How new centre of excellence plans to beef up B Corp in Asia

APAC has been something of a laggard when it comes to adopting B Corp principles, but a new Singapore centre of excellence is hoping to change that
With Asia home to just 3% of B Corp companies worldwide, B Lab and Singapore’s CIIP are partnering on a centre of excellence to boost B Corp regionally

The non-profit B Lab movement has escalated globally in the last five years, but the APAC region has been something of a laggard when it comes to adopting the purpose rather than profit model.

In part, that is down to some B Corp principles not being relevant to companies in the region.

That may be set to change with news that B Lab Global and Singapore's Centre for Impact Investing and Practices (CIIP) are establishing the B Lab & CIIP Centre of Excellence for Asia.

B Lab and CIIP hope this move will encourage other and more companies to make positive impact on people, the planet, and communities in the region.

B Corp lagging in Asia, but potential high

According to data from data science analysts WGSN, the vast majority of B Corp companies are in the US, but only a small fraction (around 3%) are based in Asia.

While worldwide, there are now nearly 7,000 B Corp-certified companies across 91 countries, just 87 companies in Asia (spanning 17 countries and 15 industries) have achieved B Corp status – a certification that measures a company's entire social and environmental performance, providing a pathway for 'for-profit' companies to effectively balance purpose and profit. 

Perhaps not so surprising given the region is lagging on ESG in general.

Less than 30% of companies in APAC incorporate ESG factors into their goals and key performance indicators, even though more than half of them claim the issue is critical to their long-term success, a recent report by global consultancy Aon found. 

And yet companies in the region are ripe for ESG action and B Corp certification, in particular, Jien Goh, Mindset Consultant, APAC, at WGSN, said in a report last year.

"In Southeast Asia, B Corps are especially seen as a force of good as they lead to higher-quality job creation, reduced inequality, healthier and regenerative environments – all of which are challenges to solve as accelerated urbanisation continues in the region."

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Centre of excellence: pioneer principles relevant for Asian companies

Part of the issue with poor uptake of B Corp certification in Asia is that the principles and guidelines are not necessarily aligned with the particular characteristics of Asia-based companies.

This is one of the goals of the new centre of excellence – which plans to pioneer research and share insights to deliver B Corp practices and principles that work and are relevant for Asian companies.

According to non-profit CIIP, the anchor Asia partner of SDG Impact, the new Singapore-based centre "will work to ensure the relevance of B Lab’s standards to Asian markets, and will build on the combined expertise of B Lab and CIIP in fostering shared knowledge, nurturing a connected community, and catalysing collective positive actions", says Dawn Chan, CEO, CIIP

"It will be the go-to organisation for companies that aspire to meet high and rigorous standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability."

Eleanor Allen, Lead Executive at B Lab Global points out that with the economy across Asia a significant contributor to the global economy and shaping the next phase, "we want to use this momentum to further catalyse the movement of business as a force for good". 

“Working with our country partners in the region, B Lab Global is excited to begin this partnership with CIIP to expand the reach of our globally applicable standards, strengthen our economic systems change work whilst supporting the growth of B Corps across Asia, and provide education and training for all businesses.”

Eleanor Allen, Lead Executive at B Lab Global is working with CIIP to expand the reach of B Lab's standards in Asia

What is B Corp and why does it matter?

Established in the US in 2006 by non-profit organisation B Lab, B Corp certification is the only one that measures a company's entire social and environmental performance. 

Designed as a way for 'for-profit' companies to effectively balance purpose and profit, while also serving stakeholders, the certification acts as a framework giving companies a yardstick to measure themselves by.

Becoming B Corp requires that companies undertake B Impact Assessment, a process that looks closely at a company's impact on its governance, workers, customers, community, and environment with each company achieving a baseline score. The average score is 50, and organisations then work towards achieving a score of 80, the minimum required for certification. Recertification is required every three years. 

While certification is the ultimate goal, some companies won't achieve this, while for others, it will take a long time. Research by B Corp reveals that while more than 200,000 organisations are currently using the B Impact Assessment to analyse their impact, only around 5,000 have successfully gained B Corp status. 

Most B Corp companies, of which there are nearly 7,000 worldwide, stress that the journey is what matters, as the methodology and framework works as a business management tool to help companies become more intentional and to improve. 

As Amy Bourbeau, Co-founder of sustainability advisory Seismictold Business Chief last year: "While it's a huge achievement to reach certification, this is just the start of the journey, as companies work hard to maintain their performance, and then continuously improve on it."

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