For-profit corporations have the power to make a positive impact on the world. Historically, the U.S. economy has fostered an environment in which businesses perform to maximize shareholder value. Traditional corporate governance requires corporate actors to prioritize long-term economic growth and wealth maximization, which means that companies are legally responsible for promoting stockholder benefits over stakeholder benefits. But things are changing. More corporate governances are highlighting stakeholder values, too, including those that address both social and environmental issues. B Corporations, or B Corps, are a product of this shift in values.
B Corps are businesses that meet the highest social, economic, and environmental standards and public transparency. They go beyond producing quality jobs and products, and ensure good practices across the entire company and their supply chain.
What is B Corp certification?
Certified B Corporations are enterprises that have committed to investing in values for non-shareholding stakeholders. B Corps are officially verified by B Lab, a nonprofit organization that evaluates how a company is contributing to an element of social good that goes beyond financial interest.
B Corp certification ensures that new companies are purpose-driven and that growing companies scale with integrity. Like a nonprofit or 501(c)(3) organization, B Corp companies prioritize their impact on public stakeholders rather than private shareholders, though unlike nonprofits, these companies are taxed the same as any business.
B Corp companies “use profits and growth as a means to a greater end: positive impact for their employees, communities, and the environment,” according to the Certified B Corporation website. The B Corp movement has a set of values outlined in its Declaration of Interdependence. According to the declaration, B Corporations and leaders of the purpose-driven global economy believe:
- That B Corps must be the change we seek in the world.
- That all business ought to be conducted as if people and places matter.
- That, through their products, practices, and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all.
- That B Corps act with the understanding that we are each dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations.
The community of certified B Corps is ever-growing. Currently, there are over 3,000 pursing B Corp certification across 150 industries and 71 countries.
How does a company become a certified B Corporation?
Obtaining B Corp certification has two key parts: a sufficient performance in terms of impact and a legal change of corporate governance.
Companies complete an impact assessment to measure and score their impact on people and planet. This assessment is tailored to specific industries, including food, furniture, and fashion industries, and asks questions across governance, workers, community, environment, and customers. A company must score at least an 80 across all impact areas to become certified.
Corporations must amend their governing documents or adopt a corporate form that explicitly requires the consideration of all stakeholders, not just shareholders, in their decision-making. This includes employee well-being, suppliers, customers, and a company’s ecological footprint. This legal change can be done immediately or within two years of achieving certification.
Why do companies pursue B Corp certification?
Andy Fyfe, senior manager for growth and activation at B Labs, the nonprofit that serves as the certifying body for B Corporations, highlights the urgency needed for the private sector to stand together and step up. “Instead of purely focusing on creating the best products for profit, we can innovate toward profitable solutions to the issues we face,” he says.
The justifications for certifying your business are varied, as is the pool of certified B Corps themselves. However, Fyfe notes three most commonly cited reasons:
Certifying as a B Corporation separates good companies from what is just good marketing
Rather than relying on tactics like greenwashing, B Corps have to commit to policies that actually make an impact (and don’t just market as such). This can help build consumer trust.
Employees are beginning to demand it
Research shows that an increasing number of employees—particularly millennials—want to work for a mission-driven company. Plus, there’s evidence that a company is more successful when its employees buy into its mission.
B Corps are building a global community that businesses are eager to join
The supportive community is using its collective voice—and action—to create a regenerative rather than extractive economy. In February, for example, several North American Certified B Corporations formed the B Corp Climate Action Collective, a group of committed B Corps invested in fighting climate change. “We demonstrate the collective power of our businesses to transform commerce, and to create an inclusive society and environmental regeneration,” the group wrote in a statement. “We commit to taking bold steps toward climate resiliency by using advocacy, cross-sector collaboration, corporate action, and the capital markets to stop emissions and drawdown carbon, improving global well-being.”
How WeWork encourages B Corp companies
WeWork is committed to helping our members advance their sustainability agenda in becoming a certified B Corporation. We provide aspiring B Corps with resources that help answer questions related to the assessment, as well as guidance related to energy, waste, water, and green building standards in WeWork spaces.
WeWork is currently home to a number of certified B Corporations. Hootsuite, a social media management platform and a member at WeWork 1 St Katharine’s Way in London, achieved certification in April 2015. The global food company Danone, which occupies desks in the U.S., Argentina, South Korea, and the Netherlands, has certified many of its global business units. These members are proudly advancing the B Corp movement from within WeWork’s walls.
Davines, an Italian sustainable beauty company and a member at WeWork Fox Court in London, is currently going through its certification process. WeWork helped Davines estimate its monthly energy consumption and carbon emissions, and provided insight into environmentally-friendly office products and sustainability features. Frances Millar, Davines’s office manager for the UK and Ireland, worked on her company’s certification process. “The WeWork team provided us company-specific data related to water consumption, energy use, carbon emissions, and product use,” she says. “They also provided helpful resources and general guidance with the B Corp assessment process, helping to make our assessment as easy as possible.”
WeWork is proud to support this community and is inspired by their commitment to building a future that is inclusive, regenerative, and sustainable. We all have a part to play in realigning corporate values, living and working with purpose, and tackling climate change every day.
Luke Elder is a senior lead on WeWork’s global sustainability team, where he focuses on sustainability strategy and engagement, waste and water stewardship, sustainability reporting and disclosure, and carbon neutrality. Previously, he worked at Tesla, the World Bank, the Ocean Foundation, and the Nature Conservancy.