Since 2006, over 6,000 for-profit organisations, representing over 450,000 workers, have gained the B Corp certification. 221 of these are located in the Benelux (168 in The Netherlands, 48 in Belgium and 5 in Luxembourg). As Executive Director for B Lab BeNeLux, Tessa van Soest talks about shaping narratives, coalitions and collaborative actions, and foresees a special role within the B Corp community for the newly certified Spadel Group.
The B Corp movement isn’t just about helping companies do better, Tessa is quick to explain. “We’re also very much focused on shifting the narrative on responsible business through academic collaborations or working with municipalities to help them develop strategies that drive meaningful growth in their area. Strong partnerships and regular events with organisations such as The Shift (Belgium), MVO Nederland (The Netherlands), and Inspiring More Sustainability (Luxembourg) are underpinned by a common agenda in which a new, regenerative, inclusive and sustainable economy takes centre stage.”
The stellar growth of the movement, and the number of accredited B Corps, proves how aspirational the B Corp certification has become for companies seeking to be part of the solution. However, this also means that B Lab, the non-profit organisation behind the B Corp certification, must accommodate this growth, says Tessa. “From further streamlining our processes to attracting additional team members, it’s not just about fulfilling today’s operational needs, but tomorrow’s too. Thankfully, the B Corp certification almost sells itself. More entrepreneurs see the value of the B Corp certification as this process helps them to continuously and transparently work on improving impact over time. This results in many benefits, for example attracting talent. Young professionals are keen to work for organisations that do their bit for the planet and society at large.”
Speaking of tomorrow’s needs: progressive insights and technological advances mean that both the B Impact Assessment tool and the standards organisations need to meet to become (or remain) a B Corp are periodically updated. This, explains Tessa, is par for the course:
“Life is not static and nor should our standards be. We must align ourselves with the constantly evolving environmental and social contexts we operate in for the challenges we face today and tomorrow. Every three years B Corps must recertify, which means member organisations have to meet these new standards each time as we continue to raise the bar.”
With hundreds of experts from a wide range of fields, networks and communities involved in reviewing the B Impact Assessment standards, the organisation is ensuring it gets as many sincere contributions as possible.
The B Corp certification not only inspires and motivates companies but also opens the door to collaborative action, something the organisation is keen to amplify. The perfect example of such collaborative action comes from the newly formed B Corp Beauty Coalition in which over 50 B Corp beauty companies from all over the world have come together to redefine and set new standards for their sector. “Change like this doesn’t happen because we have set a standard you can certify for, but because these companies have a shared ambition and a vision for the future of their industry,” adds Tessa.
As one of the bigger members of the Benelux B Corp community Tessa hopes the Spadel group will lead by example:
“Spadel is a family-owned operation with a longstanding history in its local communities, which means their certification created a lot more awareness around B Corp in the Benelux market. More importantly, we are strong believers in learning from each other and connecting with like-minded entrepreneurs. We might make the introductions, but it’s our members who go on to form subcommunities or coalitions on specific themes and drive real change. I can envisage Spadel being part of, or even leading, a subcommittee on, for example, circular packaging.”
“I was also really struck by how engaged and focused (Spadel CEO) Marc du Bois is about leading the company to the next phase in which continuous improvement and increased impact are at the core of the Group's strategy. How he motivates and engages the team and makes sure everyone understands what it means to be a B Corp, and what you have to live up to, really is exemplary. Oftentimes the B Corp certification just appears on the packaging and you might read something in the annual CSR report, but Spadel’s extensive internal and external B Corp branding turns team members, partners and investors alike into brand ambassadors.”
Being a B Corp, after all, is not just about achieving a number on a scorecard. It’s about putting people and the planet first and understanding how this reflects on individual jobs and lives. The first step on the road towards becoming a B Corp is signing their declaration of interdependence, which states that we are all interconnected and that we, human beings, must collaborate to bring about the change we want to see in the world.
“Every time I speak with a B Corp I gain new insights. Just recently I met with two separate companies that have made Mother Earth their CEO. Learning why they made such an impactful decision, how they are making it work, is beyond inspiring to me.”
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