Reporter World Forum

30B – “B Corp”, be responsible

Some companies claim to be “B Corp”. But what does that actually mean?

As Paolo Di Cebare repeated, today we live in a closed system on metal and an open system on energy. An increase of 2°C average has already been reached in many countries and 8 billionaires own the same wealth as 3.6 billion poorer people in the world. With the development of technology, we are entering an exponential trend into a closed system.

All of those facts are true and alarming. But what is the role of business in this? That is the question that Benoit Doithier, directorate general of Antica Erboristeria SpA, Blandine Stefani, the B corp director from Danone and Elizabeth Soubelet, founder of Squiz tried to answer through the appellation “B Corp” of their enterprise.

A model to follow

When Paolo Di Cebare remarked that in the arranging of companies, the business part of the company and the social and environmental ones were most of the time at two separated places – These can even be situated in two different towers – He began to realize that there was a major problem: if the two parts cannot communicate, how can they be both ecologically responsible and profitable? He then decided to use the term “for-benefit enterprise”, to ally profit with a positive impact on society and the environment for his society. This is how Nativa became the first certified benefit corporation in Italy.

How to become a B Corp?

The community B Corp was founded in 2006 in the United States to gather all companies wanting to make benefit while still rendering good societal impact. To become a B Corp, or Benefit Corporation, companies have to obtain a score of 80 points on the B impact score.  

The company Antica Erboristeria SpA, represented by Benoit Doithier, became the 10th certified B Corp company in Italy when it attained the B impact score assessment. With its brand Herbatint, the business proposes natural cosmetics all over the world but everything is produced in Rome. The major objective of the company is to work closer with their stakeholders. Benoit Doithier explains: “we have integrated in the evaluation of the suppliers a way to assess their impact in order to see how we can do better together”.

For Danone, the score has not yet been reached in every continent. Two years ago, Danone North America decided to merge with WhiteWave Foods, which is specialized in bio products. Thanks to this, Danone North America became the largest certified B Corp in America. The ambition for the whole group is now to be certified as a B Corp in the entire world by 2030.

For Elizabeth Soubelet, who created ecological and practical alternatives to throw-away products, the score was reached through the local, social and environmental impacts of Squiz : all of their packaging is made with local materials 30 kilometers away from their headquarters, 2% of their turnover goes to associations or NGOs every year and thanks to their products, 38 million single-use pouches have been saved from landfill or incineration in 4 years.

So, why becoming a benefit corporation?

As a small enterprise, “Squiz wants to enable everyone to become a consumer in the circular economy simply and through everyday objects made of thoughtfully-sourced materials and manufactured as locally as possible”, explains Elizabeth Soubelet.

For Antica Erboristeria SpA, the most important thing is “to have an impact to inspire the stakeholders” and “play a role in this big thing”, the protection of the environment.

Danone has different reasons to become a Benefit Corporation. The main one is to be on the path for improvement and to join a movement of companies who want to build a different future. “As a large organization, we have a huge role to play” added the B Corp director for the brand, Blandine Stefani. Danone also wants and needs more transparency from their stakeholders, employers and consumers.

A true hope for the future

Currently, 2650 companies are certified B Corp. By remaining optimistic, as Blandine Stefani said, we can be hopeful that in ten years time, we will look back and say “how was it possible to do business without B Corp?” But for this, companies need to realize they have to be more responsible.

Clara Nord