You like to support companies that demonstrate a strong commitment to environmental and social stewardship, but separating the authentic few from the greenwashing masses can be tricky. That’s where B Lab (the “B” stands for “benefit”) comes in. Launched in 2007, the Pennsylvania-based nonprofit has certified more than 800 businesses in 27 countries across 60 industries. Cofounder Jay Coen Gilbert tells how B Lab came to be and what it hopes to accomplish.
Delicious Living: Why did you start B Lab?
Jay Coen Gilbert: We founded B Lab to serve entrepreneurs who use business as a force for good. We identified two systemic challenges that we hoped to address. First is a lack of standards to help consumers differentiate good companies from those with good marketing. The second is existing corporate law that demands businesses must prioritize shareholder value over value for all stakeholders. Through our work certifying B corporations, passing legislation, and providing tools to assess companies’ eco and social impact, we try to fill these gaps.
DL: What does B Corp certification mean?
JCG: Certified B Corps must meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. The Certified B Corporation seal assures consumers that a business offers more than just marketing—it practices what it preaches.
DL: Is the B Lab certification costly and time consuming?
JCG: It’s neither. To be certified, a company must score a minimum of 80 out of 200 points on the B Impact Assessment and might need to amend its corporate legal documents. The assessment is free and usually takes 60 to 90 minutes. Certification fees are based on annual sales and start at $500 for companies below $1 million.
DL: What need does certification meet for the average consumer?
JCG: Research shows that 90 percent of Americans believe companies must not only say a product or service is beneficial—they need to prove it. Additionally, 73 percent of people say they care about the company, not just the product, when making purchasing decisions.
DL: What other benefits does it offer companies?
JCG: It differentiates companies in the marketplace, attracts investors, helps lure and retain talent, and allows businesses to protect their mission as they scale up.
DL: How do you see Certified B Corps changing the business landscape?
JCG: We must make companies accountable to society, not just their shareholders. Collectively, B Corps are redefining success in business. I believe the movement will continue to grow, and socially and environmentally responsible businesses will become the norm. I hope that one day people will ask companies, “Why aren’t you a B Corp?”