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Natural Foods Merchandiser

5 minutes with Jay Coen Gilbert

5 minutes with Jay Coen Gilbert
More natural brands are pursuing B-Corp Certification. What does the new label tell shoppers about a company?

If you attended Natural Products Expo West in March, you likely saw several exhibitors displaying Certified B Corporation seals. Companies can score this designation only after demonstrating a strong commitment to environmental and social stewardship. Launched in 2007, the nonprofit B Lab has certified more than 700 B Corps in 24 countries across 60 industries. Cofounder Jay Coen Gilbert gives us the 411 on the program and explains how it can benefit your business.

Natural Foods Merchandiser: Why did you found B Lab?

Jay Coen Gilbert: We’re passionate about addressing society’s greatest challenges through business, so we founded B Lab to serve entrepreneurs who use business as a force for good. We identified two systemic challenges that we hope to address. First is a lack of standards to help consumers differentiate good companies from those with good marketing. The second is existing corporate law that demands that businesses prioritize shareholder value over value for all stakeholders. Through our work certifying B corporations, passing legislation and providing Global Impact Investing Ratings System analytics, we try to fill these gaps.

NFM: What does B Lab certification tell consumers?

JCG: Certified B Corps must meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. The Certified B Corporation seal assures consumers that a business offers more than just marketing—it practices what it preaches.

NFM: Is the B Lab certification costly and time consuming?

JCG: It’s neither. To be certified, a company must score a minimum of 80 on the B Impact Assessment and might need to amend its legal documents depending on its state of incorporation and corporate form. The assessment is free and usually takes 60 to 90 minutes. Certification fees are based on annual sales and start at $500 for companies below $2 million.

NFM: What value does it offer companies?

JCG: It differentiates companies in the marketplace, attracts investors, helps lure and retain talent, and allows them to protect their mission as they scale. 

NFM: How can retailers convey this value to their customers?

JCG: Research shows that 90 percent of Americans believe companies must not only say a product or service is beneficial—they need to prove it. Additionally, 73 percent of consumers care about the company, not just the product, when making purchasing decisions. By sharing with shoppers Certified B Corps’ commitment to a better way of doing business, retailers help meet these conscious consumers’ greatest needs.

NFM: Can retailers pursue certification?

JCG: Definitely. B Lab certification is as valuable to retailers as manufacturers. Retailers get full access to a variety of services, as well as a network of companies eager to develop partnerships and share best practices. Certification tells customers that a retailer holds itself accountable for making the world better.

NFM: How do you see Certified B Corps changing the business landscape?

JCG: We must make companies accountable to society, not just shareholders. Collectively, B Corps are redefining success in business. I believe the movement will continue to grow and socially and environmentally responsible businesses will become the norm. I hope that one day consumers will ask companies, “Why aren’t you a B corp?”

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