B Lab Visits B Corps in Mexico
By Christina Bianco, B Lab Standards Associate
What good is a certification without verification to back it up?
As you may (or probably don’t) know, B Lab annually visits 10% of certified companies for an onsite review to maintain the authenticity of the Certified B Corp Seal and verify the accuracy of all the answers in the company's B Impact Assessment. B Lab has conducted on-site reviews since 2008 but this year was monumental - for the first time, the On-site Review process launched internationally (outside of the U.S. and Canada).
Three companies were randomly selected for review in Mexico City: FINAE, Echale a tu Casa and Lindes (formerly Vidrios Marte). Last month I was lucky enough to visited each one and not just verify their assessment, but get to know the people and work behind the B score.
When I arrived at FINAE’s office, the first thing I saw is our signature red “We’re a Certified B Corporation” sign on the company’s reception desk. FINAE is a non-bank financial institution whose mission is to generate accessibility to higher education for low income students by providing affordable student loans. As of today, FINAE has helped four million students attend university in Mexico. Half of FINAE’s loans are granted to women, and 62% of the students they are serving are from low-income communities.
FINAE is working to revolutionize the student loan market and educate the next generation of students, especially those who are the first in their families to go to university. Doing this on its own would be a lofty challenge. That’s why founder and CEO of FINAE Fransico Vizcaya put competition aside and teamed up with two other founders (also named Francisco) of Mexican B Corporations Laudex and Lumni to create an association for student loan providers in Mexico and help further their missions.
They are also relying on the B Impact Assessment for guidance. Cristina Tellez, who led their on-site review process said, “Participating in the assessment is certainly helping us improve across time. The Best Practices buttons included in this 2013 assessment have been very useful as well as interesting.”
Employees of FINAE at company training Echale a Tu Casa was my next visit. A social housing production company, they deliver affordable homes to communities by streamlining the self-build process and strengthening social inclusion of the low-income communities it serves. Not only is Echale creating enormous social impact by providing this basic service of a home to rural poor communities in Mexico, but it is also doing it in a sustainable way. Echale is a sustainable business both socially (teaching the home buyers how to build a house) and environmentally (using green building practices). The
Adoblock designed by Echale uses a sun drying process and replaces cement blocks. Houses are also equipped with rainwater harvesting systems, solar water heaters, a biodigestor that helps prevent groundwater pollution, and some even have solar panels on the roof.
Echale also trains communities on social inclusion, financial education and technical training on home-building techniques. The poorest customers who do not have the savings necessary to finance a home are covered by non-profit sister company, Adobe Home Aid. "Having an on-site review has proved very rewarding because we can physically show what Echale is all about," says Francesco Piazzesi, Founder of Echale a tu Casa. “It makes our rating real.” With such a focus on impact, it’s no surprise that Echale a Tu Casa was recently named Best for the World for overall impact. (See all the Best for the World Winners here)
I ended my trip at Lindes. Double-paned glass may seem common-place in U.S. building construction these days, but Lindes (formerly Vidrios Marte) is a glass industry expert and is focusing its energy on bringing insulated glass to the Mexican building market. THERMAK, the name of Lindes’ insulated glass product, is used in both the construction of large highrise buildings and in glass doors of commercialized refrigerators. Why does this matter? THERMAK’s insulation properties save building operators up to 60% in energy consumption.
I also learned from the team at Lindes that insulated glass is not a one-size fits all product offering. To maximize the energy efficiency for each product, the company customizes the glass specifications depending on the climate and location of the building. If you’re ever in Distrito Federal in Mexico City, you may see several buildings with Lindes’ glass. Most notably, Lindes provided the glass for the HSBC Tower, which is the first LEED certified building in Latin America (built in 2005) and the New York Life Tower, also located on Mexico City, which is the most efficient LEED building in Mexico.
Lindes created a battery recycling campaign in their community (Notice the B Corp logo in the lower right-hand corner!)
Ending the trip on a high note, I wrapped up my visit with a little B Corp love. “Thanks for helping us to know we are doing things the right way,” said Luis Villela, Lindes Communication and Marketing Associate. “And thanks for keeping us in contact with the ones who help to make a better world. It’s good to know we are a part of a global community, an amazing global community.”
I couldn’t of said it better myself.
More on the on-site review process
The on-site review component of the B Corp Certification is critical in maintaining the authenticity of the Certified B Corp Seal. Our goal for the review is to verify the accuracy responses in the company's B Impact Assessment, in addition to the initial 6-8 responses verified during Document Review for certification. B Lab visits 10% of companies each year. This year 60+ companies were selected for an on-site review. To assist in the process of international on-site reviews, B Lab contracted the help of our partner and preferred provider of document and on-site review services for the GIIRS validation and rating process, Deloitte & Touche LLP.