In October 2021, Chloé was the first high end luxury fashion brand to become B Corp certified. This was inevitably accompanied by speculation on who would jump on the latest trend.
Fast forward to now and there are a range of B Corp certified fashion brands, including newcomers such as Birdsong, an independent fashion brand awarded B Corp status in April 2022. We are also seeing more lifestyle and wellness brands picking up B Corp status (including Aesop, The Body Shop, Emma Bridgewater and Illy caffé). However, the familiar names in fashion largely pre-date Chloé (think Patagonia (December 2011), Eileen Fisher (December 2015), Allbirds (December 2016), Veja (December 2018), Wolf & Badger (May 2021) and Sézane (September 2021)), and we’re still waiting to see more of the luxury high fashion brands join the ranks. We expect this to be at least partially driven by the rigorous certification process businesses must go through…
B Corp certification is granted by B Lab, a private non-profit global body.
In B Lab’s own words, “B Corp Certification is a designation that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials.”
To qualify for B Corp status, businesses must answer over 300 questions and score at least 80 points in an impact assessment that evaluates positive impact in five key areas: governance, workers, community, environment, and customers.
It’s easier said than done – for context, over 100,000 businesses have started working towards those 80 points but, as of February 2023, there are still just approximately 6,000 B Corps. What’s more, once a business has been B Corp certified, it has to maintain its certification. Businesses are put through the verification process every three years and BrewDog, for example, lost its B Corp status before even the first three years were up.
For retail brands in particular, adoption of sustainable materials and improved supply chain verification will be essential to meeting the B Corp criteria (as well as wider ESG aims). We are seeing positive movement in the industry. Prada has introduced Econyl, a recycled nylon made from abandoned fishing nets, into its collections and French luxury group LVMH has launched Nona Source, an online resale platform for their leftover materials to reduce waste. Brands like Noah and Ganni are combatting greenwashing through campaigns like Noah’s “We Are Not A Sustainable Company” and Ganni’s similar “WHY WE’RE NOT A SUSTAINABLE BRAND”, which publicly recognise that the fashion industry in its current form has a long way to go.
The numbers are clear – B Corp certification signifies high standards and the ability of a business to withstand a painstaking verification process. Given accusations of greenwashing are leading to a trend of ‘greenhushing’, the numbers should also be reassuring for consumers looking to B Corps for more sustainable options. If you’ve watched Seaspiracy on Netflix then you know that sustainability certifications such as dolphin safe labels, whilst commonplace, aren’t always reliable indicators of sustainable practices. Thankfully, it doesn’t look like a Netflix original called “B-spiracy” is on the cards just yet.
ESG is fast becoming a business-critical concern, read more in The Collective Business in 2023 Report - ESG: Mission Critical
“B Corp Certification is a designation that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials.”