If you believe that ‘B Corp’ is just an abbreviation of ‘Benefit Corp’, it’s time to think again! Sure, they have plenty in common but these are two different movements that share the belief that businesses can transform communities by doing good.
As a business owner, you may be considering becoming a purpose-first company and thus need to know which organization is best for you. We don’t want to make things even more complicated but there are also Social Enterprises to consider. Because we didn’t want to ramble on too much in this guide we made a handy ultimate guide to social enterprises so you can be fully glued in.
For this article, we’re going to look at the differences between B Corps and Benefit Corps. Before we look at any contrasts between the two, we first need to define what they are and what they’ve got in common.
Do you think B Corps are the future of business? We have this debate in a separate article.
The ethos of B Corps and Benefit Corps is that each segment of a business operation is to be viewed as a benefit rather than a hindrance to its welfare. For instance, employees deserve to feel that they are gaining a purpose from being at the organization, rather than just another cog in the machine.
B Corps face the B Impact Assessment that rates the business in several ways, such as its impact on the community and the environment. For leading activewear brand Patagonia, which is a famous B Corp, the review helped “conduct a comprehensive assessment of our current social and environmental programs.”
Employee welfare is one of the criteria that have to be met, and this is something that Benefit Corporations conduct on a self-report basis. This allows both organizations to ensure the treatment of every area of their business is of exceptional standing.
Ecologically, both B and Benefit Corps believe that companies should invest back into the environment to outweigh any damage that’s been caused through their operations.
The way this is achieved is by acting a little differently from traditional companies. A normal corporation has to cater to the interests of shareholders first, and by extension become a profit-first company. This means that the pursuit of profit overcomes any ethical dilemmas it may face. Worker rights are quashed to make way for a higher dividend. It doesn’t matter that carbon emissions are rising if this is a cheaper method than the alternative. B Corps and Benefit Corps feel that businesses could and should take firmer measures to support the community they are a part of.
B and Benefit Corps think a little differently. What they do is consider the impact their business is having on every stakeholder. It’s not just those who have a financial interest stake in the company that is heard. From the fair treatment of suppliers to the community they operate in, the business has to take into account every consideration before a decision is made.
There are obvious advantages to this. One of the most notable is that this often means that these organizations have a more democratized workforce than traditional companies. As a result of this, visible improvements can be seen in employee motivation and their longevity at the company. Employees can also contribute to decision-making that can help the business prosper.
B Corps and Benefit Corps both consider transparency in reporting their social and environmental performance as an essential part of running an ethical business.
These reports are held against a third-party standard, the results of which must be made publicly available for each type of organization. There’s no hiding place for shoddy dealings or abhorrent uses of fossil fuels!
These are just a few of the ways these two organizations operate and the positive impact they can have on the wider world as well as each division of their business. The power of the B Corp cannot be limited to just one article. We have a dedicated pillar page full of everything you need to know, from the history of B Corps, to how we are Stronger Together. We even have more information about how B Corps are transforming every industry, From Smoothies to Banks.
Now that we’ve looked at the similarities between B Corps and Benefit Corps, let’s see how these two are organized in slightly different ways. In most instances, B Corps have to follow more official procedures to be awarded certification. Benefit Corporations follow a similar structure to B Corps but they’re not certified, so there is no legal responsibility to meet targets. This allows for greater leniency but there are advantages to becoming certified. Usually, it increases media exposure as “media outlets [are] interested in covering leaders in the trend to pursue purpose before profit.” Another key reason is trust and loyalty. Consumers know the legitimacy of a company’s obligations if they have been certified. Once certified, the seriousness of a B Corp’s responsibilities can never be in doubt. Of course, this is just a brief introduction to the reasons why a Benefit Corp may decide to become a B Corp. To find out more, we recommend ‘Should every Business Be a B Corp?’ which goes into more depth.
For now, let’s stick with the differences. With the certification, there comes more responsibility. While a Benefit Corp’s performance is self-reported, and thus only has to meet its own specific criteria, a B Corp must achieve the minimum verified score on the B Impact Assessment we mentioned earlier. This assessment is constantly evolving to ensure businesses stay modern and innovative as they seek to meet the latest standards.
While achieving the B Corp status can be challenging due to having to meet the assessment’s grade, it can be more accessible for a greater number of companies. It’s only possible to become a Benefit Corporation in thirty U.S. states, while achieving B Corp status is an option for pretty much any business, so long as they make the grade! B Corps isn’t just for US companies, in fact, at the moment of writing they can be found in 77 countries and 153 industries.
The last crucial difference is how B Labs’ role is distinct between the two. B Lab is an independent organization that assesses how companies can overcome the social and environmental challenges of the day. For Benefit Corps, it offers a free reporting tool to help them independently judge the effectiveness of their ethos.
A B Corp, on the other hand, is granted the B Lab assessment we mentioned earlier. Once the company has passed the test, they are granted permission to use the Certified B Corporation logo, portfolio of services, and vibrant community of practice among B Corps. However, while the fees involved for state filing fees for a B Corp can be up to $50,000, for a Benefit Corp it can be anything from $70 to $200, making this a more affordable option for some businesses.
Benefit Corps and B Corps have the same goal: to redefine the purpose of businesses into becoming forces for good. With that being said, there are some key differences between the two and the best option for a business depends on several factors. Budget, location, and the aspirations of the company can all be important reasons as to which organization should be considered. While getting the B Corp certification can have a positive impact on how a socially conscious business operates, this isn’t crucial to ensuring the sustainability of both the business and the wider community. The most important thing is to keep consistent reports on the standing of a business in all the main areas: community, workforce, environment, and employees. If every business can pass these tests, we can all look forward to a brighter future.
Becoming sustainable doesn’t have to be hard. You could start small and implement one green process at a time, and implement more as you go. It may be some extra work, but your investment will likely pay for itself in time.
As a B Corp, DGW Branded takes pride in thinking beyond profit. We want to see the world as equitable as possible, where everyone is given an equal opportunity to shine. That’s why we write articles such as this one.
For our own company, we prove our commitments to this by hiring those from the foster care system to help pack our orders. To find out more about our workforce program, please visit this section of our website.
While we hope we’ve clarified some of the roles and responsibilities of each section of the B Corp movement, we’re always willing to help other businesses succeed in their societal and environmental responsibilities, please leave a comment if you have any questions. For your business needs, you can also speak to one of our experts to find out how DGW Branded can help your business.
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