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10th January 2024
So is B Corp worth it? In recent years, the business landscape has witnessed a surge in companies seeking B Corp certification (including Headway), a recognition of their commitment to environmental and social goals. However, the movement is not without controversy, with smaller businesses questioning the true impact of this certification, especially when it comes to larger corporations. In this blog post, we delve into the debate surrounding B Corp certification and its relevance for businesses, exploring whether the effort is truly worth it.
One of the primary examples driving the skepticism is the case of Nestlé subsidiary Nespresso. When this global giant was awarded B Corp status, it raised eyebrows, particularly among smaller companies like Glen Lyon Coffee Roasters. These smaller players, who had recently achieved B Corp certification themselves, expressed dismay, highlighting a perceived gap between their own sustainability efforts and those of Nespresso. Critics point to allegations of poverty incomes among Nespresso’s farmers and the substantial waste generated by its coffee capsules.
As the B Corp movement expands globally, it faces scrutiny from smaller businesses that were early adopters of its standards. Some argue that the focus has shifted towards enlisting large multinationals, urging them to be “less bad” rather than promoting transformative “good.” People also question the credibility of B Lab, the certifying authority, sparking a battle for the heart and soul of the movement.
One of the strengths of B Corp certification is its accessibility, allowing any company to become a B Corp. However, critics argue that this accessibility is also a weakness, as it may not require the significant changes in business practices that are urgently needed for a sustainable future. The debate raises questions about the B Corp movement’s ability to drive deep, meaningful transformation in the business world.
The UK is experiencing significant growth in B Corp certification, with about 1,000 companies achieving this status by the end of 2022—double the previous year’s number. Companies in the UK are increasingly pursuing B Corp certification, not only for the positive impact on their public image but also as a response to the demands of younger employees who prioritise sustainability.
In response to criticism, B Lab is planning changes to its standards, aiming to make B Corps more prescriptive about their stance on specific topics like fair wages, diversity, and climate change. However, some argue that B Corps already have too many goals, making it challenging for investors and the public to track their impact effectively.
While B Corp certification remains a sought-after recognition for businesses committed to sustainability, the controversy surrounding larger corporations and the need for more prescriptive standards raise important questions. So is B Corp worth it? For businesses considering B Corp certification, it’s essential to weigh the potential benefits against the evolving challenges and criticisms. The journey towards becoming a B Corp might be a valuable one, but the destination requires a careful evaluation of the movement’s true transformative potential.