What is a B Corp?
“Certified B Corporations, in the simplest of terms, are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose,” Jess Lea-Wilson, Halen Môn brand director, told Food Manufacture.
J. Lea-Wilson described the act of becoming B-Corp as a way to show your ethical purpose publicly. Consumers can then choose to “vote with their money” by supporting the businesses who share their values.
“The commitment to base a business’s value on more than shareholder returns or revenues departs from conventional business approaches. This shifts the emphasis from competition to collaboration and transparency,” J. Lea-Wilson added.
“B Corp certification offers a way for businesses to invest back into their communities, protect the environment, and serve their employees’ needs.”
How can you become a B Corp?
B Labs is responsible for this certification, and companies wishing to achieve B-Corp status must exhibit these three things:
- Demonstrate a high social and environmental performance by achieving a B Impact Assessment score of 80 or above (out of 200) and pass the risk review.
- Note that multinational corporations must also meet baseline requirement standards.
- Make a legal commitment by changing a corporate governance structure to be accountable to all stakeholders (not just shareholders) and achieve benefit corporation status if available in your jurisdiction.
- Show transparency by allowing information about performance measured against B Lab’s standards to be publicly available on your B Corp profile on B Lab’s website.
All companies seeking to become a B Corp must meet the B Corp legal requirement (this will differ based on the country) and update their Articles of Association to include mission-aligned legal language.
Most UK legal structures qualify for B Corp status (e.g. sole traders, partnerships, trusts). However, there are a few eligibility stipulations, including that the business must have been operating for at least one year.
Although achieving B Corp status carries a lot of weight, it is no quick undertaking. In fact, it took Halen Môn 10 months of rigorous verification, with the company awarded its certification last month (July 2023).
For Halen Môn, J. Lea-Wilson said the most challenging part of the process was how far-reaching the accreditation is: “They look at every single aspect of the business, from supply chains to staff welfare, recycling to volunteer hours.”
For those wishing to start the process, she summarised it for Food Manufacture into eight basic steps:
- Register for a B Impact Assessment (essentially a questionnaire).
- Begin the B Impact online assessment.
- Submit your assessment.
- B Lab Analyst Evaluation.
- Lab Analyst Verification.
- B Corp Agreement Signature.
- Achievement process - receive your score.
- Keep up your improvement for the next three years.
“B Corp is a continual programme of improvement. To maintain the certification, we must continue to get better - and we are absolutely committed to that,” she explained.
Commenting on its newly acquired status, co-founder, David Lea-Wilson, added: “We started our business because we love the landscape of Wales, wanted to create local jobs within the community, and to make products that make life more delicious, with as little environmental impact as possible. Ultimately, B Corp formalises for us a lot of the things we have always seen as very important.”
“It has shown us how much more there is to do,” explained managing director and co-founder, Alison Lea-Wilson. “It’s not something you ‘get’ and then put to one side. It’s something that underpins everything we do. It sits proudly alongside our BRC Grade AA food safety accreditation, and our Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) geographic indication status.”
The Welsh Government’s Sustainability Cluster, which helps and develops sustainable business practices in Wales’ agri-food industry, was a big part of the company’s achievement, offering support throughout the process.
The Cluster is utilising a triple helix approach, with Government, industry and academia working together to tackle common industry problems.
“We are committed to helping Welsh food and drink businesses focus on sustainable growth and productivity, their climate and ecological impact as well as fair work and raising standards throughout the industry,” commented the minister for rural affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd, Lesley Griffiths. “We want Wales to be one of the most environmentally and socially responsible supply chains in the world as well as continuing to have a global reputation for excellence.”
For those looking to embark on their own B-Corp journey, J. Lea-Wilson offered the following: “I think the biggest piece of advice would be to be patient! The process is a thorough, considered one, that won’t be quick but will be worth it! Even small things like the fact that Ocado has a B-Corp aisle online shows that consumers are clued up to the accreditation and eager to support it.”