Within a plethora of brands at any supermarket, consumer labels like B Corp certification can help make the ethical choice.
Lately, there has been an awakening in sustainability — apart from the renewable energy hype from the government. Plant-based brands are popping up, carmakers pledging to stop selling petrol cars by the end of the decade, even Covid-19 has triggered a new wave of veganism.
Last week, a panel of sustainability champions and business leaders gathered in a webinar organised by the tech company 3 Sided Cube, called Igniting a Green Revolution. They discussed the role of corporations in embracing a circular economy. Rich Strachan, the firm’s managing director, asserted: “There is a whole world of confusion down there.” No one said being sustainable was easy.
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By clarifying choices to the consumer, labels indicate the product has been produced sustainably. It accomplishes that by showing energetic standards, or that the trade chain has been fair from top to bottom. Governments and private organisations may support those certificates. B Corporation has been one of the fastest-growing certifications.
At the moment, many marketing practices dupe the consumer with legal hollow words such as ‘bio’, ‘natural’ or ‘sustainable’, which sound good. However, they are not legally punishable. It’s the reason for an increase in food labels. A corporation with a clear reputation should back them up. Even then, not all that glitters is gold, as the new documentary Seaspiracy has shown.
Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance. These businesses work to help B Corp achieve its goals of reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high-quality jobs with dignity and purpose.
This certificate began in the US in 2006, with the first 82 companies certified in a year. Now, there are over 3,300 certified companies across 150 industries in 71 countries.
One of these companies is Beauty Kitchen, whose founder Jo-Anne Chidley was at 3 Sided Cube’s event. It is the first beauty brand to be certified as a B Corp in the UK. Its products avoid synthetics, animal testing and keep the production locally. “I think these logos can definitely help the customer; it can help the everyday person make a more informed choice.
“Now, I know there a yin and yang when it comes to certifications because they don’t cover everything — just like regulations don’t — but I think that’s something that can also be brought to the fore to help consumers make a quicker choice.”
Louise Stevens, also a speaker at the event, thinks B-Corp is one of the most significant business trends. Stevens is the former head of circular economy at the drinks brand Innocent. She is now an independent consultant helping brands on their sustainability journeys. “It’s almost the first thing that every new client I talk to wants to do even before they read the strategy,” she says.
B-Corp has an online list of every brand certificate in the UK, making it easy for consumers who want to buy responsibly. “It offers a manageable framework, yet it comes with a workload and a cost commitment but is not overburdening. It’s the very least every business needs to do,” says Stevens.
Nonetheless, a key here is transparency and accountability, especially when there are private institutions with a complex financial network behind them. Damoy Robertson, managing director of The Vegan Review, warns precaution, though: “I would always advise doing further research to form your own opinion. Companies are beginning to use some certifications to mislead customers into believing that they are aligned with their goals, which sometimes couldn’t be further from the truth.
“I see certifications as a great way to instantly identify a product or business. However, I think there needs to be more education around what these certifications mean and the due-diligence behind the processes.”
We all want to be in a better world, and we are pushing in one way or another towards it. Certainly, politics and companies have to follow, but what’s important is that even if one part pull harder than others, all must push in the same direction.