14th March 2022
Our B Corp Journey
We get a lot of queries about our B Corp journey, so as part of our celebration of B Corp month this year, we asked Louisa (Toast co-founder and B Corp champion) some common questions.
Whether you're a business looking to start your B Corp journey, a customer wondering what the B on our packaging means, or anyone interested in how business can be a force for good, we hope you’ll enjoy reading this post. If you have any questions that aren’t covered, pop us a message on social media @toastale!
What exactly is a B Corp?
In short, as a Certified B Corp, we are part of a community of amazing businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.
Why did you decide to certify (and re-certify) as a B Corp?
We founded Toast with a central environmental mission to end food waste. We designed our business model to deliver the biggest positive impact we could with the smallest environmental footprint.
Our impact ripples describe our operations at the core - using surplus bread from bakeries to prevent food waste and reduce demand for barley, the positive way we use our profits to support charities working for systemic change, and the wider influence we have in society through our voice. You can read more about this in our 2021 Impact Report.
I first learnt about B Corp, which began in the US, during my masters. I’d followed the movement building in the UK, seeing brands that I loved going through certification, and felt it was a good fit for Toast. We wanted external validation of our work and B Corp offered the holistic review that no other assessment did.
In October 2017, as we were preparing to raise equity capital to invest in growing the team, I formally started the process. The investment community was taking more interest in sustainable businesses, and employees were increasingly looking for purpose-led businesses that aligned with their personal values. We certified in March 2018
What is the process like?
The first step is to complete the B Impact Assessment (BIA), a multiple choice survey about your entire business. It is used to assess your internal governance and your impact on various stakeholders, including workers, community, customers, and the environment. You can think of the BIA like a free internal audit for good.
Most of the questions will give you a progressive set of potential answers, so you can already start to identify areas where you could improve. For example, under the Environment section you’re asked whether you monitor, record and report energy use. Answers range from “We do not currently monitor and record usage” to “we have met specific reduction targets during the reporting period”, with steps in between. So if you’re not yet doing anything there are lots of progressive steps you can identify to take.
If you have someone in your business that has a good oversight of everything, they could complete a first review in 1-2 hours. I was able to do this for Toast. For bigger, more complex businesses, you would need to have a few people involved - particularly those that understand your people/HR policies and your procurement policies. Also some questions are qualifying questions, opening up further sections if relevant to your business, so you may have a little more or less to complete.
After this first review, you will receive a score out of 200. The median score for ordinary businesses is 50.9 so you can already start to benchmark your business. To go through the certification process, you need to score a minimum of 80 points. You can see how you have scored in each section so can quickly identify ways to improve to achieve that minimum score.
Once you decide to go through the certification process, you should review your answers again and check that you have evidence to back them up. After formally submitting for certification, you will have an hour-long interview with an assessor and be asked to share evidence so it’s good to have everything ready.
When you go through the certification process, there are also disclosure questionnaires you will need to complete if you operate in a sensitive industry, or there are any issues that need to be reviewed by B Lab (the charity that manages B Corp). It doesn’t factor into a company’s B Impact Assessment score, but is reviewed to determine eligibility for B Corp Certification.For example we have to make a disclosure relating to alcohol. The most high-profile disclosure relates to the on-going investigation into BrewDog’ corporate culture.
B Lab is currently reviewing the requirements for certification, so watch out for changes coming!
What happens after certification?
Formally, the business must also change its Articles of Association - the fiduciary duty of the Directors changes so that they must act for people and the planet (removing shareholder primacy). After Toast certified, we took investment using a model we called Equity for Good. It requires investors to reinvest any net capital gains in other businesses with an environmental mission. This means the value created by the growth of our business continues to do good in the world (and is not invested in destructive practices like fossil fuel exploration).
The biggest win for us was connecting with people that want to have a positive impact on the world through business. There’s an intranet-style platform - the B Hive - where you can easily communicate with others to share news, ask questions and join groups working on specific challenges like the circular economy and food waste. You get out what you put in here, and I highly recommend being an active member of the community
I recommend reviewing the BIA internally on an annual basis so you can make continual improvements ahead of recertification in 3 years time.
And don’t forget to celebrate your success - it is a huge achievement to obtain and retain B Corp Certification.