Certifying a Large Company: A B Corp Case Study with Eileen Fisher
This post was written by Senior Standards Analyst Kali Gibson.
Eileen Fisher became a Certified B Corp in December of 2015. The company makes and sells upscale women's business and casual clothing made mostly from organic and natural fabrics. For large companies, B Corp Certification can often take quite some time to complete and be more complicated than for smaller enterprises. We spent some time with Rebecca Magee, Eileen Fisher’s Manager of Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, to gain some insight on what made their B Corp Certification process go so smoothly. Based on our conversation with Rebecca, here’s 6 best practices for going through the B Corp Certification process as a large company. Thank you Rebecca for sharing your expertise with us!
1. Designate Someone to Take Lead
From the beginning, it is important to designate someone to take the lead on the certification process. "Having one point person allowed us to maintain consistency in how the assessment was answered," Rebecca told us. It is also works best if one person is in charge of logging into the assessment to answer questions and communicating efficiently with B Lab throughout the process.
2. Involve Other Team Members
For a larger company like Eileen Fisher, it was important to involve other team members in the certification process. Rebecca mentioned, “The first thing we did was figure out what questions needed to be answered by other teams or individuals.” Rebecca did this by downloading a pdf of the assessment and making note of which questions should be answered by whom. Next, she sent out an email to each specific team with only the questions they would be in charge of answering. From there, Rebecca set up an in-person meeting to answer any follow-up questions her teammates may have had. “It is important to set expectations early and make the time frame for having the requests completed clear,” Rebecca shared.
3. Gather Documentation Along the Way
Providing supporting documentation for your company’s answers can be overwhelming if you try to do it in one sitting. Rebecca asked colleagues to instead gather documents as they answered the questions assigned to them. This made it much easier to upload documentation later on in the process. Though not all the documents ended up being necessary, the information also served to provide context for answers to questions where the core team was not familiar with practices.
4. Have Assessment Reviewed by Executives Before Submitting
Before it comes time to schedule your review call with B Lab staff, it is helpful for the person leading the assessment process and the executive team to review the assessment together. “First we reviewed it separately, and then we came together to discuss any major concerns,” Rebecca told us. This gave her the opportunity to flag questions to ask on the review call by using the Revisit Question boxes on the assessment platform. Waiting to gather this feedback until after the review call could have resulted in a delay in the process.
5. Be Conservative
Rebecca encouraged her team through her initial email communication to answer the questions honestly and in a way that would reflect the data they had, balancing the pride and goals these employees have for their work with where the company actually was in that moment in time. This meant that everyone who worked on the assessment was conservative in their answers. “We knew this was aspirational, and there’s no goal to hit 200 points the first time around. There are areas to improve, and we’ll have time to improve,” Rebecca shared. Because the team’s initial answers were conservative, Eileen Fisher’s score on the B Impact Assessment did not not change significantly after B Lab reviewed their assessment and documentation.
6. Educate and Say Thank you!
One of the benefits of including other team members is to educate them on how their work relates to the values expressed in the assessment questions. “It is also a great relationship builder,” Rebecca stated. Knowing the assessment takes a lot of work, Rebecca reminded us that it's important to show appreciation for the contributions of other employees who helped complete the assessment. “Even before we were certified, we sent a thank you gift. This was a thank you for their work; not for the outcome, but doing the work to get through the process,” Rebecca said.
When Rebecca was asked to provide any additional thoughts, she mentioned “We felt like we could stand behind our answers because of how diligent the process was. This became fuel for thought for a lot of teams, and a valuable experience.”