Posted by Chris O’Brien
B Corporation is a new certification system for socially and environmentally responsible companies. The ‘B’ stands for ‘benefits.’
I couldn’t find out much about the people behind this effort, apparently a non-profit group called B-Lab, but the standards seem legit from what I can tell so far. The founding companies are a cast of the usual suspects – many are names that are already highly associated with the ‘responsible’ business movement. On the one hand, that is a good thing – it means companies with real commitments are the ones being recognized by the certification. But on the other hand it raises the question of whether this is a well-intentioned effort that will never reach beyond the same core of businesses that are already doing the right thing.
But perhaps this is a good thing. An article in the Financial Times reports that Coen Gilbert, one of B-Corp’s founders, intends for the certification to serve as a way for the many small and medium sized ‘truly green’ companies to differentiate themselves from the older, bigger companies that are suddenly talking green for the first time.
Of the more than 100 ‘founding’ B-Corp companies, a few are in the coffee biz: Moka Joe; Mugshots Coffee House and Cafe; One Village Coffee; and Pura Vida Coffee. To become certified, each company completes a survey evaluating their practices. A minimum score of 80, out of a possible 200, is required to receive certification. In addition, the company bylaws or articles of incorporation must specifically require consideration be given to all the company stakeholders, including employees past and present, suppliers, customers, and the communities and society in which the business operates.
The completed company audits are available for viewing online. That way interested stakeholders can see that, for example, One Village Coffee scored a measly 9.1 points on the environmental section of the assessment, which is just 24% of the points available in that category, and that they barely squeaked through the certification at all with just 86.1 points total. Whereas Pura Vida earned 32% of the environmental points and scored 103.4 on the evaluation overall. But Moka Joe performed considerably better than both, meriting 90% of the environmental points and reaching an impressive (comparatively) 129.4 on the test as a whole.
I realize the aim of this system probably isn’t to compare the certified businesses to each other, but rather to differentiate them all from the business-as-usual pack. However, the website that houses the reports is a little clumsy – there is no easy way to compare companies to each other but more importantly, there is no way to know how individual company scores relate to average industry performance. Another problem is that the information is presented only in summary form – we see how a company scored but we don’t know why they earned that score.
I do, however, like the scheme overall. The site refers to the current system as Version 1 and claims that Version 2 is already in development. I’m impressed so far and look forward to seeing how they improve this useful tool in the future.
To read more about B Corporation and to access company reports, go to http://www.bcorporation.net and click on the ‘B Community’ tab. Currently, the only way to search for reports is to either browse company names at random or to use a key word search. I typed in ‘coffee’ and found the four above-mentioned companies.