If you’ve been thinking about becoming a B Corporation, now’s your time get cracking on the certification. B Corps love doing business with other B Corps and the increasing number of organizations taking the initiative is creating waves of inspiration.
Having only worked for Certified B Corporations in my professional career, my friends love to make fun of me for being a B Corp nerd. I’m the first to point out that the beer they’re drinking or sneakers they’re wearing are from a Certified B Corp. It’s been awesome to see the certification expand beyond the companies and organizations you’d expect to see on the directory list. Sustainability is finally mainstream and cool.
To dive into the topic of B Corps and supply chain, I sat down over Zoom with Jeremiah McElwee, chief merchandising officer at Thrive Market—the largest grocer to receive B Corp certification—and Laura McCord, executive director of sustainability and corporate responsibility at KeHE—the first major food distributor in the U.S. to become certified.
From personal and corporate purchasing power, if a B Corp is on the table, it adds a lot of weight to buying decisions. When McElwee was considering which new snowboard to buy he “couldn’t not buy a Burton board. I’ve loved the brand ever since I lived in Colorado and was stoked to see them become certified in 2019. I just had to buy my board from a fellow B Corp.”
Even if consumers are unfamiliar with the certification, the growth and resilience of B Corps in our industry is exemplified through their community support and sales. Many of these organizations are working hard to address the systemic issues that have been brought to the forefront over the last year. Just check out Ben & Jerry’s Instagram feed to get a little taste of that. Consumers are voting with their wallets more than ever.
Laura McCord from KeHE reports that B Corp brand sales were up 30% over the last year and they now carry over 130 B Corps, up from 73 in 2018.
“If you’re in the job of being a mission driven company, the B Corp certification brings a level of awareness, credibility and validation to all of your practices,” says McElwee. “Industry wide, mission is table stakes nowadays. If you’re in that mindset, B Corp is the way to go.”
The certification process is extremely rigorous and took Thrive Market nearly two years to complete. Don’t let that scare you away though as there’s ample resources and support from other organizations to help you get there.
Within the community section of the B Corp assessment, there are nine questions related to supply chain, one of them being ‘Does your company screen and/or evaluate significant suppliers for social and environmental impact?’
At Hippie Snacks and Left Coast Naturals, we have a score card that rates suppliers and farmers on sustainability criteria such as their practices around tillage and irrigation, the sustainability of the farm's water sources and protection of riparian areas.
Thrive Market also takes a deep dive into their supplier and brand’s sustainability practices and certifications. “We spend a lot of time asking questions beyond our non-GMO policy,” says McElwee. “B Corp is the gold stamp as we know how rigorous the process is, having lived through it. Organic, regenerative organic, fair trade and ethical sourcing also play a huge role as we keep a tight portfolio of very curated products.”
The one million Thrive Market members are extremely conscious and can shop from 100-plus filters on the site. The B Corp filter has been gaining traction as the company works to educate its members, but there’s “not the same urgency for it when buying food as compared to the gluten-free, paleo or vegan filter,” says McElwee.
On an industry level, the awareness of the certification is much higher than it was even four years ago. When we had our B Corp sign up at the Ethical Bean Coffee at Natural Products Expo West booth in 2017, many buyers and brands were unfamiliar with what it meant. Fast-forward just two years later and the number of passing high-fives from other B Corps was awesome to experience. This year, there have been numerous virtual events and discussions around the topic during Spark Change or even on Clubhouse. It’s an amazing community to be a part of and I love seeing questions from other organizations looking to get involved to join the movement.
As the community celebrates B Corp month this March, brands are reflecting over the last year of the pandemic and continuing to collaborate to create a better, more inclusive future.
Who’s with us?
Lauren Archibald is the marketing manager at Hippie Snacks. Minimally processed in beautiful British Columbia, the brand has been putting its signature Hippie-twist on traditional snacks since 2010. As a founding Canadian Certified B Corporation, Hippie Snacks is committed to serving the planet, the community and its customers.