Environmental impact assessment: Taiwan’s B Corp movement

The nation currently has 31 certified companies that balance profit with purpose, more than any other country in Asia.

In Taiwan, as in many other countries, large companies are required by law to publish annual corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports that detail their impact on society and the environment. Cynics often view CSR programs as greenwashing, virtue signals, or public relations stunts, and a growing number of companies are embracing the B Corporation movement to gain recognition from others for their efforts to do the right thing. .

More than 4,300 companies in 77 countries have achieved B Corp (B stands for ‘profit’) status since the move started in Philadelphia in 2006. These companies operate in 153 different industries and, according to bcorporation.net, “meet the highest standards. higher. verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose… driving a global movement of people using business as a force for good.

Taiwan-based companies wishing to become B Corp certified are guided through the process by B Lab Taiwan, a non-profit organization established in early 2016 as the movement’s first base in Asia.

Photo courtesy of B Lab Taiwan

The B Lab Taiwan website (blab.tw) explains that the difference between a B Corp and a social enterprise is that the latter is not created to generate profit, but to address social or environmental issues. The B Corps may not have specific goals like this, “but they hope to create a more inclusive and sustainable economic environment. [and] use their own business models to have a positive impact on the social environment.

“ESG OBJECTIVES”

According to Victoria Wang (王茂臻), Marketing Director of B Lab Taiwan, there has not yet been an in-depth study to determine what proportion of local businesses might be interested in B Corp status. However, she says, the majority of those with whom she has communicated show an openness to the idea of ​​being measured in order to be able to progress towards ESG (environmental, social and governance) objectives.

Photo: Chang Ching-ya, Taipei Times

According to Wang, Taiwan’s B Corps is a mix of newer companies that embraced ESG principles from the start and companies that have been around for a long time, but now strive to operate more sustainably, sometimes because control has passed on to a new generation with a less traditional mindset.

Wang expresses gratitude for the positive attention the local B Corps received from central and local government officials, including Minister Without Portfolio Audrey Tang (唐鳳) – a sentiment shared by Peter Dernbach, Board Member by B Lab Taiwan.

Dernbach is a coordinating partner of Winkler Partners, a law firm founded by Robin Winkler, well known in Taiwan for his environmental activism. The company began its B Corp journey following a CSR summit hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in Taiwan that included presentations from local pioneers of B Corp Greenvines (a manufacturer of skin care products) and DOMI Earth (which says it is developing “the products, services, and platform that make effective climate action possible”).

Photo courtesy of Winkler Partners

“We found that many elements of the B Corp certification were things that we had been doing for some time, such as tracking and reducing our carbon footprint, ensuring that our employees are compensated fairly and generously, and granting of paid leave above the legal minimum, ”Dernbach said.

Winkler Partners decided to pursue B Corp status in September 2016. It received certification the following February.

To qualify, companies must score at least 80 out of 200 points. The assessment process helps companies identify areas where they could improve, Dernbach says. As a result, he says, the company has expanded the accident and health insurance it takes out for its employees and extended paternity leave.

Photo courtesy of Winkler Partners

B Corps also has to pay an annual certification fee that starts at $ 500 for companies with annual sales of less than $ 150,000.

“The examination of the certification process has highlighted the interest of formalizing some of our practices by including them in our working rules, to show that they constitute binding commitments on the part of the firm”, explains Dernbach. None of these steps were particularly expensive or difficult, he adds.

When asked if local regulations or laws make it difficult for the B Corps to be certified, Dernbach explains that law firms in Taiwan should be organized in partnership, and only lawyers licensed in Taiwan and lawyers licensed in Taiwan. other countries but holders of a license to practice here can be partners.

Photo courtesy of Family Mart

This is difficult to reconcile, he says, with the B Corp movement’s emphasis on employee ownership through board representation or stock options. However, Taiwan is not the only jurisdiction in which law or accounting firms are restricted in this way, he adds.

On the bright side, he says, Taiwan’s mandatory universal health care, statutory paid holidays, and some other perks mean companies here do well on those sections.

“In places like the United States, health care and vacation leave are not guaranteed by law for all employees,” he says.

Photo: Lee Ching-hui, Taipei Times

To maintain their B Corp status, companies must recertify every three years, and companies are expected to improve over time. When Winkler Partners recertified last year, Dernbach noticed that some standards – such as those relating to paid parental leave – had been raised.

“There were additional questions about direct and indirect emissions, whereas when we first certified in 2017, they only asked about our overall carbon footprint. The section of the disclosure questionnaire has also recently been expanded to provide more information about the clients and the types of businesses we work with, ”he said.

TOP IN ASIA

Taiwan currently has 31 Certified B Corps, more than any other country in Asia. Dernbach concedes that none of them are as well-known as B Corps elsewhere, such as ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s or clothing brand Patagonia.

Still, he hopes that, if given a choice, “Taiwanese consumers, when they realize how B Corps is using business for good, will support them and choose products that are better for society and the environment.” “.

Dernbach is convinced that the B Corp certification from Winkler Partners has been good for business.

“Several clients have indicated that the status of B Corp is relevant for them in the choice of a council. This shows that B Corp certification is a valuable metric for businesses looking for partners who stand up for something. B Corp status provides an added level of credibility and transparency, ”he said.

Ooh Cha Cha, which operates two vegan restaurants in Taipei, has been a B Corp since last August.

According to founder Mai Bach, the pre-assessment questionnaire took her team about two months. They then spent six to seven months on the key assessment phase, submitting answers and evidence, even though they didn’t need to make any significant changes to the way they operate.

“So many spreadsheets! She remembers.

Bach says that because knowledge of B Corps is not yet widespread, Ooh Cha Cha customers do not expect certification, nor the company expects it from its suppliers.

“We are looking for certain things, depending on the industry or the ingredient. We are concerned about quality, pesticide use, seasonality and locality. We also care a lot about the environment for the workers when producing our ingredients. There is no one certification that fits all situations. However, the B Corp certification is one of the most holistic certifications available, ”she says.

The Taipei B Lab, adds Bach, “works tirelessly to help the public understand what this certification means and find interesting and unique opportunities for B Corps. People discovered our business through the B Corp directory and asked us to collaborate. Social entrepreneurs face unique pressures and challenges: having a community to turn to for support is priceless. “

Steven Crook, author or co-author of four books on Taiwan, has been following environmental issues since arriving in the country in 1991. He drives a hybrid and carries his own chopsticks. The opinions expressed here are his.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Comments containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. The final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.


Source link

Comments are closed.