B Corp FAQs
Lots of Bs… but what do they mean?
B Corp – certified B Corporations are for-profit businesses that voluntarily certify to meet this high standard of verified social and environmental performance.
B Lab – the non-profit organisation that created and runs the B Corp certification.
B Leader – a training programme designed by B Lab UK to empower people to lead organisations through the certification process.
BIA – stands for B Impact Assessment. This is a free, confidential platform that acts as a tool to help measure and manage the impact of your company on your stakeholders. It is the first step towards B Corp certification. A company must achieve 80 points on the BIA to certify.
IBM – stands for Impact Business Model. This is part of the BIA which looks at your company’s performance on creating specific positive benefits or outcomes for one of your stakeholders. This may be based on the product, a particular process or activity, or the structure of the business.
How long does it take to become a B Corp?
The timeline varies from company to company as it depends on the complexity, structure and current performance of the organisation. Remember that becoming a B Corp is a substantial process that can take extensive time and effort so don’t expect it to be a quick process! Here is a high level overview of the main stages of the Standard process, offering some approximate timeframe guidance:
Stage 1: Complete BIA. Depending on the size of your business, who you engage in this step and how thoroughly you answer the questions, this can take anywhere between a day to a couple of months.
Stage 2: Identify and Implement Improvements. Most companies are not already at the required 80 points when they first complete the BIA. If you are scoring below this, you will need to analyse the gap between your current and desired score, identify what improvements you’re going to implement to get to that desired score, and then implement and embed these improvements into the business. Your baseline score, the difficulty of the improvements you choose to work on and your internal resource to be able to action those improvements really determines the timeframe here, but we tend to see it range from 2 months to 1 year.
Stage 3: Submitting and Undergoing Review Process. This timeframe is largely determined by B Lab’s capacity and how well prepared you are for the process. Due to the high amount of companies going through the review process, there is a queue of approx. 9 months to enter into the process. Once you get to the front of the queue and are assigned a Standards Analyst, you can expect the review process to take somewhere between 3-6 months. You can read more about timeline guidance directly from B Lab here.
What is the highest B Corp score achievable?
What are some of the common areas companies need to improve on to get to 80 points on the BIA?
The short answer is, it depends. It’s natural for some companies to be stronger in one area than in others.
The areas of the BIA that we tend to see room for improvement include:
- Understanding the environmental impact of your supply chain.
- Measuring the environmental impact of your own team (especially if working from home or a leased office).
- Diversity and inclusion.
But really, every company operates differently and they each have their own challenges.
How does the B Corp fee structure work? What other associated costs are there with certifying?
Cost required by B Lab UK are*:
- £250 submission fee.
- Certification fee which is payable upon achieving certification and annually from that date. This fee is based on a tiered structure according to the certifying company’s annual revenue. See Annual Certification Fees for more information.
These are the required costs from B Lab. Other potential associated costs to be aware of is the cost of implementing your chosen improvements into your business (for example you may choose to increase employee benefits, pay for training, use support to measure your carbon footprint, etc), and the resource required to manage the process, whether you use in-house employee resources or external consultancy support.
*These are the standard fees. Companies that are large enterprises have extra fees associated. Reach out to Seismic or B Lab if you think this might be the case for your business.
What types of organisations are eligible to certify as a B Corp?
Your company must be a for-profit business and must have been in operation for over a year (the BIA uses the previous years data as part of the assessment). Apart from these, you can be within any industry and any size.
Entity types that can certify include LLCs, PLCs, LLPs, CLGs, CLSs, and CICs. If you’re unsure as to whether your business would be eligible, consider whether it meets the following requirements:
- The majority of your revenue is generated from trading.
- You operate in a competitive marketplace.
- You are not a charity, a non-profit, public body or otherwise majority owned by the state.
If your business does not fall into a category listed above (e.g., charity, governmental organisation) or is younger than a year old, the BIA is still a free tool that we encourage you to benefit from, by using the framework to measure and improve your impact.
If your company has been operating for less than 12-months, you can opt for Pending B Corp status, which enables your early stage company to signal to stakeholders you are on track to becoming B Corp certified. Learn more about Pending B Corp status here.
Does being a large or small company, or in a certain industry make it easier or harder to certify?
The BIA is designed to suit all organisations eligible for certification, regardless of size, location or industry type.
The BIA has many different “tracks”, which means the assessment is tailored to companies based on three elements:
- Size: Based on number of FTE employees. Bracket options are: 0, 1-9, 10-49, 50-249, 250-999 and 1000+
- Sector: Based on the products or services the organisation sells. Sector options are: Service with Minor Environmental Footprint, Service with Significant Environmental Footprint, Retail/Wholesale, Manufacturing and Agriculture/Growers
- Geography: Defined by whether the majority of the company’s FTE employees are located in a developed or emerging global market.
The track a company is on will determine both the type of questions they see and their point weighting in the BIA. The assessment is adapted to calibrate the same level of difficulty for each company according to their track (for example, larger companies will tend to see more questions with a smaller point worth, and smaller companies will see less questions but with a higher point weighting).
Does being owned by a parent company and having merged functions make you unable to certify as a B Corp?
For more information about subsidiaries, visit this helpful Subsidiaries page by B Lab UK.
How do you manage the relationship with your parent company? Once certified, how can you inspire them to join the B Corp movement?
There are many B Corps in the community that are wholly-owned subsidiaries. Some examples include our client Sipsmith Gin, owned by Beam Suntory. Beauty brand, Avon, is owned by Natura & Co (who are also a certified B Corp). Read about them both in our client stories.
There are some additional requirements for companies that are wholly-owned subsidiaries. For more information about subsidiaries, visit this helpful Subsidiaries page by B Lab UK. If you still need help, we recommend that you discuss your company’s structure directly with a B Lab Staff member or reach out to us – we’re here to help!
Once you’ve become a certified B Corp, you can engage with your parent company on the areas where you are creating a positive impact, demonstrate the value that being a B Corp adds to your business, and even offer to support your parent company or sister companies in achieving B Corp certification. It’s all about raising overall awareness within the group of what being a B Corp is and how it is good for business. We encourage any certified B Corporation to connect with other B Corps on the B Hive for some tangible examples that have worked to inspire and engage parent companies.
Does working with B Corps in your supply chain help your own B Corp scoring?
It is also really valuable to work with a supplier who isn’t certified and help them to become one. One well-known example of a B Corp that’s supported its suppliers in achieving B Corp certification is the beloved ice cream brand, Ben & Jerry’s. After they became a certified B Corp in 2012, the company supported ingredient manufacturer Macphie on their own certification journey.
If you work with your suppliers and give them incentives to become a B Corp, you are eligible to earn additional points on the BIA.
Are my BIA answers kept confidential until I submit?
We strongly encourage every company to create an account, log on and use insights from the BIA as a tool to get buy-in across the organisation. As B Lab’s Cofounder Charmian Love explained, when she joined our Seismic Spotlight podcast, “The first thing to do is log on to the B Impact Assessment…you’ll get excited about the ideas and the connections you can build.” You will inevitably discover ways to improve and find inspiration for how to build additional impact into your business.
How does the B Corp certification compare with other social or environmental certifications and is there alignment?
When you go through the BIA, you’ll find the questions separated into five stakeholder-focused impact areas: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers. This is where the B Corp certification really stands out amongst others.
Additionally, there’s the added benefit of B Corp having a level of consumer awareness that’s only growing, which of course increases the value of being certified.
B Corps don’t have to choose between B Corp certification or any another standard – B Lab sees other ESG certifications as complimentary. If your company is already adhering to other standards, that will likely ensure you’re in good shape for some aspects of the BIA. Certain certifications are even acknowledged and rewarded in various sections of the BIA (for example you earn points if you purchase certified organic ingredients). It’s also a huge plus if your company has already set up systems and processes in place to collect information for other standards or certifications.
Are there B Corp advisors who can help us to certify and help implement improvements? Are we required to do this ourselves or with external support?
B Lab runs a programme called B Leaders which was co-developed and co-delivered by our Cofounder Amy Bourbeau. We are proud to have 10+ B Leaders within our team at Seismic, equipped sustainability professionals trained with the tools and expertise to guide businesses through the B Corp certification process. In addition to our B Corp services, Seismic offers a variety of sustainability services which may be needed throughout the improvement process. View our Services for more information.
What support is there for businesses who are engaged but struggling to know where to start?
There are lots of resources out there to help businesses that are unsure where to start. Here’s some tips:
- Look on the B Lab UK website, which is filled with lots of helpful resources.
- Look at the B Impact Assessment Knowledge Base.
- Speak to B Corps (in your industry or even outside your industry).
- Reach out to Seismic. We’re not just a team of B Corp experts, we have more B Leaders on our team than any other advisory.
- Reach out to a B Leader, a consultant who is trained to help you with the B Corp certification process.
- Join B Corp events. Lots of B Corps host events to advance the movement, but you can also follow B Lab UK and B Lab Europe on Eventbrite.
B Corp is a lovely, open community of businesses that are collaborative and happy to share their own knowledge and experience. It’s so much more than a certification. It’s a movement for change, so just reach out!
Are you seeing companies using the B Corp framework as a learning tool rather than just aiming for certification?
Do you have any advice for building the business case for B Corp within your organisation?
Some of the key benefits of B Corp that we’ve identified include:
- attracting and retaining talent.
- adding value for investors.
- adding value for customers.
- increasing company performance and resilience.
The business case and how you pitch it will always vary depending on who you’re talking to and what their role is within the organisation. When a Chief Sustainability Officer spoke at the closing session of edie’s 2022 Sustainability Leaders Forum, she advised people to tailor messaging to their audience and what they care about. This is a useful tip when building a case for B Corp. Frame the benefits in a way that speaks directly to the business challenges.
Our Cofounder and Chief Community Officer, Andy Schmidt, wrote an insightful post on why B Corp is the gold standard for sustainability, which includes some of the business benefits that anyone could use to build the business case for B Corp.
Take a look at the growth and turnover evidence we provide in our next question!
Beyond the business benefits, when you decide to become a B Corp you are doing the right thing – for the environment, for the people in your organisation, the community and for your business. B Corps are part of a movement that is greater than the good that anyone purpose-driven business can create. You join a community of more than 5,000 (and growing every day!) businesses that believe business should be used as a force for good.
Do you have any evidence of the impact on sales as a result of certification?
Yes! A 2021 B Lab UK Community Survey compared UK SMEs to B Corp SMEs and found that:
- Between 2017 and 2019 B Corps in the UK saw average turnover growth of 24% compared to an average of 3% for all SMEs.
- Between 2017 and March 2020, B Corp SMEs saw their annual employee headcount grow by 8% – compared to 0% for all SMEs
- 62% of B Corp SME respondents expect turnover to grow in the next 12 months, compared to 38% of all SMEs.
And that’s just growth and turnover evidence! B Corp SMEs outperform UK SMEs in employee retention, governance processes, civic and community engagement, innovation, and securing external finance.
Source: B Lab UK
What about Recertification? How does it compare to the initial heavy lifting required to submit the BIA? Is it a cycle that needs permanent resource?
If you are certified (congratulations!), it’s important to have ongoing resources committed as you need to recertify every three years. After designating an in-house B Corp person (or external partner), one of their main roles should be to project manage B Corp responsibilities and share the load of recertification across your team/departments. The five impact areas that make up the BIA should be integrated into your team ongoing. This approach will benefit you in the long term. If you were to certify and then simply forget about incorporating the five impact areas into your business, then you’ll have to do another big chunk of work when it’s time to recertify.
There are many B Corps who have successfully embedded purpose and the BIA framework into their business so that it becomes business as usual rather than something that is revisited every three years.
You could also consider having an external sustainability partner, like Seismic, in charge of managing B Corp. If you are looking to recertify read our top tips here.
How does B Corp ensure the certification remains rigorous? How does it adapt to changing regulations in the EU and UK around sustainability?
The current live BIA is version 6. The version 7 update is under development using B Lab’s Regional Standards Advisory Groups’ feedback as well as public feedback to improve standards. It is currently predicted to launch in 2024.
B Lab’s own Theory of Change identifies policy change as part of the solution in order ‘to transform the economic system into a more inclusive, equitable, and regenerative global economy.’ With that in mind, B Lab has spearheaded initiatives like the Better Business Act in order to advance regulation that’s in line with its mission.
Is there a plan for B Lab to update the certification to include minimum standards across certain areas?
Yes! In February 2022, B Lab announced that they would be updating the performance requirements for B Corp certification.
“Following multi-stakeholder feedback and guidance from the Standards Advisory Council, B Lab will develop new performance requirements for the B Corp Certification. These will include requirements on approximately ten specific topics spanning environmental, governance-related, and social impact, which companies would need to meet in addition to using the B Impact Assessment as an impact management tool.”
The process of defining the new performance requirements is currently ongoing, and the implementation of this new standard is expected to begin in 2023.
Read more about B Lab’s evolving performance requirements.
As more businesses certify, does this water down the B Corp certification?
Companies that have successfully certified as B Corps have demonstrated high social and environmental performance by achieving a B Impact Assessment score of 80 or above. The certification process is rigorous and remains rigorous regardless of how many businesses have certified, with updates every three years to ensure the assessment stays at a high bar.
Additionally, there’s a constant review and management of sensitive industries. Companies belonging to sensitive industries may have to go through additional steps to prove they are eligible to be a B Corp, further maintaining the certification’s high level of rigour.
What are the next steps beyond B Corp certification? How are they looking to change business models?
We believe that B Corp isn’t just a certification, it’s an ongoing framework for ESG strategy and a movement for change. While B Corp certification is a huge achievement, it should be considered the beginning of any company’s sustainability journey.
Certified B Corps should have an approach of continuous improvement, working to not only improve their BIA score but also looking for other ways to create a positive impact. This could include providing support to your suppliers on their own B Corp journeys or encouraging others in your community to use the BIA as a tool to improve.
B Lab and those behind the B Corp movement are constantly thinking about how to go beyond B Corp to change business models on a greater scale. B Lab is on a mission to change UK law so that every single UK company, regardless of size, ‘puts balancing people, profit and planet at the heart of their purpose and the responsibility of their directors.’
Last year, B Lab and certified B Corps around the UK introduced The Better Business Act:
- The act would amend Section 172 of the Companies Act 2006 so that companies are legally obligated to operate in a manner that benefits their stakeholders, including workers, customers, communities and the environment while seeking to deliver profits for shareholders.
- The Better Business Act will transform the way we do business, so that every single company in the UK, whether big or small, takes ownership of its social and environmental impact.
- To date, more than 1,000 UK businesses have signed up to the BBA coalition, including Seismic.
- The Better Business Act was initiated by B Lab UK, which acts as Secretariat to the coalition.
We hope you found our FAQs helpful and they answered some of your B Corp queries. If you’d like to find out more please get in touch with any questions.
We’re always looking to grow our database of FAQs, so if you have any more questions, just ask.