Q: Can a start-up certify as a B Corporation?
A: Start-ups on the path to full certification can earn temporary Certification Pending designation, good for twelve months. It's a little like Patent Pending.
Q: What does B Lab consider to be a start-up?
A: B Lab defines a start-up as a business that has been in operation for less than twelve months.
Q: What are the benefits of Pending status?
A: You get to use the nifty Certification Pending logo. This can be useful to communicate to all your stakeholders (e.g. investors, employees, customers, retail or other business partners) that you are on the path to full B Corp Certification, which Inc. has called "the highest standard for socially responsible businesses."
You also get to engage as a soon-to-B peer with a community of more than 1,000 Certified B Corps to help you build a better business as you move to full certification. They'll know you're different from all other start-ups looking for a little love because you've already met the legal requirement for full certification and committed to meeting the performance requirement in the next 12 months.
Q: Why can't a start-up earn full certification?
A: Full certification requires performance of a minimum verified score of 80 out of 200 on the B Impact Assessment. The B Impact Assessment measures the practices and policies of a company over the past year, as opposed to what it intends to do in the future.
Q: How do I earn Pending status?
To earn Pending status, a start-up must:
1. Meet the legal requirement by either registering as a benefit corporation or amending its existing governing documents as appropriate for its corporate structure.
Note for U.S. companies: While corporations in AL, AK, KS, MI, MT, NC and OK (states with neither a benefit corporation law nor a constituency statute or other enabling law) can earn Certified B Corp status through the normal process, start-ups that are incorporated in those states as traditional corporations can only earn Pending status by changing their state of incorporation or corporation structure and completing one of the two options above.
Note for non-U.S. companies: Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn if your company can meet the legal requirement.
2. Take steps to meet the performance requirement by:
a) Completing a prospective B Impact Assessment that envisions the positive impact the business intends to create through its business and operations as of the first anniversary of earning Pending status; and
Note: The objective of the above steps is for a start-up to have a clear idea of what will be required to meet the performance requirement for full certification, including an understanding of the process of getting a verified score on the B Impact Assessment and the typical areas of variance between self-reported scores and verified scores, particularly in the Impact Business Model section of the Assessment.
3. Sign the Pending Certification Term Sheet that includes acceptance of the limited rights to intellectual property and limited access to B Lab services and support during the Term.
4. Pay the Pending Certification fee of $500.
Q: Can I apply to move from Pending to full certification status before the end of our twelve-month Pending term?
A: Yes. Once your company has been in operation for twelve months (regardless of when you obtained Pending status), you can apply for full certification. Remember, you'll need to have achieved a minimum verified score of 80 on the B Impact Assessment.
Q: What if our company's score is below the minimum 80 at the end of our 12-month Pending term?
A: If your company has completed an updated B Impact Assessment by the end of your Pending term, and your verified score is below 80, you can seek a one-time 90-day extension of your Pending term to get your verified score above 80. This extension carries no additional cost.
Q: Is there anything I should do even if I don't want to pursue Pending status?
A: Most importantly, focus on building a great business that can profitably deliver a great product or service that a target customer will choose over existing competition. Remember, the first rule of mission-driven business is "no margin, no mission."
If you want to get ahead of the game, here are two free and easy things you can do:
1. Build your business on a strong legal foundation. You can do this in any of the 50 states and in most countries around the world. Click here to see how you can give yourself the freedom and legal protection to pursue your mission by determining the legal path appropriate to your corporate structure and state of incorporation.
2. Become familiar with the B Impact Assessment. It’s free, confidential, and more than 17,000 businesses are already using it as a pretty darn useful management tool to measure, compare, and improve their social and environmental performance.