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How to Become a B Corp in Six Weeks or Less

Words by Ryan Honeyman
Leadership & Transparency

This is the tenth in a weekly series of excerpts from the new 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

Welcome to a six-week, turbocharged Quick Start Guide to becoming a Certified B Corporation.

The size and complexity of your company will affect how quickly you can move through the steps to B Corp certification. For example, smaller companies — especially service companies or companies without outside investors — should be able to move through the Quick Start Guide in less than six weeks. Larger companies with a sizable number of employees and/or departments will probably need the full six weeks or more.

In my experience, you will have the best chance of successfully completing the certification process if:

  • You have the ability to see that “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” If you try to be perfect on the B Impact Assessment, you run the risk of getting bogged down and never finishing. Aim for good enough and continue to improve your score in the future.

  • You or someone else in your company “owns” the project. If many people are working on a project, it often means that no one is actually responsible for moving it forward. Make sure that someone (whether it is you, an external consultant or another employee) has taken ownership of the project and will dedicate the time and energy necessary to see it through to completion.

  • You have access to financial, worker, supplier, community and environmental data. If you don’t personally have access to this data, you need access to the people who are responsible for this data (e.g., the facility manager for energy usage or the human resources manager for employee metrics).

Finally, do not automatically assume that planning for six weeks is too aggressive to complete this process. Try keeping everything to a tight schedule and adjust as needed. You might be surprised at how much you can get done in a short time.

Week 1: Get a baseline

Time Estimate: 90 minutes

OBJECTIVE: The objective during week 1 is to use the B Impact Assessment to establish a quick baseline of your company’s overall social and environmental performance and to create momentum before engaging others in the process.

END RESULT: A rough B Impact Report for your company.

  • Clear your schedule. Clear an uninterrupted ninety-minute slot on your calendar. If it is too difficult to set aside one block of time, consider three 30-minute slots. The point is that you need some focused time.

  • Create your B Impact Assessment account. Create your free account online at bimpactassessment.net. As you register, you will be asked questions about your company’s size, industry, and location in order to generate a version of the assessment that is tailored to fit your business. For example, a marketing company with six employees will get different questions than a furniture manufacturer with 6,000 employees.

  • Ready, set, go! Begin working through the assessment. Remember, on this first attempt, to estimate your answers and to avoid spending more than a minute or two on any particular question. The goal is to get a rough baseline of your practices in 90 minutes or less. There are five sections: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Impact Business Models. If you don’t make it through all five in 90 minutes, don’t worry. Clear another thirty minutes on your calendar later in the week to complete what is left.

  • Review your preliminary score. At the end of your first trial run, you will receive a baseline B Impact Report that will give you a snapshot of your company’s overall social and environmental performance. This report will also contain benchmarks so that you can compare your performance to more than fifteen thousand other businesses that have completed the assessment.

  • Did you score 40 to 60? An overall B Impact Score of 40 to 60 is average.This means you’ve got a solid foundation on which to build. The fun part will be working with your colleagues to determine which impact areas (i.e., governance, workers, community, or environment) you want to improve.

  • Did you score 60 to 80? If you received an overall B Impact Score of 60 or higher, nice work! It sounds like your company has already adopted quite a few socially and environmentally responsible practices. From here, your goal will be to help mobilize your team to improve your performance in the areas that matter most to you and your company.

  • Did you score 80 or higher? If you received an overall B Impact Score of 80 or higher, congratulations! Eighty is the minimum score necessary for B Corp certification. If you are interested, I highly recommend that you consider pursuing B Corp certification to give your company the recognition it deserves.

  • Regardless of your initial overall score, remember that this is a journey of continuous improvement. Are there areas you and others in your company should be proud of? Are there areas you would like to work on? This will give you a few things to think about as you move forward into week 2.
Ryan's Tip: If you are unsure about how to answer a particular question in the online assessment, you can check the 'Revisit This' box and skip it. Don’t dig up specific data or e-mail or call anyone until you have finished your initial pass through. At the end of the assessment, you can run a Revisit This report that enables you to see all of the questions you guessed on, estimated, or didn’t know how to answer. Use this report to create a single, comprehensive e-mail for each person from whom you need information (e.g., your accountant, human resources person, or facilities manager). This approach is a much more effective use of everyone’s time and energy.

Coming next week: Week 2: Engage Your Team

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 about the B Corp movement, sign up for Ryan’s monthly newsletter. You can also visit honeymanconsulting.com or follow Ryan on Twitter:@honeymanconsult.