“B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”
B-Corp certification is assessed and administered by the Standards Analysts at the not-for-profit, B-Lab, based on a company’s verified performance on the B Impact Assessment. Similar to the ISO certification, companies pay to be evaluated and to understand where the gaps are in terms of their social and environmental impact.
To date, 3,720 companies have become certified B-Corps worldwide with 659 of them in Latin America where the movement is called Sistema B.
B-Corps are not to be confused with Benefit Corporations (BICs). A B-Corp is a certification where as a Benefit Corporation is a legal status for a company, like LLC, Inc etc, that enshrines the company’s commitment to profit and purpose for the benefit of all stakeholders.
Initially, it was mostly startups that were becoming B-Corps but larger companies are jumping on the bandwagon: Bancolombia, Procafecol and Alqueris are all in various stages of certification. In terms of company engagement, the most advanced countries in the region are Brazil and Argentina, followed by Colombia, Chile and Mexico. However, in terms of public policy, Colombia is a regional leader.
We spoke to the former director of Sistema B in Colombia who believes there is still a long way to go, “I think Colombia is still a bit behind on this issue, the average consumer does not yet fully appreciate the attributes of a certified B-Corp.”
“I think Colombia is still a bit behind on this issue, the average consumer does not yet fully appreciate the attributes of a certified B-Corp.”
Former director of Sistema B, Colombia
Some industries have been excluded from B-Corp certification such as extractives and tobacco but the former director of Sistema B was keen to stress this doesn’t mean they can’t help out, “There are many programmes to improve sustainability, social and environmental impact practices. Sistema B has an initiative called ‘Camino más B’ that helps companies carry out improvement programmes without being certified B-Corps.”
The CEO of a certified B-Corp explains the benefits, “If you are excluded from being a B-Corp, you can still register as a BIC to help improve your brand. The barriers to become a BIC in Colombia are pretty low. B-Corps have more legitimacy than BICs because they go through an exhaustive and rigorous process of evaluation and measurement, whereas BIC registration is just some paperwork or a statement, and that makes it more fragile and weak.”
“The barriers to become a BIC in Colombia are pretty low. B-Corps have more legitimacy than BICs because they go through an exhaustive and rigorous process of evaluation and measurement.”
CEO, certified B-Corp, Colombia
Do you think this is the beginning of a trend for companies to formally marry profit with purpose? Or do you think this is just good marketing for consumer brands trying to target the unconscious? Get in touch, we’d love to hear your views.