This March, we’re celebrating B Corp Month 2021. With 3,821 B Corps currently operating in 74 countries around the world, this type of business has been gaining a lot of popularity with the movement towards sustainable consumption and growing support for eco-friendly products. But what’s the real difference between a B corp and a corporation? This B Corp month, we’re breaking it down for you. So you can understand why this certification process sets the gold standard for a sustainable business model. And, how it can help you steer clear of greenwashing.
B Corp vs Corporation
When a company decides to start up, there are a few different ways it can legally begin to do business. One of them is to form a corporation. A corporation is a legal entity that is viewed as separate from its owners. Legally, this means that the corporation can be treated as a “person,” allowing it to enter into contracts, owe and be paid money, and more. Having a corporation allows its shareholders (those who own part of the corporation) to have less liability if the corporation is sued or goes bankrupt. And at the end of the day, the goal of the corporation is to provide as much value to its shareholders as possible. So, the bottom line (and the main goal) of a corporation? Make as much money as possible for those who own a share of the business.
Becoming a B Corp is a conscious choice that businesses make. There’s no legal requirement for businesses to apply for certification, and the process takes time and money to complete. Not to mention that the standards for certification are rigorous. Certification is offered via a non-profit organization called B Lab. This certification aims to shift the goal of businesses beyond making a profit. Their goal? “Accelerat[e] a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy.” In short, the difference between a B Corp and a corporation is the end goal of the business. For corporations, the goal is profit. For B Corps, the end goal is a purpose-driven business that creates positive impacts for all stakeholders. This is sometimes referred to as the triple bottom line. Classically, the bottom line for corporations has been how much profit they’ve made each year. The triple bottom line adds two more aspects to judge business success by: people and the planet. Of course, it’s easy to say that your business has a goal beyond making a profit. It’s a whole other thing to actually prove it. That’s where the certification process comes into play.
What is the B Corp certification?
The certification that the B Lab provides is centered around the goal of creating a positive impact for all stakeholders in a business. Not just shareholders. This means anyone and anything that is affected by the business's operations are considered in business decisions. Employees, customers, the community, and of course, the environment. Considering impacts on all stakeholders is so essential to the B Corp mission that it’s a requirement of the certification process. How? All these corporations must amend their business structure to hold them legally accountable for their actions towards all stakeholders. It’s a big commitment, but a necessary step to ensure that businesses are who they say they are.
Beyond legally committing to these goals, all B Corps must meet a minimum score on the B Impact assessment. This third-party validation assesses the positive impact of the entire business. Out of 200 possible points, the average business scores a 50.9. B Corps must score an 80 or higher to be considered. All impact assessments are available for anyone to view on bcorporation.net. Re-certification takes place every two years, and the same requirements apply each time. Through legal accountability, verified performance, and public transparency, the certification speaks for the true colors of the business. And, as Bambu co-founder Jeffrey Delkin says, “the assessment and review is an arduous process, but an important one. Certificate or not, going through this process made us a better company in many ways.” Not only does this process keep businesses striving to do better, it allows customers a real look at what’s going on inside the companies they buy from.
Using certifications in the fight against greenwashing
The rise in eco-friendly buying behaviors, sometimes called conscious consumerism, has shown many businesses that going green is essential for them to keep their customers and attract new ones. But not all companies want to do the work to actually become a sustainable business. What results is greenwashing. Greenwashing is a misleading marketing practice through which companies advertise their products or services as eco-friendly. But, they don't actually change their practices. And it’s not a new concept.
Greenwashing can show up in subtle product or wording changes. Things like changing packaging to green or neutral colors. Or calling a product “all-natural” without any certifications to back it up. Sound familiar? You likely see examples of greenwashing every time you’re at the grocery store. Next time, check that friendly green label to see if it has the B Corp symbol. This certification acts as an impartial verifier. So customers can know if the company in question is creating a positive impact or a negative one. Choosing to buy from conscious businesses is an easy way to vote with your dollar. It shows companies that you want and support sustainable solutions.
How we’re celebrating B Corp Month 2021
At Bambu offices in Shanghai and Portland, B Corp Month 2021 is a cause for celebration. When we began developing Bambu in 2002, our first mission and value statements mirrored many of the founding B Corp principles that were to come in 2007. We’re excited to be a part of the team and happy to see it grow each year. This B Corp Month, we’re sharing a community-based volunteer project that our founders, Rachel and Jeff, along with their Shanghai-based team, were proud to be part of this past fall.
Central to the mission of businesses like Bambu is to improve communities wherever their businesses are. And at the same time, to provide volunteer opportunities to employees. We brought the two together with an urban gardening project in Shanghai, China. Spearheaded by The Nature Conservancy, the Bambu team got their hands in the soil planting greenery and donated materials to make the project a reality. They transformed the adjacent area next to a residential building into a food garden and park. The final product works to provide a connection to nature while growing fresh food for the mostly elderly residents and families living in the complex area. Along with planting, we shared Bambu products and created signs to welcome guests to their new park.
This project is a case study for others to learn from. And it’s the first of several projects in the works to improve residential communities’ quality of life and encourage greater appreciation for the natural environment. Projects such as these exemplify why this certification is setting the standard for sustainable business practices. B Corps provide quality products that set standards of their own. Plus, they function as a positive entity that creates opportunities for community development and supports the health of the environment. B Corp month 2021 is a great time to celebrate the values that make all the difference between a B Corp and a corporation!
Want to know more about Bambu’s journey to becoming a B Corp? Read this!