Cogo is a proudly ‘Certified B Corporation’, but to the average Joe that collection of letters might not mean a whole lot.
If I were to rephrase that, here’s how I’d explain the significance:
Today’s consumers expect more around social and environmental impact. A lot more. And as the war for their loyalty heats up, trust is the new currency. ‘Certified B Corp’ is the proof.
The certification is conferred by B Lab (the B is short for ‘Benefit’) and represents a business meeting their standards of social and environmental performance. These B Corp companies have joined a movement to transform the global economy to benefit all people, communities and the planet. The movement’s vision is for an inclusive, equitable and regenerative economy (one that regenerates the Earth's resources rather than depletes them).
Lots of businesses: “Sounds good. I’m in! Where do I start!”
Me, after undergoing our original certification and then a rigorous few months of recertification (which happens every 3 years): “I hear you, but before you join the over 4,500 certified B Corporations across 153 industries in 78 countries (correct as at 2022), here are 4 important things you need to know…”
It’s less about intent; and more about action.
B Corp Certification is a designation that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials.
In order to achieve certification, a company must: demonstrate high social and environmental performance; make a legal commitment by changing their corporate governance structure to be accountable to all stakeholders; and exhibit transparency by allowing information about their performance measured against B Lab’s standards to be publicly available on their B Corp profile on B Lab’s website.
B Corp Certification is holistic, not exclusively focused on a single social or environmental issue and achieving and maintaining certification is rigorous and will require engaging teams and departments pan-company. It’s about verification, documentation of your business model and information on your operations, structure and processes, as well as reviews of any public complaints and possible site visits.
If any of this ‘open kimono’ stuff scares you, and you’re more comfortable making claims about how important social and environmental impact is to you as opposed to planning to achieve tangible results, B Corp Certification probably isn’t for you.
At Cogo, our ethos is all about ‘walking the talk’. We partner with some incredible organisations who are waving the flag for business with purpose, like B Lab does, by featuring businesses on our UK App who have been accredited for things like ‘living wage’, ‘carbon neutral’ and ‘cruelty free’ to help consumers find thousands of businesses taking action on the issues they care about the most.
Not everyone will care (and that’s ok).
In a fascinating piece by the NY Times on ‘the colour of consumer consciousness’, the author proposed that marketers of environmental products face two distinct types of consumer: ‘dark green’ and ‘light green’. Dark greens value environmental aspects of products more than any other attribute; and are willing to pay a premium for this. Light greens, on the other hand, express a more limited willingness to pay for environmental features, and they often underline the importance of convenience, comfort and low maintenance.
The B Corp logo is definitely something ‘dark green’ consumers would look for and ‘get’. When they see the B Corp logo, it’s a sign that the product they're buying is better for people and the planet because the company it's from is helping to transform the global economy into a more inclusive, equitable, and regenerative system.
Light greens might not understand the significance, even though they should, and that’s OK - because as the author says “No single marketing message will suffice”.
Importantly, the right people will care. As B Lab say on their website, “Leaders build communities, not just profit.” For us, certification has been a powerful way for Cogo to demonstrate that our in-house sustainability holds up to scrutiny. We’ve also been in the room with stakeholders big and small who are part of the B Corp community of leaders and could command a level of respect from them that says “Our service is truly what we say it is.”
Don’t tackle it alone - ask for help!
The certification process is intense. Did I say it’s intense?
Before you embark on the journey, you can find some sample questions and examples of how B Lab helps you to assess, compare and improve your impact here.
Importantly, you don’t have to tackle it alone! A comprehensive knowledge base, local support group meetups for those applying and online forums are super useful in helping you to complete the impact assessment.
The certification makes sense; and also, cents.
Finally, and this is a great one - because at the end of the day, ROI is an important metric and B Corps put significant time and effort into certification.
B Lab have proven that “As leaders in the movement for economic systems change, B Corps reap remarkable benefits. They build trust with consumers, communities and suppliers; attract and retain employees; and draw mission-aligned investors.”
It would seem that certification makes sense; and also, cents!
Lots of businesses: “Ok, now I’m scared!”
Me, after undergoing our original certification and then a rigorous few months of recertification (which happens every 3 years): “As tempting as it is to think of B Corp Certification as the be-all and end-all in terms of proving you're serious about social and environmental performance, it’s about far more than a marketing exercise and recognition. It’s about joining a movement that, collectively, is taking action to address society's critical challenges to shift the behaviour, structure, and culture of capitalism. The rewards look like collective, wholesale change; and like challenging businesses globally to be a force for good. Really - could there be there ANYTHING better?”