B Corps are on the move – why it’s time to join in

Ella's Kitchen certified as a B Corporation two years ago this February, only the second company ever to certify whilst being part of a PLC, after Ben & Jerry's with Unilever. However becoming a B Corp was always about something bigger than its impact on Ella's Kitchen.

B Corps are on the move – why it’s time to join in

In BlackRock CEO Larry Fink’s recent letter, he rightly highlighted that businesses need to think about how their long-term plan intersects with global challenges “from slow wage growth to rising automation to climate change.”

Becoming a B Corp was independent proof that we meet the highest standards of social and environmental impact and a resounding endorsement of our values and of the work we’d been doing to achieve our mission for over ten years. However becoming a B Corp was always about something bigger than its impact on Ella’s Kitchen.  

Earlier this year, I was having a meeting with a brilliant business – they’re already leading the field on their social impact, with an excellent working culture to boot. Their CEO said to me, “we’re already doing so much that’s good – why do we need to become a B Corp?” 

My answer to them is simple. B Corp is about something bigger than any one company or brand – it’s about creating a world where businesses compete to be the best for the world, not just the best in the world. More than anything it is a mindset change, where business works for all stakeholders, not just shareholders.

At first, it wasn’t easy. The CEOs who were already investing in their social impact were reticent to commit time to what they saw as ‘just another’ sustainability initiative, whilst some couldn’t see the value the B Corp certification would bring to them or their brand. 

In the last six months however, something’s changed. Increasingly, doors we’ve been knocking on for months are swinging open and not because I’ve developed a Simon Sinek-like ability to gather crowds. In the last six months, the B Corp message has started to sink in and resonate.

The end of last year was a breakthrough moment. In September, we saw the first $1bn B Corp deal, as Brazilian B Corp Natura bought The Body Shop, as well as Unilever’s third B Corp acquisition, as they snapped up organic-tea heroes Pukka Herbs.

Just a few weeks ago, B Corp got another boost –  as Danone Dairy UK certified as a B Corp – a big step forward for parent-company Danone’s mission to obtain a global B Corp certification and become the first Fortune 500 B Corp. 

And with asset-management giant BlackRock kicking off the year with a call for businesses “both public and private to serve a social purpose” – the value of a certification is becoming increasingly self-evident to businesses of all sectors.

In a survey we commissioned with B Lab, recertifying UK B Corps reported an average growth rate of 14 per cent, 28 times higher than the national average of 0.5 per cent – demonstrating the power of the B Corp certification in driving bottom-line growth.

Over a third of B Corps also said they had attracted new audiences since certifying – from consumers to suppliers. And as the global competition for talent continues to heat up, almost half (48%) of UK B Corps have found that prospective employees are attracted to their business by the B Corp stamp of approval.

Those data points are vital to us getting through the door and starting the conversation.

But in the end, as it was for Ella’s Kitchen, it’s the community of over 2,400 businesses working together to make the economy work better for everyone that ultimately makes the difference. In fact, 81% of UK B Corps say a big motivator for certifying was to join a community of likeminded businesses – with a common goal.

When a business becomes a B Corp it requires a legal change to its articles of association – the DNA at the heart of every business – that gives people and planet equal weighting to your shareholders. It sounds technical, but really, it’s a quiet revolution. 

One story from COOK, a UK B Corp who make remarkable food for your freezer, is just one example. COOK actively recruit people who face barriers to employment – for example because of a criminal conviction or homelessness.

That means someone like Red, one of the COOK team, who grew up in 30 different foster homes and who was in and out of prison for over a decade, has the structure, salary and support to succeed and make change. In just three years at COOK, Red has been promoted twice, got married and last year, moved into a new flat.

Mark Cuddigan is chief executive at Ella’s Kitchen

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