Blog

Are B Corps good or BS header image

Are B Corps good, great or total BS? A look behind the logo

In the world of impact business, B Corps are a pretty big deal. If you’re looking for a job that serves the common good, it’s a name you need to know. A company’s B Corp status is likely to crop up in an interview, so even a small amount of knowledge is a big tick, but it may also be a huge clue as to the integrity of a potential employer. In theory, anyway.

B Corps are a community of leaders who are driving the global movement of business as a force for good. 

Before gaining accreditation, businesses are assessed by Standards Analysts at the non-profit, B Lab. A company’s’ overall impact on its workers, customers, community, and the environment are graded against the B Impact Assessment. 

Official definition of B Corporation certification

‘Certified B Corp’ is now one of the most well-known ethical blue ribbons. Ethical consumers can even use a ‘B Corp’ filter when shopping online at Waitrose and Boots. Beyond that, it has become a movement and a leading voice in the call for business to take a major role in building a fair & green economy. A sentiment shared by a growing number of people. “72% of the UK public think businesses should have a legal responsibility to people and planet”. 

Unsurprisingly, B Corp has become shorthand for “the good guys”.

Held up as the bastion of ethicality, environmentalism and social justice, the common assumption is that B Corps are exclusively companies which are fixing the world. But in reality, not so much. 

There are currently 3,500 Certified B Corporations, in more than 70 countries around the world. Plenty are doing amazing things. Fixing very real problems and making things better.

Like, Oddbox. Who are fighting food waste by rescuing odd and surplus fruit and veg from farmers and delivering it to your door. And Ananas Anam, who are turning pineapple fibre, a byproduct of existing agriculture into a new cruelty-free, natural textile whilst simultaneously creating an additional income stream for farming communities.

 

Screen capture of Ananas Anam, who make new materials for a new world

 

There are, however, many B Corps doing some not-so-amazing things. Harrogate Spring Water, for instance, sell bottled water. An industry that’s commonly seen as the world’s biggest scam. Probably something to do with the fact that the product is 300 times more expensive and environmentally catastrophic compared to the tap-based alternative. And Helios Investment Partner, who invest in fossil fuels in Africa. Arguably the last thing needed for a future green economy.

So, how did they make it into the B Corp club?

Well, it may be down to their performance in corporate governance and treatment of their employees. Things that should absolutely be recognised & applauded, but the ultimate goal, the reason the businesses exists is not as a force for good.

Corporate governance and social & environmental impact are two very different things. 

The highest-ranked UK companies in the top 10 for the quality of their corporate governance as compiled by Cass Business School for the IoD includes Diageo, Aviva and Barclays. There’s very little ambiguity around the purpose of these businesses and no one would think of them as forces for good who are fixing the world even if they have good corporate governance.

So why is that distinction not being made about B Corps? Why is the overlap between the two allowing some companies to capitalise upon an assumed virtue which in reality, might not be there?

No matter how dedicated a company is to ‘being a force for good’, if the core business is about selling plastic bottles or investing in fossil fuels, are they part of the solution?

Hmm it’s Problematic, and probably best summed up in in the B Corp’s FAQs. 

Q. Could an oil company become a B Corp?

A. Any business can become a B Corp as long as it meets the criteria.”

 

Are B Corps Good? 72% of UK population think business have a responsibility to the planet

 

So, are B Corps total BS?

Well, no… of course it’s not that straightforward. It never is when you’re taking on the hefty task of trying to make the world a better place. 

Businesses have the opportunity, resources and responsibility to play an integral role in finding solutions to the problems the planet and the people on it have (and have caused). For change-makers, business can be a legitimate and tangible way of making better happen. The effects of which we all benefit from. As a movement, B Corps have created a dialogue and space for businesses that choose a triple bottom line. Celebrating an alternative, more conscious way of doing business.

But the reality is that only some B corps are solving society’s most challenging problems. And that those whose founding purpose is profit without purpose but actively treat their stakeholders well along the way; receive the same status as their problem-solving counterparts, can’t be ignored. Whether or not that makes the entire movement bs or not, is up to you. The impact you want to have upon the world, the kind of organisation you want to work with and what is ‘good’ or ‘better’, is entirely up to you. 

 

For us, we like our purpose to be problem-solving. We only list jobs with businesses, enterprises and organisations who are in it to make things better. Take a look for yourself >>>

4 Comments

  1. littlewoodemma

    Excellent article. Danone should not be allowed to be a B Corp, nor should Harrogate, imo.

    1. For Purpose Jobs

      Thank you!

  2. Michael Harris

    Interesting article and an important topic. Much like the organic certification has become BS, with “organic” roundup hitting the market, it seems that B Corp is in danger of heading the same way.

    The problem is that as soon as these accreditations become hugely profitable, the shady corporations find a way to do the bare minimum to meet the criteria. Which means cutting corners and, well, being shady.

    I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on these developments as my whole business is built around only working with ethical brands that are actively making the world a better place.

    1. For Purpose Jobs

      Absolutely – whilst it might make sense to include as many business as possible from a revenue & market share point of view, it ultimately comes down to how much they’re willing the core values & purpose to be diluted as a result.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.