B Corp certification used to assess company’s social and environmental performance

When Craig Ryan of the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) addresses his audience at the Cultivate Sustainability Conference and Trade Show on September 7 at the RBC Convention Centre, he’s going to open with a direct question.

“I’m going to ask them, ‘what does sustainability mean to your company?’”, says Ryan, the BDC’s Director, Corporate Sustainability. “We’re going to talk about B Corp, which was invented by business people for business people.”

In short, B Corporation, or B Corp, is a private certification of for-profit companies that assesses their social and environmental performance.

“It’s used in 70 countries and over 200,000 companies in every sector and of every size. They use it to plot strategy and measure their impact.”

And while companies often worry about undergoing B Corp certification, that worry is needless, says Ryan.

“We’ve found that certified companies haven’t been harmed by the process. In fact, they tend to be more resilient in difficult times.”

To gain that resiliency, companies really need to determine what sustainability means to them, he adds.

“For example, what are the pressing sustainability issues in your sector? You can’t avoid climate change, so what does this mean to your company?”

If a company is unsure, there are resources.

“For example, we can provide sustainability guide tools to the agricultural sector. It must help in driving change, so we are here to help that sector and others do that.”

What’s the crux of the issue?

“Sustainability isn’t just about carbon and trees – it’s about waste reduction and water use, and the social component is also important,” Ryan says. “That component covers things like community involvement and how you treat your employees.”

The best way to start making headway with sustainable practices is to look at companies who’ve successfully integrated best practices into their company’s DNA.

“Look at peers who’ve done it,” he advises. “That will give you a clear understanding of what sustainability means and will give you an expectation of knowing where to start. Doing a B Corp certification will allow you to learn more about your business, reduce costs and reduce your carbon footprint. It’s doable, and yields benefits quickly.”

It’s all about gaining efficiency in key areas of your business, says Ryan.

“Maybe you don’t know what steps four and five are, but you can find out what steps one and two need to be. Doing it will reduce risks to your business and make it more efficient and profitable. The key is to get started. Once you do, you’ll see the benefits and wonder why you didn’t do it earlier.”

You can catch Craig’s keynote presentation on B Corp certification at the Cultivate Sustainability Conference and Trade Show on September 7 at the RBC Convention Centre. He will present on how companies can prepare for certification, plus there will be a live question and answer period following.