Becoming B Corp: A 20-month journey to certification

Sisters Molly, left, and Harriet run the Secret Linen Company which has recently gained B-corp status

By Molly Freshwater, Founder and Creative Director, Secret Linen Store

Embarking on the journey to becoming a Certified B Corporation is both exciting and challenging. At Secret Linen Store, we’re committed to becoming the UK’s most ethical bedroom dressing brand and this quest is a testament to our dedication to sustainability and social responsibility. The process to B-Corp took us 20 months of unwavering commitment, introspection, and transformation. Here’s how we did it and what we’ve learned along the way.

The B Impact Assessment (BIA) – your first step

If you’re interested in becoming a B Corp, then your first step is to explore the B Impact Assessment (BIA). This is a free online tool that companies can use to assess their social and environmental impacts and provides a roadmap and structure for improvement before jumping into the application for B Corp certification. The BIA was our starting point, giving us a clear understanding of our current strengths and weaknesses.

What does the BIA entail? 

The process provided a structured framework to improve our reporting across different areas of the business, including governance, workers, community, and environment.

  1. Comprehensive evaluation: The BIA assesses various aspects of your business, including governance, workers, community, and environment.
  2. Scoring: After completing the assessment, your answers are scored based on BIA criteria. A minimum score of 80 points is required to start the official application process.
  3. Documentation review: Once submitted, B Lab reviews your supporting documentation to verify the accuracy of your responses.
  4. Certification: When the business successfully completes the assessment, documentation review, verification, and met the legal requirements, it is awarded B Corp certification.

But that’s not where the hard work ends. Successful businesses must recertify every three years, showing continuous improvement against B Corp standards. For us, the BIA was more than just an assessment tool; it was our compass. It guided us in measuring our impact and improving our reporting across various business areas.

Navigating legal requirements

In addition to meeting performance requirements, companies seeking B Corp certification must also meet certain legal requirements. This often involves amending your governing documents to include commitments to social and environmental responsibility. This step ensures that these commitments are embedded into your business culture, operations, and decision-making processes.

Making these changes was a significant but necessary step for us at Secret Linen Store. It reinforced our commitment to operating responsibly and sustainably.

Valuable resources for aspiring B Corps

B Corp offers a wealth of resources to help companies navigate the certification process. Here are some that we found particularly useful:

  • Guides and toolkits: Comprehensive guides and toolkits provide step-by-step instructions and best practices.
  • Workshops and Webinars: These sessions offer insights from experts and fellow B Corps, covering everything from the BIA to legal requirements.
  • B Impact Assessment Support: The BIA itself includes a ‘learn more’ feature for each question, ensuring you provide the correct supporting documentation.
  • Community Engagement: Don’t hesitate to get in touch with other certified B Corps. We found conversations with fellow B Corps over a cup of tea invaluable. The B Corp movement is a collective effort to tackle society’s most critical challenges.

The benefits of becoming B-Corp certified

The journey to B Corp certification is undoubtedly challenging, but the benefits far outweigh the effort. Here are some of the key advantages we’ve experienced:

Enhanced brand reputation

Being a Certified B Corporation signals to consumers, investors, and stakeholders that your company is committed to high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. This certification has enhanced our brand reputation, making us a trusted choice for eco-conscious customers.

Improved talent acquisition

The certification can also help you attract a larger pool of employees, enhance your company, and find power as a community. It shows that your business is focused on everything the B Corp movement stands for: that business could be a force for good.

The certification focuses on people, prioritising purpose, and social impact. That workforce’s matter and it is a business’s responsibility to push for continuous improvements. There’s no better way to attract and engage value-aligned employees.

Operational efficiency and innovation

The B Corp certification process made us evaluate every aspect of our business, from supply chain practices to employee benefits. This introspection revealed areas where we excelled and areas where we could improve. These improvements have led to greater efficiency, innovation, and long-term success.

A supportive community

One of the most rewarding aspects of becoming a B Corp is joining a global community of like-minded businesses. This community provides opportunities for learning, collaboration, and support, as well as access to resources, events, and initiatives aimed at advancing the collective impact of B Corps worldwide.

Final thoughts

The moment we received our B Corporation certification was a proud one. It symbolised our commitment to using business as a force for good and connected us with a global network of businesses dedicated to the same mission.

For small business leaders, startup founders, and B-Corp aspirants, the journey to certification is transformative. It challenges you to look closely at your operations and make meaningful changes that benefit not only your business but also society and the environment.

If you’re considering becoming a Certified B Corporation, I urge you to take action. Use the resources available, engage with the B Corp community, and embrace the process. It’s a journey worth taking.