B a Conscious Consumer with Certified B Corps and Benefit Corporations
When companies change from doing good to being good, the movement for the greater good grows exponentially. If you’ve ever wondered the difference between a B Corp. and a benefit corporation, read on!
The older model of the conscious company was that of philanthropy; doing good by giving to charitable causes that could, in turn, help people in need or assist pro-environment agendas. Now, Certified B Corporations and legally recognized benefit corporations are coming on the scene as game changers. By choosing to purchase from these companies, you are also changing the game by supporting companies that are actively making a commitment to becoming the good they want to see in the world. Don’t spend with companies that are just doing good, support those that are good.
What are B Corps and Benefit Corporations?
The similar titles of Certified B Corps and Benefit Corporations can be easily confused, and while there is some overlap between the two, they are different.
A Certified B Corp is a company that has undergone a rigorous Impact Assessment and it has been verified that the company’s practices are promoting a greater mission of good through accountability and transparency. It is a third-party certification administered by the non-profit B Lab.
In contrast, the benefit corporation is a legal structure for a business, similar to an LLC or a corporation. A company considers external stakeholders like their workers and the environment, and changes their bylaws to reflect this new multi-stakeholder position. Companies that are structured as benefit corporations have legal backing to ensure that they have the latitude to consider these additional stakeholders, alongside profit, without the risk of being sued by investors for failing to return sufficient profits.
Because of the differences between the terms, some companies are both a B Corp and a benefit corporation. Further, the structure of the benefit corporation satisfies the legal accountability requirement for B Corp Certification, and if a company is already a B Corp, they must pursue state incorporation as benefit corporations when possible.
Any company in any location in the world looking to become more accountable to a greater mission has the opportunity to become a Certified B Corp by going through the tough (but rewarding) process of completing the B Lab Impact Assessment. A company looking to achieve B Corp certification is an active participant in the assessment and must do the following:
Provide all necessary documentation
Amend Articles of Incorporation
Sign a ‘Declaration of Interdependence’
Commit to mandatory reassessments to maintain certification
To become a benefit corporation, a company first must be located in a state that recognizes the benefit corporation as a legal entity. If a company operates in a state that recognizes this status, and the company wants to be legally able to consider external stakeholders, the company has a fairly straightforward process:
File Articles of Incorporation
Complete any accompanying paperwork to meet state-specific requirements
By committing to bi-annual reassessments based on ever-evolving parameters, B Corps build a high degree of transparency into their business practices. Impact Assessment scores are available to the public, and can be searched to see if and by how much a company is improving their score. With a moving goal post, B Corps are actively committed to making continued improvements to meet new stricter standards.
In contrast, benefit corporations have committed to a legally recognized status through the change of their founding documents to provide greater accountability and transparency to additional stakeholders. The statutes governing benefit corporations offer some protection against a company making future changes to their social mission and benefit corporations can be held legally liable if it is found that business practices are not in line with their mission.
As having the status as a B Corps or a benefit corporation signals that a company has committed to a higher degree of social and environmental accountability and is taking steps towards greater transparency in their business practices, this should in turn foster greater consumer trust towards the company and brand. The companies have recognized that there are more stakeholders to consider and that their business practices need to align with this consideration. Both B Corps and benefit corporations are actively thinking of making positive changes for their workers, their communities and the environment.
B Corps have a voluntary certification, so any Certified B Corp can choose to drop the certification and discontinue using the B Corp branding at any time. The benefit corporation is a permanent change to the company’s legal structure. Still, while the B Corp certification doesn’t hold as much legal weight as what is built into the benefit corporation, it has stronger definitions of its requirements, while there is still a lot of state-to-state variability associated with benefit corporations. What it all boils down to for the consumers is that both B Corps and benefit corporations have made the change to be good, rather than simply to do good and consumers can trust in that.
Support Certified B Corps and benefit corporations by purchasing their goods and services. If you’re actively seeking a job, send your resumes to these companies and let them know that their status as a B Corp or benefit corporation is a big draw for you.
See if getting B Corp certification or incorporating as a benefit corporation is the right move for your company. If you’re a start-up and now is not the time to head down this avenue, make it a future goal and set up business practices today that will make that goal a reality in the future.