The B Impact Assessment: The BIA Explained

The B Impact Assessment: The BIA Explained

Have you started working on your B Impact Assessment, or are you thinking about it?

The B Impact Assessment (BIA) is one of the most rigorous tools available to measure your company’s impact. It isn’t meant to be easy – this isn’t a 10-question checklist that you complete quickly.

Instead, it’s a comprehensive assessment of your company’s impacts on a wide range of social and environmental areas.

What is the B Impact Assessment?

Certified B Corps are companies that are committed to using the power of business as a force for good.

To certify your business as a B Corp, your company needs to be in operation for one year (if you’ve been in business for less than a year, check out the B corp guide for startups). You’ll then need to complete the BIA and score a minimum of 80 points out of 200. Expect to take 60-90 minutes to take a first pass, but since it’s an online checklist, you can work on it, save it, and then return to it later to complete it.

The B Corp Assessment is a comprehensive survey of your business practices that determines your impact on all stakeholders. In fact, there’s even an alert at the beginning of the assessment that prepares you for what you can expect as you go.

b corp impact assessment

How comprehensive is it?

Consider what Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia, had to say about the B Impact Assessment:

Although we submit to other audits of labor and environmental practices, the B Impact Assessment (a free tool that helps companies measure, compare and improve their social and environmental performance) provides us with the only comprehensive view of our standing with all our stakeholders: owners, employees, customers, local communities, suppliers’ communities and the planet.”

This assessment is the tool that Patagonia uses to evaluate its own impact, and it’s available to you as well!

The image below shows the format for each question. This is a sample question that you will see as you begin your assessment.

The items in the blue bar will provide you with explanations, examples, and resources for each question. You’ll also have the opportunity to provide feedback if something is unclear or missing; this feedback is then used to make improvements to future versions of the assessment.

b lab questionnaire

The two icons in the upper right-hand corner are quite useful. The bookmark allows you to flag measures to revisit them later; this is useful for when you’re not sure about an answer and you want to come back to it later.

The star allows you to mark a question for improvement. When you do this, you’ll be prompted to set a goal. You can then choose your goal (the options are based on the answers provided for that particular question), choose a due date, and receive an email reminder. It’s a great tool designed to help you continue to make improvements to your practices.

B Lab questionnaire set your goal

What are the B Impact Assessment Categories?

The BIA is divided into 5 different sections:

  • Governance: Standards related to mission, stakeholder engagement, governance structure and controls, and transparency.
  • Workers: The standards in this section look at how a company treats is employees, including the compensation practices, benefits, training, worker ownership and work environment.
  • Community: This section covers the company’s impact on external community stakeholders, including suppliers, distributors, and the local economy and community, as well as the company’s practices regarding diversity, job creation, civic engagement, and charitable giving.
  • Environment: Standards related to your company’s direct and indirect environmental impacts.
  • Customers: Standards related to the impact that your business model has on your customers and whether you serve underserved populations.

In each section, you will be asked a series of questions about your business practices. The sections are weighted differently depending upon the type of business (service, wholesale/retail, manufacturers, and agricultural/growers), the number of employees, and whether the business is located in a developed vs. emerging economy.

There’s also a Disclosure Questionnaire, which asks about specific items where a company must disclose if it is involved in activities such as gambling, payday lending, or wildlife or wildlife products.

Taken together, the Impact Assessment and Disclosure Questionnaire comprise a holistic framework for any company that is seeking to do good through its business – which is, of course, what B Corps are doing!

The Benefits of Assessing Your Impact

The Impact Assessment is a great tool to use to assess your company’s social impact and sustainability practices. Some of the benefits include:

  • Objectively assessing your business. Rather than simply believing that your business is sustainable, why not get an objective assessment? The Impact Assessment will present you with a comprehensive list of best practices for sustainability: engaging employees, giving back to your community, practicing environmental responsibility, and more. Completing the assessment will allow you to truly evaluate your business performance against these practices.
  • Benchmarking your performance. How does your company compare to thousands of others? What are your areas of strength where you surpass others? What are the areas where you’re not doing as well as others and may need to improve upon? Now you’ll have concrete answers to these questions.
  • Improving your business. Once you’ve objectively assessed your business and compared your performance to others, you’ll have valuable information for how to improve. How can you build a better business? How can your company do more good? You can now develop a plan for strategic improvement, instead of engaging in ad hoc efforts and perhaps wasting both time and money.

Next Steps

Begin working on your B Impact Assessment. Completing the B Impact Assessment is also the first step in certifying as a B Corp, which I encourage you to consider.

As a Certified B Corp, your company will be committed to the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility in business. You’ll also be joining a growing, international movement for sustainability in business.

Do you need help with completing the B Impact Assessment? Fill out the form below so that we can talk about how you can complete your assessment quickly and easily.