Are you surprised to learn that the average length of time it takes to attain the coveted B Corp certification is 18 months? I was shocked. It was exactly 18 months for us from the first time I took the assessment until we were official. I’ve been able to help others on this road cut down the time it takes to get the right structures and guidelines in place to get approval quicker, but the bottom line is it’s not easy. I’m glad it’s not easy, so that the bar is set high. It’s not a PR gimmick but a true indication of those who want to look at more than just the bottom line and the positive impact they can have on the environment, their employees, vendors and communities.
If you want to get on the fast track to B Corp status, here are my suggestions:
- First step is to take the assessment and see where you score. Give yourself a 2 hour time block for this. Be honest with the answers. The goal is not to qualify on your first try (no one does) but to simply take note of the areas you need to start monitoring and measuring. Keep a running list as you go through the assessment on your own of the things you want to devote attention to over the course of the next year.
- Once you complete the initial assessment, you then need to decide if this is still a goal you want to pursue in this season of the business. For some, especially those in manufacturing, the B Corp certification is a huge investment of time and resources. Service businesses have it a little easier when it comes to qualifying and being nimble with processes. The smaller the company, the easier it will be to create new policies or change old ones to meet the standards.
- Once you’ve decided you are committed to becoming a B Corp over the next calendar year, you need to assign one person responsibility over pushing the process forward. This project manager will own the week to week checkpoints you need to be making progress on to complete the process within 12 months.
- Engage some external accountability and support. The B Corp ecosystem robust than ever so here’s a few options to consider based on your specific situation – my best advice is to engage in all of these at the same time or at least more than one simultaneously to get you to the finish line as efficiently as possible:
- State universities – The University of Georgia and NC State University are two of dozens of colleges around the US that are willing to allow their MBA students to step alongside prospective B Corp companies to get across the finish line. It’s free and it’s a win for everyone. Getting in the trenches with you is much better than just reading about another case study for these students and they are willing to do some of the more detailed research and policy shaping that no one on your team really has the time or energy to do. Reach out to your local university to see if they have a program like this already in place or would be willing to help you through the process.
- Consultants – Paying someone to be your guide through the process is a strong incentive for efficiency! My top suggestion is Nathan but a quick google search will yield some amazing people who can help.
- Other B Corps – Many states have B Local chapters like the one we started in GA back in 2018. Not only do we want to grow the number of B Corps in our state but we also can be a resource in your quest to join our ranks! The same may be true of your state. None of those companies may want to hold your hand through the process, but they can share some insight, answer questions and encourage you on your journey.
- Virtual Coaching – join our social impact virtual coaching group and lock arms with other founders on the same path you are on to become a B Corp. Climbing the mountain with someone else is always more strategic and enjoyable. Plus we all get to celebrate together when you reach the summit!
- Go public with your commitment. Share with your team the goal you’ve set. Introduce them to the people and partners working with you to reach B Corp status. Update them throughout the year so they feel a part of the process. Blast it all over your socials and let everyone know your intentions. Not only will you gain more traction with vendors and customers, but you’ll encourage others to consider the B Corp path as well. By the time you get certified you’ll have a whole tribe of people ready to celebrate with you and a team that is proud to work for a B Corp company. It’s a huge waste of an opportunity for your team and your digital audience to not allow them to be part of the process and educate them on why this matters to you along the way.
- Lastly, keep improving your processes until they align with the B Corp standard. You can take the set as many times as you want and it stays up on your profile for reference. Each time take notes on what needs to change, make the necessary adjustments, and take the test again until you pass.
It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. One final piece of advice I give to anyone in this process. Do not expect becoming a B Corp will be your sales and marketing strategy. It is an asset in the sales process, but you will not have a line of other B Corps ready to buy from you because you are now one of them. You may not even have a huge boost of customers because they see the B Corp logo on your door or in your email signature. Become a B Corp to have the external accountability of doing the right thing through your business for the world around you. Forcing yourself to submit to an unbiased external authority on how you operate your business will keep your ethics in check. Hard decisions for some in your situation will be easier for you because you operate under a different standard. Companies who are B Corps do often see slight increases in sales after becoming certified but don’t expect it to be a honey pot. Do it for the right reasons and it will positively impact your culture, your team and yes your overall business/bottom line.