What we Learned from the B Corp Benefit Impact Assessment
The Benefit Impact Assessment (BIA) is a tool to measure companies’ ethical performance. It is integral to the certification process for B Corps (businesses that balance purpose and profit), but it’s also a free-to-use tool for any business. We’re always looking for ways to become more sustainable, so we used the BIA last month to see what we’re doing well and identify areas where we can improve.
The BIA assess companies’ overall levels of sustainability across give key assessment sections: Customers, Workers, Environment, Community, and Governance. Businesses are scored out of 200 across these areas, with 80 (40%) being the minimum requirement for B-Corp certification.
How did We do?
Our score was 83.6 (42%) – we’re very happy to pass the minimum requirements on our first attempt! This score was broken down as follows:
While we’re not aiming to certify, we are looking to improve, so we broke down the most viable recommendations the BIA suggested into two main groups based on how much of a priority they were. We’re then aiming to implement as many of them as possible, which should see our score rise to around 90-100+.
These improvements come in several different forms. Some of the biggest opportunities to boost our numbers simply require us to formalise things we do already, like officially committing to support our local community. We’re already underway in other areas, but we need a bit more time. Our carbon and water footprinting are good examples: we’ve begun our global measurements, and we’re working towards setting reductions targets. At the same time, there were some other interesting suggestions that could see us implement new initiatives like harvesting rainwater at our offices or creating policies to help remote or hybrid employees be more sustainable in their home offices.
Strengths of the BIA
The BIA’s biggest benefit is its comprehensiveness. Rather than just looking at the areas we already do well in, the BIA ran a fine-toothed comb across our entire areas of operation. The knock-on of this is that the assessment requires input from across the organisation, so it’s also a useful method of building and strengthening communication between teams. Of course, this does mean that it takes some time to complete, but we learned a whole lot about our company while did it.
At the end of the process, it generates an Improvement Report with recommended areas to boost scores. With tailored suggestions and benchmarks against similar organisations based on country, industry, and size, this can really help identify scope for significant changes.
These go well beyond small or incremental improvements (although these are still included). They even go as far as encouraging changes to companies’ governing documents to ensure value is created for all stakeholders (not just shareholders; read more about why this is important here), and there are whole sections devoted to assessing the specific benefits created for stakeholders through different “Impact Business Models”.
Difficulties with the Assessment
While it has many strengths, we did find some snags. Despite the fact that the questions are tailored based on variables like industry, size, and answers to earlier sections, many real-world situations often aren’t reflected in multiple-choice options.
One of the most prominent examples of this was our circular economy business model, which often seemed like it wasn’t fully captured by the questions. For instance, we were encouraged to invest more heavily with local suppliers, but this isn’t always feasible, as we purchase viable hardware from wherever it becomes available to avoid it going to waste.
Other questions asked us if we conduct Life-Cycle Assessments to calculate the footprint of our products or if we make customer product reviews publicly available, but neither of these are really viable for refurbished products due to the variation between each one.
These may be addressed in the certification process, but it’s something to bear in mind for organisations like us that are just using the tool to benchmark performance. Adding a qualifying question at the start of the assessment might help filter out circular economy businesses so they can be asked specific questions more relevant to their models. However, multiple-choice questions will always struggle to fully understand every business model, especially those designed to disrupt existing industries, which are likely to be the ones having the biggest positive impact.
So, is the BIA Worth Doing?
In short, yes! It’s not a short process, and it’s likely not something one person could complete for a whole business, but that’s part of why it’s so useful. It’s a fairly comprehensive process that asks questions you might not have considered and joins dots that often remain disconnected. It doesn’t matter how sustainable you are, there is always scope for improvement, and this is a great place to start.