What's Next: Balancing Ambition and Continuity as We Implement Our New Standards

We’re in the midst of the biggest transformation in B Lab’s 17-year history. Read on to learn about the extensive work happening to prepare for the implementation of B Lab’s new standards, tools, and certification processes - and what this means for you.
By Clay Brown, Co-Lead Executive, B Lab Global
June 26, 2024

Expectations are changing, regulations are changing, and the world in which we work is changing. In order to solve the most pressing societal and environmental issues of our time, the global B Corp movement is changing too. We’re rising to the challenge, advancing B Lab’s standards in a way that meaningfully demonstrates the leadership role that B Corps and the wider movement play in the world, and with that, we must also transform our tools, platforms, and processes.

Change is exciting, but it can also be challenging. We recognize that many of you in the B Corp community have been waiting with anticipation to understand what the future of B Corp Certification and the future of B Lab’s standards means for you. While it’s inspiring to see many B Corps already embodying some of the behaviors and practices outlined in the new standard, some of you have shared that you’ll need sufficient time to prepare for this significant change, and we’re working to accommodate this.

Now that a second consultation on the standards has taken place (from January - March 2024), I’m here to share the next steps - and assure our community that we’re doing everything we can to make the transition to these ambitious new standards as smooth as possible.

The milestones below demonstrate key work streams that are in progress at B Lab as we prepare to implement the new standards and get ready to certify companies. This is a major shift, and B Lab is managing complex internal dependencies combined with a shifting external landscape, such as new Directives from the European Union (EU) on Empowering Consumers for the Green Transition and Green Claims. Our top priority is ensuring a move to more impactful, clear standards as soon as possible while bringing the B Corp community on this journey with us. Read on to understand the work that is happening behind the scenes to make this a reality.

Milestones at a glance. Dates are subject to change as we navigate ongoing complexity and aim to accommodate realistic transition timelines for companies to adopt the new standards based on community feedback.
Finalizing the content of the standards

The new standards will ensure that companies are ready for the challenges of today and lay the groundwork to support the future. With the most recent consultation on the standards concluding in March 2024, B Lab Global’s Standards Management team is processing a huge volume of feedback (more than 16,000 pieces of feedback from over 1000 respondents) and incorporating prevalent feedback into the content of the standards. Just a few weeks ago, the team convened in Amsterdam to debate, discuss, and determine the next steps to reconcile the thoughtful (and voluminous!) feedback you shared with us in surveys and focus groups. We commit to publicly sharing key consultation findings by the end of September 2024.

Our next focus is to update the draft of the standards to share with our governing bodies for refinement and approval. If approved, we will begin to translate and prepare the standards into an external-facing format that can be accessed publicly. Our ambition is to have final approval on the content of the standards by the end of 2024 and publish in full soon afterward (dependent on the level of changes required in response to stakeholder feedback and receipt of governing body approval).

Meet the team: Standards Management and Impact Transformation teams from B Lab Global have met in person this year for various strategic offsites to further our work.
Reimagining the digital experience

In parallel, B Lab is working to build a new digital experience, B Impact. Just as our standards are being reimagined, so are our digital tools. This will include a new version of the assessment that companies complete, known today as the B Impact Assessment, that guides companies to input their own data, which can be measured and verified against the standards.  While we await the finalization of the standards to begin building the assessment tool in earnest (more detail on this below), a first step is already in flight. B Lab Global’s Product and Technology teams are improving the user experience for assessment registration and onboarding to better understand companies’ needs from the outset: does the company intend to apply for B Corp Certification, or are they primarily interested in measuring and improving impact against our standards? Are they eligible for certification considering their industry, potential negative impacts, or company structure? And what standards are most relevant to them based on their size, sector, and geography? Asking these questions upfront offers a more seamless experience for companies at the start of their journey. We will begin beta-testing this new ‘Assessment Setup’ experience with a selected group of companies in the coming months, with an ambition to roll it out for all users in early 2025. 

We are building a more seamless experience for our users, starting with our ‘Assessment Setup’ pilot test, starting soon.

In parallel, work will continue to build the full assessment tied to the finalized standard. A beta assessment – a ‘test drive’ version designed for companies to interact with, explore, and input data prior to submitting for verification on the new standards – is penned to launch in the second half of 2025. Watch this space!

Developing a new certification process in line with incoming Directives

We have always seen our movement as contributing to change in the broader economic system, and we continue to monitor external trends, laws, and regulations. B Lab has supported policy change and legislation since the beginning of the movement, and continue to support many of the new laws being proposed and adopted globally to increase the rigor of sustainability claims, hold companies to account and center consumer needs. 

Consistent with our longstanding and broad consideration of trends, laws, and regulations, B Lab is conducting a thorough analysis of the anticipated EU landscape, such as the adopted Empowering Consumers Directive and the proposed Green Claims Directive, with guidance from legal advisors and external experts. The Empowering Consumers Directive is intended to empower consumers for the green transition by protecting them against unfair practices and encouraging clearer information from companies, prohibiting generic environmental claims, and applying stricter requirements for sustainability labels. Separately, the Green Claims Directive proposes requirements to regulate misleading environmental claims that companies make in their advertising and product labeling. We will share any implications of these new directives with the B Corp community as soon as we can.

With a view to the evolving regulatory landscape, we are defining new models for our verification and certification processes, outlining how we verify company performance and issue certification on the new standards. Notably, we are looking into further collaborations with third-party certifiers to assess company performance and verify company compliance with the new standards. This takes time, especially since the regulatory landscape is currently evolving.

Supporting B Corps in sharing relevant sustainability data 

In the new standards, B Lab is also prioritizing ‘interoperability' with relevant regulations, starting with EU directives and other certification schemes. This means that B Lab has identified areas of crossover with other standards and regulations so that companies avoid duplication of efforts when collecting their data while ensuring that our standards are up-to-date with leading frameworks. While B Corp Certification is a voluntarily adopted performance scheme, there are areas of overlap with regulatory (reporting) requirements for companies, for example, in the latest draft standards, B Lab identified several equivalencies, or areas of crossover, with the European Sustainability Reporting Standards framework (ESRS). The ESRS framework allows companies to achieve compliance with the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), a law that makes it mandatory for companies to submit reports on the environmental and social impact of corporate activities. You can see areas of interoperability outlined in the latest draft of the standards under the sub-requirements for each Impact Topic (for example, ESC3.3 The company’s product development incorporates circularity principles and is in line with the waste hierarchy under the Environmental Stewardship and Circularity Impact Topic).

Preparing our community for the transition to the new standards

We recognize that the new standards pose a significant change - both for our staff across the B Global Network (our unified group of B Lab and Sistema B organizations that power the B Corp movement across the world) and for our community of B Corps. We’ve heard from companies that, while supportive of the ambition of the new standards, many companies require significant time to transition. We commit to regular updates on the timeline for certification rollout and are currently outlining approaches that will help ease this transition: 

  • Community preparedness: B Lab is currently in the process of upskilling internal staff on the new standards and identifying how we will support the upskilling of the B Corp community, B Consultants, and B Leaders. As a first step, companies should continue to refer to the standards microsite and familiarize themselves with the current content - this will be updated with the finalized standards once approved and translated.

  • A phased transition onto the new standards: We are exploring different avenues to support B Corps when onboarding to the new standards. A first cohort of B Corps will certify on the new standards at some point in 2026, in line with their existing recertification cycle. The specific expectations of B Corps undergoing recertification on the new standards are still being refined, and also require approval by our governing bodies. In 2025, we commit to sharing details informing B Corps of expected requirements for their transition to the new standards and when. Below is an example of how standards compliance could be phased in, with some requirements in effect in a company’s initial certification cycle on the new standards, followed by continuous improvement in subsequent recertification cycles.

Illustrative example of how B Corps could transition onto the new standards.  
B Lab’s standards: a blueprint for ALL businesses

Beyond certification, our teams are exploring additional products and offerings that support all companies to adopt a better way of business. We recognize that B Corp Certification isn’t for everyone but that every company has the potential to be a force for good. B Lab’s standards act as a blueprint guiding all companies to manage and measure their impact, helping them focus on what really matters. B Lab recognizes that we can better engage and support a wider network of companies in their efforts, with our community of B Corps leading the way. 

Our teams have conducted company interviews to understand where B Lab can add value for companies on this journey and are currently running workshops to envision new ways to better engage a wider movement of businesses working together to transform our economic system.

A vision for a better future through better business

Transformation takes time. We are not simply revising our standards - this is an evolution and a necessary one. Your support of our collective vision, paired with continued dedication to act on the standards and improve your company’s impact, is critical to realizing an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy. We must move away from economic principles that promote greed, wealth inequality, ecological collapse, and social dysfunction. None of this is possible without the power of the B Corp community and our wider movement of business acting together as a force for good.

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