To B or not to B, that is the question

Imagine if humanity and nature got together to examine how responsible every person in the world was.

Not against how good you can present yourself in an interview, but in absolutely everything you do. EVERYTHING. Now imagine during the process you realise you can’t bluff their questions with a jazzed-up CV and a couple of promises that you’re good because you prefer organic food, donate to charity, or drive an electric car. Because humanity and nature demand that you provide evidence for absolutely all of your actions before you can be hired. ALL OF THEM.

How would you perform? Honestly?

The B corp process

A Certified B Corporation (the B stands for ‘Benefit’) is a business that has been independently audited to meet the highest standards of social and environmental impact in everything they do. It’s the most rigorous company certification in the world, and it’s probably the hardest thing we have ever done. The process revealed all our imperfections, reminded us of all the things we’d rather not admit, and educated us about the many other things we should be doing but which we didn’t even know we didn’t know.

It was a wake-up call to the tremendous difference between how good we each like to think we are, versus the cold, hard reality of how good we actually act. After the initial shock (and fair bit of guilt), the certification process also inspired us to close those gaps, to keep trying to be better. Not just for ourselves, but for all the people who our business affects – our staff, customers, suppliers, and community – and for the planet we all share.

In fact, just months after certification, we took the radical step to replace our entire product collection. While it wasn’t because the first generation of products had been deemed irresponsible (they helped get us certified, after all). It was more because we had already identified a number of areas we could improve on, and the B Corp assessment simply rammed that home. With bells on.

Now, everything we produce proudly carries the B Corp logo as evidence of our commitment and our customers’ reassurance.

Hav Handwash

Why we chose B Corp certification

We could have chosen another, more common, path. Being in the fragrance and cosmetics industry, there are already a lot of third-party certifications out there. The difference is they tend to focus only on product eligibility: COSMOS, Vegan Society, Leaping Bunny, Asthma & Allergy, PETA etc. We considered all of these – and all have their benefits – but we concluded it was more important to be challenged on everything we do. After all, it’s easier to design a product to meet certain standards. It’s quite another thing to design a company that way.

For us, becoming a B Corp also helped cement a lot of what we were already doing across our entire business. We’ve been continuously trying to improve sourcing, biodiversity and emissions standards with each new category we entered and, as we learn, we’re open about sharing our missteps along the way to help others avoid the same. We’ve had a refugee program since the crisis in Europe, and we take one refugee per year to help give something back to those less fortunate than ourselves. We have always had a flat structure, balanced share of female leadership, inclusive culture, healthy work-life balance, and we try to engage all our people in company decisions and direction. Our entire purpose is to demonstrate the human and environmental benefits of a more Scandinavian approach to life.

Indeed, because certification is so tough, there are fewer B Corps out there and there is less awareness of the B Corp movement as a result. But, of the ones that are known, their actions speak louder than their words. From outdoor activists Patagonia to cheeky but caring Innocent Drinks, the fearless Guardian newspaper to help-the-small-guy Kickstarter, beer punks Brewdog to the nearly four thousand other B Corps around the world all trying to balance purpose with profit. Closer to our own business, we’re particularly proud to stand alongside our ‘B Beauty’ fellows, a group of brands that Glamour Magazine recently described as the ultimate gold standard in sustainable beauty. If you’re judged by the company you keep, count us in.

Glamour quote Rosenhave

Business as a force for good

Ultimately, when it all comes down to it, the path to leave a lighter footprint will always be difficult to navigate – not least because one of humanity’s biggest problems is that people always tend to look for easy shortcuts to get there. But history tells us there are no quick fixes. As a member of the B Corp movement of people using business as a force for good, we’re becoming wiser with every step, and we’re no longer travelling alone.

Happy B Corp month.

Shaun, founder

More about B Corps

The founding organisation is a non-profit called B Lab. It was started in the USA in 2006 by three people who had started their own social business long before it was fashionable, sold it, and then watched helplessly as its whole purpose got dumped by the new owner in favour of profit motives. They swore to never let that happen to others, and so created B Lab and the B Corporation certification method to help protect other emerging, purpose-driven organisations from the dark side of capitalism, and to give them a common platform to make their individual voices better heard.

All companies are assessed against multiple criteria within the areas of Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers. You can find our B Impact Report here. (NB: you have to get over 80 points to qualify, so we only just made it).

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