b-corp 23 Degrees Coffee Roasters

Did you know, there are now over 3,500 Certified B-Corporations in more than 70 countries. Yet, in our humble view, there is still little awareness about B Corps. We've just passed our 3rd-year milestone of being a B Corp. So perfect timing for sharing our journey and more insight about this community.

What is a Certified B-Corp

In a nutshell, B-Corps are companies who believe that business can be done better and are using the power of business to create a positive impact on the environment, supply chains and partners, customers, and people.

And in doing so, B-Corps voluntarily are meeting rigorous standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability. The 'B Lab' is the external body that audits and certifies B-Corps worldwide.

Why did we become a B-Corp

As simple as it sounds, we were drawn to the B-Corp certification because it made sense.  By no means are we grass-root activists. We simply believe in good business and doing the right thing. This means we are genuinely paying attention to the impact of our actions and choices on the environment and our communities.

We first came across B-Corps through a friend, who was a founding B-Corp member in Australia. Our curiosity was sparked. We've already adopted strategies and operating principles ensuring the coffee prices we pay are ethical, our sourcing strategies and civic engagement create opportunities for women, our supply chain avoids unnecessary harm to the environment, and our customers are overjoyed with our coffees, services and practices.

To better understand the thinking behind B-Corps, we attended a B-Corp information event, studied the journey of B-Corp pioneers such as Patagonia and took a self-assessment of the B-Corp qualification criteria. After this due diligence, we felt very comfortable that B Corps not only matched our values … but would also challenge us to do better - in particular in the coffee industry, which is highly concentrated in the hands of a couple of global players.  At the other end of the coffee supply chain are over 25 million smallholder farming families based in many of the world's poorest countries. The potential for an unequal playing field and exploitation is self-evident.

The concept of moving from a win/lose to win/win playing field resonated with us. Why would one have to lose for another to win? We were convinced, we could do better. And our B-Corp journey began.

The B-Corp certification allowed us to evaluate the sustainability of our business against a set of structured measures but also communicate our performance effectively. In our opinion, sustainability gives us and our supply chain resilience in an ever-changing business landscape.

Whilst we've also looked at becoming Fairtrade certified, we opted for the B-Corp certifications. While Fairtrade certifies a specific product, the B-Corp certification applies to the whole company (including all of its products). In our view, doing business right goes beyond delivering one product or service right. Doing business right requires the transition to a whole of company approach. And that is what the B-Corp certification is. In fact, it is the only certification that measures a company's entire social and environmental performance, including its products and services.

How did we become a Certificated B-Corp

In October 2018 we became a certified B-Corp. The process was time intense and thorough - long paper trails, documentation, audits and interviews. At the time of writing this blog, we are currently undergoing our re-certification and we are proud of what we have achieved.

B impact assessment

To be eligible for the certification, in the first step we completed the B Impact Assessment, a comprehensive survey of company practices covering five major themes—governance, community, environment, customers, and industry-specific impact business models:

  • The Community Impact Area evaluates your company's positive impact on the external communities in which your company operates, covering topics like board diversity, economic impact, civic engagement, and supply chain impact.
  • The Environment Impact Area evaluates the company's overall environmental stewardship, including how the company identifies and manages general environmental impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions, its management of air and climate issues, water sustainability, and impacts on land and life.
  • The Governance Impact Area evaluates your company's overall mission, ethics, accountability and transparency through topics such as integration of social and environmental goals in employees' performance evaluation, impact reporting and transparency, stakeholder engagement, and more.
  • The Customers Impact Area evaluates your company's value to your direct customers and the consumers of your products or services, covering topics like ethical and positive marketing, warranty and quality assurance of products and services, data privacy, data security, and more. 
  • The Disclosure Questionnaire is an unweighted group of Yes/No questions that allow your company to confidentially disclose any sensitive industries, practices, fines, or sanctions related to your business or your partners. (Source:  https://bcorporation.net/)

You can simply jump on the B-Corp website and start your assessment. It’s not for the faint-hearted. With over 200 detailed questions. At the end of the survey, your answers determine a score.

If your company scores at least 80 out of a possible 200 points, you can continue with the review process.

Legal requirements

There is a legal requirement to become a B-Corp. In Australia this required us to incorporate purpose and stakeholder clauses in our company constitution, which reflected our commitment to a 'triple bottom line' approach to business.

Review process

In the next phase of the process, an analyst from B Lab, the body which administers the B-Corp Certification, is allocated and reviews our completed questionnaire and accompanying documentation to validate the assessment data. Throughout this process, we provided lots more supporting documentation and had a couple of phone-based interviews with your allocated B-lab analyst. The whole process took about six months.  

We exceeded the 80-point minimum comfortably after completing B Lab's review, and were then eligible for "B-Corp Certification".

Threes years of being a B-Corp

Over the past three years, being a B Corp has helped us focus on how we conduct business and shape our view of our future directions and initiatives. As a result, one could say we have matured steadily into a more sustainable business. When we started out, our primary focus was on creating a positive impact on our communities. Over the past three years, we have passionately continued to deepen our relationships with international programs that help create opportunities for women. Additionally, we redirected some of our focus on aligning our business model and operations to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and better waste management.

One myth we often had to overcome is the thinking that B-Corps are charities or not-for-profit organisations. NOT true. We are applying strict discipline throughout our operations to be profitable just like any other business but with one big difference: we won't make decisions that create unnecessary harm to the environment or our farmers in our supply chain. A good example is the purchasing price of our green coffee. We are sourcing only high-quality coffees and we pay Fairtrade prices as an absolute minimum. And we require traceability of the coffees we buy. Commercial, lower-grade coffees simply don't tick these boxes.  This means we don't compete on price but rather on value. Is that a tough gig in a very competitive saturated coffee roasting market? Absolutely. But doing the right thing often requires taking the road less travelled.

The encouraging news, more and more end-consumers and corporate customers are paying close attention to their daily coffee drinking habits. As a result, we have seen a gradual rise in the collective conscience of these customer groups. Cafés remain a challenging market where the lowest prices and the supply of free coffee equipment are still king.

We hope we were able to answer some of the questions you may have had about B-Corps. If you are thinking to become a B-Corp, gives us a call or send us a message. We’ll happily share our knowledge. Or simply jump on the B-Corp website, which is filled with amazing information. Take the B Impact Assessment to see how you perform – it’s free!

Thank you for reading.

Tina Wendel

Founder and director

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