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B Corp: More Than a Certification - A Movement of Companies using Business as a Force for Good

In a world where the importance of sustainable business practices is more evident than ever, companies are seeking meaningful ways to demonstrate, structure and improve their commitment to social and environmental responsibility. In the landscape of sustainability-related labels that reward companies engaged in sustainability, the B Corp certification stands out thanks to the high standards it sets, and its strong community component. 


Picture Source: Nespresso


In November 2023, four B Corps held a “B Corp & Sustainability Masterclass” at the IGEHO fair in Basel. These four sustainability leaders are Planted, Chef Gourmet, Beauty Disrupted, and Nespresso. For an hour, they shared their insights into the sustainability challenges and opportunities in the hospitality industry, and on the learnings from their B Corp Certification journeys. This article captures the essence of the Masterclass, and presents the business case for social and environmental impact, for joining the B Corp Movement in Switzerland, the impact it had on their operations and business models, and the actions they've taken to foster their sustainability performance. It surely illustrates how the B Corp Movement is designed to become a catalyst for positive change towards an economy that balances profit with people and the planet.


Why B Corp? A Holistic Framework for Impact Improvement


A central piece of the B Corp approach lies in its holistic framework. It enables companies to assess the impact of their business on all their stakeholders (e.g. workers, suppliers, environment), and to create a coherent sustainability strategy accordingly. This is not just about ticking boxes; it's about creating a structured path for continuous improvement towards sustainability. Planted, the 2023 newly B Corp certified FoodTech Startup that produces clean-label plant-based meat, highlighted how the certification process served them as a framework to map the impact of their activities on their stakeholders and structure their sustainability efforts. 


“B Corp enables you to zoom-out and assess the current state of your efforts. It provides you with a framework that allows you to approach your responsibilities systematically. ”

Camilla Perotti, Planted, Chief Of Staff & Lead Analytics


A True Movement


In the jungle of existing sustainability programmes and certificates, B Corp is recognized for its comparatively high standards as well as its emphasis on the community aspect. Striving to create systems change, it challenges companies to look at the bigger picture regarding the role of businesses in driving a sustainable economy. Achieving the B Corp certification means joining a community of companies dedicated to bringing benefit not just to shareholders, but all business stakeholders. From transforming individual companies, B Corp has grown into a movement committed to using business as a force for good. 

 

The CEO of Chef Gourmet, Arthur Brault, emphasized this collaborative aspect of the B Corp Movement, illustrating how businesses can thrive together through shared values.


“The community behind the B truly helps to build up positive collaborations. B Corp is more than a certification - it is a true movement.”

Arthur Brault, Founder of Chef Gourmet


The other speakers also pointed to increasing pressure from their clients, employees and other stakeholders to showcast how they are effectively moving towards more sustainable business practices. Once a B Corp, they themselves seek collaborations along their supply chain with other B Corp-certified players. For example, Planted mentioned that when they entered the UK market, they received requests to prove their sustainability efforts specifically with B Corp certification.


A Transformative Journey:

Reflecting on Progress and Identifying Opportunities


For Chef Gourmet, a company with eight years of experience when they started the Journey, B Corp became a methodology for reflection. The B Impact Assessment (BIA) served as a valuable tool, guiding the company to assess past achievements and identify areas for improvement in line with its business development strategy. For the company, scoring the B Corp certification served as a third-party testimony of the authenticity of their sustainability engagements. Transitioning a business to meet high sustainability standards takes time and achieving the B Corp certification is just a milestone in this journey. For the Zurich based B Corp Planted, joining the movement served as a rewarding step towards their long-term mission. For the company's ambition to provide a sustainable source of protein in the form of plant-based meat products, surrounding themselves with sustainability leaders is a true catalyst. 


To ensure that certified B Corps engage in a continuous improvement journey, they are mandated to undergo a thorough recertification every three years. As a matter of fact 97% of the B Corp Community members do manage to recertify every three years. 


Support for Sustainable Business Models


Beauty Disrupted, a zero-plastic cosmetics producer, shared its experience of integrating B Corp into its initial sustainable business model. The multiple tools and frameworks provided by B Lab support the set up of sustainable business practices from the start, i.e. through the Impact Business Model Cards, the SDG Action Manager and more. The access to best practices of and the exchange with advanced B Corps also helps to establish a regenerative business model from scratch. 

Besides, the certification not only helps to set a solid sustainable framework which engages the entire organization but also enables an authentic communication about one's achievements.

“B Corp helped us to make the right choices and optimize the impact we can have from the very beginning. We looked at existing certifications and chose B Corp because it is the most exhaustive and intense one which can not simply be “bought”. Being B Corp Certified does mean a lot to the whole Beauty Disrupted organization and to our partners!”

Alban Mayne, Co-Founder of Beauty Disrupted


Tangible Returns on Investment

Taking Data-Driven Decisions


B Corp Planted also emphasized the tangible returns on investment of the certification. The certification process requests a solid data baseline and the mobilization from many team members, which in turn helps to identify promising business opportunities and strongly fosters employee engagement and motivation. Additionally, the investment in B Corp certification becomes a strategic move that pays off in strengthening existing and allowing new customer and supplier relationships on a global scale.


Credibility and Competitive Advantage


Chef Gourmet saw a high return on investment with all their stakeholders as the B Corp certification pushes the credibility of a company's sustainability efforts towards customers as well as suppliers signaling a genuine commitment to sustainable business practices. Nespresso also highlights the direct response from the B Corp Community, emphasizing that B Corp opens the door to collaboration across competitors and gives companies the momentum to initiate true change within their organizations. For example in Switzerland, Nespresso opened the recycling system they implemented in 1991 with Group Barec to competitors across the industry, to make recycling easier for consumers and increase the recycling rate in Swiss industry.


The benefits of mobilizing and investing resources into the B Corp certification are thus manifold.


“B Corp creates an important momentum in your company. It helps to make our long-standing sustainability efforts visible and enables a credible sustainable transformation.”

Maxime Grether, Social and Environmental Sustainability Manager at Nespresso Switzerland


“When you go through the B Corp certification process, you have to enroll  the entire organization to commit. We are not saying that we are perfect but we want to disrupt the beauty industry,educate & support our partners and customers to also go for it! . B Lab supports us in this.”

Alban Mayne, Co-Founder of Beauty Disrupted


In conclusion, the insights shared by these industry leaders make a compelling case for embedding sustainability as a core part of the business strategy. Joining the B Corp Movement is one approach towards this end. It unleashes a positive and transformative force that supports businesses into using business as a force for good. Today, sustainability can not be just a buzzword anymore: it is a prerequisite for success. 

The B Corp Movement is an invitation for companies to join a community of like-minded businesses, creating a more inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economic system for all.

B Lab is a non-profit transforming the global economy to benefit all people, communities, and the planet. 


You want to learn more about the B Corp Movement in Switzerland?




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