20 Apr 2023

Harnessing B Corp for B2B businesses

By Amy Bourbeau

How B2B Businesses are Embracing the B Corp Framework for Sustainability and Success

B Corporations (B Corps) are on the rise and B2B businesses are leading the charge. There are now more than 6,500 Certified B Corps globally and while certified B2Cs often dominate the conversation, B2Bs now make up over 60% of certified B Corps.

The B Impact Assessment (BIA), the free online assessment at the heart of B Corps, has become one of the most widely used impact management frameworks with more than 240,000 companies worldwide utilising the B Corp framework to measure and understand their ESG performance.

As B Corp experts, we’ve not only observed but have also helped B2B businesses leverage the B Corp certification to inform, inspire and innovate. The certification provides a unique opportunity for businesses to showcase their commitment to sustainability and responsible business practices, enhancing their reputation and competitiveness in the market.

The landscape of B Corps is expanding rapidly. Through B2B businesses embracing the B Corp framework, it allows them to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, drive positive impact, and position themselves as well-managed and resilient businesses. This supports their gain in traction across diverse sectors, highlighting the increasing importance of responsible business practices in today’s world.

Stat - 60% of B Corps are B2Bs

The power of the trend towards impact

Businesses need to use their trusted relationships, which have been earned through competency and credibility, to influence their whole networks toward better business.

Don’t lose sight of the influence you can leverage, and seek out opportunities – people and organisations will listen. 

The unique way B2B businesses leverage this framework is to measure, understand and improve social and environmental performance across all activities. We hear about more and more companies who’ve been reflecting internally and desire to support purpose-driven businesses whose main mission might be to contribute to or address certain social and environmental challenges. 

In reality, this might be through reviewing their own business and looking at the percentage, by revenue, that support those types of clients. If you then have an objective to increase that percentage you can recalculate and reflect on how your progress is going using the framework, which will keep you on track.

“Take desire, turn it into intent and then turn it into action.”

Andy Schmidt

Cofounder and Chief Community Officer, Seismic

Benefits from being part of the B Corp community

B Corps love to do business with other B Corps. Commercial opportunities come from being part of the B Corp community.

One example is Red-Inc, a stationery company and certified B Corp. Once they certified, they experienced a surge in business growth thanks to other B Corps choosing Red-Inc as their preferred stationery partner. In an interview, Adam Huttly, Red-Inc’s founder also attributed their sustainable focus as one way to stand out, winning a contract with a Big Four consultancy despite being the smallest business in the tender. 

Anyone can gain access to the comprehensive B Corp business directory, which enables you to easily discover B Corps for potential collaborations. The directory provides detailed information about each company’s profile and offerings. Becoming certified and listing your company on this directory not only enhances visibility but demonstrates to the world that your mission aligns with the B Corp values and promotes you as a high-performing, purpose-driven organisation.

Top tips for B2B Businesses to leverage B Corp

  • Use the framework – it will help your business best understand how to maximise your ESG strategy
  • Engage business as a force for good
  • Tell the world! – Whether certified or not, let people know about your agenda and how to intend to develop your strategies and what you’ll be prioritising.

Insights from Louise Harman, Partner at Bates Wells and Trustee of B Lab UK

Headshot - Louise Harman, Bates Wells

Learning from Great Practice

Bates Wells became a B Corp in 2015 and has remained involved in the community, to the extent that they helped set up the B Lab UK charity. Most of their clients are charities, social enterprises and mission-driven businesses. Their pathway of improvement has been pretty straight, as the B Corp framework helped them hone their values and avoid mission drift. They explain that senior buy-in has been crucial to their progress and B Corp has become a central part of their business strategy. 

With the help of the B Corp structure, Bates Wells has been able to:

  • Create initiatives to change the law
  • Use the law as a force for good
  • Make decisions about the climate emergency back in 2019
  • Move their pensions to a sustainable pension
  • Be part of the Better Business Act
  • Take leading roles in innovative governance models
  • Generally, take risks and push for change

The BIA has supported them to screen suppliers and ensure they’re aligned, or support them to get to where they need to be. The ripple effect through sectors has helped amplify the community growth, as B Corp becomes more mainstream. 

Louise Harman, from Bates Wells, is the epitome of the B Corp spirit and is someone always happy to lend their time. She said at a recent Seismic event:

“The B Corp movement is much more than just how many B corps are certified. It’s more about a movement to transform the economic system to change behaviour, culture and capitalism. That’s the theory of change. And that’s where initiatives like the Better Business Act come in, trying to make B Corp status (essentially) mandatory for all businesses.”

Louise Harman

Partner at Bates Wells and Trustee of B Lab UK

Get involved with the Better Business Act

The Better Business Act is a campaign seeking to change the law, specifically Section 172 of the Companies Act. The proposed draft legislation, outlined on their website, advocates for mandatory adoption by all businesses. The B Corp movement serves as a voluntary “proof of concept” where businesses can choose to certify and join the community. 

The campaign asserts that the current legal framework for directors’ duties fails to adequately address the pressing issue of the climate crisis and the need to consider wider stakeholders in decision-making. The goal is to establish this as a baseline requirement in legislation, which would be a pioneering global initiative. The campaign is engaging in discussions with MPs and encourages businesses to sign up on the Better Business Act website to support its inclusion in political manifestos.

Douglas Lamont speaking at Better Business Day 2022

How becoming a B Corp can make you money

Companies find it easier to secure capital and get better terms when they can demonstrate a strong ESG performance. This seems to be trending now. Impact investors and social lenders use a price mechanic that incentivises (usually with a reduced interest rate) those who have improved social and environmental key performance indicators. 

It’s happening more as the ESG movement is becoming more mainstream and the lending economy is quickly stepping up. The Loan Market Association has developed template documents on sustainability link loans and green link loans, to support those who are working towards B Corp certification. It enables banks to identify positive impacts quicker and is a growing area. 

A 2022 B Corp community survey found that between 2017 and 2020, the average turnover growth was 26%, compared to the national average of 5%. It also found that 44% of B Corps seeking investment found certification helped attract investors. This trend predicts those numbers will increase given lender attention on these issues, and the rise of ESG in recent years.

Watch the recording

If you missed the breakfast briefing, you can watch the recording below. Seismic holds monthly breakfast briefings to inform and inspire our community. Sign up for our monthly newsletter to receive invites to upcoming Seismic Breakfast Briefings.

Starting your B2B B Corp Journey

B2B B Corp business is booming. Seismic partner with B2B organisations to help change society for the better. We help bring your ESG strategy to life, engaging your employees, customers and investors as you become an increasingly impactful force for good.

Speak to a B2B B Corp expert.