We became a B Corp on November 9, 2016. In addition to earning our B Corp status, which was certainly cause to celebrate, it was my sister’s birthday (fun!) ….and, also the day Trump was elected (not fun, not fun at all). It was a day of extremely mixed emotions.
In 2019, as I work through our B Corp recertification, I am more proud than ever that we took this step forward, and simultaneously more discouraged than ever about the state of our world. What I am hopeful about is all of the ways in which the B Corp community is pushing forward collectively. I am constantly inspired by my peers in this group, and am challenged to make decisions that are better for our world and our communities. At the very least, I know that surrounding myself with this community and renewing our B Corp commitment is a step in the right direction, and is a way in which I can keep a pulse on how to best move forward. Here are a few things that were on my mind as I went through the assessment.
1. It’s still just as challenging as I remember, and progress takes serious commitment.
- Many items are worth 2-4 points and you get a percentage of them based on your multiple choice or calculated answer, so you’re potentially earning in the range of .5 or 2.25 points at a time. Some questions are worth up to 10 or even 12, but the bulk of them are under 4 points. Increasing your score is not a fast process. We have gained points over the years, but slowly, and there’s a decent amount of work that goes into each point gained.
- Just maintaining your points and current status is an investment and challenge within itself (there are certainly companies who have certified and then failed to recertify, unfortunately). Getting certified is just the first step, and then upholding your certification can be equally challenging as your organization evolves. But, if it wasn’t rigorous, then the B Corp status wouldn’t mean as much as it does. When we originally certified, we had 1 employee (me!) + 3 subcontractors. Our team has more than doubled since, and we now account for our impact slightly differently than we did originally.
- I’m especially in awe of organizations on the higher spectrum of points (in the rage of 130+) after combing back through the assessment. It’s not about the score, but these scores really do stand for something substantial. I appreciate the deep commitment to operating on a values-based system throughout so many facets of their organization. For example, our bank, Beneficial State Bank, has an impressive score of 176 (one of the highest scores out there) – going through the assessment with BSB’s monumental commitment in mind really illuminates all of the work that has gone into them achieving (and maintaining!) this.
2. The range of ways in which to earn points and “do good” is vast.
One of the amazing things about the B Corp Certification is how wide ranging its application can be. A small company of one, or a large multinational can become certified, each with an equally rigorous and tailored process. There are product-based B Corps, service-based B Corps, education-based B Corps, and healthcare-based B Corps, just to name a few. The “buckets” in which you earn points include Governance, Workers, Community, Environment and Customers, and within each category there are questions specific to your size, industry, or structure. For us, we were happy to see that the updated BIA has a more specific path for Virtual Offices, which takes into account the difference between our remote team setup and a brick and mortar shop.
3. The BIA platform is new and improved
The BIA has improved in a number of ways since we initially certified. Major improvements to the user interface make the experience more intuitive and enjoyable to use. There is now space to add comments to each question which allow us to link to critical information and record our thought process for our next certification. This also makes for a much easier verification process because we can quickly reference our own notes and resources upon request.
One thing we weren’t so pleased with is that the verification process provided templates for documentation that were not shared during the assessment process (ie, they were shared after we pressed “submit”). We had made our own documents that were in many cases just different enough from the verification parameters that we had to re-do them in the B Lab template. If we had these templates in hand during the assessment, we would’ve used them and saved some time.
4. There is always more work to be done.
As I mentioned before, gaining points in the BIA is challenging and humbling, but it also means there is always a clear path for improvement. There is no “winning” in the assessment, but there are clear parameters to keep progressing incrementally and persistently. Not one organization has a perfect score, and it’s intentionally structured this way. We have a long way to go, and we will keep pushing forward as much as we can as our business grows.
After months of work on the BIA, I am happy to report that we hit submit in late October and are currently going through the verification process. A handful of items are audited during this phase, but we are fully prepared if additional information is requested. We look forward to sharing the good news when our recertification is complete!