To B Corp

For a financial services company, achieving B Corp certification can provide visible evidence that it is actively conducting business in a way that benefits all
by David Burrows


Investors are increasingly aware of the ethical and environmental credentials of their portfolios and financial products. A host of surveys show that customers increasingly factor in sustainability and responsibility to their decision-making – even more so post-Covid.

Financial services firms, therefore, need to not only advocate for responsible investing but also evidence in their operations and business models that they are practising what they preach. As Barry Horner CFP™ Chartered MCSI, CEO of B Corp certified UK financial planning firm Paradigm Norton, says: “You can’t expect clients to do one thing and you do something completely different.”

B Corp certification proves that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors ranging from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials.

Definition and global reach

Certified B corporations, or B Corps, are companies verified by B Lab, a non-profit network. B Lab was founded in 2006 in the US, and the first B Corps were certified in 2007. Today, there are B Labs across the world, including Australia, East Africa, mainland Europe and North and South America.

As of 29 March, B Lab says that there are over 6,513 B Corps globally, in 89 countries, across 161 industries, employing over 565,185 workers.

How to obtain B Corp certification

B Corp has a rigorous accreditation process, assessing a company's performance on a points system and measuring against five key categories or pillars, shown below.

Companies register with B Lab for a free and confidential B Impact Assessment – a questionnaire that measures a firm’s social and environmental performance. The B Lab site explains that the specific questions that appear in an assessment depend on the company’s sector, size, and location. Each question is assigned a relative weighting based on the level of difficulty in implementing the practice and the directness of the indicator’s positive impact on all stakeholders, the community, and the environment. Questions measuring specific outputs and outcomes are generally more heavily weighted than questions about policies and practices.

B Lab then gives the candidate a baseline score, which must be 80 points or more for the company to pass (points are on a scale from 0 to 200). If the candidate is under the 80-point benchmark, B Lab highlights any areas of weakness and provides a clear roadmap for improvements. The 80 points do not need to be evenly split between the five pillars. For instance, 35 points could be from governance but only 15 from environment. Once the 80-point benchmark has been reached, the company again submits the B Impact Assessment for review. An analyst from B Lab Global will examine the company structure as well as all the answers provided in the assessment. 

At the next stage of the process – verification – B Lab asks for information about employees and suppliers, and an analyst will review the candidate’s supporting documentation. 

Once the supporting documentation has been reviewed and the company meets the verified 80-point threshold, it is asked to sign the B Corp Agreement and is then certified. But that isn’t quite the end. B Corp accredited firms need to apply for re-certification every three years. They will use the B Impact Assessment and the certification process as a tool for continuous improvement. 

The time demands involved are considerable and the rigorous process requires clear commitment at boardroom level

George King, Chartered MCSI, senior wealth manager at B Corp certified Maseco Private Wealth UK, is a strong advocate of B Corp certification. London-based Maseco became the UK's first financial services firm to achieve the certification in 2013.


For Maseco, most of the points accrued were related to ‘workers’ with fewer points related to ‘environment’. How the necessary 80 points are split often depends on the nature and structure of the business in question. As George points out, a large manufacturing plant is probably able to make bigger changes relating to the environment – in the areas of waste management and energy usage, for example – than a financial services firm. 


UK firms must pay a one-off assessment submission fee of £250 (plus VAT) to B Lab.

All B Corps must pay annual certification fees, which are calculated based on their company’s total revenue on the most recent set of audited accounts. For instance, for a company with annual sales of £1m, the annual certification fee would be £2,000. For a company with sales of £10m, the fee would be £6,000 and for a firm with sales of £100m, the fee would be £30,000. The fee bands can be checked on the B Lab site.

Annual sales

Annual certification fee





































Benefits of B Corp

Barry Horner does not see the financial costs associated with B Corp as being in any way prohibitive, but he does think the time demands involved are considerable and that the rigorous process involved in B Corp accreditation requires “clear commitment at boardroom level or it will fall by the wayside”. In Paradigm Norton’s case, from the initial preparation stage to achieving accreditation took 18 months.

George King agrees that time is a key consideration. He explains that many firms when they hear about B Corp respond that it resonates with the ethos of their business. But they come to realise that it is a significant pledge – not just something you can pay lip service to. The process demands huge change, he says, requiring some firms to review all their policies, and effectively move to a “multi-stakeholder approach”.

It is a big commitment, and as George stresses, for some firms, there may be a couple of years preparing the groundwork before applying for B Corp certification and then several months to achieve accreditation. 

Paradigm Norton is currently in the middle of its re-certification (it was initially B Corp accredited in 2019) process – evidence that the company thinks all the effort is worthwhile. Barry notes an ongoing positive effect across all the pillars, with a team member allocated to each of the five categories to improve average scores across all areas.

A wholesale environmental assessment of the company and its premises (considering details like electric charging points and energy efficiency) established that the biggest factor in terms of carbon emissions was its clients’ portfolios. So, Paradigm Norton introduced a tighter screening process in investment portfolio construction, and wherever possible replaced conventional funds with responsible equivalents. As Barry explains, the emphasis is on showing clients that there is no impact on financial returns by excluding certain sectors (for instance arms manufacture, pornography, gambling) in an investment portfolio. “With all things being equal, why wouldn’t a client choose a responsible fund?”

George King agrees that the B Impact Assessment sternly tests a company's governance structure and accountability. He stresses the importance of diversity at boardroom level, management, and within recruitment. Of equal importance is employee welfare – offering the right support at the right level.

More practical demonstrations might include how a firm disposes of old electrical equipment, for example. Have suppliers been vetted for how they manage waste? What is being recycled, and what is going to landfill? 

George also notes the importance of monitoring to ensure accurate data can be captured – and from that data, meaningful improvements initiated.

Kate Hewitt, ESG & impact specialist at asset manager Montanaro, sees the benefits of B Corp firms pulling together to raise standards and increase awareness of what constitutes good practice. Montanaro participates in the B Corporation Finance & Investment Working Group, a group of certified B Corps in the industry working together on best practice initiatives.

“As part of this initiative, we led a group of investment boutiques to COP26 to discuss the benefits of being a B Corp in the financial sector”, she says.

US perspective

Financial planning firm Modernist Financial, in Portland, Oregon, became B Corp accredited in 2017. Georgia Lee Hussey, founder and CEO, explains that the company uses the B Corp benchmarks to guide its policies and goals for employee benefits and community impact. 

As Modernist Financial has grown, it has increased its annual giving from 1% of total revenue in 2016, to 1.5% in 2018, to 3% annually since 2020. 

B Corp provides donation ranges, but not necessarily guidance, and allows companies to determine their capacity to give. The ‘Community’ module within the B Corp assessment asks candidates about the “percentage of revenue donated to charity during the last fiscal year”.

There are seven possible answers for 3.84 total possible points:

  • No donations last fiscal year
  • 0.1– 0.4% of revenue
  • 0.5 – 1% of revenue
  • 1.1-2.5% of revenue = 2.3/3.84 points awarded
  • 2.5-5% of revenue 3.07/3.84 points awarded = 80% of points
  • 5% of revenue – 3.84/3.84 total possible points

Georgia adds that B Corp’s tax planning guidance has also been a helpful resource to provide to sceptical tax advisers and allied professionals who misconstrue the fiduciary duty as meaning they should work to reduce clients’ tax bills as much as possible. “Being a B Corp helps us walk our talk – it keeps us accountable,” she says.

For Georgia, the legal requirement that comes with B Corp accreditation to consider the impact of the work of Modernist Financial on all its stakeholders, including its employees, suppliers, clients, community and the environment, ultimately benefits the business.  She says these business benefits include robust employee benefits, comprehensive financial life planning for clients, regular pro-bono work and consistent charitable giving.

Moving forward

Are there any drawbacks to B Corp? George King believes that ‘drawbacks’ is too strong a word, but he thinks there are some areas where it can be improved. “I think the fact that the 80-point count can be accrued in just one or two categories is something that should be reviewed. And I believe it is currently being looked at.”       

It is. B Lab is currently working towards an update of its assessment standards in 2024.

The standards are moving away from a flexible approach linked to achieving an 80-point score across a range of criteria, to one where all B Corps must meet non-negotiable requirements on ten specific topics that define leadership on social, governance, and environmental business impact.

The good news is the number of B Corp accredited companies is growing – though it is still from a relatively low base given the number of companies out there.

In March 2023 there were approximately 6,513 B Corps globally. At the end of March 2022, there were 4,561 and at the end of March 2021, there were 3,385.

  • B Lab U.S. and Canada currently has 2,159
  • B Corps, B Lab UK has 1,224
  • B Lab Europe has 1,215
  • Sistema B in Chile has 1,032
  • B Lab Australia and New Zealand has 527

The full list of B Lab partners includes B Lab China, B Lab East Africa, B Lab Hong Kong & Macau.

Barry Horner believes that B Corp is currently still more of an option than a prerequisite for financial firms, but he thinks that will change in time.

From experience, he is seeing a marked increase in interest in B Corp coming from the financial planning community. “I regularly receive phone calls from other financial planners asking if I can take ten minutes out to explain B Corp certification,” he adds. “We will reach a point when companies without B Corp will be the odd one out.”

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Published: 29 Mar 2023
  • Financial Planning
  • Risk
  • International regulation
  • Integrity & Ethics
  • Compliance
  • featured
  • impact investing
  • B Corp
  • green finance
  • ESG
  • Ethical

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