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News

B Corp and Beyond: How to Become a Better Business

Written by 
Rosie Murphy
 on 
August 5, 2022
Plus X Innovation
7
 min

Building a sustainable, ethical, and socially responsible company makes business sense. Read how to become a B Corp, and other options.

"Work hard, have fun, make history" sign in the the West London workshop

Building a sustainable, ethical and socially responsible company makes good business sense. Read our guide to learn how to become a B Corp, and find other ways your organisation can do good if B Corp isn't for you.

The days of business being just about making a profit are long gone. With big issues like climate change, diversity and inclusion, and inequality that the whole world must address, founders across the globe are recognising the role they can play in making a positive impact on society and the environment.

But the decision to do good isn't just about benefiting the planet or local communities; it's a wise business decision too. Being a better business can lead to reduced costs, increased sales and improved employee productivity.

A major way companies can show their commitment to making a difference is by becoming a Certified B Corporation. But that's not the only route, and isn't right for every business. There are plenty of other steps entrepreneurs can take to build a more sustainable, ethical and positive organisation.  

What is a B Corp?


A Certified B Corporation, commonly known as a B Corp, is a business that meets high standards for social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.

B Corps are verified by B Labs, a not-for-profit founded in Pennsylvania in 2006.

Traditional companies prioritise financial profitability but this new way of doing business is all about the triple bottom line. B Corps use business to benefit society and the environment by acting in an ethical, transparent and accountable way.

B Labs describes businesses with B Corp status as leaders in the global movement for an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy.

More than 5,000 companies employing over 420,000 workers in 83 countries are B Corps.

The benefits of being a B Corp


Becoming a B Corp is a big commitment with the verification process taking over a year for some businesses. All areas of your company will be checked and if your application is successful, you must pay an annual fee of at least £1,000 and verify your status every three years.

If you're willing to do all that, being a B Corp can generate many business benefits, including:

Improved staff engagement and retention: Businesses with a mission to do good often enjoy greater employee engagement because the workforce is united around a common cause. Research by B Lab found that B Corp SMEs reported an average staff attrition rate of 10% in the past year, compared to 16-20% for the wider SME population.

Attract like-minded employees: B Corps can use their certification to attract quality and engaged employees who share their mission to do good.

Generate more sales: Customers are increasingly interested in the sustainability of the companies that they buy products and services from. By adhering to the strict B Corp requirements, you can communicate that you are a business that is making a difference.

Attract investment: There is an increasing focus among investors on businesses' social and environmental performance. Being a B Corp can help your company stand out in the competitive world of business investment.

More robust governance: The B Corp certification process is so rigorous that you must ensure your business's structure, operations and processes are robust. The B Labs survey found 73% of B Corp SMEs had a formal business plan, compared to 41% of all SMEs. In addition, 93% of B Corps and 52% of all SMEs had processes for formally tracking business performance.

How to become a B Corp


To be successfully certified as a B Corp can take over 12 months.

You must score at least 80 points in a detailed survey of approximately 200 questions that cover your social and environmental performance in five areas:

  • Governance

  • Workers

  • Community

  • Environment

  • Customers

Example questions shared by B Labs include:

  • What percentage of management is from underrepresented populations?

  • Does your company monitor and record its universal waste production?

  • How do you verify that your product improves the impact of your client organisations?

You can use a free tool to measure and improve your business's impact before completing the full assessment and paying a one-off submission fee of £250. It is recommended that you aim for at least 83 points in case your score drops during the verification process.

You will then work with a B Lab representative to verify your application and complete various tasks.

If at the end of the process you score at least 80 points, you need to sign an agreement, pay a charge that varies according to your turnover and meet B Corp legal requirements.

Companies must have been operating for at least 12 months to be eligible for B Corporation Certification, although firms trading for under 12 months can apply for Pending B Corp status.

Other ways businesses can do good


Operate as a social enterprise


Social enterprises are another type of business that deliver a social or environmental impact. They sell products or services like traditional businesses, but social enterprises then reinvest or give away profits or surpluses towards their social purpose.

According to Social Enterprise UK (SEUK), there are over 100,000 social enterprises in the UK contributing £60bn to the economy and employing two million people.

SEUK provides advice on starting a social enterprise and UnLtd offers funding.  

Support charities


Charitable activities means you can support a cause you care about, improve employee engagement and raise awareness of your business.

Ways to support charities include:

  • Donate a proportion of your sales to a cause: Pledge 1% and Work for Good are among the organisations that can help.

  • Run fundraising events: Organise events within your business that raise money. Backing nationwide initiatives like Children in Need and Red Nose Day or more local projects can build awareness of your business and generate press coverage.
  • Donate skills: Provide useful free services or products to charities. Give employees a number of days off each year to volunteer. This could be done as a team, such as getting together to renovate a community space, or allowing each employee to support a charity of their choice.

  • Buy from charities or social enterprises: Using socially-focused suppliers means you can make an impact at no extra cost to your business. There is a directory of social enterprises here.

Go green


You don't need to become a B Corp to reduce your negative impact on the environment.

The UK aims to be net zero by 2050 and with smaller firms responsible for half of all business-driven greenhouse gas emissions, companies of all sizes need to play their part.

Taking steps to reduce your energy use can also help to cut your costs.  

Actions to take include:

  • Insulate your business premises

  • Use LED lightbulbs

  • Reduce waste from products and packaging

  • Set up a cycle-to-work scheme

  • Install smart meters

  • Source from sustainable suppliers

  • Switch to renewable energy

  • Use electric vehicles

The UK Business Climate Hub provides resources to help you cut carbon emissions.

Look after your employees


Supporting your workforce is crucial to being an ethical business. You should do everything you can to ensure they are healthy and happy. This is not only important for the workers themselves but it also contributes to company productivity and profitability.

Encourage a communicative, open and transparent company culture. Reward good performance and have processes in place for dealing with problems.

The mental health of your employees should also be a priority. Encourage employees to take time out and arrange wellbeing activities.

Think about the working environment. Find a workspace that provides natural light, good ventilation, outdoor spaces and access to healthy food and drink which have all been shown to benefit employee satisfaction and productivity. Plus X Innovation Brighton has been designed with health and wellness in mind.

Plus X Innovation helps to create meaningful jobs, retain talent, drive inclusion, increase confidence and improve productivity. We are also committed to delivering a positive social impact in all our locations.

We run a number of innovation programmes to help future-facing businesses make an impact.Book a tour of Plus X Innovation hubs in Brighton and Slough to see how we can help your business succeed.

Rosie Murphy

Content + Social Media Manager at Plus X Innovation.

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