Building a sustainability strategy using the B Corp framework

More companies are using the B Corp framework to develop their sustainability approach and take positive action

Paweł Czerwiński 1

The B Corp movement is transforming the business world, putting social and environmental impact at the forefront of the decision-making process. While there are over 7,000 certified B Corps, the movement’s influence transcends its official membership. 

More than 240,000 organisations use the B impact assessment (BIA) tool to measure and understand their ESG performance. Some of these will go on to gain B Corp certification, but many will use the BIA to measure and improve their social and environmental performance, irrespective of certification. 

The BIA is a free-to-use digital tool to assess, manage and improve an organisation’s impact on the environment and on communities, as well as its relationship with customers, suppliers, employees- ees and shareholders. Current performance can be compared to thousands of businesses across different industry sectors and countries. The platform also helps to identify, track and learn about emerging best practices. 

Paul Lewis, co-founder and CEO of Seismic, an international sustainability and B Corp advisory with a deep heritage in helping grow the B Corp movement, says that the B Corp framework has become established as the preeminent platform to support companies as they embark on their sustainability journey. “It gives companies access to a tried and tested best practice methodology that is already benefiting a quarter of a million companies across the world,” says Lewis. 

Some of the world’s best-known companies have embedded the BIA at the heart of their sustainability strategy. “Innocent Drinks certified as a B Corp in 2018 and the framework has been a key enabler of their success,” Lewis says. He also cites the transformation of CEF, the UK’s largest electrical wholesaler, which energised its intent around sustainability by adopting the BIA framework. 

It is far quicker and simpler than any other framework, and makes it easier to turn intent into action through a point-based scoring system that holds companies to account

The team at Seismic has advised organisations through more than 750 BIAs. Based on this deep experience, Lewis says that one of the strengths of the BIA is that it has created a common language for what sustainability means in a business environment. It is also “incredibly action-oriented.” 

“It is far quicker and simpler than any other framework, and makes it easier to turn intent into action through a point-based scoring system that holds companies to account,” he says. 

The BIA validates the progress that companies have already made towards a sustainable future. Its holistic approach also shines a light on blind spots or weaknesses, providing vital data to support the necessary improvements to raise performance across the whole organisation.

This evidence-based approach becomes a valuable resource for those internal sustainability champions who seek to build support for transformation. “The language of B Corp is a powerful way to communicate internally to the executive team and, increasingly, to the CEO,” says Lewis. “B Corp is such an accessible framework for leaders to engage with sustainability, which is an area that used to be caught up in a labyrinth of acronyms and jargon.” 

The framework is also very well recognised and understood in the UK, which is the world’s fastest-growing market for B Corp. As B Corps mature, strong evidence is emerging that establishes a clear link between sustainability and profitable growth. Certified B Corps reported an average of 26% growth rate between 2017 and 2020, compared with the UK national average of 5%. This is why pressure for positive change is coming from investors, even when the economic outlook is uncertain. 

Says Lewis: “What is absolutely clear and consistent is that investors are not deviating from a focus on sustainability in the corporate setting. In fact, it is quite the opposite, because sustainability is where investors are asking questions and challenging senior executives to do more. Pressure is also coming from customers, employees and prospective employees. 

“Being a B Corp or using the BIA as a framework to embed sustainability is a shorthand way of communicating an organisation’s priorities, and we are seeing an increasing number who say that they are proud to be on the journey.”

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