What is a B Corp and Why High-Fashion Is Embracing the New Certification

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Sustainability and business are topics leading the global conversation, from apparel to tech enterprises. Today we share key points about the B Corp certification and why the fashion industry uses it as a positioning strategy.
ELLE Education Business
TopicB Corp / Fashion Industry / Sustainability

B Lab is a global network creating standards, policies, and tools for business, their purpose is to serve “a global community of people using businesses as a force of good”. They are a nonprofit entity that certifies companies willing to achieve the B Corp status which is changing the “business as usual” way of proceeding inside the landscape of industrial and corporate practices. 

The network includes over 8,000 benefit corporations, over 100,000 companies managing their footprint with the B Impact Assessment and the SDG Action Manager. The community includes over 3,500 B Corps in 70 countries and 150 industries. The numbers are impressive considering that the organization B Lab was founded 15 years ago. 

The vision of co-founders Bart Houlahan, Jay Coen Gilbert, and Andrew Kassoy was to use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. Their goal is to drive systemic change through the B Corp certification, the use of the GIIRS Rating and Analytics platform, and promote Benefit Corporations. 

This tripartite dynamic pursues the certification of companies that fulfill the B corporate standards; classify them to attract investment capital according to those social and environmental efforts; encourage business entities to have a dual purpose: generating a profit and promoting the public good.

The B Corp certification meets “the highest standards of verified performance, focus on public transparency, and legal accountability”. The B corp vision is to enjoy more shared and durable prosperity, redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. 

The B Corp philosophy wants to create benefits for all stakeholders, going further than just shareholders. The companies earning the B Corp certification are ruled by a Declaration of Interdependence, which englobes all goals mentioned before. They are committed to a structural change on market interactions as “we are each dependent upon another and thus responsible for each other and future generations”, states the declaration. 

For brands to get the B Corp certification, they must achieve a minimum verified score on the B Impact Assessment. It is a 360º assessment of the company’s impact on different business areas such as, people, environment, community, governance, and customers. 

The topics under review are Ethics & Transparency; Financial Security; Career Development; Health, Wellness & Safety; Diversity, Equity & Inclusion; Civic Engagement & Giving; Customer Stewardship; Resource Conservation; Environmentally Innovative Wholesale Process, among many other categories.  

B Corp Certification is administered by Standards Analysts at B Lab, and they are located at B Lab’s Pennsylvania, New York, and Amsterdam offices. 

The B Impact Scores have been compared against all businesses that have completed the B Impact Assessment, in which 50.9 is the median score for ordinary businesses, and 80 is the minimum score to achieve the B Corp status.  

High-Fashion Takes Responsibility: The Race for the Certification

In recent months, several well-known fashion brands have announced their B Corp certification as part of a more engaging way of doing business and reinforcing a purpose-driven strategy. Fashion companies with B Corp status can be found inside a directory at bcorporation.net. 

Chloé achieved the certification last October. It all started in June 2020, in line with their rebranded mission, “Women Forward. For a Fairer Future”. Creative Director Gabriela Hearst, a sustainability advocate, is behind this new brand positioning, and Richemont, as a parent company, supports this new framework to accelerate and guide the brand’s transformation. 

“It is our strong belief that we need to take full accountability for the impact we have on people and planet, injecting purpose across everything we do, transforming how we do business and actively participating to build a better world”, stated Chloé CEO, Riccardo Bellini. 

Chloé’s Overall Impact Score is 85.2, and it is not alone in the B Corp community. Brands such as resale luxury platform Vestiaire Collective scored 89.4, and Parisian-style brand Sézane founded by Morgane Sézalory, scored 82.6 last September. 

These corporate movements show good faith inside the luxury holdings practices, as profit was one of its main drivers. The B Corp certification strengthens the brand equity and updates the brand towards the B Economy that pursues a fair future for all. The certification urges every high fashion brand that wants to certificate to have a defined purpose which can benefit brand positioning.   

Certainly, transparency is a new territory for high-fashion and contemporary brands, but not completely a new one for small, independent, or previously committed apparel brands. 

Patagonia has had a B Corp certification since 2011. The brand had gained 17 recognitions for top-performing companies achieving a 151.4 score in the last year. The brand increased its performance by around 30% since the first certification ten years ago.  

Some medium-sized brands from different categories such as footwear, bags, accessories, jewelry, home clothes, glasses, jeans, sportswear, swimwear, have been certified for years, giving the example that to obtain certification, you do not have to be a big company. 

Perhaps luxury has arrived a little bit late to the table, but better late than never. It is a great start towards sustainability and transparency to build a better future for luxury.


Originally published at: ELLE Education Business > https://elle.education/en/business/what-is-a-b-corp-and-why-high-fashion-is-embracing-the-new-certification/