Hiring a B Corp Consultant

When companies embark on their B Corp journey, they’re often surprised to find out how hard it is to actually get certified. The B Impact Assessment (BIA) is incredibly comprehensive, and the verification process is quite rigorous. Yet this rigor is precisely what makes the certification so impactful and meaningful.

The performance standards identify best practices; by definition, this implies that not all companies will be following these practices. Getting certified often requires evaluating every aspect of a company’s operations and implementing changes to adopt those practices. It’s not a light undertaking by any means, which is why companies often look for outside assistance.

Anyone reading this should know that they do not need to hire a consultant to get certified or recertified as a B Corp. Plenty of companies go through the B Corp certification process without hiring a consultant. However, if you’re working on your certification or considering getting certified, it’s helpful to know what your options are to get assistance and some things to consider if you do hire a consultant, which is what we’ll explore here.

How can you get help with your B Corp Certification?

First, let’s look at your options for completing your certification or recertification:

  1. Do it yourself – manage the certification on your own
  2. Tap your network – get help from friends or colleagues
  3. Engage students – work with teams of undergraduate or graduate students
  4. Get outside assistance – hire a B Corp Consultant to help you

Each of these has potential pros and cons. 

Doing it yourself is usually appealing as a cost-effective option. B Lab provides webinars and resources, and you can find a lot of information online. The best case scenario is that you learn from the assessment and successfully complete the certification process without spending too much of your time or your team’s time.

The drawback is that you may overlook opportunities within the assessment to improve your business or you may not adequately prepare for the Verification process with B Lab. The worst case scenario, of course, is that you spend a lot of time and end up not getting certified.

Tapping others for help is a step above doing it yourself because you can reach out to people who have been through the process and gain some understanding of the questions, practices, and documentation involved. Whether you tap friends or your B Local group, this can help you to save time and benefit from the experience of others. In a best case scenario, you’ll learn from others and successfully complete your certification.

The drawback is that the assistance offered will usually be limited because these individuals are busy running their own businesses; they will be well-intentioned in answering questions you might have, but will not usually be able to spend hours going through the questions with you, discussing creative practices that you can bring to your company, or reviewing your documentation. In a worst-case scenario, you may end up not getting certified.

Working with students is a cost-effective way to have a team focus specifically on helping you complete the assessment for your company. Eager students will be happy to spend time talking to you, learning about your company, and doing research as necessary to help you complete the assessment. Their enthusiasm alone may help you to remain motivated and engaged as you work on your assessment.

Aside from the challenge of having to work around the academic calendar, the biggest drawback is that you risk working with a student team that has enthusiasm but not experience, and you may not get certified. This cautionary tale became evident to me with one client who reached out to me after working with a student team; she submitted her assessment, waited in the queue for 7 months, and then had her review closed by B Lab because her score dropped below 80. The analyst had found questions answered incorrectly on her assessment and updated the answers, which dropped the score.

Hiring a consultant is the most expensive option because of course you need to pay a consultant (unless you find someone just getting started who is willing to offer pro bono or low-cost assistance in order to get experience). In the best case scenario, you can hire a good consultant who will help your company not just to get certified but to really improve your business.

The drawback is that, as in any other endeavor, consultants vary considerably in terms of experience and results. This is particularly relevant now, since B Corp consulting is a hot field; in the past two or three years, more and more people have been marketing themselves as B Corp Consultants than ever before. In the worst case scenario, even with a consultant, you may end up not getting certified, depending upon the consultant’s experience and terms of engagement.

Ultimately, the drawbacks for each of these options is the same – you may not get certified. Because of the high standards and rigorous process, only 40% of the companies that submit their assessment get certified.

Considerations when Choosing a B Corp Consultant

After reviewing the options above, many companies decide that bringing in outside assistance is the best way to go. Similar to handling any other specialized projects, such as building a website or doing your business taxes, companies may recognize that hiring an outside specialist is a good investment for the company, especially if the company lacks time and expertise to work on the certification on their own.

One thing to keep in mind is that getting certified as a B Corp isn’t – and shouldn’t be – just about checking off boxes on the assessment. It’s really about making your company more impactful across all of the areas covered in the BIA: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers. Hiring a B Corp Consultant is really an investment in a specialist to help you improve your company’s overall impact, with B Corp certification being a specific outcome of your work together.

A good B Corp Consultant should certainly understand the certification process and B Lab’s verification requirements. Plus, they should be knowledgeable about a number of different fields, ranging from JEDI (justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion) to sustainability, and should be able to help you make significant improvements to how your run your company.

If you do decide to hire a consultant, recognize that choosing a B Corp Consultant is similar to selecting a consultant in any field – you’ll want to know about their background and experience, ability to deliver results, and fit for your company.

These are some things to consider:

  1. B Corp Certification – this is quite simple: are they a Certified B Corp themselves? The experienced and committed B Corp Consultants in the community have all certified their own businesses. They’re meeting high standards for social and environmental responsibility in their own companies and have experience as business owners in running a B Corp. If someone is marketing themselves as a B Corp Consultant but has not certified their own business, it’s worth asking why. Personally, this is the one qualification that I would absolutely look for.
  2. Overall Experience – how long has the B Corp Consultant been working in this field? Are they just getting started or have they been doing this for years? It’s fair to ask a consultant how many companies they’ve worked with and what their track record is, and of course to also check for testimonials and references. Ultimately, you want to be sure that they can they deliver on what they say they’ll deliver. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with choosing someone who is just getting started (we all start without experience); you just want to know that when you hire them.
  3. Specialization – as the B Corp consulting field grows, consultants are increasingly specializing by industry, company size, or geographic region. Similar to how marketing consultants may specialize in ecommerce businesses vs. service businesses, so too some B Corp Consultants may have experience in some industries more than others. For example, Cultivating Capital has helped apparel and footwear companies certify as B Corps, so we’re quite familiar with the BIA performance standards for the industry, the improvement opportunities, and documentation requirements. However, we don’t have experience in the farming industry. An apparel & footwear company might want to hire us based on our industry experience, while an agricultural company may decide not to hire us. This is totally understandable – we won’t be the best fit, but another consultant might be just perfect for them. 
  4. Resources Beyond Templates – Companies working on certification are frequently interested in getting access to templates, which is understandable because they will save time. However, any B Corp Consultant worth their salt has templates to share. Templates may have been a differentiator in 2013 or even 2018, but they’re not in 2023. Rather than asking if they have templates, find out what resources they have available besides templates, or better yet, find out how the consultant has actually helped companies to bring to life the policies that are reflected on the templates. 
  5. Results – What results will the B Corp Consultant provide to you? Ultimately the certification itself is outside the hands of any consultant – only B Lab can certify you – so it’s worth asking in advance if the consultant has had any companies not get certified and how they have handled it. I once spoke with a woman who worked with a consultant but didn’t get certified. When I asked what follow-up assistance the consultant offered, she said nothing, the consulting engagement had just ended. (Personally, I can’t imagine doing that to someone, so Cultivating Capital clients always get my personal guarantee that I won’t leave them hanging.) It’s helpful to be clear about the results that the consultant will be delivering.
  6. Community Engagement– B Corp isn’t just a certification – the B Corp movement is about working towards an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy that benefits all people through the leadership of companies that are transforming business practices. Many B Corp Consultants are active supporters of this movement, which they demonstrate through involvement with their B Local group or other collective action groups such as WeTheChange and the Climate Collective. Consultants who are more involved with the community will be better positioned to help you integrate into the community yourself, which is one of the best benefits of B Corp certification.
  7. Engagement Terms & Fees – As you’re evaluating consultants, you’ll inevitably want to know about their engagement terms and fees. Consultants may work on an hourly rate, on retainer, or offer package rates. As with consultants in any other field, you’ll likely find a range of support options from less expensive to more expensive based on the individual’s experience, industry expertise, and service offerings.

As you can see, you have a number of options available to you as you work on your certification or recertification. Hiring a consultant is an option, but not the only one. The only time that I would absolutely recommend hiring a consultant is if you’ve already tried to get certified on your own but fell short during the review process. In these cases, the outside expertise can make all the difference between being a B Corp or not. (If you’re in this situation, feel free to contact us as we’ve helped others in this situation.)

Whatever route you decide to take, embarking on your B Corp journey is both exciting and transformative! You’ll learn a ton, and your company will be better for it.

Would you like help with your B Corp Certification?

Complete the form below to find out how we can help your company become a B Corp.