B Corp - More Than A Badge

For B Corp month 2024, Clare Godfrey, Head of Purpose Integration & B Corp at Danone UK & Ireland, explains what it really means to be a B Corp.


March marks B-Corp month – a month to highlight the way B Corps all around the world are going beyond business to be a force for good. This year’s theme is ‘This Way Forward’ - so what better time to reflect on the impact we’ve made so far in the UK & Ireland, and look ahead to some of the changes we still want to make. 


But first...let’s bust some myths.  

'It's easier for big companies to become B Corps'

Many people may think it’s a quick win for multinational corporations to become a B Corp, with the badge ‘just being another certification’ with no real meaning. But for us that’s really not the case. 


In order to become a B Corp, companies have to meet rigorous criteria to showcase positive impact under five key categories: governance, workers, community, the environment and customers.


Of course, this is a stringent process for businesses of any size, because it’s all relative. For Danone, we have an ambition to be globally certified by 2025. And each of our individual country units need to certify separately in order to meet that. This is no mean feat. In the UK & Ireland we had a significant undertaking over a matter of years to bring together the various elements of our business, including all of our brands, under one certification. 


It’s not a case of the whole organisation getting the B Corp badge – all areas need to showcase their impact and complete a rigorous assessment. As a company operating across a wide range of categories – from infant and medical nutrition, to plant based, dairy and waters – it's safe to say our certification was a pretty significant milestone! We’ve been fully certified across the UK & Ireland region since 2021 and we’re on a continuous journey of improvement, with the B Corp ethos an important driver of our day to day work. This year, we are re-certifying the whole region, that’s two offices, five Supply Points and covers the amazing work of 2,400 Danoners! 


‘Big B Corps just care about profits’

For the B Corp movement to truly be impactful, you need businesses of all sizes to work together, each offering their own individual perspective on ‘better business’. Some people have the view that multinational corporations don’t fit within the B Corp movement and that their involvement can even compromise credibility. In reality, you need businesses of various sizes and outputs to really raise the profile of the B Corp badge amongst a wide range of communities. 


Because B Corps drive much more than profits. Together the B Corp community can help drive purpose and promote the importance of responsible business. Community is the ethos of B Corp and it’s important that B Corps are supporting each other and seeking opportunities to work together, learn from each other and open up conversations on how to make an impact on a global scale. 


While the B Corp certification is a mark of trust – it’s down to the actions and values of businesses that really make the certification ring true. As one of the largest B Corps in the UK & Ireland, we’re committed to being a force for good – through our brands and also through using our corporate reputation. Our health commitments as an organisation mean that we’re prioritising healthy products within our portfolio in the UK & Ireland, with over 90% of our portfolio being non HFSS (High in Fats, Sugar and Salts). We want to make sure people can access both healthy and tasty products – health really is our focus.


These are just a couple of examples of where we’re using our business as a force for good. But there’s many other areas too – from our own internal culture at Danone, to sustainability within our brands and initiatives.  


‘B Corp doesn’t require meaningful change within business’ 

Having the B Corp certification doesn’t mean your work is done once you have the badge on your products, in fact this is just the start. There is general criticism that large multinational B Corps are just ‘less bad’, rather than intrinsically good. But that couldn’t be further from the truth for Danone. In fact, as a purpose led organisation we recognised and acted on our people and planet responsibilities long before the B Corp certification existed. In 1972, Danone’s then global CEO Antoine Riboud made a ground-breaking speech in Marseille, where he declared that a company’s responsibility does not end at the factory gate or office door. It has to go beyond that so that communities can thrive. And this is an idea that truly drives our business.


It’s why Danone first joined the B Corp movement in 2015. For us, becoming a verified B Corp was a great external validation of the way we have actually been operating for years. That said, and this can be said for ALL B corps, regardless of size, we are not perfect. The challenges of today and tomorrow are growing. Some of them will take longer to address than others. But we know what we need to do, we have a plan and we are committed to getting there. 


And being a B Corp challenges you to look within your business and identify areas where you can strive for more. Because being a B Corp is about continuous improvement and adapting to an ever-changing world, which is bound to throw new challenges our way.  Looking ahead, one of our key challenges at Danone in the UK & Ireland is exploring more ways we can reduce our carbon roadmap. And we’re also continuing to work towards 100% recyclable packaging.


B Lab themselves are also evolving and adapting to make sure the movement is robust and responsive to future challenges. They have recognised and listened to their stakeholders in the need to adapt their standards, and we are fully supportive of the ongoing consultation. With big challenges ahead – like climate change – it's important that the certification represents companies who can meaningfully demonstrate how they are making impact – and how they intend to make impact – when it comes to social and environmental crises. 


So what’s next for us? Ensuring we are upholding the B Corp standards remains a priority. Danone UK & Ireland will be undergoing our recertification this year – and globally we’re still pushing forward to be fully certified by 2025!