Becoming a B Corp - What does it take?

For Net Balance, becoming a B Corporation was a no-brainer. We’re a sustainability consulting organisation that since inception has been putting purpose and profit on an equal playing field. We’ve grown from 1 to over 50 people in six years and in that time have worked with some of the most influential Australian corporations, government and NGOs. We’re proud of what we do and we believe that we’re making a positive difference. One way we do this is through our foundation which dedicates 20% of our resources to the ongoing evolution of the sustainability agenda through research, collaboration with NGOs, and the provision of lower cost services to SMEs and NGOs.

The B Corp certification process was pretty straightforward, but it needed the time and effort of a few key people in our organisation. The B Corp Impact Assessment is the first step, where detailed information is collated on governance, employees, impacts on communities and the natural environment, and how aspects of your business model constitute a social enterprise. This information is entered via an online portal and can take anywhere from 3 hours to a few days to gather the information required. For Net Balance, it took a few days due to information being owned in different parts of the business. It helped that we’d recently published our sustainability report and were able to draw on much of the information already disclosed.

The great thing about the online impact assessment is that it allows organisations to provide feedback and suggestions for improvement. B Lab seems to be continually working hard to make the site as user friendly as possible.

After the impact assessment, there is a 1-2 hour phone interview with a B Lab staff member. Then, a handful of the questions from the assessment are generated randomly and evidence for your answers must be uploaded to the online portal. Usually, the final stage of becoming a B Corporation is to amend the organisation’s governing documents. The purpose of this is to create the right of shareholders to hold directors accountable to consider all stakeholders (not just shareholders) when making decisions. However, only US based corporations are required to fulfil this stage of the process. In all other jurisdictions, the legal landscape needs to be properly considered by B Lab, so we’re likely to see a similar requirement here in the future.

Some tips for making your assessment process easier:

  • Make sure you use a consistent reporting period, for example; either a calendar year or financial year
  • Engage different people in your organisation to help you answer the questions – one person is unlikely to have all the information required. You can download specific questions by using the ‘improve your score’>’revisit questions’ functionality on the online portal
  • Save all your data along the way – you may be asked to provide it as evidence for your submitted answers.

Working for a B Corporation, for me, brings that extra edge to my job and how I talk about my organisation. We are in great company with the four existing Founding B corps in Australia, and proud to be affiliated with the global B Corp community which includes big names such as Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia.

I look forward to seeing the movement progress in Australia and to being part of the change to redefine success in business.

Nadia Woodhouse is an Associate of Net Balance (nadia@netbalance.com), 
one of the world’s leading sustainability advisory firms.
Nadia is based in Melbourne.