The Road to Becoming a B-Corporation

In our last blog on the Rise of B-Corporations, we discussed the foundational constructs of the B-corp model. There was a brief explanation included on the path to becoming a B-Corporation, but for this blog let’s dive into the specifics of that path. We already know there are three parts to becoming a B-Corporation: Completing the assessment, determining path of corporate structure, and signing the Declaration of Interdependence and Term sheet. Digging into these processes may help clarify just what makes up the road to certification.

Meeting the Performance Requirement

The first step on the road to certification starts with meeting all of the performance requirements. Validating a company’s social and environmental performance is the basis of determining whether or not a company can meet qualifications for the certificate. In order to do this, a performance test is issued called the B Impact Assessment.

Complete the B Impact Assessment

Taking the B Impact Assessment will determine the overall impact your company actually has over on your stakeholders. The assessment will vary depending on the employee count or size, sector of industry, and location of operation of your business. With a completion time of about 2-4 hours, using best estimates are encouraged the first time around. After finishing the assessment, you will be sent a B Impact Report with your score.

Sign Up for an Assessment Review

What occurs after taking the assessment test is the Assessment Review. This is different from the score you received back because the review acts more as a “double-checking” mechanism. Upon scheduling your Assessment Review you will also upload the proper documentation required for certification. In the Assessment Review, approximately 6-8 questions will be randomly generated from the original assessment taken. These questions will ask you to demonstrate your company’s practices in more detail through documentation. All documentation provided will remain strictly confidential.

Completing the Review

It’s required to complete the review with a B Lab staff member. During your call, the B Lab staff member may ask you about the questions in more detail in case there was any miscommunication during the initial assessment. This should work in your benefit because it will give you a chance to retailer your answer in a way that better fits the questions’ intentions. Part of the purpose of the review is to better understand your company’s practices and unique business model. The average length of time for review is 60-90 minutes.

Submitting Documentation

Once you receive a score of at least 80/200 after the Assessment Review, you’ll then need to upload the important documents requested. The requested documentation will come from 1-6 questions from the Assessment in order to further prove your company’s legitimacy. The questions typically come from the Impact Business Model section.

Completing the Disclosure Questionnaire

The Disclosure Questionnaire is so your company can safely disclose any sensitive information such as processes, fines, and sanctions of your business. This doesn’t have any affect on your company’s rating, and the information supplied is usually fairly minor in nature without any further action necessary. However, if B Lab does identify any items during the disclosure or background check process that are significant, further clarification and transparency may be called for. In some cases, companies may need to implement specific fixes planned by B Lab to maintain the certification, but B Lab does hold the right to revoke or deny the Company’s B Corp certification. B Corp community involvement and initiation are completely approved by the [Standards Advisory Council] and [Board of Directors]. For more information on what may be considered controversial for B Lab and a company’s eligibility [click here].

Background Check Process

On top of supplying information on sensitive issues and processes during the Disclosure Questionnaire, to qualify for the B Corp Certification you must also go through a background check performed by the B Lab staff. This includes a full review of public records, news and media coverage, search engine records of company names, brands, executive board, and other relevant information.

Evaluation of Certification

Nearly 10% of companies with their certification in place are randomly selected each year for a full evaluation. It is this part of the certification for B Corp companies that makes the “B Corp Certified Seal” so authentic. Holding the B Corp seal carries so much meaning because the process is extremely in-depth and detailed. The goal for review is to verify the requirements the Certification holds and again, further confirm accuracy and transparency via response from the company’s B Impact Assessment.

This evaluation takes place usually in face-to-face form or in a virtual format that lasts between 6-10 hours (typically depending on scope and size of business). Fully owned subsidiaries or public companies that are Certified B Corps are also subject to a mandatory on-site Certification Evaluation during each 2 year cycle of their certification term.

Recertification Process

After a company has completely undergone the B Corporation Certification process and passed all elements of the testing and review, the company is required to update their assessment every two years as a mandatory procedure. In addition to updating assessment, they must also provide additional documentation to verify their answer and achieve the same 80/200 score. This recertification process was also put into place to ensure that companies who were certified as B Corporations continued to operate and remain engaged at a high level with stakeholders. Businesses grow and change quite rapidly at any size, so it’s important for the B Corp Seal to make sure the symbol remains true to its meaning at all times.

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