. So far, it’s been great to introduce our clients to the concept, which has led to inspired conversations about the future of business in Australia.

Find out more about the Australia B Corps and the ways in which they approach ethical business:

AJ Financial Planning | Net Balance | Whole Kids | Projection Room | The Henley Club | The Impact Investment Group | HITnet Innovations 

Staff Reporter  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

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