What is a B Corp? Here's everything you need to know
It's more than just a label—it's changing the way companies do business.
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It feels good to take care of the environment, and with Earth Day coming up on April 22, there’s never been a better time of year to start thinking about new ways to embrace more eco-friendly habits.
Sustainable living looks different for everyone, but one meaningful way that you can begin to change the world is by supporting brands that embrace responsible manufacturing practices. In particular, the B Corporation movement—which was started in 2006 by Jay Coen Gilbert, Andrew Kassoy, and Bart Houlahan—offers a way to find and shop retailers that match your values and offer sustainably sourced products.
Similar to popular certifications like those offered by Bluesign, Oeko-Tex, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), and other organizations, certified B Corporations can signal that a company is invested in helping make the world a nicer place through sustainable practices, philanthropic works, and corporate transparency.
Here’s everything you need to know about B Corps, including what it takes to get certification, how it’s assessed, and popular brands you might already be shopping from that are actually part of the movement.
What is a B Corp?
Short for benefit corporation, B Corps are for-profit businesses that have met the highest standards for social and environmental performance, and provide full financial transparency and legal accountability.
Further, they’ve been graded on their efforts to create a more sustainable and inclusive economy by B Lab, a nonprofit organization. Companies that meet B Lab’s rigorous standards receive certification status.
But what does that mean, in real-life terms? It means that these are businesses that are using their corporate platform as a way to do good deeds around the world. From embracing responsible manufacturing practices to helping reduce income inequality by creating diverse employment opportunities in underserved communities, B Corp-certified businesses strive to address social and environmental problems on an international scale, with an eye toward making a positive impact that goes beyond merely increasing profits.
How do companies gain B Corp certification?
As of 2021, there are nearly 4,000 certified B Corps spread across more than 70 countries, and the majority of them are small businesses. These companies come from all different types of industries, from agricultural services to consumer goods like home and personal care products, and more.
However, becoming a certified B Corp isn’t easy. To qualify, companies have to undergo a B Impact Assessment (BIA), which is free and measures a company’s impact on its workers, community, and environment. The BIA grades out of 200 possible points, and businesses must achieve a score of 80 points or higher in order to gain certification. Most companies score between 40 to 100 points, with the highest scores typically between 160 to 170 points.
While the standards for achieving B Corp-certification may sound broad, the evaluation is actually very comprehensive, taking into account a company’s policies and practices, both internally and externally. The BIA is used as a scoring tool and administered by B Lab, yet the standards for the BIA are created and continuously revised by the Standards Advisory Council, which is a group of independent business and academic experts. Certified B Corps that score high on the BIA (within the top 10 percent of all B Corps) also appear on best-of lists, which are typically released each year by B Lab.
Even once companies have achieved B Corp certification, the scorecard process isn’t truly over, as they have to submit an annual assessment of their business missions, as well as their social and environmental performances. A score of 80 or lower would take away that coveted B Corp status, so in effect, businesses have to continuously demonstrate their commitment to being socially responsible.
What are some of the most popular B Corp companies?
You might not have known it, but some of the most popular brands out now are actually B Corp-certified businesses offering versatile products that you can use in everyday life.
Unsure if a particular company is a B Corp? You can access the directory and search by company name, industry, country, and more. You can also segment your search by certification date, so you can see how long a particular business has been a certified B Corp.
While there are many B Corps out there, below are some of the most well-known, which offer products that we’ve personally tested here at Reviewed. The list includes:
Allbirds: Regarded by some as the world’s most popular shoe, Allbirds has been B Corp-certified since 2016 and offers a mix of sustainably made shoes and clothing. In our review, we loved their shoes, finding them warm yet breathable, despite being made from wool.
Athleta: Since 2018, Athleta has been a certified B Corp. This athleisure brand makes workout gear and apparel that’s great for active lifestyles, although we’re particularly big fans of the face masks they carry, which we consider the best on the market.
Cora: Period poverty is a problem around the world, and one that Cora’s co-founder Molly Hayward is striving to put an end to with this B Corp business, which has been certified since 2016 and offers menstrual cups, organic tampons, and more.
Leesa: If you’re shopping for the best mattress in a box, Leesa makes one that’s absolutely worth trying. In our review, we found the Leesa Hybrid to be the best upgrade option available on account of its comfort, luxury feel, and firm yet soft feel. Even better, this brand has been B Corp-certified since 2016, which is yet another reason to consider it if you’re shopping for a new bed.
Prose: Certified as a B Corp since 2019, Prose offers custom hair care solutions for shoppers. When we put it to the test, we found it to be a fun way to experiment with natural ingredients and explore new options when it comes to shampoo and conditioner.