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Can you help me, because my certification seems to be taking ages?!

Because of the delay times, we have a lot of companies asking us to chase B Lab on their certification status. Here is some information to help you understand the situation.

Some Clarity

On Shoremount & John Featherby

Shoremount is a Certified B Corp, it is not part of B Lab (the certification body). John Featherby (Founder, Shoremount) is a B Lab Ambassador, not an employee/board member for B Lab. John's Ambassadorial role is due to his length of engagement, knowledgebase and the fact that he runs a B Corp. John is part of a small pilot of Outside Verifier pilot, exploring how to scale up the analyst work. Whilst the pilot members have more working knowledge of the assessment and verification than anyone else who isn't an employee, they are still not "insiders".

On Clients/Not Clients

Helping companies navigate the certification is something Shoremount does as part of its client service offering. In scenarios where we can help outside of a client dynamic, it will be out of relationship and as a favour. Do feel free to ask - we are keen to encourage this movement - but please bear with us whilst we do our best to help you in amongst all our other priorities.

As an advance warning, if you are not a client and want us to help, we will need you to add us to your B Impact Assessment as a team member, which will give us full access to your assessment. 

See: "How (and why) do I add Team Members to your B Impact Assessment?"

On The Average Waiting Period

The average waiting period from submission to certification is around 7 months. And this assumes there are no unexpected contents within your application. This is not a quick process. It never has been but it is has slowed down recently. You need to expect it to take at least this long.

On The Process

All the applying companies are put into a very regimented, orderly certification process. The speed with which you make it through will depend on internal factors that are mostly fixed in place and the odd variable along the lines of analyst availability.

So, even if we were insiders, we couldn't speed it up for you; notwithstanding that would be a conflict of interest.

What We Can't Do (Sorry!)

We cannot force your application to go faster than B Lab's internal process will allow.

We are not insiders that can "make things happen".

We can't provide regular reports on progress: any help can only be ad hoc at the appropriate moments.

We cannot provide authorisation for you to use/not use any of the B Corp branding assets (Pending or full B Corp) outside of B Lab's own instructions.

We cannot provide internal B Corp emails for you to make your own contact. You must follow the process laid out in the B Impact Assessment. Even if you did have them, they would only refer you back to the BIA.

What We Can Do

De-risking

One of the values of having Shoremount involved is that we de-risk your application. We know what B Lab does/does not want to see. This can mean you progress through some of the earlier phases quicker than you might otherwise as you are not setting off red flags etc. If you are asking us to help and you were not a client prior to submission, it is probably too late to make those changes. We are happy to review it for you but, in all likelihood, your application has been locked down. As such, you will need permission and an explanation as to why it needs changing.

Momentum

The best thing we can help you do is stay on top of the notifications within your BIA and give prompt, clear answers to a) keep the pace up and b) reduce the number of conversations with B Lab.  You should assume you will be given one chance to respond to B Lab on a verification query. They don't have the time or resource to engage in lengthy discussions, so make sure it is a good and thorough one.

Checking In

We can check in with B Lab intermittently to check nothing obvious has been missed; this does happen from time to time but it is a rarity. We only tend to push on this check-in if an application has been unattended for longer than the average waiting times and/or there appears to be something wrong with the communication exchange within the verification report; e.g. an analyst isn't following up on a particular query.

Final Thoughts

On Timing

B Corp certification takes time. It is not the normal certification process that companies are used to; where it happens relatively quickly.  It is this level of due diligence and thoroughness that has given B Corp the brand value it has. If you are keen to be certified because you think the brand has strong credibility, then hold in the balance that a longer process is partly responsible for that.

On Certification vs Movement

The certification definitely matters. It does to Shoremount and it does to every other B Corp. But B Corp is not like normal certifications. It is a movement first.

As such, it is only very recently that the certification itself has taken on the meaning it has today. Whilst being part of the community was an exciting development, the badge carried far less market value than it does now a) as hardly anyone knew about it and b) most B Corps were codifying what they were already doing. They didn't need to signal to the marketplace who they were because they were already stand out examples: Ben & Jerry's, Patagonia, The Body Shop, Innocent Drinks, Ella's Kitchen etc. But they did want to create a community others would be part of and raise the profile of business as a force for good via collective voice.

Our prayer has been answered, as such: other companies now want to use the B Corp movement and certification as a means to becoming more purpose led and to demonstrate to the world that they too are philosophically aligned. This is exactly what we hoped for. But, nevertheless, it is a shift in energy for B Lab to scale up to support a) the large numbers of companies now applying, b) meet the changing expectations where "being certified" carries more importance than it used to and c) manage the increased risk that accompanies this cohort of companies applying to become a B Corp.

On Messaging

Ideally, B Corp should form just one component of a much larger strategic and cultural exercise about who you are and what you are doing. We encourage our clients to hold B Corp in harmony with these other activities and to adopt an authentic messaging strategy that means you are not placing too much investment into being certified. This is wiser both strategically and in terms of your emotional energy.

This can include talking about B Corp prior to being certified:

What are some good reasons to be open about your B Corp ambitions prior to certification?



Please Still Make Contact...

None of the above is designed to put you off asking for help. It is simply to answer some of your questions ahead of time, be really clear about what we can/can't do and explain how B Lab is having to evolve to meet new demand.

Do please feel free to make contact to share how you're progressing. We'd love to hear from you, add some value if we can and build some new relationships. It's always a joy to connect with companies trying to pursue this way of doing business.

Whatever happens, we wish you every best  and expediency with your application! :-) 

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  1. John Featherby

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