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Why it pays to be a ‘Certified B Corporation’ in the Ag industry

October 22, 2019

Editor’s note: Paul Zorner is CEO of Locus Agricultural Solutions. The Ohio-based company aims to help growers to tackle challenges in productivity and sustainability from the ground up – while improving user profits. Locus’ latest tech uses patented fermentation to produce probiotics that are delivered to growers via a cold-chain process.

What do Danone North America, Bigelow Tea, and Stonyfield Organics have in common? All of them are a ‘Certified B Corporation’ (B Corp). I’d like to define it as a company that balances profit and purpose, all while meeting ticking the boxes for social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability.

Thousands of other B Corps around the world have also committed to the above categories. They are backing a growing movement to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.”

Check out our coverage of the UN World Food Day 2019, here.

Getting certified as a B Corp is especially advantageous to companies in food and ag given the increasing pressure on our global food supply and natural ecosystems, the nutritional demands and health issues of a growing global population, and new regulations to address water stewardship and climate change.

Why do companies invest in the B Corp process? What does it takes to get certified?

A growing number of agricultural companies are joining the movement and confirming their focus on ethical and sustainable business practices through B Corp certification. Companies that go through the certification process also get to evaluate the impact their operations and business model have on employees, the environment, the communities where they work, and their customers.

How does having the B Corp certification help?

  • Builds public trust by being transparent and accountable
  • Attracts and retains top talent that want to work for a mission-driven organization
  • Leverages impact investing and forges strategic partnerships with like-minded businesses 

Source: Paul Zorner, CEO, Locus Agricultural Solutions

To be pass the test, companies must complete the B Impact Assessment with non-profit organization, B Lab. Upon completion, they receive a report that scores them on four criteria: governance, community, workers and the environment. The score is a benchmark against the average scores of thousands of other companies that took the assessment. To qualify, companies are required to meet or surpass a threshold score of 80 out of 200 points.

For Locus AG, this score allowed us to see where the company fared against others and where improvements could be made. The team then created a roadmap to improve the scores using resources provided by B Lab and implemented changes needed to receive certification. The process took around ten months, and provided value in helping us further develop responsible business practices. Being certified has also opened new opportunities with impact investors and potential customers and partners that value working with B Corps.

Partnerships and impact investing opportunities

Companies in the ag industry stand to benefit a number of ways in getting B Corp-certified. Those that stand to gain the most are businesses that supply raw materials to multinational F&B companies with environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) goals and sustainability programs.

B Corp businesses will have an easier time complying with, for example, PepsiCo’s Sustainable Sourcing Program and Supplier Code of Conduct that is based on the expectation that suppliers will ‘adhere to the same standards of integrity’ that guides PepsiCo’s operations.

Corporates that offer opportunities for B Corp companies:

On the investment front, there has been a remarkable rise in ESG investing that today is estimated to be $20 trillion in assets under management. While impact investing in sustainable ag is relatively new, it is a growing market and presents an opportunity for impact investors to effect change on a global scale.

B Corps are squarely in the ESG space and are attractive investment targets. When impact investors offer funding for unconventional food and agriculture projects, recipients can use the money to make their farming and growing practices more sustainable.

Companies in the ag industry have an outsized role to play in helping to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. Certified B Corps stand to benefit the most by being a force for good and accelerating the transition to a sustainable food system on a truly massive scale.

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