At Alvéole, we’re proud to be a B Corp – and a “bee” corp, though that’s a teensy bit less official! But what is a B Corp, how do you become one, and why would you want to? We explain it all below, plus five B Corporations that we admire and why – from an award-winning brewery that’s recycling yeast into energy for a local farm to an outdoor clothing brand fighting to protect national monuments.
What’s a B Corp?
B Corps are certified companies that are about more than just profit – they’re forces for social and environmental change, aka the triple bottom line. Being B Corp certified essentially means balancing purpose and profit.
Becoming a B Corp: a rigorous process
Becoming a B Corp isn’t easy – it’s an amazing initiative and one that takes a lot of self-reflection and commitment to achieve. Sound a little vague? Let’s break it down.
To become a B Corp, companies need to prove that they have a positive impact on:
- Their workers.
- Their customers.
- Their suppliers.
- Their communities.
- The environment.
During the B Corp application process, companies answer a ton of questions about their impacts regarding these five principles and then upload supporting documents to back up their claims. For each proven claim, they get points. (If you like numbers: they need a minimum of 80 points on a scale of 200 to qualify.)
Recertification: improving at every round
Then, three years later, companies have to do it all again! Recertification is an opportunity to:
- get better.
- reflect within your company.
- implement suggestions from the evaluators and your employees.
It’s a lot of work (again!), but it’s worth it for companies concerned with their long term sustainability, both in terms of their own business and their impact on our finite planet.
Unfortunately, not all companies are in the B Corp mindset – yet.
Last August, the CEOs of a lobby group made up of 181 of America’s biggest companies signed a statement declaring that ‘the goal of a corporation was no longer just about profit, but about basically everything that B Corp certification stands for’. The statement was a giant leap in the right direction – essentially a sea change for the corporate world. But whereas B Corps are certified by B Lab, an objective third-party non-profit, these corporations, including Amazon and Apple, didn’t have to weigh themselves on a scale.
In response, a group of more than 30 certified B Corps took out a full-page ad in the New York Times, calling on those big players to practice what they’d preached. The ad was a way of (fingers crossed!) holding companies more accountable for their words and making them examine their own practices to see what B Corp-style improvements they could make.
Overall, it was a big moment for a global movement, one that’s pushing leaders to use business as a force for good.
Five B corps that inspire our team
We understand the work and commitment that goes into living up to B Corp values. That’s why these five B Corp-certified companies below are a huge inspiration to us.
They come from a wide range of industries, but have all made the choice to constantly try to do better – for their employees, their communities, their customers, their suppliers, and the environment.
Does beer taste better when you feel good about drinking it? Beau’s CEO Steve Beauchesne thinks so. That’s why in 2013, his Ontario-based, employee-owned company became the first B Corp brewery in Canada.
Beau’s brews its organic beer using renewable electricity, which lowers the company’s carbon footprint by 110 tonnes every year. It treats its wastewater onsite and sends used yeast and other brewing by-products to a bio-digester, which turns them into energy to help power a local farm.
On the employee side, some of their initiatives include paid days for volunteering and a ride-to-work program. As for community involvement, Beau’s supported Ottawa non-profit Just Food’s installation of solar panels at its urban farm in 2017. And it’s aiming to donate $4 million to charitable and community organizations by 2025, on top of the $2 million it’s donated since 2006.
This Florida-based company pulls one pound of trash from oceans, bays, seas and rivers for every artisanal upcycled bracelet, iPhone case, or ocean clean-up kit sold, with the goal of ending single-use plastics. It hires ocean crews to recover those plastics and buys the rest of its post-consumer plastics and eco-friendly materials before employing artisans around the world to produce its unique designs. Since 2017, it’s recovered more than 13 million pounds of trash from the world’s oceans!
In addition to cleanups and merchandise, the company educates the public and lobbies for better legislation, including the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, which, if passed, would hold corporations accountable for their plastic pollution and waste in general.
To make sure their own items don’t end up in the trash, each product description on the company’s website states what to do with it if you ever decide that you no longer need it. Descriptions also include what each product is made of, including the percentage of its own recovered and recycled plastic used.
“Business has to pick up the mantle when the government fails you,” Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario said in an interview with Time in 2019.
A perfect example of a business practicing what it preaches, in 2017, the California-based clothing and gear company joined a group of organizations suing the Trump government over cuts to National Monuments that include the ancestral homes of Native American tribes. The court cases are ongoing, but there’s hope! Biden’s new government is currently reviewing the cuts.
Patagonia became a B Corp back in 2011 and has been racking up accolades ever since, including four nominations in 2019 as a top performing B Corps by B Lab.
It’s also upped its B Corp score steadily with every recertification with initiatives including:
- donating all its 2016 Black Friday profits (about $10 million) to environmental organizations.
- creating an Environmental Internship Program that lets employees spend two months volunteering for an environmental organization with full pay.
- funding environmental awareness campaigns.
And definitely not an afterthought, it also makes amazing clothing from carefully sourced socially and environmentally responsible materials, a difficult task in an industry not known for its traceability, but one that Patagonia takes to heart with a designated Social/Environmental Responsibility team.
In 2017, 2018, and twice in 2019, Kotmo landed on B Lab’s “Best for the World” lists for its socially- and environmentally-minded promotional products.
The Montreal-based women-owned company partners with corporations to design unique, locally-made items for media swag bags or employee gifts. That could be a branded snack bag made from recycled polyester produced by a social reinsertion organization using locally printed labels, or a custom tablet sleeve made with recycled felt – a project that brought together three local businesses all within 5 km.
While Kotmo designs unique items for big businesses like banks, media groups, and public transit organizations, its online shop makes it simpler for any organization to create a branded product, from eco-friendly wooden games to yoga mats, whisky stones, and anti-microbial keychains.
Nada is a Vancouver-based package-free grocery store that goes way beyond eco-friendly groceries. In non-Covid times, customers bring their own containers to this Vancouver-based package-free grocery store to fill up on everything from locally made soaps to bulk chickpeas to homemade double chocolate marshmallow cookies (the in-house kitchen also helps reduce food waste by turning surplus food into dips, soups, sauces and dips sold at the store’s zero-waste cafe). Even now, customers can pay a deposit on containers that they can return for a refund and resterilization before their next contactless pick-up or delivery.
As for suppliers, Nada favors local and sustainable products from other B Corps, as well as carbon neutral, socially conscious, alternative business model, and minority- and indigenous-run operations. Owners Brianne Miller and Alison Carr then train employees to better understand the social and environmental issues behind what’s on their shelves – which also makes them better able to serve customers.
Their most recent projects include a carbon footprint analysis of their own operations and conducting surveys and follow-up meetings to improve supplier partnerships from an environmental, community, customer, and employee standpoint (essentially, all the B Corp criteria).
To B or not to B Corp
To us, a company is a group of people working towards an objective, like honey bees working together to ensure the health and wellbeing of the whole colony. Some gather nectar, some take care of baby bees, and some guard the entrance of the hive. But no honey bee exists in isolation – they take care of each other. Like them, it’s our responsibility to care for society.
That means always working a little harder to create a more sustainable and inclusive economy. It means balancing purpose with profit. And it means holding ourselves responsible for our actions while trying to improve. That’s why there’s no question that bee-ing a B Corp is worth it.
Curious to learn more?
For more about Alvéole’s B Corp initiatives, check out how we work with businesses, schools, and communities.