Though the B Impact Assessment is customized based on a company’s size and therefore has specific content for small and mid-sized businesses, the principles of the BIA still require a degree of formality and documentation that in many circumstances is challenging for small businesses and startups. All companies should therefore answer questions based on the ability to provide formal evidence for any of their answers, both for the purposes of verifying their performance (for the purposes of B Corp Certification), as well as to recognize the important role that formalization provides in embedding best practices within a company. Below are some points outlined to specifically guide small and medium sized companies through the B Impact Assessment:
For small and medium sized businesses, we recommend that you begin by taking a first pass through the assessment and estimating some of your answers so that you can get an initial score.
The first pass will help you understand what the data that must be collected, which people/teams should be engaged to collect this data, and to organize and gather the information itself. It will also help you identify areas for improvement and give a baseline score to benchmark against other companies that have used the BIA.
During the first pass through the B Impact Assessment, we recommend that you be conservative in any estimated answers to avoid an inflated score, and then use the “Bookmark” function to flag questions you will need to return to in the future. You can use this function by clicking on the bookmark logo located on the upper right hand corner of the question.
After gathering information, you should go through the assessment a second time and answer questions based on the evidence your company has available.
There may be questions that are not relevant to your business, or that you are not able to earn credit in. This is to be expected, as the B Impact Assessment is intentionally designed to include a wide variety of positive impact indicators. Even high performing companies will not earn points in every question.
Below are some additional tips for small and medium sized businesses on how small businesses can improve their score on the B Impact Assessment:
1. Formalizing Policies – As you go through the assessment you will notice that there are a substantial number of questions asking about formalized company policies. While your company may offer paid family leave, recycle, or prefer local suppliers on an ad hoc basis, the B Impact Assessment prioritizes positive practices that are codified in company documents—and thus more likely to be maintained over time. You can improve your B Impact Assessment score by engaging top level management to create organization-wide policies covering all employees or having team leaders document the standards and practices already existing in their departments. Creating a shared folder accessible to all employees or collecting them in a handbook ensures that all policies are at the reach of your employees, should they need them.
2. Tracking Impact Metrics – The assessment is trying to quantify impact in all five impact areas. It will be difficult for your company to gain points if you don’t track metrics like energy use, employee attrition, or waste production. One of the best ways to improve your score is to take a strategic approach towards tracking impact metrics and internal key performance indicators (KPIs), both giving you a clear image of your strengths and gaining you points on the B Impact Assessment.
3. Looking at your suppliers/vendors – An important component of the Community section of the assessment considers your supply chain and vendors. Vendors could include services such as graphic designers, office suppliers, or PR companies. If you aren’t already considering the impact of your company’s supply chain, consider implementing a simple supplier questionnaire, which will give you a snapshot of their policies and inputs. Then, you can take proactive action by creating a formalized purchasing policy outlining minimum requirements for vendors and suppliers. B Lab has created a free supply chain Best Practice Guide which you can download here.
4. Adopting a mission-aligned governance structure – Meeting the legal requirement of B Corp Certification in advance can get you anywhere between 5 points to 10 points. If none of the specified legal options are available to you, you can still earn 2.5 points by signing the B Corp Agreement. Learn more about how to meet the legal requirement on page 8.
Guidance for Startups
If your company has been in operations for more than 12 months but has not yet completed a full fiscal year, you may use data from the previous 12 months of operations to answer questions that specify “last fiscal year.”
If your company has not yet been in operations for at least 12 months, you can answer quantitative questions with the best estimate that you anticipate for your first 12 months of operations. Please note that companies with less than 12 months of operations are not eligible for B Corp Certification, but may be eligible for Pending B Corp status if they are located in a region that has a legal pathway. See this article to determine when your company’s operations started based on the scope of the B Impact Assessment.
If you have other questions about small businesses and the B Impact Assessment, contact your local B Lab partner or submit a ticket to our B Lab Global Support team via our KB Portal with any questions.