Our Journey as a Certified B Corp
As March comes to an end, we close our celebration and recognition of B Corp month. And while we turn a page to a new season, a new campaign, and a new message, we certainly don't close our commitments to the responsibility we as the B Corp business community have to understand and hold the importance of the role of business to improve people’s lives, our society, and our environment.
Vermont Creamery became a certified B Corp in 2014, before #businessforgood was a hashtag and “purpose” was a trending term. We learned about the B Corp certification at a thought leadership panel in Burlington, Vermont held by Ben & Jerry’s and B Lab (B Corp’s certification body).
I learned that several like-minded businesses had come together to help create standards for social and environmental impact. Most of the businesses on the certified list where known to be pioneers in the space: Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, and King Arthur Flour, to name a few. My biggest takeaways from this first introduction were that you must have purpose in your DNA, walk the talk because you believe in it, and reflect who you are, not just who you want to be.
Matt Reese, our Director of Finance, and I huddled in room for most days over the next two weeks and worked through the online assessment. While the assessment itself was unintimidating and user-friendly, we were impressed by the rigor of the questions and had to work hard to ensure we passed the 80-point minimum threshold for certification. After two weeks, lots of coffee, many email exchanges with our suppliers and lawyers, and collection of an impressive stack of records, we celebrated passing the 80 points and submitted our recording for B Lab review.
We were so pleased when we received the official confirmation that we achieved the B Corp certification, joining one of the 900 companies globally. We even received the Rocky of the Year Award at the Annual B Corp conference for the speed with which we passed through certification and proudly added the B Corp logo on our packaging. Even back in 2014, when awareness of B Corp certification was low, we wanted to share our new status as widely as possible, and knew that one day consumers would be asking for proof that brands and companies stood for something more.
We understand that getting B Corp certified today may take a little longer than a couple of weeks, as the rigor of the certification continues to keep pace with changes in society and increasing expectations. Yet the principals remains the same: if your business is truly operating with values and integrity at the forefront of decisions, then you will find that your business decisions are likely already meeting many of the rigorous requirements.
For us, joining the B Corp community gave us a roadmap to show where we needed to focus our efforts in governance, employee wellbeing, supplier management, and environmental impact. We could clearly see where we were leading and where we were lagging by looking at our score and comparing with other businesses across the B Corp community. Those gaps helped us create our annual plans and goals for progress.
Today, eight years after our first certification, being part of the B Corp community continues to be more and more meaningful for Vermont Creamery and myself. The numbers of certified B Corps has grown from several hundred to nearly 5,000 companies around the world who have made this commitment. The re-assessment, which take place every three years, is more and more rigorous to ensure progress is made not only by individual businesses but as a collective movement.
The small state of Vermont has always been a leader in this space, and alone counts for 39 certified B Corps, the highest per capita in the nation. Yet the B Corp community is no longer a handful of revolutionary businesses from Vermont and California, but a movement that is redefining success in business. We even see investment institutions adding net-positive impact targets as a measure of company and economic value. It is clear this is no longer just a movement but has become the new standard for how we do business successfully.
We at Vermont Creamery continue to leverage the B Corp assessment as our guiding principal in our Sustainable Business Strategy, focusing no longer on our annual plan but on our vision of where our small business should and must be 5+ years from now in the areas of people, environment, community and suppliers. And while we know that we can’t tackle it all, we continue to move the needle for ourselves. As our business grows, this framework keeps us accountable for conscious growth – responsible, mindful of our stakeholders, and creating a world in which our children will thrive.
As March comes to a close, I take this moment to encourage other business leaders to explore how a B Corp certification could help your business meet the new standards for positive impact and responsibility. Join me and the 4,855 companies B Corp certified businesses who started out with a simple step of taking the B Corp assessment.