B Corporation Certification
Why B Corp?
There are a lot of reasons to get into business, but when you distill those individual reasons down, they’re all some version of “make people’s lives better”. That could be through something obvious (like creating money), or something more nuanced, like flexible schedules or a fun place to meet. A company is a vehicle to make a positive impact in the lives of the people it touches, whether that’s team members, their kids, the office delivery person, clients, or folks up the street.
When we first heard about the B Corporation movement, a lightbulb turned on in our collective heads. A set of tools and guidelines to show us how we stack up to expert-vetted standards, and a way to connect with other responsibly-minded companies? Sign us up.
There are other benefits as well – but first, the basics.
So what IS a B Corporation?
The B stands for Benefit.
Certified B Corporations, or B Corps, are companies verified by B Lab to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. They are for-profit companies dedicated to using business as a force for good.
Think of the stamps you see on food containers, like Fair Trade or USDA Organic: the B label serves as a shorthand for consumers (or in our case, clients) to trust that what they’re buying has ethical origins and a sustainable positive impact.
Being certified as a B Corp means that we meet a set of rigorous standards in 5 categories: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment and Customers.
In addition to those categories, each B Corp has to qualify for at least one “impact business model” – basically, a designated area of focus with long-reaching repercussions. Mediocre’s (first) impact business model is Local Economic Development, meaning that we devote a majority of our resources into boosting up our local economy here in Lexington, Kentucky.
What does it mean for us?
Internally, it means that our team knows that we walk our talk: We’re doing everything we can to be conscientious and responsible. And not with vague or performative promises, but in measurable, legally binding terms. Not only is the team in the know, but they’re accountable as well: it’s baked into all levels of our organization.
Being certified makes us consider the ramifications of everything we do – the work we accept, the way we create it, the culture we’re creating day to day.
We have to challenge ourselves to go the extra mile, whether that means taking extra time to search for responsible vendors in our supply chain (don’t get sucked into the Book of Bezos; there are better ways that clicking “reorder” on Amazon).), or turning down paid work if a potential client practices something that clashes with our core values (read more on that in our blog post on Refusing Clients).
We need to get creative with ways to make our collective lives better. We have incentives in place to encourage employees to bike to work. Some improvements we’ve made as a result of pursuing B Corp Certification:
- We expanded our benefits offerings, including retirement plan matching, better health insurance coverage options, and increased PTO.
- We documented and expanded a ton of internal policies, including supply chain practices, parental leave and breastfeeding accommodations, and our monthly philanthropy contribution amount/vetting process, among others.
- We committed to scheduled, paid time for volunteering and skill development for every employee, every week.
- We updated our company’s articles of organization to include a commitment to social and environmental responsibility (meaning we are legally obligated to act in the best interest of all).
The Certification Experience
While we’ve always tried to do right by everyone we come in contact with, we had never formalized many of those practices until going through the B Impact Assessment.
This was a rigorous process over the course of 18 months. Each item in the five categories is scored based on its potential positive impact (better practices = more points), and you have to hit 80 points to make the cut.
Our first step was using the impact assessment as a guide to actually create and implement improvements that were within the scope of our abilities. Once we completed and submitted our assessment, we worked with a B Lab Analyst to verify that all of our answers/claims were true and practicable. Many calls, many months, and much (so much) documentation. Definitely worth it.
Good for the World, Good for Business
In the true B Corp spirit of full transparency, there’s another reason to become certified: It’s good business.
As a B Corporation, we’re more visible in more places. We come across opportunities we wouldn’t have heard about before. We get more backlinks to our site, which improves our ranking in search engines (see: The Secret to SEO). Not to mention, people that care about doing good will prioritize engaging us over another competitor.
That’s not to say it’s some kind of shortcut; we really do all the things we say we do. The B Lab vetting process simply does not let you game the system (refer to section above on getting certified) – and we wouldn’t want to anyway.
We want our people to want to work here. Our team is incredibly talented and hardworking, and we know that we have to do our part as an employer to earn their continued loyalty.
The Road Ahead
So, what’s next from here? We’re looking forward to a few new horizons:
- Engaging with the B Corp community (called the B Hive – and I’m our team’s resident B Keeper – get it? Respect the puns)
- Connecting and working with other B Corporations, and learning from each other
- Continuing to use the B Lab standards to make improvements to our company culture and practices. In three years, we’ll apply for recertification (and hopefully reach an even higher score!)
- Being part of a global movement and strategizing with other leaders for collective action