Should you apply for a B Corp status?

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Chris Forbes - Cheeky Panda

Chris Forbes Co-Founder Cheeky Panda

Charlie Cohen - &SISTERS

Charlie Cohen CEO &SISTERS

The B Corp community has grown to over 4000 certified businesses, covering 150+ industries and 70+ countries*. The number of company’s aspiring to become a B Corp is also growing at an exponential rate, and there are clear explanations for this:

To start with, B Corps gain a significant commercial advantage over their competitors, with research showing that from 2015 – 2018 B Corps grew at a rate of 14%; 28x higher than the national average of 0.5%.*

In addition, 64% of global consumers find brands that actively communicate their purpose more attractive. 62% want companies to take a stand on issues they are passionate about, and 52% say they are more likely to buy from certain brands over others if these brands stand for something bigger than just the products and services it sells and aligns with their personal values.**

There are also clear benefits in terms of attracting talent with almost half (48%) of B Corps reporting that prospective employees are attracted to their business specifically because they know the company is B Corp.***

We spoke with Chris and Charlie to learn more about what it means to apply for and become a B Corp.

Chris Forbes is the co-founder of Cheeky Panda, a certified B Corp which supplies consumers with eco-friendly bamboo products. Charlie Cohen is the CEO of &SISTERS which provides sustainable menstrual and feminine hygiene products. ​​Alongside building the world’s first menstrual health ecosystem, &SISTERS are in the process of applying to become a B Corp.

Tell us about your business and your role

[Cheeky Panda – Chris]

Myself and my partner Julie created Cheeky Panda in 2016 after researching and developing bamboo tissue for 6 months. Prior to Cheeky Panda, we were both running our own businesses, Julie was in fashion shoes and I was in executive recruitment.

We have complimentary skills, Julie is the CEO and looks after all the sales and company objectives, while my role is to manage front-of-house activities such as PR, Investment, and 3rd party commercial partnerships.

Fast forward to 2021, the Cheeky Panda is now a hyper-growth Bamboo Hygiene business operating in over 25 countries with a turnover in excess of £10m, creating carbon zero products across household, baby, beauty, and office supplies.

[&SISTERS – Charlie]

&SISTERS has established itself as a period care consumer brand in the last couple of years with physical products but we’re on a mission to serve women throughout their entire life, addressing not just the biological symptoms but also the psychological and social issues women experience as a result of their menstrual cycle. The development of our ecosystem and technical infrastructure will offer sisters worldwide the opportunity to live in sync with their menstrual health. We are levelling the playing field, supporting women’s health, education, and economic empowerment across the globe through our giveback initiatives.

My role at &SISTERS, as the CEO, is to oversee the day-to-day operations of the business, keep our wonderful team aligned with our vision and ensure that we are always edging closer to our end goal. We are a community-centric, customer-led, values-driven business, and whilst my role is incredibly diverse and every day is different, my role boils down to the same things – making sure I have the best team, working in the best way, and ensuring we are dynamic enough to learn from our failures (of which there are many) and redirect our efforts as the market changes and our knowledge base increases.

What does it mean to be a B Corp?

[Cheeky Panda – Chris]

To be a ‘Certified B Corporation’ is to meet the highest standards of environmental, ethical, and social responsibility within a business.

Consumers are looking for brands with purpose and core values. B Corps harness the power of business to address society’s most challenging problems, acknowledging that they cannot be solved by governments and nonprofits alone. B Corps use profits and growth to create a positive impact for their employees, communities, and the environment. The values and aims of the B Corp community are enshrined in the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence.

When did you decide to apply for B Corp status and why was it important for you as a business?

[Cheeky Panda – Chris]

We already had a lot of the requirements for B Corp as we create environmentally friendly products and we have a naturally diverse team. We measure our social impact so it was a very natural fit for us to become certified.

Becoming a B Corp means you join a community of like-minded businesses with which you can engage. It also enables you to differentiate yourself among consumers and creates the foundation from which you can continue to have a meaningful impact. Finally, being a B Corp allows you to attract top talent, the likes of which are increasingly conscientious of our social impact as an employer. This means we can build our team with like-minded people, all striving for the same goals.

[&SISTERS – Charlie]

From the very beginning, we have aspired to be a B Corp. We see becoming a B Corp as external validation that we are truly balancing business with purpose across every aspect of our operations.

In our opinion, the B Corp certification is the only holistic certification out there that pushes you to be accountable to balance profit with purpose and ensures that you never lose sight of this. The certification provides the framework for businesses to follow to ensure they are meeting the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to be a force for good.

The B Corp movement is all about creating a new, more thoughtful economy where more than pure profit is taken into the equation. At &SISTERS, if we do not protect human rights, working conditions, and the planet then we are not a sustainable business by any sense of the word. We believe that B Corps are leading the way in creating a global cultural shift in how not only we run businesses but also how success is calibrated and measured. B Corps are building a more sustainable and inclusive economy and we would be remiss to not be a part of it.

Please describe the process of applying to become a B Corp. What should businesses keep in mind when applying?

[Cheeky Panda – Chris]

The certification to become a B Corp is comprehensive: it measures our entire social and environmental performance.

A B Corp certification builds the impact an entire business has into a legal framework. Everything needs to be evidenced, so it’s no good saying “we do this”, you need to have policies and facts to back up statements. This can be a lot of work so don’t enter it half-committed as you won’t become a B Corp.

I would also encourage business leaders to consider that change is something leaders do and followers talk about, which one do you want to be?

[&SISTERS – Charlie]

Applying to become a B Corp requires a lot of work. We spoke to a number of other companies who have been through the process and it is rare to find one that took less than a year. It requires knowledge and collaboration across every department/function of your organisation as well as engagement from some of your external counterparties e.g. suppliers, shareholders.

You certainly need to be prepared to put some time aside dedicated to the preparation phase. However, with that being said the B Corp community is incredibly supportive and is willing to help. We have been so lucky to have found Hannah Cox from BetterNotStop who has aided us through the application phase. Hannah has helped us with meeting all the certification requirements as well as supported us in closing the gaps where needed. As a business, we are never satisfied with just being good enough and so we have made an active effort to not just meet the minimum criteria but to exceed it as best as we possibly can.

As a final note, although the application is not for the faint-hearted, this is for good reason as it forces you to reevaluate your business from a different perspective. We have certainly found going through the application process enlightening and I know having spoken to a number of other successful (and unsuccessful) applicants that we are not alone.

What criteria do you need to meet to become a B Corp?

[&SISTERS – Charlie]

There are a number of requirements you must meet to become a B Corp:

  • To start with, the B Impact Assessment (BIA) assesses a company’s performance requirement. Every company must complete the BIA which measures (among other things) your company’s positive impact on workers, community, customers, and the environment as well as looking into the governance structure.
  • Upon completion of the BIA, you will be given a score, B Corp certification requires a minimum score of 80 across all impact areas. The B Impact Assessment measures performance over the past twelve months, only companies that have at least one year of operations are eligible for B Corp Certification. Companies under one year are eligible for Pending B Corp Status.
  • Prior to submission of the BIA, you will be required to complete the disclosure questionnaire which looks at your company’s material negative impacts.
  • Companies must also be prepared to meet the legal requirement. There is loads of information on the legal requirement on the website. Essentially, the role of the legal requirement is to legally bind the company to ensure it considers the impact of its decisions on all its stakeholders, not just shareholders.
  • In addition to these requirements, there are a number of transparency requirements such as the requirement for B Corps to share their B Impact Report (a summary of a company’s BIA score) on the B Corp website.

It may seem like a lot but once you get into it it is fairly straightforward.

What impact do you hope becoming a B Corp will have on your business?

[&SISTERS – Charlie]

First and foremost, we want to be a part of this movement towards a more sustainable economy. The values of B Corp and &SISTERS are very strongly aligned and we see it as our duty to be a role model for other businesses to follow in our footsteps in putting environmental and social impact at the heart of decision making as we have followed those that are already certified.

Secondly, we hope to engage proactively with the B Corp community. There are so many amazing certified businesses and we want to be a part of this community so that we can learn from them and share our experiences.

Thirdly, the B Corp certification will hold us accountable to our social and environmental goals whilst providing areas for improvement. We are constantly looking for ways to improve, the B Corp framework provides a way for us to identify the gaps in our current ways of working.

Lastly, we are scaling fast and we know that with that growth comes even greater expectations from our shareholders, customers, suppliers, and community. We want to protect our values and mission statement throughout this growth. B Corp certification provides us with a mechanism to do so.

What have been the benefits you’ve seen as a result of achieving B Corp status?

[Cheeky Panda – Chris]

B Corp is a growing movement that consumers understand that the brands with B Corp have a commitment to people and the planet over profit. Consumers love it, our investors love it and it’s a great community of like-minded businesses.

How do you see the future of B Corp?

[&SISTERS – Charlie]

Business leaders have a choice to stand up and make a change to the way we look at success. We all know that the climate crisis is probably the greatest challenge facing us, and businesses have a responsibility to be a part of saving our planet and creating an equitable economy.

We believe that B Corp is setting the precedent for the future economy where positive impact will no longer be a luxury but a hygiene factor. B Corp is playing a role in ensuring businesses make this transition and will be there to support businesses long into the future to not only maintain but improve their positive impact. B Corp will also have an active role in ensuring governments and legislative bodies make the changes that are needed to ensure a sustainable, inclusive, and more equitable economy.