As impact investment has become a prevailing paradigm in the business world, a standardized framework for measuring just how much impact businesses have created is much-needed to encourage improvements and safeguard stakeholders’ interests. In this feature, we introduce three third-party organizations that provide consultancy or certification services alongside the impact measurement tools that they have developed. Although the methodologies behind these tools differ, they share the same united mission of empowering impact businesses to address social and environmental challenges.
BSR’s Healthy Company Coalition – Broadening The Definition Of Health
Founded in 1991 by a group of social entrepreneurs, Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) is a non-profit organization that is driving the sustainable movement with its member companies through providing consulting services and catalyzing cross-sector collaborations
“The Healthy Business Metrics Guide” was published by BSR in 2016, aiming to help businesses of different sizes and sectors build up a “healthy business” by creating impact for their consumers, employees, supply chains and communities. The NGO believes that health encompasses more than one’s mental or physical condition, and takes into consideration societal and economic issues for a more well-rounded view of one’s well-being.
In order to build up a healthy business, the guideline suggests four scopes of action to facilitate companies to bring about holistic impact, these are: Workforce and Operations, Products and Services, Community Engagement and Policy and Advocacy. The guideline also lays out a comprehensive list of outcomes with clear definitions and metrics for each action, allowing companies to measure their impact with a standardized approach. Besides that, the guideline recommends appointing “internal partners” that are accountable for each action, enabling more members within the company to contribute to a healthy business. For instance, marketing and communications departments would be the lead for both Community Engagement as well as Products and Services.
Cradle To Cradle Product Program – The Impact Of A Responsible Manufacturer
With the mission of creating a circular economy, the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute is an NGO that certifies products meeting the requirements of its Product Standard. The institute hopes that the program incentivizes companies to create a positive impact on society and the market through manufacturing closed-loop products.
While most impact measurement programs evaluate the impact of a business, Cradle to Cradle’s program measures the impact of a product. The institute awards all submitted products an achievement level (Basic, Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum) based on their carbon footprint, water usage, social fairness, material health and reutilization. With the belief that products meeting their standards have a positive impact on the market, the institute also considers a product’s re-marketing and risk management strategy during the assessment process. The tier system provides private or commercial consumers a clear indicator enabling them to select products that fit their lifestyle choices or manufacturing standards. Cradle to Cradle has also compiled an online registry listing out all products meeting its certification requirements, making the information transparent, accessible and reducing the risk of fraudulent certifications.
As the certification expires every two years, companies who wish to retain a valid certification standard need to demonstrate efforts to maintain the quality of their products through submission of up-to-date data to the institute. Products awarded the Basic level at the renewal assessment might not be recertified; therefore, this program is not only for consumers to understand the quality of a product, but also encourages companies to optimize their manufacturing processes through employing innovative solutions.
B Corporation Impact Assessment – Comparing Your Impact With Others
B Corporation certifies companies that find a good balance between social purpose and profit making, encouraging them to make changes through establishing responsible businesses. The organization has already certified over 3,000 companies spanning various sectors including apparel, healthcare and renewable energy.
As a first step, companies need to complete its online tool “B Impact Assessment”, which is a free test that takes less than a day. The questions in this online assessment are developed by an advisory board formed by a group of experts and leaders from the private sector and academia, evaluating a company’s governance as well as its impact on workers, environment and the community. B Corporation will then perform a background check to finalize a score on a scale of 0 to 200, with companies scoring over 80 qualifying for a certification.
With thousands of companies having already completed the assessment, the system is able to locate your score against others on the same scale, helping companies optimize their impact by comparing their performance with other businesses. The assessment reports are transparent to the public, and accessible on B Corporate’s website. This online assessment is free of charge but companies need to pay an annual fee for using the B Corp certification mark. As a side note, since “B Corp” is an existing legal entity in countries like Italy and the US, companies may need to meet the legal requirements for getting the certification in these countries and are advised to consult their local authorities before submitting an application.
About Business for Social Respnsibility (BSR)
Key Aspects: Workforce and Operations, Products and Services, Community Engagement, Policy and Advocacy
Principle: Public Health
Partner Companies: Google, Microsoft, Kering
About Cradle to Cradle
Key Aspects: Carbon Footprint, Water Usage, Social Fairness, Material Health, Material Reutilization
Principle: Circular Economy
Participating Companies: C&A, G-Star Raw, Puma
About B Corporation
Key Aspects: Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, Customers
Principle: Becoming a B Corp
Participating Companies: allbirds , Ben & Jerry, Etsy, Patagonia