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How B Corp Certification Helps Benchmark and Improve Performance

Words by Ryan Honeyman
Leadership & Transparency

This is the seventh in a weekly series of excerpts from the upcoming book The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, October 13, 2014). Click here to read the rest of the series.

By Ryan Honeyman

Many B Corps report that one of the biggest benefits of the certification process is taking the B Impact Assessment, a free tool that measures the social and environmental performance of the entire company on a scale from zero to 200 points.

This enables any business to measure the impact of its operations on its workers, its community, and the environment; compare itself to its industry peers; and compete to improve its performance over time. The B Impact Assessment is particularly valuable because no matter how sustainable your business already is (or is not), you will undoubtedly find blind spots that you can address to further benefit your stakeholders.

"Before the B Impact Assessment, we struggled with aligning our internal processes and assuring our deep-thinking team members that the company was being guided for maximum impact. Now we have a road map and partners that help us establish effective governance practices and policies. Becoming a Certified B Corp put it all together for us." —Regina Wheeler, CEO, Positive Energy Solar

Patagonia is a great example of a company that uses the B Impact Assessment for continuous improvement. On its initial B Corp certification, Patagonia — one of the most eco-friendly companies on the planet — scored 106 out of 200 points. Although earning only half of the points on the B Impact Assessment might seem like a poor performance, Patagonia’s score was well above both the 80 points required for B Corp certification and the median score of 95 points for all Certified B Corps.

Indeed, the B Impact Assessment is designed to be tough. Rather than trying to get a perfect score on the first try (which is virtually impossible, because no company is perfect), you can use the assessment to measure your company’s social and environmental performance, provide valuable insights that can help spark new ideas, and motivate your company to reach for an improved score over time.

"Our biggest surprise, considering our one hundred percent commitment to sustainable materials and ethical labor practices, was that we did not score higher on the B Impact Assessment. It was eye opening to realize that we could still improve in many different areas of our business." —Matt Reynolds, president and co-founder, Indigenous

Some B Corps, such as Ben & Jerry’s and Numi Organic Tea, are going further by using the B Impact Assessment to benchmark their key suppliers. The assessment’s comprehensive, rigorous, and comparable metrics is helping these companies better understand both the overall impact of their supply chain and the individual performance of their various suppliers. Ben & Jerry’s is interested in using the B Impact Assessment to help guide their procurement and sourcing decisions in the future.

In addition, B Corps such as The Redwoods Group, a commercial property casualty insurer based in North Carolina, use the free B Impact Assessment as a guide for their corporate social responsibility reporting. In many cases, substituting the assessment for conventional corporate social responsibility reporting can save considerable time and money.

Ryan Honeyman is a sustainability consultant, executive coach, keynote speaker, and author of The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good. Ryan helps businesses save money, improve employee satisfaction, and increase brand value by helping them maximize the value of their sustainability efforts, including helping companies certify and thrive as B Corps. His clients include Ben & Jerry’s, Klean Kanteen, Nutiva, McEvoy Ranch, Opticos Design, CleanWell, Exygy, and the Filene Research Institute.

To get exclusive updates and free resources that can help you learn more about B Corporations, sign up for Ryan’s monthly newsletter. You can also visit honeymanconsulting.com or follow Ryan on Twitter:@honeymanconsult.