Confused by the plethora of environmental credentials and certifications that beauty companies currently boast? You’re not alone – during the past decade as beauty has become greener, brands eco claims have been jostling for our attention. Whether they’re Eco Cert or Soil Association verified as organic, plastic free, vegan, certified as cruelty free by Leaping Bunny or carbon neutral – it’s hard to pick priorities when choosing a product.
What if there was a not for profit organisation that could examine all of a brands ethics – both environmental and social – and give us consumers some kind of objective and trustworthy stamp of approval?
Well we’re happy to report there is – and that stamp of approval is the B Corp logo.
B Corp really is considered to be the gold standard or crème de la crème of environmental and social certification. Companies that have achieved B Corp status and bear the B circled logo have undergone the most rigorous examination of their behaviours and products and this is renewed on a three-yearly basis. Not just the ingredients and formulations, the sourcing of raw materials, the packaging, carbon neutral status; it’s about how they treat their employees, the community and charity enterprises too. Everything about them is scrutinised closely.
The B in B Corp stands for benefit and the non-profit behind this initiative is called B Lab, founded in 2006 by three former business and private equity alumni. The first 82 B Corps were certified in 2007 and brands continue to aspire to this status.
In total, 3500 brands now belong to this elite club globally, and beauty names who’ve made the grade include The Body Shop, Aesop, Ethique, Beauty Kitchen, Skandinavisk, Dr Bronner’s, Davines, Comfort Zone and Skin Regimen and most recently Aromatherapy Associates and Sunday Riley.
So why become a B Corp?
Because obviously not every brand wants to be tested and examined to its absolute limits? “B Corp is a leader in corporate responsibility, sustainability, and brand ethics,” says Sunday Riley of the reasons for going through this not simple or easy process for her eponymous skincare brand.
“B Corp certification is the toughest independent company certification in the world,” agrees Shaun Russell, founder of Skandinavisk, a Scandinavian landscape inspired boutique maker of fragrance, home fragrance and bodycare. “Being in the cosmetics industry, there are a lot of third-party certifications but most focus only on product: COSMOS, Vegan Society, PETA etc. For us, it was more important to be challenged on everything we do.”
For Aromatherapy Associates, their motivation was to do with the fact that market research had turned up evidence that people were demanding more from beauty brands. “Seventy- two per cent of consumers now think businesses should have a legal obligation to protect people and the environment and we agree, which is why we’ve become a B Corp.” states CEO Anna Teal.
And she notes, it’s not entirely selfless, there’s an added kickback for companies that do make the grade. “Research shows that the average year on year growth rate of UK B Corps that had re-certified in 2018 was 14 per cent. 28 time higher than the national economic growth of 0.5 per cent.”
So what does the process actually involve?
For The Body Shop, it took just over a year to do. “We completed 15 assessments in total, each one with around 250 questions – so a little short of 4000 questions,” Says Christopher Davis, Corporate Social Responsibility Director. “We had to submit hundreds of pieces of documentation to support our answers.”
Body Shop, like over 500 fellow B Corpers, are signed up to be carbon neutral output zero by 2030, but some other B Corp companies have even more ambitious goals than that. “We are targeting net zero by 2025 since this is the year that our adopted home, the city of Copenhagen, intends to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital,” says Shaun Russell of Skandinavisk.
Some companies have to reformulate their product ranges as part of the process of becoming a B Corp. Shaun Russell of Skandinavisk reveals they went through this process before becoming a B Corp last year. “We switched from using paraffin, palm and soy waxes (the most common wax bases worldwide), and started using sustainably farmed Swedish rapeseed wax for our candles instead.”
Packaging is obviously a hot topic for beauty companies too. One of the first actions Aromatherapy Associates has undertaken as a certified B Corp is remove 1.5 tonnes of plastic, equivalent to 80,000 single use plastic bottles, using p. The 2020 festive collection was therefore all re-usable, fully recyclable and produced with FSC paper.
Aesop’s packaging ethos has always been utilitarian and humble with minimal environmental impact, maintains their Director of Innovation Dr Kate Forbes. In line with B Corp evolution “Our long-term objectives are to reduce the amount of energy and raw materials used to produce our packaging, and to establish practices that minimise waste and support continued use of our packaging. She says. Accordingly they are, “Shifting the majority of plastic bottles in our range from virgin Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) to Recycled Polyethylene Terephthalate (rPET), comprising a minimum 97% recycled material sourced from post-consumer curb side recycled content.”
So is it easier for skincare brands to achieve B Corp status than make up, haircare or perfume orientated companies?
“Not really!” says Body Shop’s Christopher Davis. “There is no short cut to becoming a B Corp as applying means having every part of your business looked at through a microscope.”
The significance of B Corp status for you and I is that someone has done the legwork of scrutinising a brand’s sustainability and ethics so that we don’t have to.