What’s That Big "B" on the Label?

August 10, 2015

If you see the "B" on a label, you may be pleased to know that company is not driven by profits alone; they're also looking to have a positive social impact. Here's exactly what it means and the criteria for companies seeking this certification.

Wondering what the big "B" is on some food labels and what business it represents? Here’s your 101 to B Corp basics. 

What is a B Corp? A B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk. B Corps are certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. Today, there is a growing community of more than 1,000 Certified B Corps from 33 countries and over 60 industries. And it’s not just limited to food.

What does certification entail? To get certified, a business must score 80 out of 200 possible points in a 150-question online survey. Companies are rated on everything from energy efficiency and employee programs to corporate transparency. They also must submit to a phone interview, provide supporting documentation and amend their corporate bylaws to include their commitment to making a positive social and environmental impact. 

B Corp certification is available to companies with at least six months of revenue. Certification costs $500 to $25,000 annually, depending on company size, and reassessment is required every two years. But a company can fill out B Lab's free self-assessment tool anytime to measure its impact on employees, the community and the environment and get details on more than 150 best practices. This is also a great place to get ideas on how to be better in any of the areas mentioned above.

In some states, companies can take the next step by becoming a Benefit Corporation, a legal entity that requires business owners to consider employees, community and the environment when making decisions, rather than being beholden solely to profits.

Dermot Hikisch, B Lab's director of business development, commented, “The companies that are becoming B Corporations are purpose-driven already." Although many have built-in social missions of helping the poor or creating sustainable goods, there are a number of sustainable lawyers, accountants, marketing agencies and financial-service organizations as well. Aside from the obvious feel-good factor, B Corp certification gives social-impact businesses more credibility and transparency among customers, employees, investors and business partners.

Next time you shop you’ll know exactly what that “B” means on the socially driven food companies you support.

Here are some B Corp companies that you might know already: Alter Eco, HomeFree, Ben and Jerry’s, Bhakti Chai, Numi Tea, Plum Organics, Traditional Medicinals, Nutiva, Nuttzo, Dang Foods and a whole lot more!