At build3, we set out to be a different company from the get-go, one that cares about profit AND purpose. We did not want to support entrepreneurs who were just looking to make boatloads of cash. Therefore, as part of the founding team, we needed to set precedence for our future hires to show that we actually walk the talk.
So when a couple of our advisors suggested that we apply for an international certification that signifies our commitment to bettering the mind, body, and the planet, we jumped at the idea. We were looking for reputed certification organisations committed to improving the world through the power of business. And one name that popped up constantly was B Corp, an organisation reputed for its rigorous standards and commitment to business as a force for good.
We set out to research the requirements we needed to fulfill and the money it would cost us to apply for the certification. Upon further research, we quickly realised that getting the certification would require a sustained team effort. It would take us about a year to get the certificate, and we would need different departments within the company to coordinate with each other and send the required documents.
We decided that the process would be worth it. Unlike other certifications for businesses, becoming a B Corp is one of the few certifications that compute a score to measure a company’s fundamental social and environmental impact. It would also expose us to some of our business’s sustainability blindspots.
Moreover, we get to join a global community of 3500+ companies across 155 industries, and 78 countries worldwide focused on using their business for good, balancing profit and purpose.
And thus began our uphill climb to become B Corp certified…
How did we get assessed?
Split across five key areas, the B Corp assessment covers the following:
Governance: evaluating our overall mission, engagement around our social and environmental contribution, ethics, and transparency.
Workers: evaluating our contributions to employees’ financial security, health & safety, wellness, career development, engagement, and satisfaction.
Community: engagement with, and impact on, the communities in which we operate, hire, and source from. Focus areas include diversity and equitable inclusion, economic impact, civic engagement, charitable giving, and supply chain management.
Environment: our overall environmental management practices, as well as the impact on the air, climate, water, land, and biodiversity. This includes the direct impact of our operations, e.g. supply chain and our distribution.
Customers: assessment of how our customers are considered through the quality of our products and services, ethical marketing, data privacy, security, and feedback channels.
Across these five key areas, we needed to provide documents that supported our claims of being an ethical business. Due to the rigor with which the B Corp team analyses the records, there were multiple instances when we had to go back and forth with the B Corp team to verify our data.
For example, when we sent the B Corp team a common group insurance certificate that stated all our team members had insurance, we were asked to send the insurance certificates of each individual to ensure our claims were legitimate.
When one of our teammates, Nikit, held a pro-bono workshop for an NGO focusing on child care, we were asked to send screenshots of the email chain between our organisation and the NGO.
When we claimed that we cared about our employee wellness, we were asked to send the marketing collateral for the various wellness events we held at our organisation.
While the constant back and forth did get tedious at times, it was heartening to see the amount of rigor that went into getting certified. There were no shortcuts, and every submitted data point needed to be backed up by proof.
We filled out the B-impact assessment twice. The first time we spent 30 hours completing the entire form. Unfortunately, we learned pretty late that only companies that have completed a year are eligible for the final certification. Therefore our first attempt was futile. Moreover, we got a score below 80 which suggested that we needed to tweak some of our policies and processes to be more impact aligned.
The second time we completed the assessment, we grew bigger as an organisation. Therefore our processes changed to accommodate more people. Following the recommendations of the B Corp team, we tweaked our methods to get a higher impact score. We installed renewable energy sources at the workplace, ensured the pay scale of each employee matched national standards prescribed by the government, and used sustainable and natural materials for construction and in our daily operations (herbal products for housekeeping as a substitute to chemicals), etc. We have added specific ESG questions to our ‘Due Diligence’ checklist to screen our startups, ensuring that our stakeholders bring real, positive change to societies or the environment.
Their advice could be boiled down to being PATIENT and DILIGENT.
The B Corp team deals with a lot of applications and they will take a long time to get back to you. Additionally, there will be a lot of back and forth to verify data. Being patient throughout the entire process is critical to come through strong at the end. (We verified this through our own process as well)
Stay tuned for the next article to see if we become B Corp certified :)
Feel free to message me at email@example.com for any questions you may have about the B Corp certification process.
Check out our latest programs over at https://www.build3.org/