Small Beer’s path to B Corp: Navigating certification and a journey of positive change

This blog forms part of B Corp Month 2024 and also edie’s Business Leadership Month of exclusive content and events.

Established in 2017, our brewery, Small Beer, based in South Bermondsey, was founded upon a mission to challenge the traditional norms of beer consumption. Rooted in the belief that beer can be enjoyed without the negative consequences linked to excessive alcohol intake, we embarked on a journey of innovation. This involved pioneering a bespoke brewing kit, crafted to exclusively produce lower alcohol beer up to 2.8%.

Having previously worked in the drinks industry, we knew of its resource-intensive nature. The decision to do things differently prompted us to consider the environmental impact of our processes. This led us to pursue B Corp certification, a nine-month process that broadened our perspective beyond just the environment.

The B Impact Assessment encompasses governance, workers, community, and customers, showcasing that B Corp is more than an environmental certification; it is all about doing good for the community, people, and the planet.

Small Beer has remained at the forefront of environmental sustainability in the industry, using 80% less water than other breweries, in part due to its pioneering ‘dry floor policy’. We have gained Soil Association certification, brew organic beer, and use 100% renewable energy and recycled and recyclable materials.

Although we were already leading on environmental sustainability pre-certification, we discovered areas of improvement through the certification process which have improved team and community engagement.

The certification process

The certification process was hard work and particularly for a small team of fewer than 10 people at the time, it required significant effort. However, the benefits have proven invaluable, contributing to staff retention and enhancing the external image, as B Corp is now more widely recognised than ever. The alignment with personal values and the ability to track progress over time added to the significance of the certification.

The assessment process is audit-based and determined by a point system, with a pass rate of 80 points out of a possible 200 – although don’t let the numbers deceive you, maintaining a pass is a serious achievement, particularly when the standard is being continually updated.

At the beginning of the journey to B Corp, each business is assigned a certification officer who guides the organisation through the process with continuous communication and support throughout. Once gaining certification, we continued to review its impact assessment to gain further insights into areas of improvement as a business and map out progress. The impact assessment tool is free of charge for use by any B Corp curious business representative – only when you decide to go for certification do you have to pay.

Re-certification: A continuous commitment

Re-certification happens every three years and Small Beer re-certified in 2023. The process proved to be as challenging, if not more so, than the initial certification. The evolving nature of the impact assessment demands continuous improvement, pushing to address lagging areas and implementing necessary policies and procedures. B Corp’s emphasis on making businesses better over time resonates with the commitment to constant improvement and innovation.

Since becoming a B Corp, we have become a ‘1% for the Planet’ business, contributing 1% of total revenue to our friends and partners at the Horniman Museum. The museum is running an initiative called Project Coral which we are funding, conducting primary research into coral lifecycles.

Small Beer was also certified ‘On the Path to Net Zero’ with Net Zero Now in 2023, certifying carbon emissions calculations and committing to a science-backed programme for reducing emissions and achieving net-zero status by 2030.

In conclusion, Small Beer’s B Corp journey goes beyond brewing mid-strength beer, it represents a commitment to environmental sustainability, community impact, team engagement, and continuous improvement. We would love others to join us on this path of positive change.

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