To B or not to B (Corp)? That’s the question stok asked two years ago while reinventing ourselves as a purpose-driven organization. In our quest to boldly catalyze an environmentally restorative and socially equitable world, we formed a self-managed task force to explore the various standards for measuring and optimizing stok’s social and environmental impact. In addition to the positive impact that the right certification could facilitate, we knew that there was also great value to be gained through employee engagement, brand awareness, and attraction and retention of values-aligned team members and partners.
While we looked at several different standards, we found that the most suitable options for stok were B Lab’s B Corp Certification and the International Living Future Institute’s JUST Label. As few organizations aside from stok have both, which may appear redundant at face value, we want to share where the two overlap and differ—and why pursuing both may be well worth your time.
B Corp Certification
The B Corp standard enables organizations to use business as a force for maximizing social and environmental impact, in addition to profit, by measuring a broad scope of indicators including social justice, purpose alignment, governance, and environmental impact. The B Corp Declaration of Independence states that certified B Corps are “purpose-driven and create benefit for all stakeholders, not just shareholders.”
While our “new and improved” company mission aligned with the B Corp tagline of “Business for Good,” the process of applying for a B Corp certification seemed intimidating at first, especially knowing that our overall B Score would soon be ranked next to those of some of our biggest role models like Patagonia, Etsy, and Ben & Jerry’s.
The JUST Label, on the other hand, has few environmental considerations when compared to B Corp, and little to no focus on purpose or governance, as it’s more specifically geared toward facilitating socially just and equitable organizations.
Because of its narrower scope, and after having worked closely with our friends at the International Living Future Institute on their Living Building Challenge and Declare Label program for healthy materials in building products, we were more comfortable pursuing JUST initially.
Both programs use easy and user-friendly online portals to apply for and track your certification.
The B Impact Assessment is an online survey organized by B Corps’ four categories—Governance, Workers, Community, and Environment. Each question is multiple choice (e.g. What % above living wage does your lowest-paid worker receive? (a) 0% or below, (b) 1-14%, (c) 15-24%, etc.). Once completed, you’ll be asked to upload supportive documentation such as handbook policies or corporate governance documents.
The next step is an interview process, where you’ll be contacted by the team at B Lab to verify answers to randomly selected questions on the assessment. You may be asked to further demonstrate your operational practices in detail through additional supportive documentation. After the interview, your assessment is scored out of 200 possible points. To achieve the B Corp Certification status, your organization must earn a minimum of 80 points on the assessment.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are no minimum requirements for achieving a JUST Label. Instead of a certification, the JUST Program is a voluntary disclosure tool. The online portal guides you through self-assessing your company in 6 categories—Diversity, Equity, Safety, Worker Benefit, Local Benefit, and Stewardship. Questions ask you to score your company on a scale of 0 to 3 based on pre-defined metrics, as well as upload policies and supporting data.
This means it’s possible to submit a completely blank Label (earning 0 stars in each category) and still qualify, as long as you provide the supporting materials and agree to publicly disclose them on the JUST website.
Yes, paying for B Corp Certification or the JUST Label might seem unnecessary when you’re already making positive social and environmental impact, but separating your company from the greenwash and joining a passionate community of known values-aligned organizations makes it a worthwhile investment.
B Lab Certification fees are based on company revenue, whereas JUST Program fees are based on number of employees. Both programs require re-certification every two years.
The (triple) bottom line
Applying for the JUST Label first allowed stok to leverage our findings when applying for the B Corp Certification. We found this to be an ideal approach. Because there are no minimum requirements for JUST, it acts as a great baseline for tracking progress. If we had started by applying for B Corp Certification and received a below-minimum score, it might have deterred us from moving forward in the process.
Having the ability to submit a JUST Label with low baseline scores in certain categories enabled us to identify and address areas for policy improvement. Even better, the JUST program provided us with a framework for improvement. Since self-assessment is required for JUST, you know exactly what it takes to improve in each category, whereas the B Corp scoring system is not as transparent. And lastly, the perks of the JUST community were immediately noticed as we were able to access every JUST organization’s policies on the online portal to use as a proxy, and had each company’s contact information at our fingertips if we needed support.
Once we spent the time to fully evaluate our social justice performance with the JUST Label, it was much easier to zoom out and look at the bigger picture with B Corp. We breezed through the B Impact Assessment questions that aligned with JUST imperatives (about half!), and were able to spend our time focusing on the questions relating to governance, purpose alignment, and environmental issues when applying for the B Corp Certification.
While it required time and effort, our journey into social and environmental justice as an organization has greatly enriched our company culture, strengthened our relationships with values-aligned partners, and provided us with the opportunity to live out our company purpose every day. We’re grateful for B Lab and the International Living Future Institute for creating programs that heighten the standard for good in organizations worldwide, and proud to be a member of the inspiring communities formed as a result.
This post was written by Jolene Goldsmith. Jolene combines her passions for sustainability and social justice in her work at stok, where she is responsible for the organization’s growth.