In the responsible marketing consultancy Good.Must.Grow.’s fifth annual Conscious Consumer Spending Index released late last year, 61% of 1,019 Americans surveyed said they believe buying from socially responsible companies is important and 61% reported actually doing so. In addition, 27% of Americans report at least half of their purchases are socially responsible products or services, and 30% said they plan to spend more with socially responsible companies in 2018.
The bad news is 40% of the survey respondents said they don’t know where to find socially responsible products or identify which companies are worthy of their support.
One solution that more brands are adopting is to become B Corp certified, which ensures companies meet comprehensive social and environmental standards at every level of their business – from production to how employees are treated to how finished goods are marketed. It also provides consumers with a visible shortcut to identify socially responsible products and companies in the form of an easy to recognize logo that, as the B Corporation says, distinguishes “between slick marketing and a truly good company.”
This episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts Podcast explores what it takes to become a certified B Corporation and its potential impact on companies. Ari Raz, co-founder of family food company Once Upon A Farm, and Kimmi Wernli, second generation owner of peanut butter company Crazy Richard’s, explain what drew them to B Corp certification, what the certification means for their brands and share advice for other companies considering the leap.
What B Corp certification represents
For both Raz and Wernli, the values embodied by the B Corporation were woven into their companies from the beginning and becoming certified was just as much a way to get credit from consumers for their efforts as it was to ensure that those values held strong and never eroded over time.
Raz explained that he knew he wanted Once Upon A Farm to become a B Corp from the very beginning in 2014 after he participated in a incubator where he learned the meaning of social entrepreneurship and saw the opportunities and challenges it presented – especially for startups. He also saw the attention it generated from consumers and other businesses in the industry.
“Becoming a B Corp … is just the right way to build a business,” he said, explaining: “It is one of those things that at some junctures it will take more time or it will cost more money, but in the long run, you know, that the decisions you are making within this framework of B Corp are ultimately helping you build a company with a stronger foundation, a better culture and a more passionate group of consumers who can really get behind and believe in the community that you are building.”
For Once Upon A Farm, this framework included ways the company could be thoughtful to the environment, its employees, it community and the people consuming its products, Raz explained. For example, he said, reducing the company’s carbon footprint through strategic packaging decisions, providing employees with extra benefits such as health care and ample vacation, and donating product to those in need.
Similarly, for Crazy Richard’s, Wernli said her father wove socially responsible values into the company when he founded it and her decision to become a B Corp was a way of honoring his hard work and ensuring the company continues to meet the high bar that he set.
“My father owned the business before me … and he has always been an ethical and honest businessman, but when he was running the company there wasn’t anything that existed such as this B Corp certification,” she said. She explained that the certification acts as a check and balance for the company to show consumers it is a good business and to help keep it honest to its values.
With the foundation that her father laid and the creation two years ago of Crazy Richard’s give back program called The Healthy Kids, Happy Future Project, Wernli said she didn’t have to change much to become B Corp certified – other than codify in writing some of the practices the company already followed.
B Corp certification offers practical benefits as well as warm fuzzy ones
Becoming a certified B Corp also has practical business benefits, in addition to the warm fuzzy feeling it can create for executives, employees and communities.
For example, Wernli notes that on one level corporate social responsibility can help companies earn good PR and consumers respect at a time when many shoppers are skeptical of businesses. She explains it provides consumers with a deeper level of transparency, which can translate a more loyal base of shoppers.
Raz agrees, noting that the good will B Corp certification generates can be expected to translate to higher sales. He also notes that earning B Corp certification can help companies recruit top talent who can take the company farther.
Advice to become certified
So, what does it take to become B Corp certified? Both Wernli and Raz say it takes time and patience, but that the process is worth it.
Wernli acknowledged that when she first started thinking about becoming B Corp certified she thought it would be an arduous task, but after talking to companies that had been through the process she realized it wasn’t.
“The amount of intimidation you might feel towards signing up at the B Corp certification, that you should just eliminate right off the bat,” because the B Corp employees will help every step of the way as will other certified B Corps, she said.
Raz also noted that the B Corporation staff and community was extremely helpful during the certification process. But, he added, getting the certification is just the beginning.
“You should focus not just on getting that certification, but how can you continuously raise the bar within your own organization and push and push and try to exceed your [certification] score year after year after year,” he said. “At the end of the day, it is not just about meeting the minimum bar, but it should be about pushing the company to always do better as a socially responsible company to your employees, your community and the environment.”