6 Questions on Multinationals & the B Corp movement

Experts from B Lab’s Standards, Certification & Verification, and Global Partner Business Development teams share insights on the challenges and opportunities of bringing multinational corporations into the B Corp movement.
By B Lab Global
November 3, 2022

B Corp Certification is for businesses of all sizes. As our movement to transform the global economy continues to grow, an increasing number of multinational corporations are using B Lab’s impact management tools and programs, seeking certification, and becoming Certified B Corporations. This is part of a series of blog posts on B Lab’s approach to the complex process of certifying multinational companies.

When multinationals show leadership on positive social and environmental performance, and take steps to minimize their negative impacts, they are working not only to improve their own practices, but to drive economic systems change at scale. Simply put, when the biggest companies are working to be better for the world, they influence the broader business ecosystem to do the same. 

The size and impact of multinationals, as well as their greater influence on the economy, means that they can be valuable members of and advocates for the B Corp movement — if and when they meet B Lab’s rigorous standards and requirements for certification. On the front lines of this process are B Lab Global’s Certification & Verification and Standards teams, as well as the Business Development teams across our network who engage with these companies at the regional level. Below, members of these teams answer questions about how multinationals can become B Corps, and why they should. 

1) What percentage of the B Corp community are multinational companies? How has this evolved throughout the history of the B Corp movement? 

The first 82 B Corps to certify in 2007 were all small- and medium-sized businesses. Despite the recent additions of multinationals, these types of businesses still make up the vast majority of the B Corp community today. Of the global community of +5,700 Certified B Corporations, 90 are now multinational companies, meaning they have over US$1B in annual revenue. While this is about 2% of B Corps by volume, these businesses represent a significant portion of the B Corp workforce, with28% of B Corp employees worldwide working at a multinational company.  

Since the first B Corps achieved certification in 2007, larger companies have continually shown interest in B Corp Certification influenced by the success and model of the Certified B Corps that came before them. Further, some Certified B Corporations also began to grow, sell, and prepare for an initial public offering (IPO). In 2014, cosmetics company Natura became the largest  publicly traded company to certify as a B Corp, meaning the company met our standards for B Corp Certification and fulfilled the legal requirement to consider all stakeholders in their decision-making — a concept known as stakeholder governance. From there, more large companies continued to express interest in the certification, including Danone, which in 2017 stated the intention to become a B Corp by 2030 — since updated to 2025 — becoming the largest company to make such a commitment.

In response to this growing demand from larger companies, and recognizing the need to ensure that B Corp Certification standards were appropriately designed to both engage large companies and to ensure that they were meeting standards that could appropriately assess their outsized impact and scale, in 2016 B Lab convened a Multinational and Public Market Advisory Council (MPMAC) and Performance Standards Working Group (PSWG) to develop recommendations for the standards and certification process for multinational companies. The recommendations of this Council were developed between 2016-2018, included input and participation from a set of multistakeholder experts, and ultimately led to a set of more rigorous certification requirements for the world’s largest companies.  

Following the conclusion of the MPMAC, and recognizing both the difficulty of achieving B Corp Certification for multinationals and the importance of engaging them in the movement to drive meaningful economic systems change, in 2020 B Lab launched the B Movement Builders program with an initial cohort of six companies. B Movement Builders provides a framework for multinationals to transition their practices towards higher social and environmental impact, and eventual certification. 2020 also saw the creation of B Lab’s Multinational Company Standards Advisory Council, an independent governing body tasked with applying the B Corp and B Movement Builder performance requirements to multinational companies, on the basis of the MPMAC’s recommendations. 

- Mike McGrory, Data & Reporting Strategy Manager, B Lab Global in Pennsylvania, US; Christina Forwood, Co-Director of Certification & Verification, B Lab Global in Pennsylvania, US; Dan Osusky, Head of Standards & Insights, B Lab Global in Pennsylvania, U.S. 

2) How does the process of certifying multinational companies differ from certification for smaller and less complex businesses? What additional requirements must multinationals fulfill in order to certify?

B Corp Certification processes and standards are tailored to a company’s size and complexity, with larger, more complex companies being required to meet more rigorous standards and undergo deeper verification processes outlined in the below bullets. 

For most small- and medium-sized businesses, the certification process entails meeting a reviewed minimum score of 80 on the B Impact Assessment; completing a risk assessment via the Disclosure Questionnaire; meeting the legal requirement by embedding stakeholder governance; and lastly, making their B Corp Certification performance transparent on their B Corp profile.

Large and multinational companies must complete the same steps as their small- and medium-sized counterparts, and also go beyond with the following steps: 

  • Application Forms and Pre Screens: All companies undertaking the Large Enterprise and Multinational Approach are first required to submitan application form, pre-screen, and scoping, as well as a preliminary background check and evaluation of the company’s Disclosure Questionnaire and potential involvement in controversial industries or practices, in order to identify potential risks regarding their their eligibility to certify prior to proceeding with additional steps in the process.

  • Multiple B Impact Assessments: The B Impact Assessment was designed to assess a company, but multinational corporations are complex with multiple legal entities that often span different geographies, sometimes operating in multiple industries. Based on the scoping process identified above, more likely than not a multinational will have to fill out two or more B Impact Assessments to cover its distinct regional business operations, which involves a good deal of internal management and coordination with global teams collecting and submitting local data at the same time. 

  • Additional B Impact Assessment Indicators: In addition to completing multiple assessments for their various operations, the B Impact Assessment itself features more, and more challenging, questions to evaluate the companies performance compared to the B Impact Assessment for smaller companies, thereby ensuring the relevance and ability to differentiate performance in the context of their larger impacts, resources, and responsibilities.

  • Transparency and Verification Requirements: Larger companies are also more likely to be required to undergo more thorough verification processes, including site reviews, and have additional transparency requirements whereby a company is required to not only publish their overall B Impact Assessment scores on their profile, but also have their answers to the B Impact Assessment(s) transparent as well (with sensitive questions redacted).

  • Baseline Requirements for Multinationals: All multinational parent companies over US$5B in annual revenue must also fulfill the additional Baseline Requirements for Multinationals. These go beyond the 80 point threshold for B Corp Certification to require companies to be taking clear and transparent action on key issues. The Baseline Requirements relate to impact reporting, assessment and management of material issues, disclosure of tax and government affairs, and human rights policy. Board of Director oversight is required for many of these actions, ensuring that they are overseen by the highest level of fiduciary responsibility at the company. 

  • B Movement Builders program: Multinationalparent companies over US$5B in annual revenue must also participate in B Lab’s B Movement Builders program, a coalition of publicly-traded multinationals following the example of the B Corp movement by working to shift their culture and practices towards stakeholder governance.   

For more details of the certification process for large companies, check out our B Corp Certification Guide for Large Enterprises and Multinationals.

- Christina Forwood, Co-Director of Certification & Verification, B Lab Global in Pennsylvania, U.S.; Julie-Anne Finan, Manager of Multinational Standards and Certification, B Lab Global in Amsterdam, NL; João Campos, Business Development Specialist for Multinationals, B Lab U.S. & Canada in New York, U.S.

3) How does certification work for subsidiaries of larger multinational companies, or when a company itself has subsidiaries?

Subsidiaries of larger multinational companies whose parent companies are not Certified are able to achieve B Corp Certification if the conditions outlined below are met. Subsidiaries are also required to undergo more thorough verification and meet higher transparency requirements as a result of their subsidiary status. Any subsidiary of a company that is under control of a parent company that is pursuing, or has achieved B Corp Certification, is required to be assessed as part of their parent’s certification process. 

Companies with subsidiaries can engage with the certification process in one of two ways: either by certifying a subsidiary in an independent process or by including it in the company’s group-wide certification. 

A subsidiary can certify independently from its parent company if it operates as a complete business with distinct operations, and has a different name from its parent company. If a complete and distinct subsidiary shares a name with its parent, it can still certify independently but its certification will involve a requirement for its parent company to certify within six years, if the parent company annual revenue is <US$1B; or commit to become a B Movement Builder within three years, if revenue is in excess of US$1B. 

Subsidiaries can also certify as part of their parent company’s certification process. A parent company must include all of its majority- and wholly-owned subsidiaries within its certification process. Minority-owned subsidiaries can be included at the company’s discretion. 

To learn more about the B Corp certification process for related entities and subsidiaries, check out our B Corp Certification Guide for Related Entities.

- João Campos, Business Development Specialist for Multinationals, B Lab U.S. & Canada in New York, U.S.; Dan Osusky, Head of Standards & Insights, B Lab Global in Pennsylvania, U.S. 

4) We often get asked whether we “lower our standards” in order to allow multinational companies to certify. Have multinationals influenced the level of rigor for the certification, or the level of transparency required? 

If anything, it is more difficult for a multinational to certify than a smaller company. The standards themselves, and the processes designed to verify whether a company is meeting them, are higher for larger companies. This is largely as a recognition that the obligations to stakeholders are greater when a company has greater scale, influence, and impact. 

As outlined above, not only are the indicators of the B Impact Assessment adjusted to a company’s size, but US$5B+ parent companies are required to meet additional Baseline Requirements in order to be eligible. Achievement of these Baseline Requirements is reviewed by the Multinational Standards Advisory Council, composed of a multi-stakeholder group of experts from around the world, including representatives from Certified B Corps, other standards organizations, and multinationals themselves. No company to date has yet to have been determined to be fully meeting these standards since their launch in 2020 by the Council.  

Furthermore, like all other B Corps, large companies are required to meet the legal requirement for certification by adopting stakeholder governance.While this is a relatively straightforward process for privately and closely-held companies — e.g. most small and mid-sized companies — for large publicly held companies the shift to stakeholder governance is complex and significant, requiring approval from shareholders. Once it is in place, shareholders work to hold a company accountable to stakeholders — workers, customers, communities, and the environment.   

The Large Enterprise approach to certification and the B Movement Builders program require a significant set of additional requirements and due diligence steps prior to being able to enter verification and achieve certification. The Risk Screen is critical to this; the Scoping stage will also ensure that the totality of a company’s eligible entities and subsidiaries are included and measured in the multinational’s B Impact Assessment(s). It establishes which entities should meet the legal requirement to lock its mission at the highest possible level, and provides clear guidance on appropriate and transparent use of the B Corp IP. 

- Julie-Anne Finan, Manager of Multinational Standards and Certification, B Lab Global in Amsterdam, NL; Sarah Garcia, Multinational Company Manager at B Lab Europe in Amsterdam, NL; Dan Osusky, Head of Standards & Insights, B Lab Global in Pennsylvania, U.S. 

5) Can multinationals in any industry pursue certification? What accountability mechanisms are in place to remediate risk factors, and what happens if risk is found?

Participation in a number of industries and practices may prohibit a company outright from B Corp Certification and/or the B Movement Builder program. These include coal, casinos, and prison operators. In other controversial industries, specific requirements are required to be met  in order to be eligible for the certification. For a full list, see our page addressing position statements on controversial issues.  

As outlined above, one of the key steps in a large company’s certification process is  conducting a Risk Screen, the purpose of which is to identify any controversial practices  and determine if the company is meeting the standards relevant to these practices, and/or whether new standards need to be developed to address them.  If specific controversial practices are not yet covered by the B Corp standards, the company is not able to become a Certified B Corp until such standards are developed and  they have been determined to meet any specified requirements.

B Lab’s independent Standards Advisory Council oversees standards development. This process normally takes  at least 3-4 months and involves extensive research with expert stakeholders to fully understand the industry and practice risks, potential best practices to mitigate said risks, and whether there might be a path forward to certification. New standards are reviewed and approved by the Standards Advisory Council and ratified by the Board of Directors, which are then applied to all prospective B Corps during certification or recertification.

Another key accountability mechanism is our public complaints process. Any stakeholder can lodge a complaint against any B Corp. B Lab will review all complaints that are credible, material, and specific.  

- Julie-Anne Finan, Manager of Multinational Standards and Certification, B Lab Global in Amsterdam, NL; Dan Osusky, Head of Standards & Insights, B Lab Global in Pennsylvania, U.S. 

6) How might B Lab’s approach to certifying multinationals change in the future? 

Stakeholder expectations continually evolve, as do complex social and environmental issues and best practices, and as a result B Corp Certification standards are continuously improving.   B Lab's evolution of the B Corp Certification Standards will have an impact on how multinationals are certified in the future. The creation of the Baseline Requirements for multinationals was an inspiration for that project. It will create a fixed set of requirements for all B Corps, rather than the flexible approach currently used in the B Impact Assessment. 

In any case, the high standard and additional compliance criteria for multinationals will be maintained, in recognition of the complexity of their operations, the scale of their impacts, and the subsequent obligations that this entails. Any potential changes to the standards specifically for multinationals would be overseen by the Multinational Company Standards Advisory Council and B Lab’s Board of Directors to ensure independence and multi-stakeholder representation and engagement. B Lab always welcomes feedback from stakeholders on how the standards can continue to improve.  

B Lab is also exploring new partnerships with organizations experienced in the field of sustainability measurement, auditing, or reporting that will also shape the future of the certification process.

- Julie-Anne Finan, Manager of Multinational Standards and Certification, B Lab Global in Amsterdam, NL; Christina Forwood, Co-Director of Certification & Verification, B Lab Global in Pennsylvania, US; Dan Osusky, Head of Standards & Insights, B Lab Global in Pennsylvania, U.S. 

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