Obtaining a B Corp certification requires a deep commitment to social and environmental impact. Never has that mattered more.
If there’s anything the last 18 months have laid bare, it’s that we have a lot of work to do when it comes to solving big social issues that affect us all.
At Genus, we’ve worked for decades to make sustainable investing more accessible. We chose to take our focus on sustainability, climate change and social impact a step further, by getting our B Corp certification and reconfirming it every three years.
We’re not the only ones. In the last couple of years, the popularity of the B Corp Certification for businesses has grown exponentially, with more than 4,000 certified B Corp businesses worldwide – half of which have become certified in the last two years. And becoming a certified B Corp is no easy feat.
But wait, what is a B Corp?
A B Corp, or certified B Corporation, is a company that has met “the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose” according to B Lab, the organization that oversees B Corp certification.
B Corps are thoroughly purpose-driven, and do good across a wide variety of spheres – from a commitment to sustainable operations to a high level of ethics and transparency in governance, to economic impact and employee satisfaction. Some well-known examples of B Corp certified businesses include Patagonia, TOMS shoes, The Body Shop, Beautycounter, Tentree, Amy’s Kitchen and Eileen Fisher.
What it comes down to is that B Corps are all-around good companies. “If you think about your impact and relationship with the world, it’s about more than shareholder return,” says Carla Heim, Senior Advisor, Sustainability and ESG at the Business Development Bank of Canada, which works to support the Canadian community of B Corps. “When I started this work nine years ago, it used to be mainly companies that were very purpose driven – companies that put their mission forward,” Heim adds. “Now it’s important to a lot of organizations that they’re thinking about all of these pieces. Customers are demanding it and investors are demanding it. There’s a lot of risk in having environmental problems or treating employees badly. And trust and transparency have never been more important.”
Becoming a B Corp is daunting
Joining the ranks of the more than 4,000 B Corps worldwide (230 in Canada) is an involved and potentially lengthy process. But here’s the essence of it: contenders must complete a B Impact Assessment, gathering information and evidence for submission according to criteria that is based on their size, industry and location. “We’re on version six of the assessment since it was launched 15 years ago,” Heim says. “It’s updated every two to three years with the most current criteria.”
Points are awarded in categories that include governance, workers, community, supply chain environment and customers, and require that applicants carefully examine everything from their shareholder structure to their employee policies, to the nitty gritty of their operations.
Once all the documentation has been completed, it’s submitted to the B Lab Standards team for review and third-party verification. Companies must score a minimum of 80 points to qualify for certification. “Achieving 80 points is very tough,” Heim says. “If you’re certifying at 82 points, for example, you’ve done an incredible job.”
Committed to continuous improvement
Heim says a lot of companies use the B Impact Assessment as a strategy tool to continuously improve their performance – and their companies. “For many, it’s about the journey,” she says. “The higher the score, the deeper the impact you’re having, so many use that score as one of their indicators for their impact. They constantly want to challenge themselves to do better.”
That’s exactly how we’ve approached it here at Genus, and how we’ve achieved the highest B Corp-ranking of investment advisors in Canada* (okay, we admit we’re number one out of two, but we hope to see more firms join us here!)
We’re also happy to share that Genus scored 121.2 points on our most recent re-certification, a huge increase over our last certification, when we scored 88.8. “Having gone through the initial certification and the recent recertification process has been enlightening,” says Stephen Au, Genus’ CEO. “It’s given us a roadmap on how we can improve as an organization and to make an even larger impact for all of our stakeholders.”
Genus first became B Corp certified in 2017, a process that required refining and gathering documentation illustrating our commitment to good governance, diversity and inclusion and our sustainability efforts. And of course, our Fossil Free and Impact portfolio offerings contributed to our high score, too. “B Corp Certification represents alignment of our investment philosophies and our own corporate culture,” Au says. “We believe that good governance ultimately leads to better managed companies representing better investment results.”
You can see our full B Corp score breakdown here.
We’re committed to recertifying every three years, and look forward to seeing more and more companies join us on this rewarding journey.
Our clients can join us, too, in making a positive impact! Learn more about how impact investing drives change for the planet, and for your future.
*Genus achieved the highest B Corp ranking in Canada in the category of “Investment Advising” and ranked 22nd in North America based on 40 other firms surveyed in this category published by B Hive as of August 30, 2021.