March 2022 was an exciting month for us at B Lab Australia & Aotearoa New Zealand, celebrating our most successful B Corp Month yet and also welcoming our first Aotearoa New Zealand Manager, Qiulae Wong.
Thrown into the deep end of the purpose pool, by week two, Qiulae was already co-hosting a webinar, bringing together a swathe of Kiwi B Corps, old and new, to share their certification stories and help other businesses dip their toes in the B Corp waters.
With Aotearoa now home to over 50 Certified B Corporations – a number that has grown by 36 percent in the last 12 months alone – there is increasing momentum and impressive growth in purpose-driven business across the ditch and around the world, making this the perfect time to unpack what it really means to get certified.
We knew this session would be a goodie, so we’ve recorded it for you to watch at your own leisure, and to get a real feel for the passion these B Corp champions bring to the work they do.
However, for the TL;DW version, here are some of the main takeaways for those considering embarking on the B Corp certification journey courtesy of a bunch of Kiwi Bs.
But first, 2 B or not 2 B
To kick things off, Tim Jones of Grow Good, gave us a hearty philosophical revving up with impressive stats about why he believes all businesses should aspire to become B Corps. From consumer demand, to increased employee engagement and access to financial capital – the evidence points to the B. And the “Return on Impact,” that other kind of ROI as he puts it, is there too – with B Corps more likely not only to do good, but to succeed commercially and be more resilient.
Now you’re on board the (renewables-powered) B Corp train (🚉 choo choo!), how does it work and what are the realities of certification?
Here are the top five tips our panel of Kiwi B Corps have for you…
1. One size does not fit all
The 50+ Kiwi B Corps are an eclectic bunch – from financial institutions to period products, and everything in between. And one of the great things about B Corp certification is that the assessment is tailored slightly for each business depending on its size, market and sector.
Investment platform, Sharesies, is in the unique position of experiencing two quite different assessments within its short time of being a B Corp. Co-founder, Director and ‘3EO’ Brooke Roberts reflected on the difference between their first assessment, as a team of 10, versus their recent recertification effort (three years later), which saw them answering a much more rigorous set of questions due to their enormous growth and now over 200 employees.
“I welcome the extra scrutiny, seeing it as a positive sign that the standard is keeping up with growth of the movement to cater for larger, more complex businesses. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats.”— Brooke Roberts, Sharesies
Julia Jackson, Head of Purpose and Sustainability at Kiwibank, also talked about how they had some unique aspects to their certification due to their size, including the verification team interviewing two people from the Kiwibank ‘frontline’ chosen at random. The purpose of this was to see “how the rubber hit the road” and whether the policies and processes they talked about as an organisation were really being used in practice.
💡 Top tip from B Lab → Check out the B Corp Guide section on ‘Setting up your Assessment’ to make sure you’re answering the right questions according to your business size and the industries and countries in which you operate.
2. Team work makes the dream work
One piece of advice that was shared by every single one of the panellists was to bring others along on the journey with you. Getting buy-in from across the organisation is key in helping you collect the information you need to respond to the B Impact Assessment and during the verification process.
While panellists shared that it was somewhat easier for smaller businesses like Dignity and Brightly – where the owner or founder is part of the certification process – both Anika Speedy (Dignity) and Mike Carroll (Brightly) still talked about how sharing the certification load and making it a team effort helped enormously.
For larger organisations, Julia Jackson shared the “honest story” from the Kiwibank experience of their sustainability team trying to promote the assessment several times to little avail. However, once certification was presented properly to the Executive and CEO, things really got moving: “once you get buy-in from the top, it makes it easier for the team to help you with it,” she shared.
“Certification used to be something pursued by a ‘concerned citizen’ inside the business, and they had to really sell it to their leadership. But now more and more we are seeing people who have actually been tasked by the Board to investigate B Corp certification. The tide is turning.”— Tim Jones, Grow Good
Photp by fauxels on Pexels
Want a little help to convince the bosses? Download B Lab’s Better Business for a Better World Pitch Deck.
3. Certification is a marathon not a sprint
The growth in demand for B Corp certification, coupled with the fact that larger and more complex businesses are looking to become certified, means that sometimes the process can take some time, and businesses should view this as a long term commitment. (Conversely, some smaller businesses will encounter a more straightforward certification process, so shouldn’t be put off by this!)
Most B Corps interviewed said it took between 6-12 months to get certified, with around six months of ‘pre-work’ to get to the point of submitting the B Impact Assessment for review, and then another 3-6 months working with the B Lab Certification and Verification team to present the documentation required to prove they’re doing what they say they’re doing.
Brooke Roberts from Sharesies encouraged businesses going for B Corp certification not to get disheartened if their score dropped a little during the verification process, as this is normal for almost every business. She suggested that it’s a good idea to have a bit of a buffer over the 80 point minimum to work with if you can!
While certification is more of a marathon than a sprint, Tim Jones cautioned against ‘analysis paralysis’ when first getting certified, and instead “just focus on becoming a B Corp in your first year.” He shared: “things like full supply chain visibility can take some time, so businesses might set longer term goals for this rather than trying to score highly across all five areas from the beginning.”
Photo by rattanakun on Canva Pro
4. Write everything down
The certification process can involve a bit of back and forth with the Verification Team who will be asking for evidence of how you meet some of the assessment criteria. A lot of this will come in the form of policies and documentation, outlining your processes, codes of conduct, how you engage with suppliers, workers and the environment.
Mike Carroll from Brightly talked about how this was a real consideration when deciding whether to go for certification early on in their business, as they were worried about the time and resources this would require, and potentially take away from other areas they needed to focus on as a growing business. In the end, however, Brightly discovered that:
“The process of documentation was beneficial in setting the business up for success in the long term. Even though it took some time and effort to get policies and processes in place to get certified, they laid a great foundation for the business as it grew.”— Mike Carroll, Brightly
Clare Everett from Springload has also seen the benefits of documenting their practices, particularly when it comes to onboarding new team members.
“By embedding it early on in the process when people start, we’re able to really engrain this way of working into our business.”— Clare Everett, Springload
Writing things down is also a helpful tip for collecting information and data from your suppliers too, which ultimately helps with certification. Anika Speedy from Dignity shared their experience of understanding the impact of their supply chain by working with partners to track and measure the right information. Partnering with an organisation like Ekos was helpful for them when it came to this, as well as relying on their suppliers’ own certifications and impact measuring capabilities. She said many of their suppliers already understand the value of measuring their impact and so had that data to hand.
“We love the external validation of our values. It’s easy to live our values when things are going well. But when something like COVID-19 comes along, it ensures we continue living our values and fulfilling our mission.”— Anika Speedy, Dignity
Photo by nortonrsx on Getty Images Pro
💡 Top tip from B Lab → You don’t have to start from scratch! Take a look at the Best Practice Guides on the B Impact Assessment Knowledge Base.
5. Do the mahi and share the aroha
Becoming a B Corp is not a ‘tick box’ exercise. It’s a rigorous process, which is something that certified businesses wear as a badge of honour. As Clare Everett from Springload says:
“It was this robustness that really drew us to B Corp and helped us know it was the right certification for us. It wasn’t something you could just pay to put the logo on your website.”
So is it worth it? Our Kiwi B Corps think so. The long and short of it is, if you’re keen to become a B Corp – commitment combined with hard work will get you there.
Anika from Dignity highlighted that, while it can seem like a scary and daunting exercise, the B Lab team is there to help you get over the line – they want to see you succeed and you’ll feel supported throughout the process. And once you’re through the other side, it will feel so much more satisfying shouting about it from the rooftops (if that’s your thing)!
When the time comes and you’ve done the mahi, the work, Penny de Borst from B Corp Write Limited also has some great tips for how to communicate about the certification authentically, not just to customers but internally as well. And lastly, the panel echoed the importance of playing your part in growing the movement.
“Share the aroha (the love), tell your business owner mates. Because the more of us that join the community, the better of a society we’ll be.”— Brooke Roberts, Sharesies
Helpful links and support for becoming a B Corp
- Intro to B Corp – A short course with Torrens University Online
- B Corp Guide – Becoming a B Corp
- Become a B Corp – Upcoming Workshops with B Lab AANZ
- B Consultants – Qualified Consultants to support your business’ impact journey
- B Impact Assessment – More about the free tool thousands of businesses are using to better measure their impact
B Lab is here to guide you on your certification journey from start to finish. Visit our comprehensive ‘How To Guide To Becoming A B Corp’ and take that first (or next) step to better business.
By Qiulae Wong
Qiulae Wong (she/her) is B Lab’s Aotearoa New Zealand Manager – her first role at B Lab HQ after working closely with B Lab teams in the UK and East Africa as partners and clients on previous projects. Spending a large part of her ‘former work life’ in the sustainable fashion industry, helping businesses to improve their supply chains and ways of working to have a more positive impact on people and the planet, Qiulae has led engagement campaigns and impact strategies.
Your ‘go-to’ for anything to do with becoming a Kiwi B Corp, or supporting the B Corp movement and business for good in Aotearoa New Zealand, Qiulae is inspired by this community’s commitment to delivering positive impact through innovative business models. You can get in touch with Qiulae through our Contact Form or connect with her directly on LinkedIn.