B Corp behind the scenes

We are thrilled to share that Bumboo is now a certified B Corp. Many people now recognize the B Corp logo, but how many know what goes into becoming B Corp?

We thought we would spill the beans, and what better person to ask than Rob, our CEO.

To start, can you tell us about the timeline and process Bumboo went through to become a B Corporation?

Rob: Absolutely, it's great to share Bumboo’s experience. On the 12th of June, B Lab confirmed our successful B Corp application with a final score of 98.3 points. The threshold to certify as a B Corp is 80 points. It has been an 18-month process for Bumboo to become B Corp certified.

We held our first workshops in August to fill out the B Impact Assessment which, after 6 weeks of team input, we submitted in September 23. In September, we also hosted a workshop on ESG topics and code of ethics that includes bribery and corruption, modern slavery, diversity & inclusion, and data privacy.

Following a second workshop on the Sustainable Development Goals and Bumboo’s theory of change, in November we shared the draft environmental management system. This included environmental policies, a theory of change, a supply chain map, impact data metrics, and an impact risk assessment. This content fed into the impact report and served as evidence for the B Lab review process.

Our supply chain assessment, which started in August, was finalised in January. From September to January, our B Corp application was in a queue. It was then reviewed by a B Lab Analyst in the UK, who looked at high-level qualifiers, such as progress towards the legal requirement and the three Impact Business Models (IBMs) we selected.

In February, Bumboo published its first impact report, and that same month, the articles of association were updated to recognise and pursue benefits beyond shareholder value, including positive contributions to society and the environment.From March to June, the application was evaluated by a B Lab Analyst from the Global team. Since we prepared the bulk of our evidence in 2023, this process went relatively smoothly. It involved uploading supporting documentation as evidence for our sustainability claims and responding to questions about our practices and impact.

What did you get asked about during the review process?

Rob: On the B Impact Assessment platform, there is built-in functionality to provide comment responses to questions. We had a lot of back-and-forth correspondence with the B Lab Analysts. Initially, we were asked about the “basics” such as legal entities, products, number of employees, and revenue to confirm we were on the right track for the assessment, as it is tailored to the sector and scale of a company.

Once the initial screening was complete, the Analyst asked clarifying and next-level-of-detail questions about our responses. We were asked to upload various documents, such as the employee handbook, proof of certifications, a P&L, contract templates, a list of reference literature, and more. This thorough review process helped ensure that all our claims were backed by solid evidence.

Is B Corp certification hard to get?

Rob: Yes, it can be quite challenging. The assessment is comprehensive and requires a company to demonstrate its commitment to positive impact across various areas of its business. It often involves making significant changes to policies and practices. At Bumboo, we took an additional step by hiring an ESG specialist who helped us scrutinise our practices beyond what was required, ensuring that we met and exceeded the standards set by B Lab. However, the process is designed to be rigorous to ensure that only truly committed companies achieve certification.

Why would a company want to become a B Corp?

Rob: There are several reasons. For Bumboo, it was about aligning our business practices with our values. Becoming a B Corp allows us to demonstrate our commitment to sustainability and social responsibility. It also helps assure customers, employees, and investors who share our values. Moreover, being part of the B Corp community provides opportunities for collaboration and learning with other like-minded businesses.

How do you get B Corp status?

Rob: After completing the B Impact Assessment and meeting the minimum score, the company submits the assessment to B Lab for review. This is followed by a verification process, which may include providing additional documentation and participating in a phone review. Once B Lab is satisfied that the company meets all the requirements, the company signs the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence and pays a certification fee. Only then is the company officially certified as a B Corp.

Speaking of fees, what is the cost of B Corp certification?

Rob: The certification cost varies depending on the size and revenue of the company. For small companies, the fee might be a few thousand dollars, while larger companies could pay tens of thousands. It's an investment, but for many companies, including Bumboo, it's well worth it given the benefits of certification.

How long does it take to get B Corp certified?

Rob: The time frame can vary widely. For us at Bumboo, it took about 18 months from gathering our own information to receiving certification. Some companies might move faster, while others might take longer depending on their readiness and the complexity of their operations.

What is the pass rate for B Corp certification?

Rob: It's hard to provide an exact pass rate, but generally, only about 30% of companies that start the B Impact Assessment end up getting certified. This reflects the high standards and rigorous process involved.

How many UK companies are B Corp certified?

Rob: As of now, there are over 500 B Corp certified companies in the UK. This number is growing as more companies recognise the value of certification.

How do I start a B Corp certification?

Rob: The first step is to visit the B Lab website and start the B Impact Assessment. This will help you understand where your company stands in terms of social and environmental performance. From there, you can identify areas for improvement, make necessary changes, and work towards meeting the certification requirements. It's also helpful to connect with other B Corps for guidance and support.

Can you share some of your reflections on the B Corp certification process?

Rob: Certainly. There are a few key reflections I'd like to share:·

Pragmatic user value vs tick-box evidence: There is a balance to strike between creating meaningful practices that will actually be implemented going forward versus providing a response or document to satisfy a B Corp requirement.·

Specific definitions by B Lab: B Lab has some very specific definitions that make it difficult at times to figure out what is being asked. For example, subcontractors that work more than 20 hours per week or over 6 months count as workers.·

Question of materiality: B Lab sometimes focuses on “fringe” practices rather than core activities. For example, we were asked to go into detail about subcontractor agreements, which represent a very small proportion of the business’ overall activities, whereas important details about core activities like bamboo sourcing beyond the FSC certification were not scrutinised as much.

Investigating risk areas: Similar to the point above, there was no follow-up on our disclosure areas or the negative consequences of potentially harmful practices. The three areas for Bumboo are potential negative biodiversity impacts, emissions- and energy-intensive industries, and water-intensive industries. Beyond a short paragraph, no further questions or evidence were asked related to these material issues that represent significant ESG risk. While we have implemented our own practices to mitigate these, there was not the opportunity to go into the level of detail we would like during the B Corp assessment.

Realistically, its pretty much impossible for any framework and system to be perfect, but B Corp is one of the best available tools and certifications for evaluating a company’s ESG performance standards. In many areas, Bumboo has been scrutinised to a high level of detail on a very wide array of practices.

What can we take away from this process?

Rob: Overall, becoming a B Corp can inform and inspire us on how to behave as a responsible, impactful company. B Corp is one of the few frameworks that focuses on performance standards over, for example, reporting standards. While it can be useful to benchmark ourselves against similar companies, the true utility of the tool is to compare our progress against our own past performance and keep challenging ourselves to improve.

Can we significantly reduce or offset emissions in our supply chain? Can we continue to broaden employee benefits and inclusion? Can we deliver on our ambitions for rewilding or new products?

The certification itself is a signal to customers, partners, investors, and the market that your company stands up to scrutiny on its social and environmental performance. While some elements can feel like a tick-box exercise, the value of the B Corp certification process is also the thinking and action that lies behind it. This includes things like prioritising team learning and discussion, finding resources to better understand our impact on society and the environment, creating goals to steer the direction of the company, or collecting and sharing feedback on better ways of doing business or enacting values.

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