Australian B-Corp registrations double in two years as more companies meet high ESG benchmarks

Australian B-Corp registrations double in two years as more companies meet high ESG benchmarks

Kirsty Dare, COO at electric vehicle (EV) sharing platform evee, which became B Corp certified in January.

Achieving B Corp certification is no easy feat for a business, with stringent requirements around commitments and actions to effect positive environmental and social impact, but hundreds of Australian companies have risen to the challenge in recent years.

Recent examples in early 2024 include electric vehicle (EV) sharing platform evee, wine producer Australian Vintage (ASX: AVG), Ben Shewry's famed Melbourne restaurant Attica, social enterprise Code Like a Girl, and carbon accounting platform Trace. 

It is currently B Corp Month worldwide, and statistics shared with Business News Australia from the certifying movement B Lab show that between January 2022 and January 2024 the community of certified B Corps in Australia and New Zealand rose from 315 to 660.

There are now 682 B Corps in the region, of which 540 are headquartered in Australia, generating combined revenue of $20 billion. This represents an outsized share considering the relatively small populations of Australia and New Zealand, with the number of certifications in the region accounting for around 8.5 per cent of the 8,000-strong global community. 

Aside from the high environmental and social impact standards of the certification, participating businesses must also transparently publish their impact profile and make a formal, legal commitment to being accountable to all stakeholders; a binding pledge that B Lab describes as a significant change to traditional governance models.

"The rapid growth in Certified B Corporations over the last two years reflects increasing recognition that our economic system needs to change," says Andrew Davies, CEO of B Lab Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.

"It’s no longer acceptable for businesses to pursue profits at the expense of people and the planet.

"Over 500 B Corps in Australia and over 8000 worldwide are showing that it’s possible to deliver positive environmental and social impact whilst staying financially healthy as a for-profit company."

Other well-known Australia-based companies that passed the hurdles necessary for B Corp status in late 2023 include period and incontinence underwear brand ModiBodi, fast-growing natural pet food powerhouse Lyka, and compostable packaging outfit HeapsGood, joining a list that also includes MoneyMe (ASX: MME), Aussie Broadband (ASX: ABB), Unchained Solutions, Samsara Eco, Young Henrys and Heaps Normal.

"B Corps are businesses that are going beyond compliance to voluntarily be held accountable for their impact, and meet higher standards than ordinary businesses. This is the type of leadership we need from all businesses, and it goes against the increasingly outdated idea that businesses need fewer rules or standards to thrive," Davies tells Business News Australia

"In recent years, we have welcomed more large, complex businesses, multinationals, and listed companies to the B Corp community. This is exciting because while small and medium enterprises are crucial drivers of innovation and economic development, the reality is that in order to transform the economy, we have to transform big business too.

"To realise our goal of an inclusive, equitable and regenerative economic system, we need businesses of all shapes, sizes and sectors to deliver positive impact to people and planet alongside the generation of profit."

Davies points to growth in B Corp certifications across diverse industries in Australia, particularly in sectors that have had the spotlight on them or those that are feeling the pinch of rising customer expectations. 

"Leading businesses in apparel and retail, management consulting and professional services, and financial services have stepped up to demonstrate that they are meeting high standards of environmental and social impact," he says.

"Gaining B Corp Certification and committing to ongoing transparency and accountability shows employees, investors, customers and suppliers that they’re doing what they say they’re doing. In a world awash with false or exaggerated claims, being credible matters.

"Increasing scrutiny and regulation on greenwashing and rising customer, employee and investor expectations are all driving more businesses to review their environmental and social impact and change their practices for the better. B Corp provides a practical framework and tools to take real action towards using business as a force for good."

But is it worth the effort? Davies explains that the reasons behind certification and the benefits gained vary.

"Benefits include gaining independent validation and benchmarking best practice, attracting employees, customers, investors, and joining a community of like minded businesses who are willing to collaborate to solve common problems," he says.

"Many businesses tell us that the rigour of the certification process is invaluable for aligning their team and organisation on their impact, and identifying strengths and areas for improvement."

He emphasises that by becoming B Corp certified, a business joins a global movement of aligned businesses working to improve outcomes for people and planet, which opens doors to commercial and collective impact opportunities. 

"An example of this is Down Under Enterprises, an Australian B Corp that grows, produces, and exports wholesale Australian essential oils to manufacturers worldwide," he says.

"Down Under Enterprises recently joined the B Beauty Coalition, an alliance of about 60 Certified B Corp beauty companies who are working to collectively improve social and environmental standards within the global beauty industry.

"There’s a natural alignment of values that fast-tracks collaboration. There are many examples of this, such as Danone and Synlait partnering in regenerative agriculture research or Bassike, Sample Coffee and Davines collaborating on instore promotions this B Corp Month. 

"Not to mention the number of B Corps are choosing to bank with B Corp banks or engage B Corp agencies to provide services. It’s a community that is committed to each other and united in a shared vision."

Case studies

Australian Vintage

Australian Vintage, known for such wine brands as Tempus Two, McGuigan Wines and Nepenthe, joins domestic winemakers Minimum Wines and Unico Zelo, and highlights its pride in being part of a movement with other purpose-driven brands like Who Gives A Crap, KeepCup, Patagonia, and KMD Brands (ASX: KMD), which owns Rip Curl, Kathmandu, and Oboz.

"As a B Corp, we join a movement of businesses committed to transforming the global economy to benefit all people, communities and the planet," says Australian Vintage chief marketing officer Tom Dusseldorp.

"We’re in business to make good wine that is truly good. This certification took collaboration across the entire Australian Vintage team and is a reflection of sustainable, inclusive and industry leading practices that were at the heart of the organisation."

Australian Vintage's Buronga Hill Winery has a large solar farm installation.
Australian Vintage's Buronga Hill Winery has a large solar farm installation. 

 

Dusseldorp says Australian Vintage's impact strategy is built on "thriving people, nurturing nature and prosperity with purpose", with key sustainability highlights including all of its 2,400 hectares of leased and owned vineyards being certified by Sustainable Winegrowing Australia, featuring regenerative viticulture practices that support water, soil and biodiversity.

The group's impact strategy also includes a planned complete transition to 100 per cent renewable electricity across all sites this year, while its Buronga Hill Winery is home to one of Australia’s largest privately owned solar farms with 14,000 panels generating two million-plus kW a year. 

Australian Vintage also has a net zero 2040 target with an Environment, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) guided roadmap, and has a target to make all its packaging recyclable by 2025 with 81 per cent of its packaging currently meeting that benchmark.

To further its social credentials, the vintner highlights continued innovation in the no and low alcohol category and spirits categories to offer choice, and an employee benefits program including 26 weeks paid leave for primary carers, loyalty leave, work from anywhere, paid volunteer days, sabbaticals, and birthday leave.

Australian Vintage also highlights recognition for increased female representation across the company, including leadership.

The company has also entered responsible enjoyment partnerships with DrinksWise (Australia) and Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAP)(UK).

evee

Evee chief operating officer Kirsty Dare emphasises environmental impact is already at the heart of its business, through a mission to accelerate the adoption of EVs powered by renewables for a cleaner future for all. 

"Therefore pursuing B Corp certification felt like a natural next step for us, to ensure that impact was woven into every area of our business: from the way we look after our staff and give back to our community, to how we advocate for the causes we care about and show up as an environmental ally," Dare wrote in a blog post.

"By becoming a B Corp, we are also holding ourselves to account, as our impact score is public and we’re committing to continued improvement each time we recertify.

"Becoming a B Corp was a 12-month journey, and was a joint effort involving the whole team. We completed the B Impact Assessment (BIA), which is a free tool that any company can use to measure and improve their impact."

In order to become a B Corp, the BIA tracks an applicant's social and environmental performance within five key areas - governance, workers, community, environment, and customers - and needs 80 points or more. Evee scored 105.

"The B Corp framework inspired us to implement new programs, policies and procedures during this time, which would increase our impact and score before we were ready to certify," Dare said.

These include:

  • Menstrual leave policy, to support employees impacted by the symptoms of menstruation and menopause;
  • Supplier impact survey, to track the impact and diverse ownership of its supply chain;
  • Formal donations commitment, currently 0.5 per cent of revenue, donated to environmental charities that share its mission;
  • Learning and development budget for all staff, to continue our investment in their growth;
  • Compassionate leave policy that includes companion animals, as “family” may look different for some people;
  • Flexible work hours to accommodate the team’s lives outside of work and different working styles; and
  • Offsetting the company’s carbon emissions to become a carbon neutral organisation.

"Throughout the certification process, we underwent rigorous assessments of our company’s impact, governance, and transparency. We will need to recertify every three years, but we intend to improve our impact on an annual basis by setting impact goals each financial year," Dare said.

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