Imagine that a fundamental change to your business could improve its decision-making, strengthen its staff retention, future-proof its operations and make it more financially resilient. More than 1,700 companies in the UK have already made such a change: becoming a certified B Corporation.
B Corps are businesses that align with a rigorous set of environmental and social performance standards and commit to continuous improvement. Once every three years, they are assessed for what positive impact they have had on workers, customers, the community and the environment.
Alongside this, they make a legal change to put the interests of people and the planet alongside profit in their decision-making – something that 78% of British consumers think all businesses should do.
They include well-known brands such as Giffgaff, Graze, Innocent and Tilda Rice, alongside growing ethical startups such as Krī Skincare, Here We Flo and tech recycling firm Klyk. They are thriving in all corners of the country.
B Corps are the kind of business we all need to see more of. They are two-and-a-half times more likely than traditional businesses to be carbon-neutral and four times more likely to tie executive compensation to social and environmental performance. Yet alongside such impressive ethical credentials, B Corps are also demonstrating that doing ‘good business’ is also sound business.
A new study by B Lab shows that B Corps outperformed ‘ordinary’ businesses worldwide on top-line growth between 2019 and 2021. They were also significantly better equipped to survive the pandemic. Cohort-based analysis reveals that more than 95% of B Corps continued to operate through to 2023, compared with 88% of firms that were not certified.
In fact, B Corps are generally more likely than the average company to grow both their workforce and their revenue. It’s clear that they are rewarded for prioritising their people and making decisions in the long-term interests of the environment and wider society.
As Graze’s CEO, Joanne Allen, commented earlier this year, the certification process has not only “helped to transform the business for the better. It has also supported Graze as we attract great talent and opened up conversations with both suppliers and customers who are keen to do business with purpose-led companies.”
Klyk co-founder Asad Hamir reports that its status has caught the attention of several companies, which often approach his firm curious to know more about what certification means and how it shapes their operations.
“We achieved it about two years ago – it’s been massive for customer acquisition,” he says. “Many businesses are intrigued by the fact we’re a B Corp.”
With a gathering polycrisis threatening the UK’s health and wealth, B Corps are needed more than ever. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that, with the world on track to warm by 3°C without an aggressive intervention, we have precious little time to act effectively on climate change.
Meanwhile, the cost-of-living crisis has plunged 4.2 million children nationwide below the poverty line. Business has not been helping, with increasing reports of ‘greedflation’ as companies protect their shareholders at the cost of consumers. B Corps recognise that business must find solutions.
In these challenging times, adopting strategies that look beyond short-term profit can increasingly confer a competitive edge. It is something that most business leaders would do well to carefully consider – it’s the only way forward if we’re to build the economy we need for the future.
Raconteur is a certified B Corp, and one of only three media organisations in the UK. Working with B Lab UK we have produced a content series on The B Corp Movement.
Chris Turner is B Lab UK’s executive director.