Hailing from the US, B Corp Certification has taken the UK by storm over the last few years, thanks to its one-size-fits-all framework supporting businesses to work responsibly.
B Leader, Victoria Waugh, explains how the scheme works and what you need to do to achieve this sought after sustainability stamp of approval.
Certified B Corporations are companies verified to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. Launched in 2006, there are now over 5600 companies globally using the tool to review the way they work, benchmark their activities against competitors and find ways to improve their sustainability credentials.
The UK market is growing faster than any other, with more than 900 certified businesses ranging from change-making brand Patagonia and fashion marketplace Wolf and Badger to energy firm Bulb, and brands Ella’s Kitchen and Mindful Chef.
Whilst only a handful of those certified are jewellery and clothing brands, there’s an ever-increasing number signing up with B Lab UK (the organisation behind the scheme in the UK) to start their B Corp journey.
B Corp is different to many other certification schemes, as it looks at a company’s whole operation. Going beyond materials and sourcing to rigorously address all aspects of a business including governance, stakeholder relationships, employee wellbeing, environmental impact, charitable giving and community engagement.
Jos Skeates, founder of EC One, one of the first UK jewellery businesses certified, says:
‘Becoming a B Corp in 2019 was the most critical business decision we have made in the past decade. The journey towards certification helped us realign our practices towards a more sustainable model. It gave us a framework to improve our social and environmental impact. The change in direction has brought us a new, younger segment of customers and given us significant year on year growth’.
To be awarded certification businesses must achieve a minimum 80-point score during their assessment. Points are accrued in recognition of work done to positively address social and environmental issues. Having the right policies in place, using traceable materials, or eliminating toxic chemicals from production processes all help to amass points.
However, B Corp is not just a tick box exercise, businesses are required to provide detailed evidence to back up any claims made. Whilst the system tailors it’s requirements to the size of the business applying (recognising that the impact of a designer-maker is different to that of a large multi-channel retailer), the standard it expects from all is high.
When completing the assessment for the first-time businesses achieve an average score of around 50, and must therefore put in place a strategy to improve before they’ll be eligible for certification.
With support from V&V, Cheshire based, Anuka Jewellery, was certified with a score of 108: well above the required threshold. This is thanks to the brand’s commitment to certified artisanal and recycled metals, and a radical approach to transparency. Founder, Francesa Kippax, says:
'The impact assessment provided us with a framework to really look into how we operate, giving us a clearer understanding and enabling us to see how we can improve further. It has not only validated the hard work put into ANUKA, but pushes us to keep moving forward with clear goals whilst being recognised globally as a business that meets the highest standards.'
All certified businesses must make a formal commitment to having a positive impact on the world. This means adopting specific wording into their Articles of Association at Companies House, which protect the interests of all stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, and suppliers.
Engagement and wedding jewellery specialist Shakti Ellenwood achieved certification at the end of 2021. Her reasons for becoming a B Corp are clear:
‘As a goldsmith genuinely dedicated to creating sustainable, ethical jewellery, I wanted to obtain this world-renowned certification to prove my authenticity. It means my customers can trust that my business creates a positive impact and delivers artisanal, ethical, jewellery they can feel good about.’
Ellenwood’s business was praised for its commitment to charitable giving: donating 2% of sales each year to charities like Friends of the Earth and Survival International.
If you would like to start your own journey towards B Corp certification, here’s V&V's five-point plan to get you going:
Identify areas where you could increase your score and put in place a plan to improve. Commission the help of a B Leader if you need support to complete the assessment or improve your score. B Leaders are experienced consultants trained to take companies through the certification process. Victoria at V&V has been a B Leader since 2020.
Make improvements over time using B Lab’s Knowledge Bank for advice.
Make the B Corp legal change
When your assessment score is over 80 submit it for verification, provide evidence to back up your claims and pay the certification fee.
In the words of B Corp, ‘we need an inclusive, equitable and regenerative economic system for all people and the planet’. Let’s use our businesses as a force for good.
This article was first published in the National Association of Jewellers Year Book 2022.