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B Lab Seeks Input on Updated B Corp Standards

B Lab has launched a public comment period on new draft standards for B Corp Certification — inviting businesses, civil society and the public to provide feedback through an interactive website.

B Lab, the nonprofit network behind B Corp certification, is updating its standards for the sixth time since B Corp was launched 17 years ago. The organization is once again seeking input from various stakeholders to help ensure the latest draft certification is ambitious, clear and attainable for businesses across the globe while creating a robust platform for transforming the global economy to ethically and equitably meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.

Over the years, B Corp certification has become a recognized standard that signifies organizations dedicated to transforming the global economy to benefit all people, communities and the planet. By continuing to evolve the standards, B Lab aims to lead economic systems change to support its collective vision of an inclusive, equitable and regenerative economy. B Lab certification aligns with the Global Reporting Initiative and the UN SDGs.

“Right now, we have reached a vital juncture,” wrote Clay Brown, Head of Standards, Certification and Product Delivery at B Lab Global. “Evolving the standards is not just about redefining business norms; it's about scripting a new narrative for the future of our planet and society.”

The first draft standards were released in Sept 2022 and November 2022. The first draft feedback showed the strong majority of stakeholders agreed that the standards were impactful, clear and attainable. This second consultation invites business leaders, policymakers, civil society, environmental and social experts, and the public to help define what it means to use business as a force for global good. The latest draft standard is the result of feedback from a preliminary consultation that took place in the last quarter of 2022. This newest draft explores in further detail specific performance requirements for B Corp certification, as well as terms, compliance criteria and guidance.

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“Revising our standards is part of our DNA,” Judy Rodrigues, Director of Standards at B Lab, told Sustainable Brands®. “We’re facing multiple environmental and social crises. Social inequality is growing. We have the biodiversity and climate crises; we still have racial divides. And markets are changing really quickly. In this latest revision, we ask the community, ‘Is it time for us to raise the bar, so all businesses across the world can generate positive impact for communities by tackling the most urgent issues?’”

The proposed revised standards are published on an interactive website with an integrated survey, contextualizing standards for businesses large and small. Input from the second consultation will inform the next standard revision, which will then go on to B Lab’s Standards Advisory Council and Board of Directors to ensure impartiality and credibility.

Interoperability, transparency and leveling the playing field

B Lab identified 59 different standards with exact match equivalencies to B Lab standards and over 600 near-match equivalencies. Performance interoperability across various standards is being proposed to make the newest draft certification play better with other standards and regulations. This will save time and resources, Rodrigues said, and open up more opportunities for more companies to become B Corps.

The new standard proposes all B Corps will have to meet specific requirements across nine impact topics instead of the current five, and also introduces two new performance-recognition models. Contingent on feedback, B Corps will be assigned badges indicating they either meet or exceed standards. Another performance recognition introduced in the new draft highlights companies that place impact at the center of their business model.

“With an impact business model, your business is really built around creating a specific positive impact for your stakeholders,” Rodrigues said.

More needs to be done to recognize impact business models (IBM), Rodrigues explained — pointing out that it’s one of the secret sauces of B Corp certification.

“We should recognize that more in this standard,” she said.

Under the new proposal, businesses seeking certification that have an IBM may automatically satisfy certain requirements. The new standard provides a roadmap for classifying impact business models and certification requirements to achieve recognition; and some standards may be waived, contingent on business circumstances. For example, a farmer-owned cooperative in Central America will likely be granted some leeway; whereas multinationals will have additional certification cycles to prove their adherence to an IBM. Businesses with IBMs are then ranked bronze, silver and gold.

Additional proposed elements outline how certain certification requirements can be waived depending on sector, size and geographical location. For example, an aspiring B Corp with a few employees will likely be exempt from workforce-performance requirements applied to larger corporations.

“The general rule of thumb is that the larger you are [as a business], the more requirements you will need to meet and with increased rigor,” Rodrigues said. “We want to ensure our standards are inclusive and equitable. So, we have universally applicable impact topics; but we recognize that not everyone is starting from the same operational point.”

Proposed are three new tiers categorizing corporations by geographic region and an equity mechanism recognizing operational barriers in the Global South, allowing some flexibility when certifying in challenging geopolitical environments. Businesses will have to justify why certain eligibility requirements should be waived.

“We’re building a movement to transform the economy to be more inclusive, equitable, and regenerative,” Rodrigues said. “That really does take a movement, so we have integrated that more in our standards and given a flexible approach to companies on what that looks like … It’s a collaborative effort, transforming the economic system. We really encourage our stakeholders to help us shape what the future of business means and what it means to be a B Corp and really appreciate this collaborative effort to use business as a force for good.”

The consultation period — open to all businesses, members of civil society and the public — runs through 26 March 2024.