B Lab joins forces with Danone, Natura &Co, Bonduelle and Gerdau to highlight the importance of the ‘G’ in ESG in achieving the ambitions shared at COP28
LONDON & AMSTERDAM, 7 December 2023 — “We need to continue to act to align our business with the interests of society. Businesses, their investors and all stakeholders must recognize the responsibility to create long-term, sustainable value for all.” These are the two opening lines of a statement signed by pioneering multinational businesses Danone, Natura &Co, Bonduelle and Gerdau as part of their commitment to embrace corporate governance frameworks that require them to have a positive impact on people and the planet.
While leaders from across the world gather once again at COP28 to address the role businesses can play in accelerating a climate transition, this coordinated effort is a call to action for all companies to rethink the way they do business and look at their role in benefitting people, communities and the planet, in addition to generating profits.
Research shows the public is calling out for this change, and that it can be a win-win for businesses. A recent study conducted by B Lab Europe revealed 87% of people in Europe think it should be mandatory for businesses to consider the interests of all stakeholders (including people and the planet) in their decision-making. B Lab Global recently published a report showing that B Corps (which are, by definition, stakeholder-driven companies) are more resilient in the face of disruptions, like the Covid-19 pandemic. And a study by Demos and B Lab UK demonstrated that a shift to purpose-driven business would produce broadly shared gains for workers, companies, and the economy as a whole.
However, there’s still a gap in understanding in how businesses go about making decisions informed by stakeholder input and the pivotal role a company’s governance plays in improving its impact. A 2022 study by Morningstar Sustainalytics found that 46% of CSR and sustainability professionals rated corporate governance as the least important aspect of their ESG efforts.
Since 2006, the B Corp movement has set out to change this. Embedding a company’s purpose and redefining how a business measures success is at the core of what the global non-profit B Lab advocates for through its certification and policy efforts. In order to certify as a B Corporation, beyond meeting high standards for social and environmental performance, companies are required to amend their legal framework to protect their mission and ensure the business is legally accountable to all of their stakeholders - workers, communities, customers, suppliers, and the environment - not just shareholders. Today, there are over 7,800 B Corps across the world in over 90 countries who serve as an inspiration for businesses of all sizes across sectors looking to balance profits with the needs of people and the planet. In 2014, Natura became the first publicly traded company to certify as a B Corp showing the world that large enterprises can also be a force for good – in fact it’s essential to transform the way big companies do business to transform our economic system. Today Natura &Co, alongside Danone, which has around 75% of global sales now covered by B Corp Certification, serve as mentors for the B Movement Builders. This program started in 2020 as a coalition of publicly-traded multinationals with more than $1 billion in revenue who share a goal of adopting governance standards that will allow them to conduct business practices and decision-making to generate a positive impact for all their stakeholders.
Bonduelle and Gerdau have joined Danone and Natura &Co in making company-wide changes and engaging in collective actions that bring these principles to life. These businesses are leading by example, going beyond making a commitment and sharing what it means in practice for a multinational business to make decisions with nature and the communities in which they operate in mind.
"As part of our company project, and with our mission as a compass, we have defined strategic priorities and promoted a leadership model based on demanding stakeholder governance principles. B Corp, as a major transformation framework, guides us in the implementation of this approach and enables us to improve our practices to foster a positive impact on people and the planet." says Céline Barral, the Chief Sustainability and External Communication Officer at Bonduelle. "By adopting those stakeholder governance principles, we are doing our best to encourage our stakeholders to voice the challenges we currently face and to join us in collectively operating our business the right way."
"Too often the G in ESG is forgotten,” says Charmian Love, Natura &Co’s Global Director of Advocacy. "But governance is instrumental if we are to create the conditions and culture which enables effective decision-making. These must align the short and long-term interests of shareholders, associates, suppliers, partners, clients (and other creditors) and, of the communities in which the company operates locally and globally, as well as the impacts on the environment."
"Gerdau believes that it is the people who have helped us build a history of more than 122 years and that it is they who will ensure that we remain relevant in the future. When we talk about putting people at the center of everything, we mean all our stakeholders, such as customers, suppliers, employees, communities and shareholders, with whom we are committed to continuously sharing value. In this context, adopting stakeholder governance is a way of addressing social and environmental challenges in a balanced way, contributing to a more inclusive economy," says Gustavo Werneck, CEO of Gerdau. "Stakeholder governance creates structures more amenable to building value for all stakeholders over the long term through dialogue, enhanced accountability and transparency. It enables companies to collect and listen to concerns and feedback from their partners, ensuring all voices are heard and taken into consideration in the decision-making process. At Danone, we believe that a robust stakeholder governance makes us stronger, more resilient and responsible as a business," says Jeanette Coombs–Lanot, Global Sustainability, Advocacy & B Corp Director for Danone. "That’s why we became a Société à Mission and are committed to become a B Corp at a global level, cementing our intention to create shared value for all and to build collective action based on stakeholders’ contribution."
Embedding stakeholder governance is a way for businesses to create a culture of decision-making that accelerates a company’s positive impact. By sharing lessons, best practices and calling on other businesses to adopt these frameworks, these multinational businesses aim to transform their industries and challenge the role and impact businesses can have in the world in the long term.
"In order to create an inclusive economy that benefits all people and the planet, we have to transform businesses of all sizes, across all sectors," says Clay Brown, Interim Lead Executive of B Lab Global. "When large companies adopt structures that make them legally accountable to their stakeholders – not just shareholders – the changes they make have an outsized influence, rippling through supply chains, customers, and business locations worldwide. We hope the example set by Natura&Co, Danone, Bonduelle, and Gerdau will inspire more large companies to embrace the long-term benefits of stakeholder governance."
This call to action comes after a recent announcement of a partnership between B Lab Global and Nasdaq to integrate B Lab’s B Impact Assessment into one of Nasdaq’s corporate ESG solutions, OneReport, helping simplify ESG management and reporting for all companies.
Tune into the four-part content series on B Lab Global’s blog to find out more about the ripple effect that a company’s mission and decision-making can have on the world:
Part 1 - Natura&Co: Creating a Culture of Change from Within Part 2 - Danone: Pursuing Business Success with Social Progress Part 3 - Gerdau: Integrating Purpose and ESG Across the Value Chain Part 4 - Bonduelle: How Powerful Dialogue Can Ensure All Voices Are Heard
About B Lab
B Lab is transforming the global economy to benefit all people, communities, and the planet. A leader in economic systems change, our global network creates standards, policies, tools, and programs for business, and we certify companies—known as B Corps—who are leading the way. To date, our community includes more than 700,000 workers in over 7,800 B Corps across 92 countries and 161 industries, and more than 200,000 companies manage their impact with the B Impact Assessment and the SDG Action Manager. To learn more and join the movement, visit www.bcorporation.eu.
About B Corp Certification
B Corp Certification assesses the overall social and environmental impact of a company. To achieve B Corp Certification, a company must meet a score of at least 80 points in the B Impact Assessment, an evaluation of a company’s positive impact, and pass a risk review, an evaluation of a company’s negative impact.
It must change their corporate governance structure to be accountable to all stakeholders, not just shareholders, and exhibit transparency by allowing information about their B Corp Certification performance to be publicly available on their B Corp profile on B Lab’s website. B Corps recertify every three years and once certified, are expected to increase their score over time as they progress towards becoming more equitable, inclusive, and regenerative businesses.
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