How do you recognize a sustainable company?

Perhaps the B Corp certificate.

More than three thousand companies worldwide have the certificate.

Not only do they have a high score on sustainability criteria, but they also promise in their statutes to represent the interests of 'people, the environment and society'.

Will this remain some kind of marketing, or are these companies really an alternative to profit thinking?

'B Corp' is short for

benefit corporation


It is a certificate issued by the non-profit organization B Lab.

Basically a kind of quality mark - and there are quite a few of them.

"We distinguish ourselves because we don't look at a product, but at the entire company", says Hubertine Roessingh, Benelux director of B Lab Europe.

"And we distinguish ourselves because with the certified companies we want to create a business network of like-minded people who want to commit themselves to a new kind of economy."

Much interest among Dutch companies

Companies can score up to 200 points on various criteria, from social diversity and inclusiveness to environmental impact.

You will receive the certificate with a score of at least 80 and an amendment to the statutes.

That does not mean that entrepreneurs will be thrown into the desired label, according to the figures that Roessingh shares.

“We see a lot of enthusiasm in the Netherlands: more than three thousand Dutch companies use our tools.

"It is important to us that B Corp wants to set the entire economy in motion."

Koen Jonker, Triodos

Yet rejection can also be valuable for a company, she explains: "The audit that these companies go through is not only intended to measure their impact, but to actually improve social and environmental performance."

So you can make a targeted retry after a rejection.

From chocolate and mattresses to a sustainable sofa

Dutch companies that carry the label include mattress manufacturer Auping and Dopper, maker of (sustainable) drinking water bottles.

And Tony's Chocolonely, the second Dutch company to become B Corp in 2013, tells communications specialist Tim de Broekert of the chocolate maker.

One of the larger Dutch certificants is Triodos Bank: "It is important to us that B Corp wants to set the entire economy in motion. This means that it has a different objective than many other, often more sector-driven labels," says Koen Jonker of Triodos.

"As a sustainable bank, we also assess the sustainability of the companies and the projects that receive a loan or investment from us. That is why it is valuable to gain experience with the methodology that B Lab uses to guide companies through the certification process."

Will the bar be set higher in business?

You could see the strategic idea behind all sustainable quality marks as raising the bar.

Companies demonstrate that they meet non-commercial criteria and thus distinguish themselves from other companies.

They may then be challenged to take steps.

"If you want to stay in that imagery, instead of raising the bar, I would rather speak of raising the soil," says Professor Derk Loorbach, head of DRIFT, the institute for transition studies at Erasmus University Rotterdam.

From a transition perspective, it's about how your mission contributes to the system change you want to achieve, says Loorbach.

Do we want to stop climate change?

Or are we striving for a fair and circular global economy?

Then the question is whether the steps of the initiative are radical enough.

Loorbach: "As a company you can have the B Corp certificate, while you are still running on fossil energy or have an open raw materials cycle. Profit maximization can also still be the underlying goal."

'Too many freedoms in the current market'

According to the transition scientist, this is not the fault of the B Corp initiative, but rather of the established culture and the lack of rules and laws to put the social interest first.

"B Corp is without a doubt a good movement, a vanguard of social, sustainable entrepreneurs. In essence, it is about indicating in your articles of association that you will reinvest a large part of the profit in your social mission. That is a step. "

"Without political direction, structural change will stall."

Derk Loorbach, Erasmus University Rotterdam

"But the underlying problem is that in the current market the opposite is allowed, and profit efficiency is considered normal. So on the one hand you have to be happy that some companies are making the commitment themselves and getting their affairs in order as well as possible, but on the other hand. on the other hand, note that without political direction, structural change will stall. "

The B Corps are themselves aware of this and are trying to change it, says De Broekert of Tony's Chocolonely.

"This summer, together with a number of other companies, we sent a letter to Minister Kaag with a call for legislation that allows companies to take more responsibility for the impact on people and the environment."

Some companies therefore try to make the business world more sustainable from below as well as from above.

Whether or not they succeed may rather depend on all other companies - and politics.