Agency Leaders Debate B-Corp Status on LinkedIn: Genuine Sustainability or Just Greenwashing?

8 months ago

Is getting a B-Corp certification an important step to being a good agency or is it contributing to greenwashing?

Over the years, more and more agencies have been striving towards being more sustainable and ecologically responsible.

And one major topic and ‘goalpost’ for agencies looking to showcase their efforts in being green has been gaining B-Corp status. B-Corp certified businesses have been proven to balance purpose and profit and also meet certain social and environmental standards – there are currently around 1,500 certified B-Corps in the UK.

However, this week on LinkedIn, a number of industry professionals debated whether the certification is at risk of becoming part of a greenwashing problem and just a tick on an agency checklist.

Agency leaders have discussed the importance of B-Corp status (Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash)

Tom Parsons shared a post on his LinkedIn page saying: “As it seems like most others, we have started our B-Corp journey, overall I think it is positive for the planet and a great way of making companies accountable for their impact, particularly with companies manufacturing physical products.

“However… I have seen some concerning green washing on here – the worst being a company showing off a new tap with a big iPad style screen showing how many plastic bottles were saved every time it dispensed sparkling water and how their B-Corp status was a driver to install the product.

“How can this be better for the planet than a standard tap? As more and more businesses achieve status, do you think it’s value diminishes? Or will then the emphasis be on your impact score rather than status? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and experiences on this, please drop a comment.”

People took to the comments to share their thoughts and opinions on B-Corps and greenwashing. One person said: “Interesting point Tom. We’ve ummed and ahhed about it and there probably are businesses that are using it as a publicity badge but its a badge that would no doubt require a change from the norm.

“The fact that it’s a catalyst for people to think differently about how they run their business as a whole, not necessarily just about the green credentials but also on a social and moral level has to be a step in the right direction. From our stand point… even if you don’t get the certification, but use the application as a framework to achieve a handful of improvements, its got to be a good thing.”

Another added: “There are many facets that it’s associated with. I don’t think it should be linked to the product or service entirely. It’s about doing business for more than just turning profit. Doing business for good.

“Certainly some of the criteria scoring feels like box ticking to me. I’ll be conscious of this as we move forwards. There are other options than B-corp. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. As a minimum it’s a useful framework to build on.”

Those questioning the benefits of instilling that approach within a company are just looking for excuses not to put the effort in

“I used it for Arke as a handrail for getting us on track. It’s super useful,” third added: “whilst that gets you started, you’ve then got to then communicate somehow what you’re doing / quantify the impact you’re having. To achieve this, I used the National TOMs (Lite) framework, which apportions to your activities a financial proxy.

“It’s open source and very straight forward and you can show your workings. Your message is subsequently “In 2023, Aetha created over £XK in Social Value through XYZ.””

One person disagreed with the people questioning the B-Corp certification: “Anyone who has been on the BCorp journey will know that it’s 100% worth it. It’s become synonymous with sustainability, but it’s really about good business practice, knowing how to set and work towards goals as a team and creating a mindset that results in continuous positive improvement in all aspects of business.

“Those questioning the benefits of instilling that approach within a company are just looking for excuses not to put the effort in.”

However, another person concluded that: “Irrespective of their current standing, it is evident that many companies engage in greenwashing practices. I believe that obtaining B-Corp certification plays a pivotal role in fostering greater transparency among companies that profess to be dedicated to social and environmental sustainability.”

The B-Corp concept will be discussed in depth this November at the Agency Hackers Good Agencies Summit in London. Get your tickets here.

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