It’s been a minute since we first shared the news that we are pursuing certification as a B Corporation. We’ve made great progress and learned quite a bit along the way. We’d love to see more companies across the country in various industries take this step to commit their business for the greater good. While it’s no small task, it is doable, even for smaller companies like ours. And you don’t have to invest a lot of money to achieve B Corp certification, particularly if your business is already “living the B Corp life” with your pay scale, time off policies, pro bono work, and supplemental benefits.
Now that we’ve moved further along in the process, we wanted to share a few tips for others who are interested in pursuing B Corp certification.
JB Media’s Status Update on B Corp Certification
We’re in documentation review! Woohoo! It’s the final step before certification and means we have reached the threshold of 80 points required for certification, had our B Impact Assessment reviewed by B Lab, completed the Assessment Review Call with a B Lab Standards Analyst, and provided two rounds of required documentation. In our case this also means we’ve updated the Assessment to reflect our 2017 financial, employee, and community service data, as well as all of the policies and practices that we have adopted. Phew. Still reading? Good.
Once the documentation review has been completed, we may receive additional questions and feedback from B Lab about our Assessment. After we address any questions or requests for additional documentation, our score will be adjusted as B Lab determines appropriate. If our final score remains over 80 points, break out the champagne because we’re a certified B Corp! At this point, we’re feeling optimistic that we will be toasting in a matter of weeks. Yay!
Lessons Learned: B Corp Certification Process
The short answer is that there is a lot more than points to be gained from the review process. Here are some things we’ve learned about the process that may help your company as you go through it (and we hope you will!):
Get to Know the Assessment Inside And Out
I spent hours in the B Impact Assessment, reading not only the questions but the examples and explanations for each one. I even went old school and printed it out (don’t worry—double-sided!) so I could better find related topics in different sections. This let me update all the relevant questions when we obtained additional information or added a policy.
I was able to make sure we were getting all of the credit we should. It also really helped me understand what B Lab was measuring. This prevented us from submitting a highly inflated score. Still, I made mistakes. For example, I chose the wrong Business Impact Model for JB Media at first. That mistake really helped us understand the Assessment and how B Lab defines things. This made it easier when I went back to the Assessment to update it later and helped me feel more confident in my answers going forward.
Leverage Online Resources
While B Corp Certification may not be a something everyone is familiar with, it is gaining popularity. This means more and more resources are emerging. There are blog posts like this one where companies share their experience of the process, online articles with tips for increasing your score, and webinars from B Lab that explain the process (that I highly recommend). Our friends at Triple Pundit have a great series of excerpts from Ryan Honeyman’s book, The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good. One of the tips links to a public Google folder with templates for policies and handbooks. These templates will save you hours of research and writing. While we didn’t use all of them and edited some heavily, having a starting point was invaluable in creating policies that met B Lab’s standards. The B Lab site also offers a searchable database for B Corps, which can help you connect with certified companies in your industry so you can learn from them.
Use the B Corp Network
Connecting with other companies who have completed B Corp certification was a total game changer for us in the process. I’d like to give a shout-out specifically to Big Path Capital, M Creative, and French Broad Chocolates. The owners of these companies provided much needed support during our process by making introductions (Big Path Capital introduced us to M Creative), sharing their experience, answering questions, and providing encouragement. The B Corp community wants to grow and connect with like-minded companies. Start with local companies, but don’t be afraid to reach out to someone in your industry located elsewhere. Connecting with M Creative, a marketing agency here in North Carolina, was instrumental in helping us navigate both the Assessment and the process.
See B Lab As Your Partner
As we got ready to submit our Assessment for review, I started to feel really nervous. How many mistakes had I made? How many points would they cost us? How much more was it going to take for us to become certified? At networking event, I shared these thoughts with Jael Rattigan, one of the owners of French Broad Chocolates, a recently certified local company. I think I used the word terrified—a bit dramatic but she understood. Her response was simple, yet it totally shifted my perspective.
Jael said, “This is a test they want you to pass.”
Yes, we had put in a lot of time and effort already. Yes, there were things in the Assessment I wasn’t sure I understood completely. Yes, there would be work ahead. Yes, we likely made mistakes. Yes, we would probably see our score adjusted after the Assessment Review Call. But at the end of the day, B Lab wants us to become certified. That’s their whole mission! This isn’t a qualification process about exclusion and keeping some businesses out, it’s about helping us be a better company for our employees, clients, and community.
Our Assessment Review experience with B Lab was both helpful and supportive. Shout-out to Ethan Brininger, the Standards Analyst we worked with at B Lab. He was clear and patient in his explanations and worked hard to support us in the process. After our review call, Ethan went back through our Assessment and made corrections based on the information he learned from our conversation and the documentation we provided. He sent us suggestions to improve our score and provided documentation templates for the next step so we would be ready. When I was implementing his suggestion that we update our Assessment with our 2017 data, he answered additional questions over email.
So while B Lab is the certifying body for B Corp certification, they are also a very valuable resource. Keep that in mind and don’t panic when you hit that submit button, know you’re going to gain a powerful partner during the review process.
Becoming a certified B Corporation is an admirable goal for any company and it’s easy to get excited about it. I think it can also be easy when working in the detailed B Impact Assessment to want to start checking off things you plan to do or that your company aspires to have. It’s tempting, particularly when you are hovering around 73 points—ask me how I know. But don’t do it. The Assessment needs to be an honest evaluation of the impact your company has now. You’ll discover ways you can do more and that’s the whole point: to give more back to your employees and those you serve. And, in the end, B Lab is going to review your Assessment and re-evaluate your score anyway. Don’t waste their time or set yourself up for disappointment. Ok, lecture over.
To be honest, it’s a bit of a waiting game now. We expect to hear back from B Lab in the next few weeks (they’re busy, which is a great sign for the direction business is going!). We will address their questions and provide whatever additional documentation they request. We’ve got a little bit of a buffer in our point total so if they adjust our score we should still qualify. No matter what, we’re committed to improving our impact and obtaining that B Lab seal. And we will celebrate that achievement when we get there. Maybe we’ll go to local B Corp businesses New Belgium Brewing or French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Purpose-driven companies should support one another after all.