As a fashion brand sustainability is a topic that will touch you in one way or another. Nowadays there are infinite ways to make your business more conscious. Getting your business or products certified by a recognised and respected organization helps you translate your efforts into transparent parameters. For the fashion industry there are multiple sustainability certifications available. In today’s article we want to introduce you to b-corp certification, a certification Manufy soon will obtain. What does b-corp mean, how does this process look like, and what tips do we have? Keep on reading to learn all the ins and outs of the b-corp certification for your fashion business.
What does BCorp mean?
The term BCorp, short for B corporation. It refers to a business that has obtained the homonymous certification, i.e. the B corp certification issued by B Lab, a non-profit organization founded with the goal of spreading a new business model. As stated in the B Corp website “B Corp Certification is a designation that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials”. More in particular, in order to achieve the certification a company has to:
- Obtain a B Impact Assessment score of 80 or higher and pass their risk review to demonstrate high social and environmental performance.
- Change their corporate governance structure to be accountable to all stakeholders, not just shareholders, and apply for benefit corporation status if it is available in their jurisdiction.
- Allow information about their performance measured against B Lab’s standards to be publicly available on their B Corp profile on B Lab’s website to demonstrate transparency.
The B Impact assessment (BIA)
In order to obtain and maintain the certification companies must measure their performance through the B Impact Assessment (BIA) measurement standard and obtain a score of at least 80 points (out of 200). The BIA, which is free and online, submits companies that complete an in-depth questionnaire on the following topics:
- Governance (accountability and transparency, internally and externally)
- Workers (everything concerning employees: salaries, training, benefits, quality of the working environment, property, etc.)
- Community (community support actions, community service attitudes, supply and logistics policies, job creation, etc.)
- Environment (attention to the environment through energy efficiency, reduction of waste and environmental impact, etc.)
- Customers (positive impact of the products or services offered on customers) (positive impact of the products or services offered on customers)
If after completing the questionnaire you obtain a score, equal or greater than 80/200, then your company can advance to the next stage of evaluation. The aspiring B-Corp will be required to deliver supporting documents to demonstrate what was stated in the questionnaire during this phase. Once certified, new B-Corps will be able to use the Certified B-Corp brand to promote their services and products.
The certification is valid for three years and must be renewed after that. However, the B-Corp is required to account for its actions each year, presenting and publishing a report on its website that includes the objectives set and achieved, as well as an action plan for the following year.
Fashion Brands that are already part of the BCorp community
Since sustainability has become an important topic in society and consumers have decided to change their purchasing habits, new fashion brands are also increasingly aiming to implement more sustainable production methods. As a result, many emerging brands, as well as established brands, have decided to join the BCorp community in recent years. Let’s look at some examples to get you inspired if you’re considering a similar path for your brand.
- Sezane: a B Corp certified company since 2021. It specializes in timeless, well-tailored pieces made from innovative, eco-friendly materials created in expert partner ateliers. Each piece is designed to outlast trends and work for (almost) any season. Sézane has raised over €4 million through its philanthropic program Demain, which works to increase access to education, culture, and opportunities for children and young people around the world, in addition to establishing responsible production methods.
- Patagonia: For nearly a decade, the company has been B Corp certified, and it has long been recognized as an industry leader in environmental advocacy and sustainable practices. Their leaders are unfailingly honest about how much work remains to be done in the sector and within their own company, and they operate a self-imposed Earth tax, donating 1% of their annual sales to grassroots environmental groups. Their outstanding environmental efforts and entrepreneurial vision, including the use of recycled materials in 70% of their collections, earned them the title of UN Champion of the Earth in 2019, the UN’s highest environmental honor.
- Veja: The brand was founded with the goal of creating a shoe that would last without sacrificing sustainability, which meant working with unusual materials like wild rubber from the Amazonian Forest for their soles and recycled plastic bottles to create a new type of mesh. The company operates with complete transparency at every stage of production, from the wages they pay to the materials they use. Working directly with small-scale producers in Peru and Brazil allows them to bypass the middleman and agree on a price for the rubber and cotton they use in advance, ensuring the producers can earn a decent living and reinvest in their farms.
- Allbirds: The shoe company takes pride in using natural materials, such as eco-friendly eucalyptus pulp and moisture-wicking merino wool that is ZQ-certified (meeting stringent standards for sustainable farming and animal welfare) and uses 60% less energy than synthetics. Along with this, the brand has redesigned their packaging, using 90% post-consumer recycled cardboard that doubles as a shoebox and shopping bag, and collaborated with the charity Soles4Souls to ensure that their gently used shoes find new homes in some of the world’s poorest communities.
- Bird: Bird is the UK’s first and only certified B Corp eyewear brand. Their frames are made from the highest quality sustainable materials, including certified woods, bio-based acetate, renewable cork, and recycled aluminum, and come with cleaning cloths made from recycled plastic bottles. They distribute solar light to families in Zambia and Malawi for every pair purchased, replacing the use of fossil fuel burning lamps. Their bamboo and wooden frames can all be composted, whereas their laminated wood and aluminum frames can be separated and the aluminum layers recycled.
Manufy on its BCorp journey
As a startup committed to sustainability, becoming a Bcorp was a natural evolution for our company. We decided at the beginning of last year to commit to this goal by embarking on the b-corp journey that will allow us to improve ourselves and contribute to the sustainable evolution of the fashion world.
Manufy’s tips on becoming a BCorp
- Be patient: it is a long and complicated process to become a BCorp. You’ll have to spend a lot of time going over documentation you didn’t even remember you had and making adjustments in order to meet BLab standards. It’s a step toward a more sustainable future for your company, but it won’t happen overnight; it will take time and effort, but it will be well worth it!
- Be committed to your objective: There will be times when you feel like the process is too big and overwhelming, but the important thing is to remember why you chose this path for your business, the planet, and society, rather than becoming frustrated by the timeframes or complications you will face.
- Look for help: look up for useful material and organizations that give support for the BCorp journey; on the BCorp portal there is a lot of useful information. Look for the people you can get in touch with for support and coaching sessions. There are a number of projects in each country that can give support to businesses in understanding the BCorp process (for example in Amsterdam there is the Building Better Business project if you want to take a look and see how you can get support in this process).
It is a lot of information to consider and even if it may seem like a lot of work, trust that it will be worth the journey. Building a business with positive impact takes courage, but as Socrates said: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new” .