Certified B corporations are certified by the nonprofit organization B Lab. B Lab likens its certification of companies to the certification of coffee as “Fair Trade” or the certification of buildings as “LEED certified." A company can take the initial B Impact Assessment for free. Becoming a certified B corporation, however, is not free (though I have heard anecdotally that the benefits of being part of the certified B corporation community can exceed the cost of the certification fees because B Lab has negotiated significant discounts with various vendors). Interested readers can find details about the process of becoming a certified B corporation here.
Benefit corporations are formed under the state law of one of the seven states that have passed benefit corporation statutes (California, Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and my state of residence - Virginia.) (See my chart comparing the benefit corporation state statutes here.) Benefit corporations must be measured against a “third party standard” but the standard does not have to be B Lab’s standard.
A company can be both a certified B corporation and a benefit corporation, but there are plenty of examples of companies that are one but not the other. Currently, there are
First in a series of posts on B Corps by Haskell Murray that promises to be quite interesting. Oddly enough, this one settles a distinction my wife and I were discussing just a few days ago when she got back from a seminar on using B Corps in estate planning.