As consumers, we expect more from the companies we buy from in 2020. It’s no longer enough to just sell the most affordable or best value products. We want to know that companies are looking after the planet and their workers in their quest for our custom.
As a result, more and more companies are shouting about their ‘ethics’ and their ‘impact’ – two common buzzwords adorning countless company websites. And while many of these companies are genuinely committed to caring for their people and the planet, for others it is nothing more than a marketing tool, so how do you know who to trust?
Through social business accreditations – that’s how! We look at two of the most popular options: B Corp vs Social Enterprise Mark.
B-Corps and Social Enterprise Mark are two different accreditation programmes that require companies to meet a certain high standard of ethical and sustainable production in order to be officially certified.
The assessment process is rigorous, so if you see a company with these accreditations, you know that they put their money where their mouth is when it comes to social responsibility.
For consumers, it is a quick and easy way to understand if a company is as committed to doing good as they claim to be.
For businesses, going for an internationally recognised and respected certification is a way to stand out from the crowd and to build customer loyalty and a credible reputation. It’s also a useful way to ensure your social impact activities are continually reviewed and measured against a well-recognised and widely understood framework.
The B-Corp movement is the better known of the two. A global organisation that’s been running since 2006, its accredited partners include big hitters like Ben and Jerry’s, Patagonia, and Danone.
Globally they have 3,500 B-Corps across 70 countries, and in the UK alone there are over 300 accredited B-Corps. They have wider aims to build a global ‘B economy’ and provide useful free tools to support any organisation to do better, not just those who are accredited. These include the incredibly thorough and informative B Impact Assessment, and their new SDG Action Manager to help companies track their progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
As the Social Enterprise Mark focuses specifically on for-profit businesses who are committed to donating the majority of their profits, rather than any and all for-profit businesses like the B Corps, it is a much smaller movement.
However, it is still internationally recognised, with almost 200 participating organisations including well-known names such as The Big Issue, Charity Bank, and multiple UK universities.
Any for-profit company which has been trading for at least a year is eligible to apply for B-Corp status. Start-ups who have been operating for less than a year can show their commitment to social responsibility by applying for Pending B-Corp status (as Social Good Connect has!).
Some companies may also need to amend their governing documents to include a ‘triple bottom line’ business approach declaring their commitment to stakeholders as well as shareholders. You can read their step-by-step guide here.
To be eligible for the Social Enterprise Mark Accreditation, a company must be a for-profit business, have social or environmental objectives, dedicate at least 51% of profits to social or environmental issues, be able to demonstrate that social objectives are being achieved and commit to distribute residual assets for social aims on dissolution.
To qualify for B-Corp accreditation, a company needs to score about 80 points on their free online B Impact Assessment tool (which is actually a really useful tool for any company who want to better understand their current social impact and get suggestions for improvement). You must also be willing to sign their Declaration of Interdependence promising to ‘be the change you seek in the world’ and declaring that you understand your responsibility to do no harm with your business activities. You will then pay the annual fee which starts at £500 for a company with less than £149,00 in annual sales.
To apply for the Social Enterprise Mark accreditation, you must first complete an online registration form. Next is a telephone consultation with a member of the team who will talk you through the next steps. You pay the license fee (which starts at £250 + VAT), and then have your application reviewed by the assessment team. Their website states that you can expect a provisional approval within 1-4 days of application, but your official confirmation might take up to four weeks.
B-Corp membership costs between £500 – £50,000 a year based on an organisation’s annual sales.
The Social Enterprise Mark license fee costs £250 – £7,500 a year based on turnover.
Both of these accreditation programmes are well-recognised and respected. However, for-profit organisations looking to prove their social impact with an instantly recognisable and almost universally understood badge should go for the B-Corp certification.
To find out more about how Social Good Connect can help you measure and prove your social impact en-route to accreditation, why not give us a call? Or sign up to our mailing list for more useful tips and actionable steps towards tangible social impact.